Falcon GT By The Years: 1974

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Ford Falcon XB GT
On January 25, 1974, the Ford Motor Company, through its marketing manager Mr Keith Horner, issued a statement announcing the company's withdrawal from motor racing, mainly due to the "greater cost pressures brought on by developmental needs in emission control and vehicle safety, as well as fuel economy needs caused by the world energy crisis”.

Many different interpretations were put on this statement, ranging from suggestions that Ford were pulling out because they realised they wouldn't have a chance of being competitive with the forthcoming V8 Torana’s, to opinions citing the parent company in the United States as being responsible and issuing a directive to the local company. The latter opinion is undoubtedly near the truth, as Ford Australia wasn't the only Ford company which stopped or reduced its competition activities in 1974.

It was a sad occasion for motor sport in Australia, as Ford had been directly involved for a long time, and this involvement had had an immeasurably good effect on the advancement of the sport - in particular since the first Falcon GT was introduced. The names GTHO and Moffat were household words and Ford's competition-oriented image had not only helped them sell more cars, but their involvement had resulted in the building of better cars.

Motor racing improves any breed of motor car - and racing experience rubs off through manufacturers, subcontractors, component suppliers and even (hopefully) the dealer networks, the end result being a better car for the man-in-the-street. As the Australian Financial Review said in an article on the Falcon GT in their issue of March 5, 1973, - "The Roaring Fordies - it was all buffoonery, but they were great.

For 1974, Allan Moffat was given Fred Gibson's old car, while Freddie got the spare works machine (remembering that Allan's car was written off at Phillip Island). Moffat's Mustang had been sponsored in 1973 by the toiletries and cosmetics people Faberge, and this was continued in 1974 for the Mustang and the Falcon.

Fred Gibson obtained sufficient backing from Castrol to compete in a couple of meetings, while John Goss and Murray Carter continued with MeLeod Ford and Shell respectively. A new model Falcon was released at this time, the XB series. It was basically the same as the previous model but with various cosmetic modifications, although of significance were the standard four-wheel disc brakes on the GT model.

Despite a general air of gloom around the Ford camp after the company's shock withdrawal from the sport, the year got off to a fair start with John Goss's second place in the South Pacific touring car series run in conjunction with the Tasman series for Formula 500 cars. He won two of the four rounds, but Peter Brock took out the title.

The Sun-7 Chesterfield series was less than successful for the Falcons, with only a second and a third for Goss out of the three rounds he contested, while Fred Gibson contested only one round and failed to finish. Nobody was terribly optimistic about Ford's chances in 1974, what with the factory not being involved and the threat of a new V8 Torana in the not too distant future in the background.

Despite this, Allan Moffat won two out of the first five rounds and was placed in two others before he disappeared to the USA in May. In the fourth round, at Amaroo, he demolished the lap record in practice, but blew his engine on the warm-up lap, swapping into Fred Gibson's car at ~he last moment and starting at the rear of the grid.

The series was fairly uninteresting overall, with usually only a couple of Falcons entering. John Goss entered in a couple of rounds, as did Fred Gibson. Murray Carter was the only driver to consistently show the Ford flag and was rewarded with places in five of the six rounds he contested, including a second place behind Moffat at Sandown Park. Phil Waters created some interest in two of the rounds by entering his GTHO Phase 3, but the grand old lady was showing her age, the best he could manage being a seventh place at Surfer's Paradise.

The series went to Peter Brock, who debuted the new Torana SLR5000 with a 308 cu.in. V8 engine, late in the series. Meanwhile, several Falcon sports-sedans were upholding the marque in some States, these being the lightweight hardtop of John Goss, and the earlier models of Russell Kramer 'and Pat Crea, all of these cars scoring successes during the year. Smart new Brut 33 for Moffat got the publicity and seemed the car to beat at Bathurst. But there were problems ahead.

In August, Holden introduced a version of the new Torana SLR5000 specifically designed for racing. Designated the L34, it featured flared mudguards for wide tires and various engine and suspension modifications to make it more suitable for development and the stresses of motor racing. It certainly didn't help the diminishing confidence of Ford supporters, as on paper it looked very, very good. It was released in August.

Allan Moffat withdrew from the touring car championship trail in May and went to the USA where he was building up a very expensive and hopefully very effective Falcon to counter the new Torana’s. He spent nearly four months over there and actually did two 1,000km runs at the 7.5 mile speed and endurance track at the Transportation and Research Centre, Ohio, in preparation for the Hardie-Ferodo 1000.

The car was reported to be turning out 440 bhp - about 50 more than was previously achieved and had reached speeds of over 160 mph at the Ohio test track. Ford supporters took heart when details of the new Falcon were released, as it was obviously going to be a very quick motor car.

Moffat's race ends in the  pits at Bathurst with a  multitude of mechanical  problems before halfway. But Goss and Bartlett were able to save the day - with  advice from Moffat. The L34 Torana’s made their debut in the first round at Adelaide and celebrated with a victory by Colin Bond. However, they were not without their problems, as Bond finished with gearbox troubles and Peter Brock's car blew up.

The only Falcon in the race was that of Murray Carter, who finished second after leading the race but suffering a blown differential seal which cost him a win. Allan Moffat returned to racing in the next round at Sandown, in a new car, but not the one which had been getting all the publicity - that was being kept for Bathurst. Anyway, he won, and Murray Carter, as reliable as ever, came in third. Significantly, both the Dealer Team Torana’s had big problems.

Only three Falcons entered for the 1974 Bathurst classic, again part of the manufacturers championship: Allan Moffat in the new Brut 33 Falcon with German ace Dieter Glemser, Murray Carter and Mike Stillwell in the Shell car; and John Goss and Kevin Bartlett in the McLeod Ford car. Moffat's car was painted in an eye-catching overall dark blue with "Moffat Ford Dealers - an Australian flag and Brut 33 in huge letters on the side. It attracted an enormous amount of publicity and was apparently the car to beat. However, nothing went right for Moffat this time.

In practice he had only completed a few laps when oil pressure problems set in, causing him to miss almost all of the remaining practice time. He qualified a lowly 15th on the starting grid. To add to Moffat's problems, Harry Firth, managing the Holden Dealer Team, submitted a 15-point protest against the car. It was found to be completely legal, but this little bit of gamesmanship on Firth's part certainly didn't improve Moffat's already marked psychological disadvantage.

Of the other Falcon’s, Goss and Bartlett saved some face by qualifying third fastest, but Torana’s were well entrenched on the front row, both the Dealer Team cars being there. On race day, things didn't seem to be much better, with Murray Carter being late in arriving at the circuit due to traffic problems.

When the race started, things looked better for Moffat almost immediately. Even though the two Torana’s were clearly ahead, by the end of the first lap, he had stormed through the field to pick up 10 places to be in fifth place. Unfortunately Goss had a bad start and was back to sixth. As the race settled down, the Moffat Falcon looked to be a chance after all and seemed to be going well.

Murray Carter had problems almost immediately and was regularly in and out of the pits in the early stages with tire problems. He ultimately retired with brake and clutch problems and was never a threat. On lap 12, the Moffat/Glemser challenge effectively ended when the car had to pit with ignition troubles. Eventually just about everything that could go wrong to a Falcon did, and Moffat retired after slightly more than half distance after suffering from distributor, bearing, clutch, gearbox and brake problem.

It was a sad end to the most expensive and glamorous assault on Bathurst seen so far. Meanwhile, the Bond/Skelton and Brock/Sampson Torana’s were doing it easily with the Goss/Bartlett Falcon in third place, some three laps behind. Then a series of events occurred which completely changed the race.

First, Goss punctured a tire on the mountain, and pitted after a dramatic drive down Conrod Straight with two wheels on the grass to prevent the wheel from disintegrating. In the pits, Allan Moffat advised him to put on wet weather tires He did - and almost immediately it began pelting with rain on top of the mountain.

For a few minutes the spectators witnessed the sight of rain at one end of the circuit and sunshine at the other. The pits were suddenly full of cars, as the rain then drenched the whole circuit. The second thing to happen was that Colin Bond was black-flagged for dropping oil from his very smoky Torana He later restarted but was no longer a threat.

Then Peter Brock, who was miles ahead, blew his motor and was out. Fourth placed Bob Forbes suddenly found himself in the lead, but he still had to make a pit stop. Twenty laps from the end, John Goss, who had run out of driving time, handed the car over to Kevin Bartlett to finish the race. Twelve laps later the Forbes Torana made its pit stop and Bartlett took the lead, which he kept. He drove masterfully in the diabolical conditions, keeping Forbes well at bay.

It was a red-letter day for the Ford people, particularly after the uncertainty faced by them at the beginning of the year. It also proved that a private entry could win at Bathurst, and for Goss personally, it corrected the injustice done to him in the 1973 race. The remaining two races of the manufacturers championship were won by Colin Bond, thus giving the title to Holden.

Goss's was the only Falcon entered at Surfer's Paradise and he came fourth after an unnecessarily slow pit stop cost him two placed, while at Phillip Island Murray Carter came in a steady second, Allan Moffat losing his lead when the motor in his Falcon blew. Thanks to Gossy and KB it wasn't such a bad year for Falcons after all.

Also see:
GT Falcon Race Results 1974
Bathurst Race Results 1974
Bathurst Race Program 1974
Bathurst Memorable Moments
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource