Story by Chris Ralph. Pics by Phil Wisewould and supplied.
Triumph racer Ian Watt has been in the HTCAV for around 35 years. With a fondness for Triumphs he’s prepared two and only ever raced this one marque in the Club. His is a classic father and son club story that embraces another tradition – how the ‘Club Brotherhood’ comes into play to help get cars on track.
In the 70s Ian and wife Jan were running a ’74 Celica TA22 in the Celica Car Club, with Ian winning the Club Championship outright and Jan the runner-up in the Ladies Champs. Kids just out of bassinettes and nappies often makes a motorsport moratorium, but by the end of the 80s the Appendix J Association of Vic (the former name of the HTCAV) was going great guns and Watty was champing at the bit. The 1988 Club Champion, Chris Anderson, had written off his winning Cortina GT and his mount for ’89 was a Triumph 2000; Ian eagerly waved a few dollars and it was his.
He wasted no time, taking it to an event put on by the MG Car Club at Winton. Young son Steve, by then 13, had been hanging around Club elder Len Read on weekends learning how to spin a spanner and must have pestered Dad mightily – he was put behind the wheel in the juniors event and was circulating well by the end of his session.
Watty’s first ‘official’ Appendix J race was at the 1991 Historic Winton Historics and throughout that decade he was a regular in the car, even competing at Bathurst in 1997. But in 1999 the late John Brash told him of a Triumph 2.5 Mk 11 PI manual masquerading as a chook coop in Canberra. Complete and unmolested, it was irresistible. The ‘Brotherhood’ fell upon it with glee.
Citroen racer Mick Stupka did his usual immaculate body and paint job, after Escort 1300 racer and former Club President Dean Bryant replaced a dodgy floor. Lotus Cortina driver Jeff Vaux made a bespoke wiring loom.
Transmission guru Ken Zinner did the gearbox and diff. Cortina racer Derry Robertson of BGT Brakes looked after all matters to do with clutching and stopping. Gordon Cox of Coxys Motorsport Spares was always there supplying the right gear, and as ever, Len Read never failed with advice and practical assistance.
The 2500 naturally superseded the 2000, which went to Ian Cuss of Cuss Bus Lines in northern Victoria, who still races it today. Watty went a class higher and several seconds faster. But by 2004 son Steve wants in with this racing stuff, in his own car. The ex-Lindsay Cripps Holden EH Premier is tracked down, minus running gear but plus some suspension bits and the all-important Historic Logbook. Lindsay helps with parts sourcing and advice, old faithful Mick Stupka does another superb panel and paint job.
Ian remembers the 60-something Dad in the Triumph vs. the 30-something Kid in the EH, qualifying within 0.1 secs of each other, with Dad holding breakfast table bragging rights and Mum’s warning: “Whatever you do, do not beat your father into Turn 1 …” Over several years the father and son team duelled away at various tracks with even handed results.
In 2019 Ian is in London on business and answers the phone. “G’day Dad. I need to refresh my licence at Island Magic, but the EH isn’t a goer. Aah…any…chance…I could run the PI there?” What does a Dad do? Offer to prep the car and be spanner man, only to see his Phillip Island PB reduced by almost a second. Having recently lowered his Winton long track by two seconds he puts it down to recent head work and finally addressing, after all these years, the actual PI metering units – after Len Read had fabricated some tools to do so.
And the greatest triumph of all? Watching his son grow into the sport, to enjoy it, to work Dad’s old mates to get these old machines working at their best so they can return to battle year after year. And now, his grandson Jack, the fifth generation Watt able to spin a spanner, is taking an interest. The ‘family business’ is in very safe hands.