The Great Chase
Of the 12 GT-HO Phase IIIs delivered new to owners by Wright Ford Motors, we’re con dent that the Yellow Glow example sold to Kingsley Hibbard was the only one picked up from the dealership on the Friday of a race weekend and driven interstate to race in a round of 1971 Manufacturer’s Championship.
That’s exactly what Hibbard did. We know this because the registration sticker still displayed on the car today is dated September 10, 1971. With the Sandown 250 scheduled to begin at 1.55pm on Sunday, September 12, there was no time to lose in getting the brand new car to Melbourne for its race debut two days later. What happened next is an indication of both Hibbard’s haste and personality. And become the stuff of legend.
Late on that Friday evening – the car’s delivery day – the brand new GT-HO was travelling south at ‘warpspeed’ on the Hume Highway in regional Victoria when it drew the attention of police about 50 kilometres north of Melbourne’s outskirts.
The police car gave chase but was unable to keep up with the Phase III, which was travelling at an estimated 140mph (225km/h). At that speed it would not have taken long to reach the Sydney Road at Campbell eld, where Hibbard found police waiting for him.
Hibbard, with a reputation for talking as fast as he drove, must have managed to sidestep any immediate repurcussions, as he was still able to contest the Sandown 250 on Sunday.
Nonetheless, the then 33-year-old was thrown the book when he appeared in court three weeks later in Kilmore, Victoria: he was suspended from driving for six months and ned $150. He pleaded not guilty to a number of charges including having driven at an excessive speed through intersections, having exceeded 45mph through Wallan and having driven dangerously.
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported the following in its October 6, 1971 edition:
“First Constable Colin Pavey said he followed Hibbard from Pretty Sally Hill on the Hume Highway on September 10. According to his speedometer (the police car) was doing 135mph (217km/h). Constable Pacey said he radioed ahead for help and another patrol car intercepted Hibbard. He said when he asked Hibbard why he was travelling so fast, Hibbard said he was ‘freeing’ the motor because he was racing at Sandown the following Sunday.
“Hibbard said in Court he won the Bathurst 500 in 1962 [ ED: This is not quite right. He won the sedan class in the event’s forerunner, the 6 Hour Classic]. The magistrate, Mr. K. Burgess also ned Hibbard $150. Authorities said later the States had a reciprocal agreement on the suspension of licences. If a licence was cancelled in one State, the driver could not drive anywhere else in Australia during the suspension.”
Meantime, the Canberra Times reported that Hibbard told the court “his car was especially built for high-speed racing and was equipped with a multitude of safety features.”
Before we proceed any further, it’s important to note that everything outlined above about this incident is fact. However, it’s widely considered there is more to the story, especially the manner in which our so-called Great Chase ended.
While AMC was researching this story we were told by more than one source that Hibbard, when still alive, had outlined further details of this episode to them. Firstly, he said that police
had been aware of his swift progress south much earlier in the trip, when still in NSW, and that he carried on oblivious to any trouble that was brewing. This, of course, was a time of derestricted speed limits outside built-up areas, when police tolerated speeds not considered to be excessive or dangerous to prevailing road conditions. It was in this context that Hibbard said he was surprised to nd a police road block on the Sydney Road (Hume Highway) at Campbell eld and told our sources that he pulled over and stopped, thinking there was an accident ahead. He said he was then surprised to learn that he was the reason for the road block. The fact he was allowed to race that weekend at Sandown adds weight to this account.
Far less feasible is an alternative account with a Hollywood-style ending that is simply too good not to relay here. This has Hibbard trying to evade police by entering the grounds or car park of Ford’s Broadmeadows facility, hoping his brand new Falcon would ‘blend into the crowd’.
Sounds fancifully, but makes for a great story. If you can shed any light on how Hibbard’s trip to Melbourne ended, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org