News Mark WalkerMark Walker May 25, 2020 (Comments off) (273)

DICK JOHNSON: PUTTING YOUR FOOT IN A BOWL OF CUSTARD

DICK Johnson is a bona-fide legend of the sport, with tales since his first drive of an FJ Holden at Lakeside in 1964 capable of filling these pages forevermore.

WORDS & IMAGES: Mark Walker

Back in 2003, we caught up with Dick at the Queensland Raceway all-historic meeting, shortly after he jumped behind the wheel of his old Group C XC Ford Falcon for a series of demonstration laps, the first spirited circuits he had completed since stepping aside following the 2000 Queensland 500.

While Dick scored the first of his five Touring Car Championships, and three Bathurst crowns, aboard the XD model Falcon from 1981, the Hardtop set the foundation of what was to come.

V8 Sleuth are publishing a book on the history of the cars of Dick Johnson Racing and DJR Team Penske, click here to order online

Gutted of its running gear at the start of 1980 to form the basis of the infamous ‘rock car’, this XC was reverted back to road car trim with the components from the donor ex-highway patrol XD, and sold back into the community from the Bryan Byrt Ford used car lot!

Secured by the Harris family in a poor state at the start of 2003, a seven month restoration followed, which saw the car return to the track in better than new condition.

Dick takes up the story…

TRT – What was the Bryan Byrt Ford XC Hardtop like to drive out there?

DJ- The XC is exactly how I remember it, it had lots of very very good points, and one or two bad ones, and the bad ones are still there!

TRT – What are the bad points?

DJ – I still think it is very early days for the car, John Harris (then car owner) and the boys have done a magnificent job, and it looks an absolute picture. It drives very well indeed, and they said to me before I went out there that there is a lot more to be done with the brakes, because they really haven’t had the time to get the thing running properly. But gees, it certainly go a bit harder in a straight line than what I remember in the ‘70s!

TRT – How has the technology progressed over the years, are there any similarities?

DJ – Let me tell you this, I don’t think any of these young guys would be able to drive these old cars these days, on account they would be complaining like hell, because there is no power steering to start with, and the brake pedal is like putting your foot in a bowl of custard. They are the sorts of things I can always remember. These days the young guys come in and complain when the brake pedal goes down a sixteenth of an inch… but they have no idea what a brake pedal going down is like!

TRT – How would you overcome the brakes back in the day?

DJ – At Bathurst you used to run down the straight with your left foot pumping up the brake the whole way, and by the braking area you would have about a quarter of a pedal, and you would hope like hell it would stop at the end!

Just a small section of the former Harris family collection…

TRT – Did a bit of the killer instinct come back out there on that run?

DJ – I thoroughly enjoyed it, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m not doing it anymore, because I would probably enjoy it too much and want to get back into it!

TRT – How does this restored XC rate against the other Group C cars that you raced?

DJ – Mind you, the engine development has come an awful long way since the XC days, and when you put today’s technology in the engines, you get something that is a pretty powerful motorcar. Those 351s were a very good engine, and they go extremely hard. I was quite surprised with the amount of straight line speed it had.

TRT – There needed to be a fair bit of mechanical sympathy with the old Group C cars, and on occasion someone would come from overseas and have problems adapting to the local cars…

DJ – I know the Poms just thought that we were colonials out here, and that we were thrown here out when we stole a loaf of bread… but let me tell you, at the end of the day, we had less to work with, and I think we are a lot more innovative than what they are over there. We don’t have the resources that they have over there. Another thing is that the cars we had then are a lot closer to standard than the cars we race now; you had the standard sized wheels, certain sized brakes that were very small, the cars were a lot heavier than the V8 Supercars, and the tyres have come a long long way. We used to run cross ply tyres in those days, which would do three kilometres and go off, so you would nurse them for the rest of the race.

Stay tuned for part two from Dick Johnson later in the week, right here on The Race Torque!

V8 Sleuth are publishing a book on the history of the cars of Dick Johnson Racing and DJR Team Penske, click here to order online

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