M ay 4, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of arguably Australia’s most famous racing car.
Allan Moffat’s 1969 Trans Am Mustang made its debut at Sandown Park in the Southern 60 Touring Car Series. One of seven Trans Am Mustangs built in the United States by Kar Kraft, it to Moffat by Ford Competition department in the USA, with the sole aim of clinching the Australian Touring Car Championship.
The Trans Am Mustang was like nothing ever seen here. It was a hand-built Ford factory racecar, with a full roll cage, not a highly modified road car like his competitors. Nobody could forget its shark nose, low ride height, sleek silhouette, hunkered stance and fat Goodyear tyres poking out each corner and the sound of its un-muffled 302 V8 shaking the sizeable and packed Sandown grandstand.
Moffat and his red Coca-Cola Mustang Trans Am burst onto the Australian touring car scene at Sandown Park that May day and simply blew the competition into the weeds, winning three from three, grabbing the silverware and etching Moffat and the Trans Am into motorsport folklore.
The established tin top stars Norm Beechey, Bob Jane, Bryan Thomson, Jim McKeown, Peter Manton, Ian Geoghegan, John Harvey, Fred Gibson, Alan Hamilton, Brian Foley and Neil Allen were all stunned by the Trans Am Mustang’s performance at racetracks across the country.
But it wasn’t just the Mustang that race fans remember, the bespectacled hard-nosed Canadian racer quickly earned the reputation of the ‘bad guy’ and more often than not the Trans Am Mustang bore the scars of confrontations, not always Moffat’s fault.
Wearing an inconspicuous number (38) at Sandown on May 4 the Trans Am was festooned in decals, but Australia’s first professional driver was hardly flush with funds and, unlike his competitors, didn’t have a business empire to return to between meetings.
To get paid Moffat had to win so it was little wonder that smiles and small talk weren’t a part of his race weekend repertoire.
While Australia’s most famous touring car came close, it never won Moffat that elusive touring car title he craved, but with it he became the first non-Australian to win a touring car title race and when he retired the Trans Am Mustang from active duty its record stood at 101 wins from 151 starts, plus countless podium finishes. Happy Anniversary.