Maitland has a long history in motor racing, sporting one of the first speedway tracks in Australia courtesy of Jim Cameron who was instrumental in laying a dirt racetrack at Maitland Showground in 1923.
My first job upon leaving Maitland Boys’ High School (with an exemplary Wednesday attendance record - sports day ...) was with J.C. Camerons bikeshop (my boss was Jim Cameron’s son, Ian) as a pushbike mechanic. After an intermediary fitness focused position in brick relocation, I was offered a place in the workshop at Highway Ford.
In those days if you were called out to sort out a breakdown you’d take a screwdriver, a pair of pliers and a shifting spanner (‘adjustable wrench’ for the politically correct) and with these sophisticated implements everything was fixable.
One Friday afternoon I was called to the general manager’s office. He suggested that I come to work on Monday in a collar and tie. I was to join the sales team.
At the time I was playing first grade for Maitland. I was nineteen and we’d just won the premiership (I was playing alongside the likes of Kel O’Shea and Terry Pannowitz).
I suspect that the footballing success had something to do with my promotion away from the tools.
Like kicking a goal from in front, one of my first sales in my new position was a GT Falcon, newly designed, V8; came in one colour combination, gold with black trim. As far as I know the bloke I sold it to still owns it. It’s still local. I think the sales price was something like four grand.
I read not long ago about a slightly later model GT selling recently at auction for 1.2 million!
Which brings me to the point of this preamble: The Supercars is happening in a couple of weeks on the Newcastle foreshore, and this will be the last of the manufacturing racing Ford Falcon.
They are being replaced by the USA built Mustang GTs. It’s an interesting and indicative development. We don’t make Falcons anymore, so we don’t sell them, which means there’s no point in racing them.
The Supercars bear very little resemblance to racing as we used to know it. These are not cars that you drive to the shops. The cars that raced at Bathurst were. Those were the rules: The cars had to be available in showrooms in Australia, ‘as is.’
The car dealership motto was: ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.’
The annual Ford and Holden Bathurst tussle was bigger than the race itself. A win, or loss, at Bathurst was an enormously influential factor on the sales of the actual cars. You could buy these cars. You had to be able to. Those were the rules.
It was a type of ‘bending’ of the rules that led to the GT Falcon.
The requirements for competing at Bathurst were that you had to have sold 250 production models in order to qualify for the race.
Of course this led to Holden and Ford, in fierce rivalry, manufacturing extremely short runs of high performance cars (maybe 250?) to be bought by the general public. (The gold GT I sold at Highways was one of only two that we had).
These were purpose built racecars that you could buy and drive on the street. The cars running around the Newcastle foreshore in a couple of weeks will be an entirely different affair.
Regardless, good luck to the Falcons; I have fond memories of them and it’d be great to see them go out a winner.
To be brutally honest, I’m not completely sure whether driving a car should really be considered a sport, and hence suitable subject matter for this column, but I wish I’d bought and kept (with staff discount), that GT Falcon.
Geez, I thought some of those changes they’re trialling in tennis are really interesting. Did you see them – in the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan this week?
Players having to get their own towels between points, rather than just point to the poor ballboy or ballgirl to do it. A time clock between points. Shorter sets (first to four games with the tiebreaker kicking in at 3-all), among other things.