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The Falcon B52 goes up in Flames
Project Phoenix is born

ALLAN MOFFAT was crushed by the fire in the Adelaide Hills which destroyed his only Falcon and the magnificent International transporter in 1976..
Only a month or so later, though, he regained his composure and in July of that year Moffat decided to build another Falcon and restore the prestige of Allan Moffat Racing.

The B52 Falcon, now in red paint was taken into another season of racing in 1976.
Moffat put his all into winning the Australian Touring Car Championship again, winning the second and third rounds to put him into the lead on points.
Before the sixth round of the Champioship at Adelaide, however, both the red car and the superb International transporter, met a fiery end. The transporter caught fire in the Adelaide Hills and the whole rig burnt to the ground.
Moffat borrowed Goss's Falcon for the race and won brilliantly but his Championship aspirations finally went up in flames just like his famous Project B52 Falcon.

The new car was to become "Project Phoenix", an appropriate title for a car which was to rise from the ashes and carry all before it.

International Harvester had also decided to come to the party and not only replace the mammoth transporter, but to provide an even better version in light of the Moffat team's use of the previous example over the past year.

The decision to start again from scratch with a new Falcon GT 2-door was taken despite around-Australia commitments in the inaugural Australian Sports Sedan Championship (which he eventually won with the Capri and Chev Monza) and the fact that most of the team's race equipment was lost in the fire.
As well as losing the $50,000 transporter and the Falcon, which cost more than $100,000 to develop, the fire also destroyed spare race engines, gearboxes, differentials, 20 wheels, 30 tyres, air jacks, power tools, mechanics tools and a compressor.

The one light to shine through it all, however, was that all the information so expensively obtained from the destroyed Falcon was safely kept in the files of Moffat Racing back in Malvern.
With this, it was possible to reproduce the old car exactly, making a few basic changes in the light of two years racing experience with that particular vehicle.

Assisting with Project Phoenix was Dave Taylor, a man whose experience with the John Wyer Gulf Mirage International sports car team, as well as with Jack Brabham and four years with Graham Hill, proved to be of great value to the team.
The engines were in the hands of Peter Molloy, a man who had already been building the Falcon engines and whose responsibility in that department continued until shortly before the 1978 Bathurst race. Much of the detail work was in the hands of Moffat mechanic Alistair McNaughton, assisted by apprentice Shane McDonald.

As with virtually all of Allan Moffat's cars to that time, Peter Thorn was responsible for the effective paint job.
The car was finished in a rush and revealed to the press at Ford's You Yangs testing ground one week before the annual Sandown Hang Ten 400, the lead-up race to Bathurst.
In fact, when the press arrived the car was being run-in around the banked track.
It was also the first time since the 1974 Bathurst two years before that the words "Moffat Ford Dealers" had appeared on a Moffat Falcon.

At Sandown, Moffat found the big Falcon's suspension settings to be giving him a difficult time, particularly up 'the bumpy Sandown back straight, and qualified only seventh.
On race day he gave Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser a ride around the circuit, a ride which the PM would still remember to this day as Allan certainly didn't hold anything back, lapping quite quickly and pulling 6,000 revs in top gear up the back straight.

In the race itself Moffat did not have a particularly good run, although he did come home in second place - two laps behind race winner Pter Brock in a Torana.
The Falcon was never really close to the leading Torana but was robbed of any real chance of victory by a slow pit stop after picking up a puncture in one of his Goodyears.
That pit stop caught his pit crew unawares and by the time they had sorted themselves out and given the Falcon the attention it required. a iot of ground had been lost on Brock. Not enough to alter the eventual placings, mind you, but a lot nevertheless.

For Bathurst, the next race on the calendar and the big race of the year, Vern Schuppan was signed up to co-drive with Allan, the ex-Adelaide driver having a good reputation overseas and a growing one locally with drives in Australian Formula 5000 races.
In practice, Moffat was in superb form, setting pole position for the Hardie Ferodo with a shatteringly quick time of 1-25.0.
For the first dozen laps of the race Moffat put on a fantastic race with Colin Bond's Holden Dealer Team Torana, and finally got the edge over his future team-mate, and drew away from the field at a great rate.
Brock took over the lead after the first routine pit stops - Moffat's pit work again being a little slow - but Brock was in trouble with fuel pick-up by half distance and Moffat raced back into the lead.

Schuppan had his driving stint and handed over to Moffat again, still running in the lead, but their race was soon to end. The crankshaft pulley broke, leaving the water pump with no drive and in short order the white Falcon's engine was boiling, Cooking itself to death soon after.
It was the end of an almost fairy-tale run.
As small consolation, Moffat went to Surfers Paradise for the next race and came home a strong winner.
That win was enough to clinch the Australian Touring Car Championship, though, so Project Phoenix had served an important purpose despite losing the Big One.


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