The Great Race
Arguably the greatest race
in the world, and more especially Australia,
the 1000 kilometre race for production sedans
has for many years taken place at the Mount
Panorama circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales.
But the event actually started out as a 500 mile
event at Victoria's Phillip Island circuit when,
in 1960, a field of 47 cars of varying performance,
size, engine capacity and price would compete
for total prizemoney of $11,710.
Some of these
drivers were to become household names of motor
sport, although they were driving some very unlikely
cars! Harry Firth drove a Singer Gazelle,
Brian Foley and Peter Manton drove Wolseley
1500's, David McKay and Greg Cusack drove Volkswagens,
the Geoghegan brothers drove a Renault Dauphine,
while John French, Norm Beechey and Jim McKeown
shared a Standard Vanguard.
Then there was Lex
Davison and Bevan Gibson in NSU's, and Murray
Carter in a Ford Customline. But that year the
winners would be John Roxburgh and Frank Coad
driving a Vauxhall Cresta. So successful was
the event that plans were quickly put into place
to hold it again the following year.
The Race Is Moved To The Mount
the race was moved to the Mount, at a time when
both manufacturers and sponsors were beginning
to understand the potential commercial gains
to be made, such was the amount of support the
race had so quickly garnered from the public.
It was only natural for the manufacturers to
want to have success on the Mountain, knowing
only too well that a victory at this event would
ensure sales the next day.
The Bathurst Specials, And All Conquering Cortina GT500
Thus began the manufacture
of "Bathurst Specials", cars designed
specifically for the big race. The first came
in 1963 with the Holden EH S4, which featured
a 179ci engine and 3.36:1 diff. Although 6 would
be entered that year, it was the all conquering
GT Cortina 1500 of Bob Jane
and Harry Firth
would take the honours.
The same model Cortina
repeated the feat the following year, this time
with Bob Jane and George Reynolds at the wheel.
Needing to keep the Cortina competitive, the
Cortina GT500 was produced, the upgrades enough
to help Barry Seton and Midge Bosworth take out
the event in 1965. In 1966 the Homologation rules
were changed and the Cortina GT500
was no longer
eligible to compete.
That year Bob Holden and
Rauno Aaltonen would steer the pocket rocket
Morris Cooper S into first place, however the
manufacturers wanted to create something with
a few more horses to give serious challenge to
the superior handling
but underpowered Mini.
Late in 1966 Ford had released the wonderful
XR range of Falcon's, these being inspired by
the US Mustang.
Ford mounted a forceful advertising
campaign (as can be seen in the media section
of this site), emphasising to drivers that the
new XR was "Wide Tracked" and "Mustang
But most importantly, Australian Ford buyers
could for the first time order a V8 engine. The
faithful 289ci 4.7 litre engine was both powerful
and tractable, and better yet incredibly reliable.
They would then be fitted to the first of a series
of cars which became a classic in their own time,
and continue to appreciate in value more than
any other Aussie muscle car, the
legendary Falcon GT