FORMER Holden motorsport executive Joe Felice opens up on his history in the sport in the latest issue of Australian Muscle Car Magazine that has recently hit newsstands across the country.
In the wide-ranging chat with David Hassall, Felice opened up about sacking both Peter Brock and Harry Firth in the space of just three years.
Brock departed the Holden Dealer Team at the end of 1974 though came back four years later, while Firth ‘retired’ at the end of the 1977 season.
Brock’s marriage to former Miss Australia Michelle Downes and having his affairs managed by Downes’ manager was the last straw for Felice and Holden.
“It got to the stage where it really started to irk me because this guy started saying, ‘You’re not to book Peter for anything unless I approve it and you’re not to talk to Peter anymore, and I’ve told Peter he’s not to talk to you anymore,’” recalled Felice to AMC.
“He said he would decide what gigs Peter would do for us, and that he’d do gigs for other people instead because they were more lucrative!
“I told (John) Bagshaw it was all becoming unworkable and he said, ‘It’s your decision, what do you want to do?’ I said either he gets rid of this guy or Peter will have to go, and that was exactly what happened.
“I just said to Peter, ‘Your choice – either you drop this guy or we’re going to drop you.’ And he said, “No, I’m going to stick with him.’ So I terminated his GMH contract and got Harry to terminate his driving contract. It was a big decision for the company because everybody loved Peter.”
There’s a range of amazing HDT era photos that feature in our new V8 Sleuth-published book, ‘Racing The Lion’, a 400 page illustrated history of Holden in motorsport.
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The domination of Ford in 1977 plus the presentation of Firth’s underperforming HDT outfit led to a change, the pressure from directors, dealers and Phillip Morris winning out in the end to see the end of the Firth/HDT era.
And so it was Felice who had to ‘retire’ the racing legend with John Sheppard taking over the HDT for 1978.
“In the end I felt it had all passed Harry by, and he wasn’t going to change no matter what,” Felice told AMC.
“Furthermore, his brother Norm’s bookkeeping was totally unprofessional and often ran fowl of our accountants and auditors. I was under pressure to move Harry on, but he had done so much for our product that I wouldn’t do it.
“In the end, I did ask him to retire gracefully, which he finally did – reluctantly – after I told him that there was no choice in the matter.”
The latest issue of Australian Muscle Car magazine also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Falcon GT-HO Phase II – featuring the surviving road test model from 1970!
This was the car loaned out by Ford to motoring journalists so they could put their impressions of the Blue Oval’s 1970 Bathurst challenger in print in newspapers and magazines.
After the Falcon had been given a thorough flogging by our esteemed press corp, it passed through a series of private owners, most of whom remained oblivious to its star-car past.
Remarkably it survives today, unmolested and unrestored – the car that adorns the cover of this issue of Australian Muscle Car is more or less exactly as it was when it first graced the covers of motoring magazines 50 years ago!
Click here to buy the latest issue of Australian Muscle Car or subscribe to the magazine.