Why Ford’s closure date is a fail

Ford at Bathurst 1977

October 7 is the day Ford will close its factory doors forever. It’s also the same day as the Bathurst 1000. Does no one at Ford own a calendar? Seriously. 

First published in the June 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.

DOES nobody at Ford Australia own a calendar? The Broadmeadows factory is to close on Friday, October 7 – the same day the V8 Supercars will be qualifying for the Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama.

I’m writing this on Anzac Day, so the themes of respect and honour are all around me today. A friend went to a chilly Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance to pay respect to soldiers she never knew, and a grandfather who fought in WWII.

Later today I’ll go to the MCG to watch my boys Collingwood battle traditional Anzac Day rivals Essendon. Neither team is setting the 2016 season on fire, but the occasion inevitably affects the players. Their commitment and endeavour lift as they strive to respect the Anzac spirit.

Before the on-field battle begins, a lone bugler plays the Last Post while 80,000 fans pay silent respect. It’s an eerie and incredibly moving moment.

Anzac Day is one example of respect, but respect does not require a grand spectacle. It can be a small thing, like giving up a seat for an elderly person.

Ford’s decision to close Broadmeadows on the Bathurst 1000 weekend shows scant respect for generations of Ford fans, or to the country that supported it for 56 years. Coincidence or ignorance? It has to be one of those, because I can’t imagine that Ford Australia deliberately scheduled the closure to coincide with Australia’s Great Race, on which much of Ford’s Australian spirit and reputation has been built.

Ford -Laser -GL-side -rearOr is there some kind of bizarre deference in shuttering six decades of Australian-made pride on the same day automotive gladiators fight for honour and glory on hallowed tarmac where Ford has won 20 times, all bar two in Australian-made Falcons conceived and created at Broadmeadows.

I was introduced to the Bathurst 1000 in 1985, a year dominated by international stars in international cars, though Peter Brock gave them a red-hot run in his VK until a timing chain failed. I remember the great Ford victories since then: old-stager John Bowe beating Holden upstart Craig Lowndes in 1994; Lowndes, now in a BA Falcon, paying the ultimate respect to his mentor and icon Peter Brock with an emotional victory in 2006; Winterbottom’s emphatic 2013 victory that ended a four-year domination by Holden.

The most iconic Ford moment has to be the Moffat and Bond 1-2 in 1977 (below). Before my time, but I still know about their victory many laps ahead of the nearest Holden.

These are defining moments in Ford’s history in Australia, and there are many other Bathurst moments that contributed to Ford’s fighting spirit. Hot favourite Dick Johnson crashing into a tree in 1983. A broken valve spring snuffing a well-deserved maiden victory for Glenn Seton in 1995; the live cross that followed with TV commentators interviewing a gutted Seton in his lifeless EF Falcon is hard to watch, even today.

Ford has been a big part of Australia for decades, and that relationship is about to change in the most fundamental way. Closing the Broadmeadows factory on a sacred day for motorsport is not the way to show respect for that relationship.

Laser vision

I learned to drive in an Australian-made Ford, though not one out of Broadmeadows. Mum’s Homebush-built Laser (pictured above) suffered terribly as I struggled to master clutch and gears, then again when I discovered handbrake turns. This poor, abused ex-Avis renter was also the first car I crashed – though I remain adamant it was the other guy’s fault, right Mum?

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