Spencer Martin

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

The open­wheeler star who drove for both Ford and Holden fac­tory teams at Bathurst.

Spencer Martin seem­ingly had the rac­ing world at his feet 50 years ago... then sud­denly quit the sport, save for a se­ries of one-off or two-off ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing for the fledg­ling fac­tory Ford and Holden teams. His was a most dif­fer­ent ca­reer to other stars of the time.

Smooth op­er­a­tor

Spencer Martin has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the famed Holden Dealer Team’s rst ever race driver. For it was Martin be­hind the wheel of the HDT’s Monaro GTS 350 when it blasted off the grid at Sandown in Septem­ber 1969, the squad’s rst race. He then blasted into the Armco when the brakes failed...

The Syd­neysider sub­se­quently missed the 1969 Bathurst clas­sic, open­ing the door for Colin Bond to join the team, who won in the HDT’s sec­ond out­ing. How about that for in­ad­ver­tently chang­ing the course of rac­ing his­tory.

For AMC, it’s his out­ings in the ear­li­est mus­cle cars that make him a prime can­di­date for a pro le in th­ese pages. Yet the name Spencer Martin will be most fa­mil­iar to en­thu­si­asts who re­mem­ber the 1960s, when win­ning the Aus­tralian Drivers Cham­pi­onship (Gold Star) was the high­est ech­e­lon in lo­cal mo­tor rac­ing. Un­wit­tingly, he was a game-changer, be­ing the rst ‘pro­fes­sional’ driver to win the Gold Star in 1966 and then again the fol­low­ing year. Un­til then only wealthy gen­tle­man drivers had the means to win this pres­ti­gious cham­pi­onship.

Martin’s jour­ney from hum­ble be­gin­nings in a brace of Aus­tralian specials and a Humpy Holden to the sport’s pin­na­cle in a few short years wouldn’t have hap­pened with­out well- known rac­ing iden­tity and jour­nal­ist David McKay tak­ing a punt on the young­ster. Their ac­ri­mo­nious rift a cou­ple of years later would take over a decade to heal.

Be­ing a pro­fes­sional in the mid 1960s was not all it was cut out to be. Af­ter win­ning his two Gold Stars with Bob Jane Rac­ing, Martin promptly re­tired from front­line rac­ing not be­cause of the in­herit dan­ger of the times, but be­cause he was get­ting mar­ried and needed to earn some real money to get ahead!

His eight Bathurst 500/1000 starts never net­ted a top ten re­sult, but in truth it didn’t mat­ter, as af­ter rac­ing sin­gle-seaters the tour­ing cars never held the same ap­peal. Martin is unique in rac­ing for three of the big­gest names of that era: McKay, Jane and Harry Firth, and pro­vides an in­sight into the harsh re­al­ity of be­ing a pro­fes­sional driver in an ama­teur era.

Martin is re­mem­bered as a supreme stylist – su­per smooth and su­per quick in the sin­gle­seaters and sports cars of the day. A real nat­u­ral who made it look easy in ev­ery­thing that he drove. Today, the seem­ingly age­less Martin re­mains ever the en­thu­si­ast, a reg­u­lar guy who of­ten at­tends the Mus­cle Car Mas­ters and is al­ways up for a chat about the golden years of mo­tor rac­ing, cars and bikes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.