Run by Julian Balme
Owned since August 1989
Total mileage 77,238
Miles since December 2014 report 458
Latest costs £375 (approx)
GETTING OVER BRAKE TROUBLE
Due to running the Marcos with the HSCC (see last month), I only had one more outing with ‘Frank’, the Falcon, last year. This was at Brands Hatch with the HRDC, where I qualified surprisingly well, but my race was spoilt by a strange mechanical woe that had worsened throughout the year.
After periods of inactivity, the brakes would take time to release and it would feel as if the handbrake was still on when pulling away.
Adjustment of the rear drums had little effect but once warmed up things improved, so I decided to live with it. That’s never a smart thing to do with a racing car and, inevitably, on one occasion when driving home from V8 guru Colin Mullan’s, the brakes locked on solid. Wiggling the balance bar behind the master cylinders and soaking everything with WD40 released them, though. Not exactly a scientific solution, but by the time I got to the circuit for my race, I was confident that they were okay.
Warning bells should have sounded upon taking up my grid position: the start-finish straight is on an incline, yet the Falcon wasn’t rolling backwards. When the lights went out we all hammered off up to Paddock, all of those concerned completing the opening tour without incident – except for muggins.
Exiting Clearways, rather than unleashing the Ford-V8 down the straight, I appeared to be slowing down – and that despite burying my right foot in the floorboards.
Losing a number of places, I pitted at the end of the second lap, jumped out of the car, removed the bonnet and fiddled with the balance bar – only to have the brakes free off and the car roll forwards into me! I was soon back out on track, though, and all remained fine until the flag. Remarkably, I wasn’t last.
Truth be told, the cause remains unknown but since then the master cylinders have been renewed and the front calipers rebuilt with no reoccurrence of the symptoms. With work progressing on the TR, I decided to just do a couple of events with the Falcon this year.
The first was at Silverstone on the Grand Prix circuit at the beginning of April, again with the HRDC. Much to my delight, Duncan Pittaway had entered with his Plymouth Barracuda, the pair of us having not competed against each other since the 2014 Revival (where we were the tail-end Charlies in the Shelby Cup).
In some nod to being competitive, the VSCC ace had not only had his engine tuned on a rollingroad but had enlisted fellow rear-brake, aero-engine pilot Mark Walker as his co-driver. Tailing the latter through qualifying, I was quietly confident that I had the better of the pairing, and that was confirmed by the grid sheets that had me starting on the row in front.
Stupid boy – I should have realised that my rivals were just warming up. Being two of the VSCC’s best drivers, they were only going to get faster during the race – particularly when equipped with luxuries such as a windscreen and seats that aren’t made of wicker.
Although losing out to Duncan in the earlier laps, I never felt so far behind but following the compulsory pitstop, I mentally switched off and never regained my pace. Still, the car romped home without any further bruising or mechanical maladies and won’t need much until its next outing at Donington.
Once that and the sprint at Crystal Palace are behind us, I intend to embark on a bit of titivation. I love patina on old cars, as illustrated brilliantly by Mark Walker’s transport to Silverstone (a fabulously timeworn Vauxhall 23/60), but I have a real problem with rust. Particularly the under-the-surface, bubbling kind that festers due to bad preparation. The sort that is making its presence known in sections of the Ford that were resprayed not long enough ago for me to be happy. I also think that having lived in the UK with me for the past 27 years, it’s time that the Falcon was painted underneath.
Balme leads Pittaway’s Plymouth Barracuda (on right) through the Loop, but was soon left behind.
Falcon alongside lovely patinated 23/60. Ford dwarfs its nimbler European rivals. Car performed reliably after Brands woes. Brake master cylinders have been renewed. Rust bubbles are due to be dealt with soon. Cosmetic work will also address C-pillars.