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Thread: Article: Tru-Blu

  1. #1

    Article: Tru-Blu

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    October 5, 1980. At just before 9.30am, Dick Johnson, in the big blue XD Ford Falcon with the Tru-Blu signage emblazoned down each flank, and the Queensland map on the roof, clunked his top-loader into first gear. Sat on the outside of the front row at Bathurst, at Australia’s biggest and domestically most important race, he could never have imagined the series of events that were to transpire throughout this day, and how they would change his life forever.

    At 35 years of age, Johnson had battled throughout his motor racing career. Success hadn’t come easily. In fact, on a national level, it had yet to arrive. He’d been racing since 1964, but was a virtual unknown outside of his native Queensland. From 1980, Johnsons career would be forever linked to that of Peter Brock. With Australian touring car fans being very much divided into those who supported Holden, or those who supported Ford, the Ford fans needed a new hero, and in Johnson, they found one.

    Johnson and Brock were the same age, and both started racing as teenagers. They even stationed at the same Army base during their national service, although they didn’t actually know each other at the time. But they were very different people, whose careers followed quite different paths. Brock got the dream phone call early in his career, from Holden Dealer Team manager Harry Firth, and made his Bathurst debut in 1969. He was already an established super-star by 1980, having won the Australian Touring Car Championship three times, and Bathurst four times. Indeed, 1980 would be his fifth Bathurst win. Meanwhile, Johnson had met with a series of frustrations, and already retired from racing twice.

    Up until 1976, Johnson had been predominantly a Holden man, just like his father, Bob. He began racing an FJ, took the traditional next step to EH’s, and was the first person in Australia to race a Torana, when he debuted his brand new LC GTR. Hobbled by a lack of finances, and largely ignored by the factory teams and corporate sponsors, who were almost all stationed in the South, frustration grew throughout the early to mid-1970s as Johnsons career failed to gain traction.

    Johnsons one and only Holden factory drive came in 1974, when Harry Firth offered him the seat in the out-going HDT XU-1, at Surfers Paradise, as team mate to Brock, who was racing the new and far superior V8 Torana SLR5000. Johnson qualified and finished third, behind Brock and Bob Morris. The ride came out of the blue, but a repeat offer wasn’t forth-coming.

    In 1976, Queensland Ford Dealer Bryan Byrt, a fanatical motorsport enthusiast, asked Johnson to take over the running and driving of his XA Falcon hardtop Sports Sedan, a former Group C touring car previously driven by Johnsons good mate John French. In modified Sports Sedan guise, Johnson would later refer to this car as the ‘stinking pile of puss’. It was not a great car! Meanwhile, he made his first Bathurst start in a Ford that same year, when Graham Moore offered him the co-drive slot in his Capri, in which the pair finished tenth outright and third in Class.

    For 1977, Byrt offered Johnson the chance to prepare and drive his XB Falcon GT hardtop Group C racer. The Byrt Fords were among the top contenders in their limited Australian Touring Car Championship outings over the next three seasons. But Johnsons relationship with Bryan Byrt was all too brief. Byrt was diagnosed with cancer, and would die on October 12, 1978, on a flight back to Australia from the US, where he was seeking possible treatment. He was a genuine and passionate motor racing enthusiast, who’d founded the Moffat Ford Dealers team to help Allan Moffat continue racing after Ford Australia had withdrawn their factory support. The Moffat Ford Dealers team, much like the Holden Dealer Team of 1980 onwards, would be funded by several Ford dealerships around Australia.

    Byrt really wanted to see one of his cars win Bathurst in ’78, and spent big to purchase a second car. But he never saw his two beautiful blue machines race. John Harris took over the huge Byrt dealership. Harris, unlike Byrt, couldn’t see the benefits to be had from pouring money into motor racing, but agreed to continue supporting Johnson for another twelve months on a reduced scale. Following Bathurst, 1979, Harris informed Johnson that he couldn’t fund the costs for building an all-new car, as would be required for 1980, with the release of the boxy new XD model. And at that, Johnson, once again, found himself without a ride.

    One positive to come out of 1979, although Johnson didn’t realise it at the time, was a re-acquaintance with a fellow he more or less grew up with, Ross Palmer. Johnsons younger brother Dave and Ross’ brother Ian did their carpentry apprenticeships together, and Ross and Ian were regular visitors to the Johnson family home. With John Harris cutting back the amount Byrt Ford spent on motor racing, he sought to gain additional sponsorship from outside companies, which included Ford Credit, and radio 4BC, while Palmer Tube Mills also came on board with a small amount of backing.

    Les Palmer, Ross’ father, built a tube rolling machine in his backyard, and his tube mill business quickly grew, being the only one of its type in the Southern Hemisphere, and eventually expanded into other areas. Among their tube milling products, were their Tru-Blu pre-painted square and rectangular hollow sections, Red-Roo pre-painted pipe, and Greens-Tuf lightweight square and rectangular hollow sections. In 1979, Ross Palmer bought the tube making side of the business, taking on heavy debt to do so, and while his initial foray into motorsport sponsorship was small, he’d eventually become an important cog in furthering Johnsons career.

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    In early 1980, Johnson, with no car and no sponsor, was sat in his living room watching the opening round of the 1980 ATCC on tv. In this race, privateer racer Gary Willmington, the first person to race the new XD model, was demonstrating this to be a car which Johnson considered had plenty of potential. Johnson knew then he had to find a way to fund an XD project. When the ATCC visited Lakeside, in Queensland, on March 30, Johnson went and had a good look at Willmingtons Falcon. He knew Willmington was struggling to gain financial support to keep the car going, so offered to buy it. As Willmington didn’t seem too keen, Johnson then set off to find John Harris, who was at the event, with a proposal.

    He knew Harris still had the old XC Falcon hardtop left over from 1979, with nobody really interested in buying it. He wanted to buy the XC plus all the spares which came with it, plus an XD road car, into which much of the componentry could be transferred. Johnson had A$32,000 in his private bank account, which was all the money he had. He told Harris he’d give him the 32K, in exchange for the XC and spares, plus an XD road car, and he’d run Bryan Byrt signage on the car for twelve months. The next morning, Harris phoned, agreeing to the deal, provided the motor and gearbox be removed from the XD, and put into the XC, along with removing the XC’s rollcage, so Byrt Ford could sell it as a road car.

    In fact, the XD supplied to Johnson was not a new car. It was an ex-Police Highway Patrol vehicle, with 43,000km on the clock, which had been bought at a State Government auction. But that mattered not to Johnson. As soon as he got it back to his workshop, he and his small team tore into it, converting the running gear into the XC. Then they spent every evening, and every weekend, over the next three months, converting that ex-Police car into the race car that would change Dick Johnsons life forever. They beat themselves to death, and were all dead on their feet when the beautiful blue machine, almost completely devoid of sponsorship, hit the track for the first time on July 20, just two days before a local event at Lakeside.

    Johnson had lined up some potential sponsorship from the computer company Facom, on the proviso the new car beat the Lakeside lap record, set by Kevin Bartletts Chanel 9 Camaro a few weeks earlier. Johnson qualified on pole, and stormed into the lead, but the speed differential between himself and the slowest cars was such that within a few laps, just as he was gunning for the lap record, he found one of the slower cars right in his path. As he described it in the brilliant Bill Tuckey book, The Unforgiving Minute, “I was on this brilliant bloody lap, that would have blown the old record 16ft in the air, with all that sponsorship hanging on it, and would you believe it... bloody Zoom Zacka did a right turn in front of me in his Gemini, and I planted him. I think I got fined for speeding in the pits, but that cost me $100,000, because Facom put it all in the too-hard basket”.

    With little money, Johnson and his team set off for the CRC 300, on August 9, as part of the Endurance series. Against all the heavy hitters, Johnson planted the Falcon on the outside of the front row, next to Brock. Whereas Johnson was scrimping for every penny, Brock was reported to have amassed a budget of around A$400,000 for the season, with the newly created Holden Dealer Team, that was individually funded by several Holden dealerships throughout Australia, rather than General-Motors Holden, and with additional backing from Marlboro and other sponsors. Johnson couldn’t even afford a co-driver for Amaroo, so drove the full 300km on his own. After leading the first 20 laps, his rear tyres began to go off, and he spun, allowing Brock, who was teamed with John Harvey, into a lead they would not relinquish. But Johnson finished an impressive second, and fired a warning shot across the bows of Australia’s top touring car teams.

    Next stop, Bathurst.

    By the time he’d raced the Amaroo event, Johnson was nearly broke. He told reporters at the CRC 300 he’d be struggling to make Bathurst that year. The organisers for the traditional Bathurst lead-in race, the Sandown 500, tried to get him to attend, but he wasn’t interested, partially because he couldn’t afford it, partially because his team were exhausted, and partially because he knew if he could get to Bathurst, he had a genuine shot at winning the big one, and he wanted to take his rivals by surprise. Brock/Harvey blitzed everyone to take out the Sandown 500 in 1980.

    In between Amaroo and Bathurst, Ross Palmer called by Johnsons home. Following Johnsons impressive showing at Amaroo, Palmer took in a visit to his accountant, and between them they set aside an advertising and promotions budget for the next twelve months, of $50,000. And Palmer was going to sink the whole she-bang into Johnsons big blue Ford. It wasn’t a budget to rival that of Brock, or several other top teams, but it allowed Johnson to get to Bathurst, and not have to lie awake at night worrying about money. While his rivals could bolt on super-sticky tyres for qualifying, Johnson would have to make do with race rubber, and although he’d be staying in free accommodation, and his crew stayed in caravans at the track, at least they’d be there. For Bathurst, Johnson would have his good mate, and Bathurst veteran John French as co-driver.

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    Bathurst is a significant race, for so many reasons. In 1960, a 500 mile endurance race for Australian made or assembled bog-standard production vehicles began, at the fast and flowing Victorian race track, Phillip Island. The annual race, with Armstrong sponsorship, quickly grew in stature, attracting manufacturer support and participation from some of Australias top racing drivers. Following the 1962 event, in which the track broke up badly during the race, it was moved to the Mount Panorama circuit, on the outskirts of the small New South Wales town of Bathurst.

    Bathurst is a monster of a race track. At over 6km in length, from its lowest point on the start-finish straight, to its highest at the top of the mountain, there is a vertical difference of 174 meters. Its torturous nature is one of the reasons it was chosen for the 1963 Armstrong 500. For any vehicle to win this event, or even finish, proved their durability. From a marketing perspective, there was nothing its equal, and as the 1960s grew into the 1970s, manufacturer involvement became massive. From 1973, the race was lengthened to 1000km, which slotted in nicely with the Confederations for Australian Motor Sports new Group C touring car regulations, which introduced new freedoms, and did away, at least partially, with the requirement for manufacturers to build what were essentially road going race cars.

    Bathurst destroys cars, and dreams. For every young Australian racing driver, their goal is to one day win at Bathurst. For every first-timer, and even veterans, its an intimidating place, that punishes mistakes in the most devastating way. Climbing the mountain puts a strain on a race car unlike any other track in Australia, and unlike few in the world. Coming back down the mountain, along the high-speed Conrod Straight, is like a roller-coaster. Mount Panorama is a public road for most of the year, with a speed limit of 80kph. Coming down Conrod Straight in a road car, the brakes need to be applied several times to avoid exceeding the speed limit. Three time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford raced at Bathurst, just once, in 1977, driving the second Bob Morris A9X Torana. On describing the place, Rutherford commented, “When you leave the pits, you have balls the size of melons. When you come down off the mountain, they are the size of raisins”.

    Bathurst is an annual pilgrimage for thousands of race fans, who, each year, set up camp on top of the mountain, drink beer, cheer at the cars as they go by (or boo them if they’re the opposing brand), and scare the hell out of anyone unfortunate enough to have their car fail them in that part of the track. They can be a scary bunch. Most are there for several days, up to nearly a week, and the combination of too much sun and alcohol can make for some pretty unruly scenes. But it is a part of Bathurst heritage, and its fair to say, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

    The Johnson team rolled into the sleepy little town of Bathurst on Monday, September 29, and set up camp. At 9am on the Wednesday, practice for the 1980 Bathurst event began, and while Brock knocked out a best lap of 2:26.2, Bartlett in the big Chanel 9 Camaro a 2:28.1, Johnson was floundering at a best of 2:29.2. The next day, Johnson improved to a 2:27.5, but Brock was now running another 2sec faster. The next time Johnson would go out, on Friday morning, would be for qualifying. Following Thursday practice, he got in his road car, and drove around the track over and over, examining every corner in detail. He then retired to his motel room, lay in bed, and lapped the track again and again in his mind, until he fell asleep. The next morning, on his first flying lap, bang! Johnson punched in a 2:25.2. Soon, he was down to into the 23s, and produced a best lap of 2:23.2, to qualify fastest. Bartlett had punched out the exact same lap time, but did it just moments after Johnson, which meant he qualified second.

    But that wasn’t the end of qualifying. Not quite. In 1978, organisers introduced a special one-lap final qualifying for the ten fastest cars, held on the Saturday of the race weekend, and called Hardies Heroes, for title sponsor James-Hardie, who, for 1980, dangled a $10,000 carrot under the nose of the ten fastest qualifiers; winner takes all. This was an additional show to keep the punters entertained, and remains a tradition at Bathurst to this day. Cars would be set off, one at a time, one lap apart, slowest to fastest. They get one banzai lap, and that lap would determine their starting positions for Sundays race. Brock, who had qualified third fastest behind Johnson and Bartlett, produced an impressive 2:21.81. Brock had the luxury of being able to bolt on a set of sticky qualifying tyres, just for Hardies-Heroes, as did Bartlett, who beat Brocks time with a startling 2:20.97. Johnson, however, had to do his lap on race tyres. He pushed hard, but ultimately came up short, finishing with a 2:21.11. God knows he could have done with the 10K, but he was on the front row, and he knew Bartlett would eventually run into problems with the Camaro, which was forced by CAMS to use drum brakes on the rear.

    So there they were, all sparkling and magnificent, lined up on the grid at a few minutes before race start, on Sunday October 5, 1980. Bartlett on pole, Johnson alongside. On row two were Brock and Harvey in the two Holden Dealer Team Commodores, while Allan Grice (Commodore) and 1976 Bathurst winner Bob Morris (Falcon) were next. Charlie O’Brien and Larry Perkins were on row four in their Commodores, with Allan Moffat (Falcon) and Garry Rogers (Commodore), rounding out the top ten. And behind them were another 50 hopefuls just trying to do the best they could.

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    Johnson may have just missed out on the top spot in Hardies-Heroes, but when the clock struck 9.30am, and the flag dropped, the Queenslander absolutely erupted off the line, and was already several car lengths in front by the time he reached Hell Corner, and began climbing the mountain for the first time. Bartlett got swamped at the start, and dropped behind Brock, Grice, and Harvey by the time he got to turn one, but he powered back to third heading up Mountain Straight. As Johnson said in The Unforgiving Minute, “I got to the top at around Reid Park and there was nothing in the mirror. Mate, I couldn’t hear the engine. This is true. All I could hear was the crowd. That was the best feeling of my life. There were Ford flags everywhere, and they were going ape. I don’t think I’ll ever match that feeling again – it had been a long time since they had seen a Ford that far in front on the first lap at Bathurst. That really made me feel good and I went down through the Esses like a dart and through the (Forrest’s) Elbow and I’ve pulled top gear and looked in the mirror and they’re just coming through Forrest’s. I thought, well, at least there’s a grand for the first lap leader”.

    Brock set off after Johnson, and actually clawed back some of the deficit, but then the blue Falcon began to draw away, and Brock came under attack from the flying Bartlett.

    Peter Brock was a gifted race car driver, make no doubt. He was at his most successful during the Group C years of 1973 – 1984, when touring cars still possessed a great many road car parts, and when a driver couldn’t just hammer on his car all day and expect it to reach the finish. These road car parts didn’t respond well in racing conditions. Brock had the innate ability to be scintillatingly fast, lap after lap, but somehow conserve his machinery. So while his rivals found their cars falling to bits around them as they tried desperately to keep up with him, Brock just knocked out fast lap after fast lap, and eventually wore everyone into the ground.

    In New Zealand driver Jim Richards, Brock had a Bathurst co-driver who was equally as gifted, and the pair won this race three times together. Combined with the best car in the field, and the most funding, this was a formidable partnership. This was best demonstrated at Bathurst 1979, when, among the walking-wounded, Brock, who was six laps ahead of the second placed car, broke the lap record on the final lap, after 1000 gruelling kilometres. But here, in the early laps of Bathurst in 1980, he suddenly found himself on the receiving end of one of the hidings he’d become accustomed to dishing out to others, as he tried desperately to keep pace with the flying Queenslander in the big blue Ford, who, outside of the racing fraternity, and his native Queensland, nobody had ever heard of.

    By lap 15, Johnson was killing them. He was 30 seconds in front and in a rhythm, and already easing back on the revs to conserve the big 351 for the long-haul. Bartlett was in the pits with his rear brakes on fire, while Grice had moved ahead of Brock. Trying desperately to stay in touch, up over Reid Park, Brock went sailing straight into the Gary Rowe/Geoff Wade Gemini, clobbering it with such force the little Isuzu was plunged into a series of barrel-rolls. Had Brock held a comfortable lead, with the race under control, perhaps he would have waited a little longer to lap the little Gemini, perhaps not, but suddenly he was in a world of trouble. He stormed back the pits, steam pouring from the front of the Commodore, pieces of bodywork going every which-way, and his crew set to work. They thought he’d holed the radiator, but in fact the water was only coming from the overflow tank, and he gunned it back out on the track, with an air-bag still jammed under the car.

    Just as Brock exited the pits, Johnson swooped through Hell Corner and began climbing Mountain Straight for the 17th time and saw the rear of the HDT machine right in front of him. He got on the radio to wife Jilly, asking, “Whose that in front of me, is it Harvey?” Just as she was replying, he shot past, saw Brocks #05 on the door, and put him a lap down. And so here he was, a lap ahead of his biggest rival, and nearly 40sec ahead of the second placed car, and full of self-belief that this could be it!

    For years and years, Bathursts solution for collecting broken cars scattered around the race track was to have teams of breakdown crews driving around the track in flat-deck Quick-Lift trucks, collecting the carcases and returning them to the pits as the rest of the cars raced by at full racing speed. For any international driver it must have been mind-boggling, but the teamwork and communication between the truck drivers and flag marshalls was well-drilled, and the race drivers knew what to expect.

    Having just lapped Brock, and feeling on top of the world, Johnson ripped into The Cutting, and a flaggie warned him of a truck ahead, which he spotted as he exited. Then, just as he was about to go by the truck, he spotted a large rock on the track which the Quick-Lift had stopped next to, in order to collect it. “The truck had stopped to pick up the rock, which was a dumb move, in retrospect. They should have either seen it earlier or gone on further and sent somebody back to pick it up – not parked beside it. But that’s neither here nor there. I had the choice of hitting the truck sideways, or doing a wall of death up the bank. I thought about straddling the rock, but that would just take out the front end, or the fuel tank”. Bare in mind, this was all happening at over 140kph. “So I flicked it right and went at the bank but I got the rock with the left front wheel. That broke the wheel and flattened the tyre, and the load change then blew the back tyre as well. The car went straight across the road at 45 degrees and rode straight up the fence like that. I thought, we could be going over here. It ran along the top of the fence, and the next minute it crashed down and stopped… dead”.

    And that was it. Johnson was out. Brock went by moments later, clicked it into gear, and set off to haul in those ahead of him. At the end of the day, Brock and Richards stood on the top step of the podium once again.

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    Had this been at any other place than Bathurst, where emotions run so high, where a nation stops every October to drink in this great endurance event, this might well have been the last anyone saw of Dick Johnson. Quite how the rock got on the track has never been explained. The most obvious theory at the time, when everyone was full of emotion and adrenaline, was that one of the crowd on top of the mountain, one of the hard-core who camp there every year, and drink beer all day in the sun, threw the rock onto the track, in an effort to end Johnsons race. In retrospect, with 60 cars of all different speeds buzzing around, and with Johnson well in amongst lapped traffic, to have orchestrated such an act so precisely seems too hard to believe. But then again, this is Bathurst, strange things happen here.

    But, this being Bathurst, this story wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. In fact, it was just beginning. At Bathurst in 1980, the brilliant, late, great Chris Economaki was brought in as a special guest, working his magic as one of the pit reporters, as only Chris Economaki could. Following Johnsons dramatic exit from the race, Economaki, clearly struck by the emotion of the events that had just taken place, filed a report on live tv that would kick-start the first day of the rest of Dick Johnsons life. “Well I’m standing in front of an empty pit, it’s a sad, sad story, the Dick Johnson story at todays Hardie-Ferodo 1000. Leading the race, he got to the top of the hill, and then an animal amongst the spectators decided to throw a rock at him. A huge rock was thrown, in front of the car, and Johnson hit it, crashed, and was out of the race. His car was put on the wrecking truck, he came back, and when he got out of the wrecking truck I was there, he was crying like a baby. In all of my years in racing, I’ve never seen a man so emotionally shaken as was Dick Johnson. He almost couldn’t walk, he was assisted to his caravan, he had his hand over his face, and he was shaking with sobs. Its truly one of the saddest racing stories I’ve ever had the unfortunate business to report”.

    The stories of Johnsons struggles to get to Bathurst, the way in which he dominated the early laps before being eliminated in the most unlikely scenario, followed by Chris Economaki’s report, created an outpouring from people all around Australia, wanting to offer financial support to the stricken Queenslander.

    Later, as the race progressed, and with Brock now comfortably in control, Ekonomaki held an interview with a still clearly shaken and emotional Dick Johnson, in the pits. In it, Johnson let rip, on what he thought of the drunken “galoots” that sat at the top of Mount Panorama each year, who at the time, were thought to have thrown the rock onto the track in front of his car. Then, part-way through the interview, tv commentator Mike Raymond interrupted: “Dick, just if I can interrupt, its Mike Raymond in the commentary panel. Er, Dick, the switch-boards in all the (Channel) 7 stations across Australia are jammed, from people who are so upset about what has happened. Er, and they, believe or not, they’re ringing, and just genuinely pledging money to help you. And this has happened in the last half-hour. Everyone knows what has happened to you, we want you to understand that everyone admires what you’ve done so far, in your qualifying efforts yesterday, and also this morning in leading the race, and we’ll keep you informed. I know the viewers across Australia are absolutely shattered by what has happened, the same as you’re shattered, we all feel the same”.

    At that, in the days and weeks that followed, Johnsons phone rang off the hook, from first thing in the morning, till last thing at night, from people wanting to offer support. The post office had to send a van to his house each day delivering hundreds of letters and telegrams. People were sending in cheques, as little as a few dollars, whatever they could afford, and Edsel Ford announced that Ford Australia would equal that provided by the Australian public. In the end, Johnson would receive a total of $74,324, half of which came from Ford Australia. But, perhaps more significantly, he’d become a national hero. Now, other sponsors were keen to have a chunk of him.

    Johnson and his team set about tearing the wrecked Bathurst car down, and building a new car for the 1981 season. The 1980 body was sold to John English. Johnson only had one full-time mechanic, in Roy MacDonald, along with a group of close friends who dived in to help build the new machine. The 1981 Australian Touring Car Championship kicked off at Symmons Plains, in Tasmania, on March 1. Johnson took the victory, ahead of Brock, and went on to win four of the remaining seven rounds, to come away as the 1981 Australian Touring Car Champion.

    At Amaroo for the CRC300, the opening round of the endurance series, Johnson finished second to Brock/Harvey, while he took victory at Oran Park. At the Sandown 500, new untested shocks went South as he was leading, and he spun twice, eventually finishing second to Brock.

    But at the 1981 running of Bathurst, it all came good. Again, Bartlett took pole, putting in a sensational Hardies-Heroes lap in treacherous conditions. In the early laps, Johnson battled Brock and Bartlett for the lead, but by lap 121, he held a 30sec lead, with Brock/Richards having broken an axle, and Bartlett having been clouted by the Ron Wanless Commodore on lap 23 while lapping him. At that point, the race was stopped, as Christine Gibson and Bob Morris collided at McPhillamy Park, and were quickly pile-drived by the Commodores of Garry Rogers and Tony Edmonson. With the track blocked, the race was called 42 laps short of its total distance. Dick Johnson and John French were announced the winners.

    Dick Johnson will forever be linked with the events that took place at Bathurst in 1980. There are even 1:18 scale models of his 1980 Tru-Blu Falcon that come with a scale version of the rock! But this is a part of Bathurst folklore, and is just one of the stories that make this such a special race, that every Australian race driver dreams of winning. The events that took place in that race, on that day in 1980, changed Dick Johnsons life forever. With the Australian public on his side, he came back in 1981, and proved he wasn’t a flash in the pan, winning the double, the Australian Touring Car Championship, and Bathurst.

    And yes, the rock still exists too. Its insured for $1 million, and lives in a glass case.

    My thanks to David Blanch a Autopics for contributing the photos for this article, which are from both the 1980 and 1981 Bathurst races.

    Please visit to view many thousands of stunning Australian motor racing photographs.

  6. #6
    Semi-Pro Racer
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Launceston Tasmania
    Well written and very enjoyable article.
    You may as well continue with more of the Johnson story now.....
    Trips to England to show the works Sierra's how its done, running a Nascar in USA etc

    At least he started in a Humpy......


  7. #7
    Semi-Pro Racer kiwi285's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Papamoa Beach
    Extremely well written Steve. You certainly have a way with words and being able to get the story across in a very readable way. Thanks

  8. #8
    Wonderful article Steve, watching that race (for the first time) as a seven year old made me a Ford guy, and DJR fan forever!

  9. #9
    That coffee table book looks better each story!

  10. #10
    World Champion
    Join Date
    Jul 2011

  11. #11
    The greatest ever Bathurst story, told well. Can't wait for Sunday.

  12. #12
    Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed it. I spent a few weeks on that one! Been wanting to write it for a while. Thats the beauty of this site, writing a few indepth articles here and there among the photo collections etc is why it was created.

  13. #13
    Journeyman Racer
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    wilmington delaware
    Just want to echo previous comments. A great read! Many thanks! I am now going to order a 1/43 model of that trublue XD to go with my XE green Palmer tubes one! have meaning to do that for a while.Too many models too buy not enough $s and space is an issue too!!

  14. #14
    Semi-Pro Racer Paul Wilkinson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Auckland North Shore
    By far the best thing I've read anywhere for a while.

  15. #15
    Great read,this will get us all in the mood for this week-end .

  16. #16
    Thanks everyone, I appreciate that. Glad you enjoyed it.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by hilstwist View Post
    Just want to echo previous comments. A great read! Many thanks! I am now going to order a 1/43 model of that trublue XD to go with my XE green Palmer tubes one! have meaning to do that for a while.Too many models too buy not enough $s and space is an issue too!!
    Sounds like I need to be on commission with those model companies Steve!

  18. #18
    Semi-Pro Racer
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    I was sitting on the bank probably 50 meters from the rock incident, wasnt aware of anything until car hit the .rock., but I do remember walking thru the pits late on saturday afternoon just after the last practice session & a couple of aussies tried to a sponge a can of 4xxx each off Dick who was sitting on a couple of race tires going thru the everything that was happening... his reply to the spongers was as dry as we have come to expect....yeh boys, I could give you a beer, but these fellows working on the car would probably kill you & then me! Felt sorry for those crew guys, been there myself, bloodshot eyes, havent slept for a couple of days etc etc, glad I didnt see them after it hit the rock the next day!!

  19. #19
    Semi-Pro Racer
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Gold Coast (Ex Pukekohe)
    Tru Blu as seen at the 50th Anniversary event at Lakeside in 2011 - being driven by John French at the time.
    The livery has changed just slightly since then as the car has been restored graphics wise to exactly how it ran at Bathurst instead of just one of the rounds.
    I have yet to see it in the flesh as it is now.

    Last edited by TonyG; 10-06-2012 at 12:02 AM.

  20. #20
    Semi-Pro Racer
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Gold Coast (Ex Pukekohe)
    Gold Coast V8 Supercars event in 2009.

    As it is now as shown in the Bowdens Own Gallery;
    Name:  552970_10150687399535741_911718746_n.jpg
Views: 1718
Size:  79.0 KB
    Last edited by TonyG; 10-06-2012 at 12:21 AM.

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