Australian Muscle Car

In­duc­tion

- Cars · American Motors Corporation · Ford Motor Company · New South Wales · Holden Monaro · General Motors Corporation · Diamond White · Plymouth Valiant · Holden Dealer Team · Chrysler · Peter Brock

Ihave to say I’m pretty happy with how the cover of AMC looks this is­sue. The com­bined ef­forts of vet­eran mo­tor in­dus­try pho­tog­ra­pher Graeme Ne­an­der and AMC’s artis­tic guru Chris Cur­rie have pro­duced what I reckon is a stun­ning look­ing cover. Mind you, it’s hard to go wrong when the star of the show is a gleam­ing Di­a­mond White XW Fal­con GT-HO Phase II. The XY Phase III might be the Big Daddy of GT-HOs (and prob­a­bly of all Aus­tralian mus­cle cars), but to the eyes of a lot of Ford fans the XW is the bet­ter looker; its sim­pler, less clut­tered grille giv­ing it a more ag­gres­sive stance (which was also re ected in the way the Phase II drove – as a road car it was the least-civilised, most racy of the three HO mod­els).

But what’s re­ally spe­cial about this is­sue’s cover is that the Di­a­mond White XW in ques­tion is the very same Phase II which posed for the cov­ers of mag­a­zines back when the model was brand new, 50 years ago. And as you can see, our cover fea­tures an inset of one of those very mags – the same car on the cov­ers of two mag­a­zines, half a cen­tury apart!

When it was shot by Michael Coyne for the Novem­ber is­sue of Aus­tralian Mo­tor Sports &

Au­to­mo­biles, our Di­a­mond White Phase II shared the spot­light with its (also just-re­leased) Bathurst foes for that year, a Valiant Pacer 4-BBL and LC model To­rana GTR XU-1. We sus­pect that the Fal­con is the only sur­vivor of the AMS Novem­ber 1970 is­sue’s ‘Su­per Cars Test’ trio, but if by chance the Pacer and XU-1 are also still around, we’d love to hear about it!

It is re­mark­able that Ford’s road test XW Phase II is still with us af­ter all these years. Half a cen­tury is a long time for any car, but when you con­sider that this one was put through its paces (thrashed to within an inch of its life would prob­a­bly be a more ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion!) by the coun­try’s top mo­tor­ing journos in 1970 and early ’71 be­fore go­ing on to a ‘civil­ian’ life that in­cluded decades of high-speed mo­tor­ing on the high­ways and back­roads of the north­ern NSW coast and south Queens­land, it’s truly ex­tra­or­di­nary that this Fal­con is still in one piece and still go­ing strong.

As it hap­pens, the road test Phase II is not the only 50 year-old Aussie mus­cle car sur­vivor we’re fea­tur­ing this is­sue. And like our cover car, Luke Dimech’s Monaro GTS rally car has not been shel­tered away some­where wrapped in cot­ton wool over the decades. Like our cover car, it’s been put to use as its maker in­tended – in this case, com­pet­ing in more than 200 ral­lies across ve decades! And just as our cover car is also closely as­so­ci­ated with the works Ford team and the three Phase II GT-HOs that raced at Bathurst in 1970, this Monaro also hap­pens to have a di­rect link to Holden’s early ‘70s com­pe­ti­tion ef­fort, Harry Firth’s Holden Dealer Team, and the HDT fac­tory team Monaro GTS 350s.

Speak­ing of the fac­tory Ford and Holden race teams from the early ‘70s, it’s in­ter­est­ing to re ect on the fact that while the two foes were locked in earnest com­bat against one an­other (and not for­get­ting Chrysler) on the track, only one of them was ac­tu­ally up­front about it. Ford’s rac­ing ef­fort – the old ‘FoMoCo’ meant ex­actly what it stood for: Ford Mo­tor Com­pany – was com­pletely trans­par­ent, whereas Holden con­cealed its rac­ing pro­gramme be­hind the (al­beit thin) ve­neer of a ‘dealer team.’ GM, Holden’s par­ent com­pany, back then did not go rac­ing, and so nor did Holden. At least not of­fi­cially…

Get­ting around the ‘head of­fice’ no-rac­ing pol­icy re­quired a fair bit of creative ac­count­ing and some sleight-of-hand com­pany record keep­ing from within Holden, but they got away with it.

One of the cru­cial play­ers in Holden’s clan­des­tine rac­ing pro­gramme back in the day was Joe Felice. He is our fea­tured Mus­cle Man this is­sue, and in an en­gag­ing in­ter­view with David Has­sall the now-re­tired Felice of­fers some fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights into the go­ings on at Holden and within the rac­ing pro­gramme in the 1970s.

Of the back­room fa­cil­i­ta­tors that have made things hap­pen in Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport over the years, Felice is one guy who’s cer­tainly left his mark. His rst task in the role of Holden’s mo­tor­sport li­ai­son man at the end of 1968 was to wind up David McKay’s Holden Deal­ers Rac­ing Team, so that a new ‘Holden Dealer Team’ could be formed. Later it was Felice who gave Peter Brock his march­ing or­ders from Holden (in 1974) be­fore per­suad­ing a re­luc­tant Harry Firth to re­tire (in 1977) – and then ap­point­ing John Shep­pard as Firth’s re­place­ment.

That’s some pretty se­ri­ous de­ci­sions for one man to make about a mo­tor rac­ing pro­gramme which didn’t of­fi­cially ex­ist!

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