IN ALL their die-cast glory a little extravagance arrived in the post during the week, tightly bubble-wrapped and shiny as the day they were mass-produced in a factory in pre-boom China. And, just for a moment, I was 11 again.
For $40, plus postage, you too can become the slightly bemused owner of two tiny but gloriously detailed models depicting the famous one-two Ford finish at the 1977 Bathurst 1000. Worth every cent.
For some reason that iconic image of Allan Moffat and Colin Bond crossing the line in formation has long remained a touchstone sporting moment. Perhaps, for a young lad marooned in the bush, the combined glories of colour television and the gobsmacking notion of live sport were the first tasty morsels of a wider feast in the outside world.
With only one commercial television station, for me the Bathurst 1000 became a much-anticipated day to get in an extra crate of creaming soda and splurge on the Twisties for an all-day marathon in front of the telly.
So take solace, couch potatoes, not every motor sport fan is formed through tinkering with one’s own go-kart or riding a dirt bike across the cow paddock on the way to a formula one career.
True, my father was the proud owner of a XB Falcon back in 1977, but, let’s face it, it was a station wagon, with none of the cache of the black coupe Mel Gibson would soon so famously pilot as the road warrior around the back roads of Little River. Inexplicably, dad’s economic decision to buy a Ford over a Holden set in stone a sporting love affair.
Which is all very strange really. These days a bloke is far more inclined to question why you would actually want to cheer on a grumpy Canadian (Moffat), supported by a Belgian (Jacky Ickx), who was driving – let’s be honest Broadmeadows – a largely US-designed car to victory.
But back then, one thing above all else drove the sense of belonging – the need to pick a side. Ford or Holden, which are you? It was a question every kid would face at some time and an answer would surely be required. How it became a sporting question still baffles.
Yet, even today, it’s still a question I found myself posing to bush-bred formula one driver Mark Webber this year in Spain. Among a paddock full of European marques his answer came just as easily. ”I was a Ford [man], my dad always had Fords, which is an Australian thing [to pick one or the other],” he said with the resignation of a man who also knows that the nation requires him to choose.
It’s a battle that is largely moot. Webber himself is now a part of the larger motoring world that has seen Australians eschew the local rivalry in favour of the thrills imported from afar. One wonders if the relentless march towards luxury cars and computer-assisted parking has actually helped romanticise and ennoble domestic motor sport. Surely the less complicated and fancy the better – the joys of having only two TV channels and two makes of cars to choose from, that sort of thing.
Then again, it turns out 1977 wasn’t so pure. Then the winning Fords advertised Camel cigarettes and the Bathurst race itself was known as the Hardie-Ferodo. To a kid it was an exotic name for an all-day endurance race, in reality it was the naming-sponsor that made brake pads chock full of asbestos. It’s a ghastly reminder that life is not always so sporting and not everyone got a glorious ending.
Still, unwrapping my little part of history this week it was comforting to offer up the Moffat and Bond models to my eight-year-old son and bore him senseless about a time when the car my dad drove won the great race.
Boys and their toys hey?
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