Saturday, February 27, 2021

LIVIN' IN THE 70s by John Crawford

In my job as Editor of MODERN MOTOR magazine I got to travel all over Australia, and all over the world for a good story.

In 1974 my magazine snatched a big scoop with the first pre-release drive of the new small Holden, the Gemini, at GM-Holden's high-security test track at Lang Lang, south-east of Melbourne.

My old friend, Ian Smith (below), probably the top automotive photographer of his day, recently dredged up a selection of old pix from a Kleber tyre test session.


It was a wet and rainy October day in 1975 at Calder Raceway as a small group of hacks gathered to hear the Kleber marketing manager, plus tyre retailer (and owner of Calder, Bob Jane) extol the virtues of the V12 tyre. 

Jane’s interest was commercial on two fronts – he made money selling Kleber tyres, plus the Kleber V12-Renault R12 race series was due to be run at Calder.

Yours truly (dig the posey, ill-fitting driving gloves) belted up for a few laps around the wet raceway, chasing my old friend Max Stahl in another Renault 12, and as you can imagine, letting a gang of testosterone-filled motoring writers out on a circuit for a free-for-all doesn’t bear thinking about.

We didn’t ding any cars, but a couple of the less-experienced scribes did manage a few 360s on the wet track.

Then, in May 1976, I was at Alfa Romeo’s famed test track, the ‘Old Farm’ at Balocco, with Australian journalists and Alfa Romeo dealers, to celebrate the global success of the nifty little Giugiaro-designed Alfasud.

What a brilliant little car it was, pity about its propensity to rust!


However, interviewing the Alfa Romeo CEO Gaetano Cortese, he delivered a scoop 'sound bite' about the still-secret Alfasud Coupe! Which he agreed we could get a look at, as long as we stayed on the bus and didn’t take any photos!

Sorry about that, but the devil made me do it!

In 1977 I resigned from MODERN MOTOR to take on my most adventurous story ever – the Singapore Airlines London-to-Sydney Car Rally.

 What an experience that was, and I lived to tell the tale! 

However, surviving the 30,000km rally was all down to my dear friend and partner in our Mini Moke, the irrepressible adventurer, Hans Tholstrup – who proudly told my wife on the steps of the Sydney Opera House: “There, you see, I got him back to you safe and sound.”

John Crawford

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