Image thanks to Ian Welsh / Shifting Focus Photographics
The 2018 Spring Festival is coming up in a few short weeks and will be held at Wakefield Park over the 22nd and 23rd of September. In the lead-up to the event, let’s get to know a few drivers who’ll be joining us at the event as well as the cars they’ll be running.
Garry Ford got his start in motorsport doing hill climbs and lap dashes in an XW Falcon in 1972. His relationship with the 1970 Ford Escort that he’ll be bringing to Wakefield Park began all the way back in 1977, when he won his first ever race in the car from pole position at Amaroo Park.
By Lance J. Ruting
“I raced the car for two years, and in 1978 finished what I call Part A of my racing career, hanging up my gloves while I took time out of motorsport to start my family. My wife Cheryl and I married in 1971 and her support has made it possible for me to do everything I’ve done in motorsport.”
“After doing the family thing for twenty years, I started Part B of my motorsport career, buying a six cylinder Mark 2 Escort Sports Sedan and entering sprints and hill climbs. I won a few sprint series at Warwick as well as the over two-litre sports sedan class in the New South Wales hill climb championships.”
“I then had the opportunity to buy my Mk1 car back, so I sold the Mk2 in around 2008 and have been running the Mk1 regularly ever since.”
Garry’s car is a 1970 Ford Escort Sports Sedan. It was built by Ron Whittaker in Sydney, and first log-booked in 1975 with a V6 motor. Ron raced the car, under the same livery you’ll see it in at the Spring Festival, competing mainly at Oran Park and Amaroo Park as well as Hume Weir and Calder Park.
Whittaker sold the car to Garry in 1977, sans engine and gearbox. Garry solved that problem by fitting a 302 Windsor V8 top loader gearbox he pulled from his ’69 XW Falcon road car, as well as a Borg Warner differential.
The car was built as a Division 2 car and, like many Sports Sedans of the time, was a fairly basic machine for a race car. The engine was close to standard, featuring only a four barrel carburettor and modified camshaft. Despite not making that much horsepower, it had a lot of torque and with its diff, was a match for XU1 Toranas, Minis and other common tin top racers of the time.
Suitably sorted, Garry then took the Escort racing, mostly competing at Oran Park at Amaroo but also taking part in a 1978 Australian Sports Sedan championship round at Surfers Paradise. He finished seventh, “the $175 in prize money more than paid for all of our accommodation and running costs towing the car from Sydney.”
He also won the JRC Engineering Sports Sedan Series in the car, which was run by the AARC at Amaroo in 1978.
By Lance J. Ruting
After racing the car for two years, Garry sold it to Graeme Holmes, who continued to make it a regular at Oran Park and Amaroo and took it south for an outing at Sandown. Holmes owned it until 1981, changing the livery to red and silver in that time. It went on to have four more owners, but saw less track time in this period of its life.
Nearly three decades after selling it, Garry eventually bought the Escort back from an owner who’d had it for six years, running hill climbs at Mount Cotton in Brisbane, making him both the second and eighth owner of the car.
“Believe it or not, when I bought it the mechanicals were still the same, including the engine, gearbox and diff. I restored the paintwork to its 1978 livery and got back into competition with it.”
Garry drove the car in sprints, hill climbs and race meetings, frequenting Morgan Park in Queensland but also appearing at Queensland Raceway, Lakeside, Bathurst, Sydney Motorsport Park and even taking it to Tasmania to run at Baskerville.
Garry’s currently leading the field in the New South Wales hill climb championship and, having attained a historic Group U logbook, is competing with the Escort as a historic Sports Sedan.
Clearly a tidy steerer, we’re looking forward to seeing Garry at the wheel of the 1970 Ford Escort Mark 1 V8 at the Spring Festival in just a few short weeks.
The Spring Festival will be held at Wakefield Park over the 22nd and 23rd of September, 2018, with private practice held at the circuit on Friday the 21st.
Spectator tickets will be available at the gate each day. Kids under 16 get in free, adult tickets are $20 for a day or $30 for a weekend pass and concession tickets are $15 or $25 for the weekend. Wakefield Park is located at 4770 Braidwood Rd, Tirrannaville.
Our thanks to Garry Ford for contributing to this story. Contemporary images thanks to Ian Welsh / Shifting Focus Photographics. Period photos by Lance J. Ruting.