Pete Geoghegan blasts his Ford ‘Super Falcon’ GTHO across the top of Mount Panorama with the millimetre precision and finesse for which he was famous, harnessing all 600 plus horses of his demanding 351 cid steed on this oh-so-demanding and unforgiving of road circuits…
The 1972 Australian Touring Car Championship was one of the greatest contests ever, the Bathurst round one of the best races in a series full of close events in its 60 year history…
The late, respected motoring journalist Mike Kable wrote ‘The third round at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama on Easter Monday won by 5 times former champion Ian Geoghegan by 6 tenths of a second from Allan Moffat was the finest touring car race I have seen in 25 years of watching Australian motor racing which started as a small boy when I lived just a few more paddocks away from the famous old mountain circuit’.
‘It was an absolute spellbinder, the sort of race you dream about with Geoghegan in his Falcon and Moffat in his Mustang fighting a slipstreaming and braking duel right around the spectacular track and tearing side by side down the 1 1/2 mile long Conrod Straight at more than 160mph and becoming airborne over the humps’.
The race ended in controversy as Pete’s ‘Super Falcon’ was losing oil from its catch-tank, Moffat copping so much Castrol on his windscreen he dropped back for a bit to try and clear it with his wipers. Towards the end of the race he undid his shoulder harness to see out the drivers window, during all this he took 7 seconds from from Geoghegan’s previous record set in his evergreen Mustang.
Moffat protested, after 90 minutes of deliberation the steward determined that the results stood on the basis that it could not be confirmed that the oil spill cost Moffat the race. Further, Maffats speed late in the race didn’t tend to support the Canadians argument!
In fact Moffat lost the championship after intense competition and ‘biffo’ at a number of meetings resulted in Bob Jane, his Melbourne arch rival, protesting being shoved aside by Moffat during the Warwick Farm round of the championship.
Sadly, the protest was heard on the virtual eve of the title decider at Oran Park, Moffat’s exclusion from the results at Warwick Farm gave the series win to Jane, the plucky, tough entrepreneur took the title again in the Chev Camaro in which he won in 1971. The car was powered by a cast iron 350cid engine in ’72 rather than the ZL-1 427cid ‘CanAm’ aluminium block Chev used in 1971.
What made the Late Sixties/Early Seventies ATCC Championships magic and still spoken about in reverential terms by those who were there were cars such as Jane’s…
Moffat’s Mustang was a factory TransAm racer, he first ran it in 1969, despite many race wins, he never took the ATCC, he achieved that for the first time in a Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 3 ‘Group C’ car when the regs changed from 1973. In Mike Kables view at the time ‘There’s not much doubt about who is Australia’s finest all round tin-top driver. If he proved it once he proved it a dozen times in both his venerable TransAm Mustang and works Phase 3 Falcon GTHO’.
In 1972 Moffat tried both the 351cid V8 (at Calder he raced it and at Surfers used it in qualifying) and Boss 302 engines but the Cleveland 351 engine was never reliable and much heavier than the ‘small-block’ Boss which buggered the cars balance. It was with the 302 fitted that he gave Geoghegan so much curry at Bathurst, Pete’s factory built ‘Super Falcon’, Moffat was built one as well of course in 1970, 351 equipped and seldom reliable.
Norm Beechey was back for one final crack at the championship in the gorgeous Holden Monaro HG 350 V8 in which he won in 1970 and had been continually developed by Norm and Claude Morton in their Brunswick, Melbourne base.
Later Birrana co-proprietor and single seater driver Malcolm Ramsay ran an ‘HQ’ Holden Kingswood powered by a Repco Holden F5000 engine, the big orange, ROH ‘Dragmag’ wheeled thing looked and sounded sensational.
The ‘Kingsy’ bristled with the clever engineering ideas of Ramsay and Tony Alcock, the Birrana designer; fabricated front wishbone suspension, carefully evolved rear suspension with better location of the standard live axle/coil spring setup, removable front guards to ease access to the injected Repco lump and much more. It deserved another season of development but unlike many of the cars pictured in this article which became Sports Sedans after the Australian Touring Car Championship rules changed from 1973, the Kingswood was dismantled and components sold as the Birrana boys focusssed on their ‘main game’, which was building ANF2 and F3 winning cars, a story for another time.
Big Pete’s Super Falcon was fully rebuilt by Bowin’s John Joyce after the Adelaide International round of the championship, the openwheeler specialist rebuilding it around a new shell, both lightening it and giving it the rigidity lacking in the original. The front and rear suspension geometry was modified. Note that some reports say the car was re-shelled, but the Bowin drawings don’t suggest this. In addition Geoghegan claimed 608bhp for the engine by seasons end. For those interested in the work Joyce and his team performed, click on this link;
Apart from the front runners there were other cars to salivate over; Mike Stillwell’s Ford Escort BDA was a jewel of a thing, at one stage class wins made it a possibility that he would win the title. Clive Green’s ex-Geoghegan Mustang was great to look at and well driven by the Balwyn, Melbourne car dealer when he appeared.
Towards the end of the season Bob Jane’s John Sheppard built Holden Monaro HQ Chev 350 V8 appeared, John Harvey drove it in the final ATCC round at Oran Park, like all of Sheppo’s cars it looked too good to race and had the performance to match.
Harvey was second on the grid and ran in 2nd until brake dramas slowed him. This car had a very long, successful life as a Sports Sedan after it’s short one as an ‘Improved Tourer’ ATCC contender.
But back to That Race at Bathurst…
From pole, Moffat, 3 seconds faster than Pete in practice, was slow away, Bob Jane was first to the top of the mountain from the second row, he held the lead until passed by Moffat on the first run down Conrod, losing a further place to Pete as the cars went up Mountain Straight the second time.
The crowd roared as Sydney’s ‘Goody Pete’ chased Melbourne ‘Baddy Moffat’, the Falcon passed the TransAm on lap 4, the torque of the 351 carrying the Falcon past the Mustang up the mountain, only to lose the lead on Conrod.
And ‘So it went on for lap after lap, the two cars passing and re passing each other, circulating at record speeds and literally running nose to tail in their gladiatorial battle. The last lap was almost unbearably exciting and Geoghegan scrambled across the finish line a bare cars length ahead of Moffat after a frantic side by side dash along the whole of Conrod Straight’.
Dick Simpson, the photographer of most of this articles shots recalls the closing laps ‘I was standing on the corner post of what was the Australian Racing Drivers Club (Bathurst promoting club) members/competitors camping area, these days its the middle of pit exit lane’.
‘Pete suckered him through the race by braking earlier and earlier at the end of Conrod Straight as the race went on as if the big Falcon had brake problems. I think ‘Marvin’ was happy that he could get him whenever he wanted, but on the last lap Pete stayed over on the right (on the outside of the track) leaving the gap for the dive under brakes but he didn’t brake! I think he went way deeper than even Moffatt had been going. I don’t know if he was saving the brakes for the last lap or just setting Moff up’.
‘I do know that when he went past me he had a massive grin and tapped the side of his head!’
John Goss and Fred Gibson were 3rd and 4th in their Series Production (less modified) Falcon GTHO Phase 3’s after a race long duel from Doug Chivas Series Prod Valiant Charger RT and Stillwell’s 2 litre Escort.
Jane was forced out with piston failure and Beechey with a shagged gearbox, always a weak link in these big, powerful cars.
1972, a season to remember, and wow, to have been there at Easter Bathurst to see ‘Marvin The Marvel’ and ‘Big Pete’ woulda been really something!…
The Ford Australia 1970/1 GTHO ‘Super Falcons’…
Ford were pretty much on top of the global motorsport world in the late sixties; their Cosworth DFV 3 litre V8 was at the start of building its reputation as the most successful GP engine ever, they won Le Mans with the venerable Mk1 GT40 in 1968 and 1969 (in fact from ’66 to ’69 in Mk1, 2B and Mk4 GT40’s), their DOHC Indy Ford V8 was still winning its share.
The Escort was at the start of a run which made it one of Rallying’s greatest, in TransAm the Mustang was a winner and in Australia local ‘Pony Cars’ powered by a succession of V8’s progessively increasing in capacity were winning many of the very popular ‘Series Production’ events for essentially ‘Showroom Stock’ cars.
‘Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday’ was the adage, the advertising tagline of the day was ‘Going Ford Is The Going Thing’!
So, wins at Bathurst and in the Australian Touring Car Championship were important in the local sales race. All Big Three subsidiaries of the American automotive transnationals (Ford, GM-Holden, Chrysler-Valiant) were manufacturing cars locally and up to their armpits in racing whatever company policy said!
Whilst Ford had a winning presence in the local Touring Car Championship, the Mustangs of Moffat, Geoghegan and others were not cars sold locally and therefore the promotional value of said wins was limited.
Norm Beecehey ran competitively with 2 Holden Monaro’s winning the title in his fabulous yellow HG Monaro 350 in 1970. Holden were getting a benefit Ford wanted, that is winning in cars the public could buy road variants of. All they needed to do was build the right car.
Popular American ‘Big Al’ Turner was El Presidente of Ford Australia at the time and a racing enthusiast. He decided to build 2 ‘Super Falcons’, modified versions of the then current 1969/70 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 2, a four door sedan powered by a ‘Windsor/Cleveland’ 351 cid or 5.7 litre, 4 barrel Holley carbed engine.
These Falcon GTHO’s were successful ‘Series Production’ racers already taking outright Bathurst 500 wins in Moffat’s hands in 1970 and 1971.
The cars were built at Fords race workshop, Lot 6 Mahoneys Road not far from the Ford factory at Broadmeadows, an outer Northern Melbourne suburb.
Howard Marsden managed the team, the cars built by John Whynne, the engines by Ian Stockings and Bill Santuccione. Cars were built for Geoghegan and Moffat, the shells were extensively lightened, although the regulations did require the cars to be ‘fully trimmed’. The engines were highly modified including fitment of fuel injection.
Moffat raced his Falcon at the final 1970 ATCC round at Symmons Plains, Tasmania, the car took pole before the engine blew. The cars reappeared in 1971 trimmed as ‘XY’ models but the problems continued.
Steve Holmes summarised the 1970/71 racing of the two Super Falcons in a ‘The Roaring Season’ article he wrote’…the Moffat Super Falcon started out as an XW and made its one and only appearance in XW guise at the final round of the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship,(at Symmons Plains, Tasmania) where Moffat drove it briefly in practice before the motor expired. It was, however, very fast in a straight line!’
‘For 1971, neither Super Falcon appeared at the opening round, as development continued, but Moffat’s made an appearance at Calder Park, Victoria Round 2. Once again, this car suffered engine dramas in practice and Moffat opted to qualify and race his Mustang. Both Super Falcons were at Sandown, Victoria for Round 3, where both drivers also brought along their Mustangs. In the end, they both chose to race their Mustangs, after putting in faster times in practice’.
‘Again, at Surfers Paradise, both drivers raced their Mustangs. Indeed, Geoghegan didn’t even bother hauling the Falcon up to Queensland. Moffat was again faster in his Mustang. His Super Falcon, however, did race, in the hands of local John French, who fought race-long with Geoghegan’s Mustang for 3rd, before eventually settling for 4th place. Moffat tested his Super Falcon at Mallala, but instead raced the Mustang, while again Geoghegan only brought his Mustang. At Lakeside, Queensland both Super Falcons appeared, but again, both drivers decided to race their Mustangs, which were faster. Once again, John French was drafted in, this time to race the Geoghegan Falcon, and finished 5th.
‘Neither Super Falcon went to the final race at Oran Park, NSW as both Moffat and Geoghegan were in the hunt to win the championship in their Mustangs.’
In 1971 Pete’s Mustang was already past its useby date, his talents kept it in front longer than it deserved so he stuck with the Falcon as a Mustang replacement whereas Moffat, a professional racing driver, (Pete had a share in the families Sydney car dealership as well as his racing income) stuck with his ’69 Boss TransAm which was still very competitive, its long life extended into 1975.
What both cars needed was a concentrated period of development by the factory with the full support of the drivers. Moffat’s Mustang was his, he raced to win, to live, he could win more money with the Mustang so his decision was an easy one. Ford provided some support for the Mustang, but his paid Ford drive was for the Series Production events in the HO’s. It kinda makes you wonder why Ford didn’t get someone like Fred Gibson to do development work on the Super Falcons, he was well equipped for the role, a factory driver and didn’t have the distraction of the ATCC campaign which were critical to both Moffat and Geoghegan.
The Falcons were never were going to succeed with the drivers juggling two cars; their Super Falcon and Mustang as both Allan and Pete did at several meetings.
Moffat’s Falcon was eventually scrapped, although the 351 engine he flirted with in the Mustang was the injected engine from the car. Unwanted bits went to Pete for his car, the body of Moffat’s believed dumped.
Geoghegan’s car has been superbly restored and is part of the Bowden family collection. Click here for a link to a tremendous article on the Geoghegan car’s race history and its restoration by them;
Articles on Competing Cars…
Moffat’s Mustang Boss TransAm;
Beecheys Holden Monaro GTS 350;
Jane’s Chev Camaro ZL-1;
Etcetera: Moffat and Geoghegan…
Tailpiece; The Pete Geoghegan the Fans Knew and Loved…
Australian Motor Racing Annual 1973, article by Mike Kable on the 1972 ATCC, article by Steve Holmes in ‘The Roaring Season’ http://www.theroaringseason.com/showthread.php?1828-Photos-The-Perry-Drury-Collection, ‘Fast Thats Past’ TNF article by Ray Bell on the Ramsay Holden Kingswood Repco
Dick Simpson, autopics.com, Bob Jane Racing Heritage, lyntonh, Ian Smith, Ray Bell, Perry Drury Collection/Terry Marshall The Roaring Season, Robert Davies, FoMoCo