Before Muscle Car Masters..

September 24, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This year the Muscle Car Masters celebrated it’s 10th running. Quite an achievement in the modern age for any type of motor sport event. The basic formula of bringing together historic touring cars and drivers and adding a swag of racing and demonstrations has remained little changed since the beginning. But this wasn’t the first attempt at the idea. Back in April 2005 a similar event was run at the now very missed Oran Park Raceway.


The Touring Car Festival

When announced, this event had the promise of a blockbuster. Double page adverts in the motor sport press promised three days packed with races, displays, parades and personalities. Set down for late January the first attempt was called off due to a lack of entries, cut down to a single day and rescheduled to late April - the event was looking shaky right up to the week of the meeting.

But full credit to the organisers for persisting with the idea. In a land where tin-tops reign supreme an all-historic sedan programme should be a winner. Just put the word out and the crowds will come, and indeed they did, in fact admission tickets sold out by mid morning. And where better to hold an event like this than Oran Park, the site of many an epic touring car tussle particularly through out the '70s when the Toby Lee and ATCC finals attracted 20,000 plus to the Narellan track.

Blessed with mild weather but disappointing entries the meeting went ahead. Headlining was the Toby Lee trophy for group N over 3 litre cars and the Harry Firth Trophy for Torana XU-1s. The Old Fox himself was present to hand out the trophies and was doing good business selling memorabilia, signing autographs and whilst being interviewed over the P.A. hinting at upcoming DVDs and articles in Australian Muscle Car Magazine that will "set the story straight" on history according to Harry.

A number of other name drivers from touring car history were present on the day including John Goss and Bob Morris. Gossie displayed his replica of the 1974 Bathurst 1000 winning XA Falcon GT Hardtop, doing a few fast passes down pit straight but taking it easy through the corners due to concerns of oil surge in the 351 engine. Morris re-acquainted himself with the Holden Torana A9X he drove in 1979 to take the Touring car title.

Around 9 o'clock qualifying began with one 10 minute session for each of the 4 categories racing, Group N under 3ltr, Group N over 3ltr, Group A and Group C. All events were run on the "South" circuit, the original layout before the Grand Prix cross over extension was added. Historically correct for the Group Ns but both Group A and C (at least those competing on the day) always used the longer layout in their day.

The Toby Lee trophy went to Bob Cox in a Mustang after Cameron Tilley led the majority of the race in his Valiant S. And an excellent race for the lead it was with Cox's Mustang hanging onto the bumper of the blue Valiant until lap 9 when he shot past. Cameron Warner came home 3rd in a Falcon.

Group C’s third race saw  Phil Kirkam looking like a certain winner in his XD Falcon  until slowing as he crossed the line on lap 2, Frank Binding went past as Kirkam's Falcon slowed into the esses. Entering the dipper the reason became apparent as the left rear wheel and axle began to separate from the car! Eventually separating completely as it bucked the big Ford off. Certainly the incident of the day and fortunate not to have happened at speed on the main straight.

With only 6 starters the last event of the day, the Harry Firth Trophy, got underway. It quickly settled down to a battle between Simon Phillips and Scott Gorman. The two pulled away from Warren Bossie as the 11 laps ticked off. The two were pushing hard but Phillips crossed the line the victor to take the trophy.

There were some great looking cars displayed by a number of car clubs in the Paddock area and some of these took part in the parade laps. Replicas and original competition cars were displayed through out the Paddock and took to the track for demonstration laps. Highlight of the day for this writer was a conversation with John Goss whilst looking over his blue Falcon that brought back memories of being in the pits at Surfers Paradise during the Chesterfield 300 a few weeks after his Bathurst win in '74.

A good vibe was felt for the day and it was hoped it would continue as an annual event, of course history took a different path and Father’s Day 2005 at Eastern Creek saw the beginning of something bigger and ultimately better.

Graham Mison.




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