A Look into the Career of Allan Moffat

Although Australian motorsport has its fair share of locally grown heroes, there’s one that hails from Canada. He’s a name with a familiar voice to many thanks to his 1970s TV adverts for Ford and Victa but it’s his on track prowess that he’ll be remembered for. He is, of course, Allan Moffat.

Born in the double tongue twisting city and state of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in November 1939, Moffat became an Australian citizen in 2004. He had been eligible since the early 1970s but said he’d never bothered to follow it up. It was in the mid 1950s that Moffat and his family arrived in Australia, after his father, who worked for tractor manufacturer Massey Ferguson, was transferred to Melbourne.

Moffat commenced his racing career, which would span twenty five years, in 1964, co-piloting a Ford Lotus Cortina. The venue was Sandown Park and the race, the Sandown Six Hour International, was a precursor to the Sandown 500. What was called the Australian Touring Car Championship saw Moffat enter for the first time in 1965, again driving a Lotus fettled Cortina.

Travelling to the USA and back kept the taciturn Canadian busy for the next three or four years before finally settling down full time in Australia. It was 1969, the year of the first manned lunar landing, that would cement Moffat into Australian motorsport history. An interview with the US based head of Ford motorsport at the time after a ballsy approach by Moffat had one of seven Trans Am Boss 302 Mustangs become his drive and enabled him to take a tilt at the ATCC crown. The “Moffstang” as it’s now popularly known, was soon to be decorated with his new, and first, major sponsor, Coca-Cola. It’s history now that the car, although a race winner, never did win the championship for him.

Rule changes in the early 1970s saw the Mustang effectively retired from competition however Moffat had already established himself as a driver to beat in other Ford cars. 1969 was his first year in the Bathurst 500, driving a Falcon XW GTHO, and courtesy of a recalcitrant gearbox managed to miss the traffic jam that grew after the now famous Bill Brown rollover at Skyline.

1970 and 1971 were marquee years for Moffat, winning back to back at Bathurst, and also stamping his authority on the event by becoming the first driver to lead from the start and win. The car? The now fabled Ford Falcon XY GTHO Phase Three.

Moffat, although known for driving and promoting “Blue Oval” products, also made his mark in other marques. The 1980 Le Mans had him in a Porsche 935. His co-driver was a soon to be famous Bobby Rahal. Moffat also drove a Porsche in the 1980 Australian Sports Car Championship. 1981 brought with it a change of direction for the bespectacled Moffat. Enter Mazda and its ground breaking Wankel rotary engine.

Four consecutive top six finishes, a second and a third in 1983 and 1984, and wins in the Australian Endurance Championships, plus his fourth Australian Touring Car Championship win in 1983 have this car and its timeframe in history etched in Australian motorsport folklore.

Of his friends and rivals, it was perhaps Peter Brock that would be rated the highest in Moffat’s opinion. The pair would race together on numerous occasions, including one memorable outing at the 1986 Spa 24 Hour event. As part of a two car team from HDT they won the Kings Cup, an award for a team that had the highest overall placings for at least 3 of their cars at the end of the race.

After Holden cut ties with Brock in 1987, Moffat bought a car, a VL Commodore SS Group A that had been readied for an assault on the World Touring Car Championship to be held in Europe. The car placed seventh yet after a remarkable protest saw the top six cars, all factory backed BMWs, disqualified, Moffat and co-driver John Harvey were declared the winners.

A return to the Blue Oval came in 1988, in the form of the Sierra RS500. Although a troubled car, Moffat did win in one in 1988’s Enzed 500 at Sandown. What was then called the “Toohey’s 1000” would be Moffat’s last at “The Mountain”. Driving with Gregg Hansford and along with Ruedi Eggenberger and Klaus Niedzwiedz, the car would retire with a blown head gasket and a cracked block with just 32 laps remaining.

It was his friend and co-driver Brock that would present the still strongly Canadian accented Moffat his Australian citizenship papers in 2004. After his 1989 retirement from driving, Moffat would go on to continue his strong association with motorsport in areas such as team management and television commentary. And, like his now departed colleague, Moffat has long lines of fans awaiting his time and signature when he appears at events such as the Muscle Car Masters. And forty years after that famous 1-2 victory at Bathurst in the XC Falcon alongside Colin Bond, Sydney Motorsport Park immortalized him by naming the super-fast Turn 1, Moffat Corner.

What are your memories of the great Allan Moffat? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below the article.

Aussie Motorsport Classic: The Channel 9 Camaro

October 3, 1982. Reid Park, Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Lap 27. Kevin Bartlett. Camaro. A time, location and car that are forever etched into Australian motorsport history.

KB is up with the leaders in the famous Bathurst 1000 when one of a batch of fourteen wheels the team had bought for the Camaro fails. It’s the rear left. Instantly, the tyre deflates, pitching the Channel 9 branded car’s rear into the concrete safety wall. The left front bounces off as the nose swings around and it’s just on a right hand curve on an uphill run.

Unsettled, there’s momentum enough to cause the Camaro to roll over to the right, landing on its roof. The car skids to the other side of the track and quickly a trackside official is there to assist a shaken Bartlett out of the inverted Camaro. He’s ok, points at the clearly ruined wheel and tyre, and walks into the crowd.

In context, it was a miracle that Bartlett and the Channel 9 sponsored car were in the race at all. In practice just a couple of days before, co-driver Colin Bond was at the wheel when a ball joint nut on the front left wishbone came adrift. The front left suspension collapsed and flung the corner into the wall. The location? Almost exactly where the wheel would fail two days later.

As KB says: “it was a miracle that my crew and the TAFE smash repair team had it back together in time for qualifying.” However, there’s more to the story in getting the car on track in the first place.

Bartlett bought the car, a brand new 1978 built machine, from an American dealership and imported the car into Australia. The intent was to race it in what was then the Group C regulations. Once the car landed, Bartlett says, a lot of work was needed to get the car down to the weight as stipulated. The leaf spring suspension was replaced with fibreglass units, super strong Kevlar for the front guards and spoilers, but CAMS insisted that the car use drum brakes at the rear, instead of the optional disc brakes.

In case you’re wondering why the car looks different to a 1978 model, it’s because CAMS also said the car had to run with bodywork from the ’74 to ’77 models. Bartlett still shakes his head in disbelief. But there was a hidden benefit as it turned out. The earlier bumpers were aluminium, not steel…

Is the Channel 9 Camaro your favourite Aussie Motorsport classic? Or maybe you're a GTHO or Torana sort of person? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us about your favourite cars to hit the Australian motorsport scene!