150 Falcon hardtops converge upon Mount Panorama to commemorate the 40th anniversary of an historic Bathurst win
IF YOU’RE a car guy or girl, odds are that your world stops for one weekend each year for the Bathurst 1000. It’s a time for hanging with mates and sinking a few cold ones in front of the TV – or better yet, on the Mountain itself.
For Ford fans, not many Bathurst moments rank as highly, or burn as brightly in the memory as the Moffat Ford Dealers team 1-2 win in 1977 in their XC Falcon hardtops. It was a decisive victory, with the third-placed Torana of privateer Peter Janson a lap behind. But the win wasn’t without a little controversy, thanks to Allan Moffat pulling rank as team owner. Despite his car suffering a lack of brakes and increasing lap times, Moffat instructed Bond to stay behind him in second place in the #2 car as they rolled across the finish line together. In subsequent years, Moffat has been quoted as saying he has no regrets over the decision to keep the faster Bond back. For his part, Bond has said that he wishes he’d broken rank and powered on for the win.
Regardless, it was an iconic moment in Australian racing, and it has been bringing Falcon coupe owners together every two years since 2007 for the Hardtop Anniversary.
The 2017 Hardtop Anniversary was particularly special in that it celebrated not only the 40th anniversary of that Bathurst win, but also a decade of the event itself. Traditionally held in Echuca in Victoria, the 2017 event moved to its spiritual home, Mount Panorama. This meant a change in dates and activities, but the new location also helped attract additional entrants. Around 150 XA/XB/XC coupes converged upon the Mount, coming from every state in the nation – about 35 more vehicles than the 2015 event.
After entrants’ registration, the first official activity of the weekend was a parade lap around the track. Naturally, a few eager owners had already spent some time cruising the Mountain beforehand, including our 2016 Street Machine Of The Year winner, West Australian Chris Bitmead’s XBOSS.
We had Chris doing some laps for our cameras, and he also handed the keys to each of his crew members throughout the weekend for a few laps of their own. It was the first real cruising the car had done since some test drives during the build, and everyone seemed pretty stoked with the result.
It didn’t seem to matter where you went around Bathurst – hotel car parks, CBD shopping or on the street – Falcon coupes were everywhere. While activities on a closed track weren’t possible, the weekend was still pretty full for those entered. Friday afternoon included a visit to the National Motor Racing Museum and a Q&A session with members of the Moffat Ford Dealers team. The museum has played host to Moffat’s original #1 car for the past few decades. Saturday saw entrants out and about visiting local attractions and an informal dinner later in the evening.
But for both entrants and spectators, Sunday was definitely the highlight of the weekend. On a beautiful spring morning, all 150 coupes assembled in pit lane, completely filling it from one end to the other. Parked close together and with all available space around them full of punters, it looked as if all the Falcon coupes in the world had made the journey.
Two signing sessions took place in one of the pit garages, and the line quickly stretched out and around the main building as Ford fans assembled with their air cleaner covers, glovebox lids, model cars and other collectibles to be autographed. Members of the Moffat Ford Dealers team, including Colin Bond and Alan Moffat himself, were on hand and must have signed several hundred pieces each. Racing veteran Murray Carter was also in attendance, as was Fred Gibson, who raced competitively from the 60s to the 80s and is the name behind Gibson Motorsport.
It’ll surely be hard to beat this year’s Hardtop Anniversary at Bathurst, but we’re sure the organisers at the Ford Coupe Club of Australia will have something great lined up in time for the 2019 event.
XBOSS AT THE MOUNTAIN
Ever wondered what it would be like to drive Australia’s greatest Falcon coupe show car around Bathurst? Chris Bitmead, owner of 2016 SMOTY winner XBOSS (left), did just that at the Hardtop Anniversary. “It was awesome; just to drive the car around the track was excellent,” he said “To be honest, I enjoyed watching the other boys drive it as much as I enjoyed driving it myself.”
Of course, being a completely custom-built car, something had to go wrong.
“We had a battery die on us, of all things, so we weren’t able to adjust the airbags by the end of the weekend,” Chris said. “We thought there was an issue with the alternator, so on the Saturday we pulled half the car apart to get the alternator out, but couldn’t find anything wrong with it, so we put it all back together again. That was about a five- or six-hour exercise! Apart from that, the car went really well. I think we ended up doing about 18 laps, which adds up to about 100km.
“When we built the car I did a string-line wheel alignment, and I don’t think I need to change anything, it just steers beautifully. The car seems to ride nice on the airbags and did everything it needed to do. For a place to test out a car that you’ve hand-built, this is awesome.
“The only sadness is that it was our last weekend going away to events and enjoying the experience as a group. The biggest problem now will be getting the car back off Greg Maskell!”
After 18 months in Greg’s workshop, the car will finally be making its way back home to Perth, and you’ll be able to check it out at Motorvation 32.
1. The Falcon hardtops of Moffat and Bond crossing the line at Bathurst in ’77 is one of the most enduring images in Australian motorsport. Fans had the chance to get up close and personal with the cars at the 2017 Hardtop Anniversary
2. Ken and Lisa Young cruised their gorgeous Landau down from Queensland. It would have been a nice trip, too, thanks to the plush re-trim
3. This flawless XB is the latest in a long line of Fords for Wollongong native Wayne Johnston. A six-year rebuild hasn’t made him precious about the car, with trips to Queensland already under its belt and the Victorian All Ford Day coming up in 2018. The alloy-headed 393 is good for almost 600hp
4. Darren Blackman’s 600hp Howard Astill-built XB coupe had spectators and fellow owners drooling all weekend. It’s awesome seeing a car of such a high calibre being driven
5. Scott Regan saved this 302-powered XC convertible from the scrap heap, having spent a good decade in a paddock in the Hunter Valley. Scott spent the next four years restoring the car, which had been engineered when it was first built. He and his brother drove both the convertible and Scott’s other coupe (parked behind) from the Central Coast
6. Both Allan Moffat and Colin Bond were present for signing sessions at the show ’n’ shine on the Sunday, as well as a Q&A at the awards dinner later that evening
7. The T-top: a relic of a bygone era
8. Geoff McMahon drove his Goss coupe 18 hours from South Australia to be at the event and was excited enough to invite all the other Goss owners to decorate his driver’s door with their rego numbers and home states. Geoff has owned this survivor car for 21 years and says it’s the only Goss to come from a dealer with black trim
9. This replica of the #2 1977 Bathurst-winning coupe was on hand to make sure everyone remembered what they were celebrating
10. Francis Banken’s Landau has to be the best looking of its kind. All the way over from WA, the big coupe looks classic and on-trend at the same time thanks to its classy colour scheme, big billets and classic black trim
11. XBOSS wasn’t the only top-shelf show car to make it to the Anniversary event, with IN ENVY coming down from Queensland to cruise the track and drop some jaws at the same time
12. Vince Neville drove his immaculate 427ci small-block XB up from Melbourne. It’s been a regular on club runs and cruises after a six-year rebuild, but his history with the car stretches back 35 years! The 427 is backed by a TKO five-speed and 3.7:1 gears in the 9in, underpinned by tricked-out suspension