Some weeks ago I found myself at woollies looking at an aluminium rendering of my Father’s hero packaged with chocolate fudge. There he was, Allan Moffat, with forty eight cubes of something related to chocolatey-ness. I stared the first time I saw it, there he was. An aging Canadian touring car racer impressed in cheap tin, I rubbed my hands over him and wondered if this was somehow improper, since I hadn’t purchased him or the fudge. Next time through, I coughed up the five dollars and bought my aluminium Allan. The fudge remains uneaten, though at some point I shall give it to Beargirl, and Allan adorns my study.
My Dad loved Allan Moffat. For many years our Family’s strongest (and strangest) ritual was to sit around for seven and half hours and watch the motor racing from Mount Panorama, Bathurst on the Sunday of the Labour Day long weekend. He would videotape the whole thing, including qualifying and the top ten pole position shootout. Sitting there in his Jason Recliner, with the beta remote in his hand, pressing pause every time the ads came on, like Canute. His chair looked a lot like this.
He would cook all day Saturday, snacks of every fatty and carb heavy combination available. His Ham & Cheese Puffs, packed with paprika, were a stone on your hips. My, how he loved Bathurst. After he died we scattered his ashes around the circuit, shaking out his remains like salt from the side of a three wheeler. It seemed apt and still does.
Before he started to watch the telecast, before video, we used to go to watch the race. As a tiny fellow I remember going up to Skyline to watch, parking the car miles away behind the mountain and helping to carry the food all. the. way. up. Though, after a few years we stopped going. He didn’t like it so much once there were thousands of people there and couldn’t take the noisy, beery chauvinism. He thought it NASCAR-ish, terribly bland and lacking in depth.
I have some 8mm film of my Dad racing in the late sixties and early seventies: going around Catalina Park, Tralee, and Amaroo Park on various and sundry bikes. He’s all helmet and leathers and glasses, Malcolm X on wheels, looks like. Sometime later he was in a car accident near Goulburn and didn’t race anymore, though occasionally there were daggers in his direction from my Mum when he went to play with his racing mates and did a modestly fast last lap on someone else’s bike. It must have been about this time he started to fall in love with Allan Moffat.
In 1971, in a still obviously gorgeous Ford Mustang, Moffat made an heroic, though failed, comeback in a race against a more powerful vehicle, Ian “Pete” Geoghegan’s 5.8L Super Falcon, in a touring car race at Amaroo Park. That Moffat didn’t win would have moved my Dad, he liked good losers. Especially good losers who won sometimes, losers who won just enough to suggest that talent was the thing and that sometimes talent overcame superior technology. It was exactly the same liking that he had for Ben Hall when we moved to the west of New South Wales: good losers, played fair. Moffat won the 1970 and 1971 Bathurst 500s in a Falcon XW GTHO Phase II, and he won without a co-driver. Good winners, played tough.
And then it was into the Ford-Holden/Moffat-Brock thing, which lasted for a good long time, most of my childhood and while my Dad wasn’t that keen on picking sides he knew which one he liked. Moffat had a good seventies, winning lots of races including big ones, at least the big ones in Australia. Famously he won Bathurst in 1977 in a one-two with a second team car driven by Colin Bond finishing seconds behind him. It’s an image my Dad had on his garage wall for as long as he tinkered with cars, a framed poster of the fearsome Fords crossing the finish line.
Happily for my Dad, Moffat then raced Porsches and Mazdas. This was the kind of automotive cosmopolitanism that he loved. This was a man who crashed his Studebaker, Falcons and Commodores weren’t going to do it for him. But a rotary engined RX-7 that was something truly exotic in early eighties NSW. And he thought it was ace, especially when Moffat won a few things, and not the same-samey old shit but won different events using the same cars.
This was exactly the kind of Brabham-esque cleverness my Dad fetishized. The kind of backyard mechanic cred that takes apart an oleopneumatic suspension system and then puts it back together again, possibly a little improved (or not). Moffat also went to Europe, the US and Japan to race in Porsches, Fords and Mazdas: racing in the Le Mans 24 Hour, at Spa, at Daytona, and at the Nürburgring. Again this was what my Dad loved, cars taking people places. For years my Dad would follow Allan Moffat in this race or that, in the small print of Australian Motor Racing, in Japan or Germany.
The other week I was buying tyres for my car and the proprietor has a series of pictures of himself racing Porsches and Toranas and Mustangs behind the counter. I could see the thousands (hundreds of thousands) that tyre shop guy had invested in these cars, you could see just by the width of the tyres. I was entranced by these pictures, so reminiscent of my Dad’s picture and film, and found myself thinking of all the effort tyre shop guy had put into these cars. How he must have dreamed of Le Mans and Spa and the Nürburgring. How he must have thought that with just the right combination of talent and technology he would make it, he would go all the way and pop the champagne cork and spray the foam all over the bikini-clad French girls like Graham Hill and James Hunt. I expect tyre shop guy was just like my Dad in this regard.
And so I bought the fudge, I bought the strange tin homage to Alan Moffat. I bought them to show I knew how to love with folly, to show I wanted to remain the kind of guy who recognised that for what it might once have hoped to be, to show that I too dreamed of something less sensible than a properly stacked dishwasher, and that I too might once have wished to stand upon the podium. But, Alan Moffat, he’s just this guy you know? He’s an older, balding, strange laughing Canadian guy who lives near Melbourne. My Dad dreamed of him.