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.
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.