Dick Johnson and The Infamous Rock

Ford racing legend Dick Johnson was at the centre of one of motorsports greatest controversies in 1980. While leading the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 disaster struck when he encountered a rock on top of the mountain on lap 17, ruining both his car and any hopes he had of race victory. In this article we will recount the incident, the following outpouring of support from the general public and discuss just how the rock ended up on the track.

The 1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 started about as well as Johnson could have hoped. With main rival Peter Brock experiencing issues as a result of a collision with a back marker and going a lap down at the start of lap 17, the race was Johnson’s to lose. As any Australian motorsport fan would know, the mountain tends to strike in the strangest of ways, and only a matter of 30 seconds after putting Brock a lap down, Johnson experienced firsthand the ways of the mountain. After passing through the cutting, Johnson rounded the next right to be confronted with a tow truck on one side of the road, and a football sized rock on the other. With nowhere to go, Johnson hit the rock. The impact ripped the front wheel and suspension apart before sending the XD Falcon into the wall at high speed. At such an early stage of the race it’s hard to say it cost Johnson a certain victory, but with the lapped Brock going on to win the great race, it’s not too much of a stretch to say the race was Johnson’s to lose.

Later in the day Johnson was interviewed for TV, where he emotionally explained the incident, stating “I just couldn’t believe my bloody eyes. These galoots up there that just throw boulders... like it was enormous.” He went on to explain that to repair the car and have it back on track would cost him at least $40,000 and that until fences were installed around the track he wouldn’t be returning. The public responded with an outpouring of support, calling into the TV station to donate money towards the rebuilding of Johnson’s car. When all was said and done, $72,000 had been donated by the public, which was matched by Ford Australia leaving the grand total at $144,000. The amount reignited Johnson’s racing career, which still continues today as a key stakeholder in the DJR Team Penske Racing Team, which is currently dominating the 2017 Supercar Championship. Of course Johnson would return to the mountain, recording three wins in the great race, including the very next year in 1981.

But just how did that rock end up in the middle of the Mt Panorama racing circuit? Well the story goes that two hungover men had made their way to the side of the track to watch the racing after a big night on the cans. One of them was lying down with his head resting on one rock and his feet resting on another, using it to hold him in position on the steep bank above the track. While moving his feet, he dislodged the rock, sending it plummeting down the embankment. At this point the two men bolted and were never to be seen again and as for the rock… the rest is history. Johnson has since stated in interviews that he believes this story and even shares in the humour of the situation, having the rock on display in his office for the last 30 years.

What’s your favourite Bathurst memory? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Pikes Peak 2017 Wrap-up

Known as one of the most extreme racing events in the world, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb roared into Colorado once again in June, with highly accomplished drivers and riders making their way from all corners of the globe to have a crack the famous ‘Race to the Clouds’. While in its current paved form, the course isn’t quite as insane as it once were (check out the iconic short film ‘Climb Dance’ to see what old school Pikes Peak was all about), there’s no doubting the task at hand is only suited to the supremely talented and/or the slightly crazy.

Taking the win in 2017 was Romain Dumas, a French Porsche factory driver and former Le Mans 24 hour winner. For Pikes Peak he took the wheel of his Norma MXX RD Limited to take victory for the third time in four years. Despite the impressive victory and a respectable time of 9 minutes and 5 seconds, Romain was left somewhat disappointed in the run and explained that mechanical issues put a stop to having a run at Sebastien Loeb’s incredible record run (8min13sec) in 2013. “It’s difficult to put words to this victory. The primary objective was to win, which is what we did and it’s never easy here. Never. I even questioned whether I’d get to the summit....We got first place, but we wanted so much more that I’m unable to feel completely satisfied today” Said Dumas.

While one-off prototypes are undoubtedly incredible, at Rare Spares we can’t help but cast our eyes through the results to find how the classics went! In a throwback to the old school Pikes Peak days, an Audi Quattro S1E2 drew cheers the whole way up the mountain on its way to a respectable to time of 12 minutes and 18 seconds. The 44 year old Porsche 911 RSR driven by Christopher Lennon found itself inside the top 25 outright and 3rd in the open class with a seriously impressive time of 10 minutes and 50 seconds. Arguably the crowd favourite was R J Gottieb in his amazing sounding ’69 Chevy Camaro who was able to tame the mountain in a tick over 11 minutes to wind up inside the top 35 outright.

Australia’s best hope of victory in the car category came in the form of Tony Quinn, who piloting his 633kw VR38DETT-powered Ford Focus bodied machine came within 3 kilometers of setting a lighting fast time before his brakes gave way. Although disappointed, the failure hasn’t dampened Quinn’s spirits who has stated he will back to take on the mountain again next year. The most impressive Australian result this year belongs to Sydney born Rennie Scaysbrook, who riding a brand new KTM Super Duke 1290 R finished second outright in the bike category. By doing so, Scaysbrook became only the 3rd man in history to break the 10 minute barrier on a motorcycle.

The Pikes Peak Hill climb holds a certain prestige, with competitors and spectators alike respecting that this mountain is a special beast, capable of wreaking havoc on those who take it lightly. Many have stated that the incredible Sebastien Loeb/Peugeot record from 2013 may never be broken, and in fairness no one has come even close yet. However, with a number of incredible custom built hill climb machines popping up across the world, it’s unquestionable that Pikes Peak is sure to retain its incredible reputation long into the future.

Aussie Cars that never were

When we think about Aussie cars, our minds drift towards the Commodore, the Falcon, or the Territory. However, what about those Aussie cars that didn’t quite go as far in the public domain as these classics? Australia has produced some awesome cars that didn’t quite reach the lofty heights laid out in planning. In this article we will take a look at three Aussie cars that didn’t sell in the intended quantities, but still hold a special place in Australian automotive history.

Ilinga AF-2

The Ilinga (aboriginal word meaning ‘distant horizon’) AF-2 was designed by Tony Farrell in partnership with Victorian businessman Daryl Davies. The intention for the Ilinga was to be a high-performance luxury coupe utilising aluminium body panels over a steel chassis, using a modified Leyland/Rover 4.4 litre V8 to provide the power. Before running into financial difficulties, two prototypes were built and orders were taken, however the 1970’s oil crisis ensured the closing of Leyland Australia, meaning the Ilinga had lost its engine supplier. One of the prototypes lives in the carpark entrance of the Melbourne Museum, whilst the other is nowhere to be found!

 

Giocattolo

Born in 1986, the Giacattolo was the brainchild of Paul Helstead and F1 engineer Barry Lock. With plans to build Australia’s first Supercar, Helstead and Lock took an Alfa Romeo Sprint and dropped a 5 litre Walkinshaw Holden Group A V8. Producing 220kw and 500Nm, the car was a rocket, capable of powering the Giocattolo from 0-100 in under 5.5 seconds while having an electronically limited top speed of 260kph. With upgraded tyres, brakes, transmission and a supremely high tech suspension package, the Giocatollo was akin to a Go-Kart on steroids. The $80,000 price tag however was a bridge too far for consumers, and production ceased after only 3 years and 15 units were built. To take a look at the article we put together on the Italian/Australian pocket rocket earlier in 2017, click here.

Joss JT1/JP1/Vanguard

With more comeback tours than John Farnham, what started out as the Joss JT1 was supposed to be Australia’s answer to iconic supercars such as the Enzo Ferrari and Lamborghini Murcielago. It has never eventuated unfortunately, as numerous attempts to get the project off the ground including renames to JP1 and eventually Vanguard have fallen flat. Featuring a 6.8 litre V8, the 940kg supercar was fast enough to achieve 0-100kph in less than 3 seconds and run the quarter mile in a tick under 12 seconds in stock trim. Only 1 Joss has been built to date and the outlook looks bleak, however we’ve been in this position before only for Joss to announce that the project has been fired into life again! So who knows, maybe there’s still hope for the Joss JT1/JP1/Vanguard?

Have you spotted any of these low production Aussie cars on the road? Or maybe you’re the proud owner of one of the very few remaining Giacattolo’s? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

The Fastest Aussie Ever

On the clear morning of 27th March, 1994 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia the natural serenity was interrupted by a deafening roar. A 36,000hp Mirage jet fighter engine kind of roar. Except that this engine wasn’t strapped to the back of said Mirage, it was perhaps crazily applied to a wheeled vehicle, set on achieving the World Land Speed record and named the Aussie Invader II.

The story of Aussie Invader II began over 10 years earlier, the inspiration coming from committed Australian speedster Rosco McGlashan, OAM. Rosco’s obsession with speed started at an early age and after following Donald Campbell’s Speed Record attempts, Rosco was determined to go faster than Donald and committed himself to the goal.

From drag racing to rocket powered world record go karts to jet dragsters, Rosco really has the ‘need for speed’ as they say!

The 10 year project to build Aussie Invader II involved a 25 strong team of professionals. From manufacturing processes, to design, aerodynamics, jet propulsion, safety and electronics, Aussie Invader II was a huge undertaking.

Aiming to beat the Australian Land Speed Record of 403mph (set by Campbell), the first outing in 1993 of Aussie Invader II was successful, the car reaching 450mph, however bad weather meant that officially timed runs couldn’t be completed.

Back on the dry, flat Lake Gairdner in 1994 and with improvements to the vehicle, it was time to open the afterburner and set a record. How does a lazy 801.8km/h (498.2mph) followed by an 801.3km/h on the way back to make it official sound? That’s pretty damn quick if you ask us!

Not content on smashing the Australian Land Speed Record, Rosco announced to his team that he wanted to push harder and aim for the outright World Land Speed Record the same day, despite weather conditions deteriorating in front of them. After their jaws came back off the floor, the team prepared the car and nervously watched on as Rosco opened the throttle.

The Mirage fighter engine certainly had the potential in it and Rosco quickly found himself heading southbound and accelerating up to 933km/h (580mph) before it all went wrong. The special wheels broke through the salt surface, pitching the machine sideways as it tramlined across the timing markers, only 200 metres from the measured mile. Sadly, Aussie Invader II was a write off. Fortunately Rosco was still in one piece.

Unperturbed, Rosco and the team rebuilt and debuted Aussie Invader 3 in 1996 at Lake Gairdner for a crack at Richard Noble’s new 633mp/h World Land Speed Record. Despite a higher peak speed of 638mph, the British record would remain due to adverse weather conditions that prevented a committed, official back to back run.

In 1997 the Thrust SSC, developed by Richard Noble stepped up the game, breaking the speed of sound and rewriting the record books. This speed record has not been broken in the 20 years since that feat, which is quite impressive in its own right.

As for Rosco, the obsession continues, and despite being the ‘Fastest Aussie Ever’ with the Australian Land Speed Record, he is not resting on those laurels. Rosco is currently building the Aussie Invader 5R, with the aim of that elusive World Record. The engine? a 62,000 lbs thrust liquid oxygen and bio-kerosene motor. Sounds explosive! We can’t wait to see how the project shapes up.

Ireland’s John Goss Special

When Falcon Coupe enthusiast Brock Mahoney started his search for a John Goss Special XB Falcon, we doubt a trip across to Ireland was on the agenda. With only a few vehicles matching Brock’s online searching, he tried to track down a winner with the local Aussie examples, leaving another potential match in Ireland as a last resort. However, with no luck, Brock found himself on a flight to Ireland for what felt like a treasure hunt of sorts, hoping he would hit the goldmine to share a space with his custom XC Falcon show car “INENVY”, a car we are sure that many of you will be familiar with.

The John Goss Special XB Falcon was manufactured in 1975 to honour Goss’ privateer victory in the 1974 Hardie-Ferodo 1000. There is believed to have been up to 800 of the unique Falcon’s produced, although Ford has never announced an exact number. Features unique to the model included a special polar white and either blue or green accent paint scheme, increased dash instrumentation, a three spoke steering wheel, vented bonnet and twelve slot steel wheels.

The John Goss Special in question had been sent over to Ireland a decade ago and restored by the previous owner Tom. This particular Falcon was one of four that have spent time in Ireland, with three being sent directly from Australia and one making its way via England. Tom’s example had been restored so well, it would put many Australian experts to shame, and whilst the exterior remained almost completely to Goss standard, some changes had been made. The original 302 had been replaced by a 351, the four-speed transmission had been replaced with a T5 transmission and the original wheels were replaced with Weld wheels. The original white, single headlight grill had also been replaced with a black, duel headlight grill.

Since returning to Australia, the grill has been returned to its original single headlight state, and the steering wheel has been replaced with a correct GS wheel. New tyres have been fitted and plans are also in place to return the engine and transmission to the original 302 and four speed specification.

And whilst the Falcon lived a cosy life inside a humidity bubble, safely nestled away from the harsh Irish conditions, the car will certainly appreciate a life back on home soil, bathing in the warmth of the Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Do you have any John Goss Special stories the Rare Spares Community will find interesting? Or maybe you’re the proud owner of a beautiful old Falcon? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments section below.