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Harry Firth RIP


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#1 brucemoxon

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 05:37

I'm seeing reports that Harry Firth, credited with 'discovering' Peter Brock, has passed away, aged 96.

 

He did so, so much more as a driver, car builder, manager, administrator, preparer and all-round grumpy old man.

 

 

 

 

 

BM



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#2 DanTra2858

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 06:50

A Legend of Ausrtalian Motor Sport in many ways, RIP

#3 Catalina Park

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 07:26

Rest in peace Harry.



#4 Amaroo Park

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 07:37

True legend of the Australian Motorsport and Motoring RIP Harry


Edited by Amaroo Park, 27 April 2014 - 07:37.


#5 lotcor

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 08:46

A true legend in Australian motorsport agreed. I saw him last week and he still talked cars. A peaceful end to agreat story teller and fisherman.

RIP Harry.



#6 warwickfarm

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 09:06

R.I.P. Harry - a true legend in motorsport will be sadly missed.



#7 Hank the Deuce

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 09:38

I'm seeing reports that Harry Firth, credited with 'discovering' Peter Brock, has passed away, aged 96.

 

He did so, so much more as a driver, car builder, manager, administrator, preparer and all-round grumpy old man.

 

 

 

 

 

BM

 

That he did.  The auld stories tell of a man with more cunning than an outhouse rat, distrusting of just about everybody… maybe even himself… it'd be a rare face of Australian motor racing from days of yore who hadn't experienced some form of connection with Harry.  I don't know how much truth was in the story of how he, upon fronting in 1978 as the bloke looking after Eligibility, he pulled John Sheppard's HDT out of the line and told them to fix a heap of irregularities, anomalies, and "just-plain-not-right" things on the Toranas… and didn't want to know about their protestations that "Harry, you put all that there last year!"...



#8 gtsmunro

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 09:56

RIP Harry.



#9 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 13:18

The '1978' story is not true...

I can see where it stems from, the holes in the bodywork to mount the front sway bars.

These were new cars built from the ground up by John Sheppard. John knew what he was about, but he had a question over these holes and had a request in with CAMS to verify whether or not they were acceptable. He got no answer and turned out at the Sandown International meeting with them in place and got pinged over it.

More to the point is that Harry twice sacrificed a major place at Bathurst for other reasons. He wanted Brock out of the team after the Michelle Downs affair and sacrificed a near-certain win, previously he'd told Bo Seton to keep his foot in it instead of changing the radiator in the XT. To go out in a blaze of glory instead of losing time and finishing second behind McPhee.

The ego of the man was a mile high and two miles wide, but he did earn his spurs in the sport and so cannot be disregarded. He won a round-Australia event, he won Bathurst a few times, he engineered winning cars time after time and he had the nous to pull sponsorship and keep it.

He was also always confident (over at least the past five years) that he'd get a telegram from the Queen. But the cancer, on its third major attack, put paid to that.

Edited by Ray Bell, 27 April 2014 - 13:19.


#10 GMACKIE

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 22:41

The 'Silver Fox' had less to say than the 'Silver Budgie'......but he achieved a lot more.

 

R I P, Harry.



#11 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 22:54

Very sad RIP H



#12 Hank the Deuce

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 23:50

Thanks Ray, it's nice to get some of the actualities behind some of the myths.  I've read several differing versions of Brock's 1974 with the HDT, and Harry had said more recently in print that it was pressure from within GM-H that forced his hand with letting Brock go in 1974.  If he threw the Hardie-Ferodo that year, he went to a lot of effort... protested Moffat's car into little pieces, when he was hyped as the Big Chance for victory, for one... it would certainly seem that the esprit de corps was lacking that year - I believe that "Part" Burns thumped Brock at one stage that year, over his prima donna attitude within the team.  Being too young to have been a touring car fan in those days, I can only assume from what's been written since, that the whole Brock/Downes thing was a Big Deal at the time...



#13 Ian G

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 23:55

 Brock/Downes thing was a Big Deal at the time...

 

Very sad..RIP.

 

Yeah,i think the Women's Mags. were all over it at the time,i also read where she had a nervous breakdown but this was papered over in the "tell all"she gave after Brock's fatal accident.


Edited by Ian G, 28 April 2014 - 01:12.


#14 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 00:19

Hank, the story I got from the horse's mouth about that '74 retirement is as follows...

When the engine was pulled down, Ian Tate could not work out what had caused the failure. It was detonation, but why?

The two HDT cars had a four-lap lead or thereabouts, at one point Brock had been shown a 'slow down' signal and drove past the sign indicating that he had slowed down. Then Bond's was in the pits with a major oil leak and losing its similar advantage over the rest of the field when Brock pitted. Minutes later Brock's engine failed.

Ian called on the vast experience of Phil Irving because he was so puzzled by the failure. Phil looked over the pieces in the workshop, lit another durry and simply said, "Detonation!"

"I know that, but why?"

They simply couldn't tell what had killed Brock's engine when he was in a commanding position, ready to win his second Hardie-Ferodo, so late in the race?

A coincidence that it happened just a few weeks after the very public scandal with Michelle Downs...

Brock being able to be shown to have thrown away a convincing victory at Bathurst by driving the car to death would give sufficient reason for him to be sacked.

#15 Hank the Deuce

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 00:34

Yeah, I didn't think the mode of failure was ever given as anything other than detonation, but I don't know that anyone has ever fathomed how it happened/was orchestrated...  I think Harry put the blame on Brock driving harder than instructed on grippier rubber and oil surge being the culprit...

 

On other related tangents, Larry Perkins seems to have been a real disciple of H's, and one would possible argue adopted similar philosophies throughout his career as a car preparer...


Edited by Hank the Deuce, 28 April 2014 - 00:40.


#16 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 01:14

They did immediately blame the electric oil pumps, but nobody has mentioned those in more recent times... it was their media story.

As Brock had just been into the pits and refuelled, could it have been something in the fuel?

#17 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 01:34

IF, the engine had too much oil in it it would detonate with the oil sloshing under the pistons, maybe. If the car had just been refueled with less than desired fuel it too would detonate. Or something as simple as the dissy gaining some advance with either an internal fault or it turning under the clamp. The plastic engine is very susceptible to too much advance.

I really cannot see Harry wanting to break an engine though

I suspect noone really knows though both are feasible. Those engines were quite fragile to say the least but fast while going



#18 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 03:03

No oil was added...

The bonnet wasn't lifted as I recall, the dissy wouldn't have been loose, I wouldn't imagine.

The fact is, however, that Harry had a history of allowing engines to be destroyed. Read my earlier post.

#19 Hank the Deuce

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 04:10

Something I'd read regarding 1968 is remembered as along the lines that he knew they were in trouble with the radiator, but had little chance at victory other than to keep running and hope it hung together... I don't know when the radiator was holed, or how much he was asking of the poor old 302 (it was obviously too much in hindsight....).  Yet he remained adamant that Brock had broken the car in 1974, specifically due to not doing as he was told.  I get the feeling that was important when working/driving for Harry.  I often wonder how John Harvey got on with him at the HDT.  I read of Harves being livid when he found out that his first HDT Torana was the cut-and-shut halves of whatever was left over following Colin Bond's Amaroo misadventure with Allan Grice... it was apparently significantly shorter on one side than the other. 

 

Harves did say that the presentation meant very little to H, and that this possibly was the major contrast between he and his successor at HDT, John Sheppard: where the Globe magnesium wheels previous looked like "they'd been laying on the bottom of Port Phillip Bay", Sheppo set the mules about polishing them until they gleamed.



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#20 eldougo

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 06:16

The grumpy old man Harry Firth.... RIP.  Born 18th April 1918 Melbourne.

 

Seen here driving the Mercedes Benz 220SE 1961  at Phillip Island come 1st.

 

 

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#21 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 06:18

Water was coming out of the radiator when Bo pitted for his last stop...

Harry simply sent him out to kill it.

#22 Hank the Deuce

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 06:27

I wonder if his exit from Ford's competition arrangements was already inked by then...

 

No doubt that he left an impression wherever he went!  I often wondered if his recollections were similar to Frank Gardner's - sometimes a little hazy on the minutiae, but overall rather impressive.



#23 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 09:40

H told me that the Ford executives were watching the race from a suite in some plush place in Sydney...

The bravado of going out while leading was going to suit them better than the world seeing a radiator having to be changed and still not win.

Jimmy Bertram explained to me it was a weakness in the radiators, not some random stone going through it. He late won the only major event an XT succeeded in winning, but only after he'd modified the radiator.

#24 Piquet959

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 06:26

It is sad to note that the Guru from the early days of the golden era of touring car racing in Australia has died.
Harry had done just about everything in motor sport here and even in Asia particularly Macau with a couple of XU1's.

Harry had not been in the best of health for a while and I understand he passed in his sleep over night on Saturday night.
He was 96 years of age

We will never see the likes of "the silver fox" again,EVER!

He discovered so much talent in those early days Brocky and Colin Bond to name just two.

#25 Piquet959

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 08:50

Sorry for starting a second topic about the passing of Harry a Firth.

It's sad that the Guru of Touring Car Racing in what was the Golden days has died. He was so much more than just a race car builder. Harry raced bikes built all sorts of things like his supercharged TC. He had success all over the place in the London-Sydney Marathon, taking XU1's to Macau. He built all sorts of cars from Brock's beastly sports sedan to the layer HDT sports sedan to many Bathurst winners. All in that grotty little workshop in Queens Ave, Auburn

Harry had not been in the best of health for quite a while and I understand that Harry pass away in his sleep on Saturday night

We will never see the likes of " the Silver Fox" again. NOT EVER.

#26 Geoff Smedley

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 14:07

Harry Firth was a man of his time,and I perhaps knew that man in a different way to most, Harry would shuffle into my workshop far from the seeing eyes with perhaps only a sketch drawing of the item he needed for the HDT cars particularly,and although the may not kosha with the rule book he always said at least these parts came from overseas and are not on the gossip lines of the mainland boys.  Harry one of the true mid century lads came into racing at a time when the rules were open and your mind was always on making your car faster than the next and many experimential  modifications were carried out as a form of learning but CAMS came into vogue with all the rule books and some just found it hard to adapt  This was Harry and a great bloke for all his little foibles but after he became the top gun scrutineer in the 70s he frowned at anybody not abiding by the rules which I think spoiled hid charactor somewhat from the larikin I first knew Harry will always have a place somewhere within me and I won't tell him to Rest in peace cos that's just not the old Fox that I knew so get em tiger! :wave:



#27 eldougo

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Posted 30 April 2014 - 05:53

HarryFirth / Bob Jane. 1962 winning Ford Falcon  Winning the last  Phillip Island .

They took the lead with 2 laps to go from the leading Studebaker.

 

 

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The following year they won the 1st Bathurst 500 race.

 

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RobRoy Hilclimb 1995

 

U1TTLsR.jpg

 


Edited by eldougo, 30 April 2014 - 06:00.


#28 ellrosso

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 10:12

RIP Harry - a dead set legend of Australian Motor Sport.210-H-Fir-73_zps2c3e16ff.jpg



#29 Hank the Deuce

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 00:11

The Autopics page within The Book Of Faces had some photos from the funeral: well-attended by a number of prominent former drivers whose careers where shaped or enhanced by contact with the Grey Fox, plus a couple of representative vehicles.



#30 johnny yuma

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 04:04

The Last Time I Saw Harry he was signing autographs at an Historic meeting a few years back.I asked if he still had the old supercharged MG which he drove at 10/10 at the Amaroo historics back when he must have been well over 70.He replied he had to sell it ,or it would kill him, because 10/10 was the only way he could drive on the track.Keep an eye out up there Harry,Jack should be in for a chat anytime now if he passes scrutineering.



#31 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 09:04

I saw him race that car 15? years ago at Mallala. Complete with a scruffy HT Holden van towcar. It defenitly sounded quite sharp. The MG not the HT!



#32 johnny yuma

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 06:14

That would be the era Lee,Amaroo closed 1n 1998 (16 years ago !!) and Harry turned up there near the end of Amaroo Park's history in the MG. Harry must have seen a lot of Circuits disappear in his career !



#33 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 10:18

That would be the era Lee,Amaroo closed 1n 1998 (16 years ago !!) and Harry turned up there near the end of Amaroo Park's history in the MG. Harry must have seen a lot of Circuits disappear in his career !

Yes but we are getting a whole pile of new street circuits. Good for once a year races for the rich few that pay to race!