Australian Muscle Car
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!