The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Ryan, Nov 15, 2023.
Ryan submitted a new blog post:
The East African Safari
Continue reading the Original Blog Post
They were some tough looking cars.
There's a documentary called Ford on Safari: East African Safari 1964 - Cortina Conquest, but I haven't been able to find it online.
Here's a still from it, maybe someone on here knows where to find it.
It's on Facebook...this car is at 4:00 minutes in.
I think these cars are cool as shit, but to me... the real interesting part about "factory" efforts like this are the details. For instance, this is the coolest shot of the bunch:
Moon tank, seat belt strap for the toolbox, dual spare mount... and what the hell that they are using for a console? Almost looks like a cup holder or water distribution system of some sort? I want to know.
It also sort of disturbs me when FOMOCO essentially revises history and says projects like this were a factory effort. In fact, I recently got into a debate with a current Ford exec about this while on a zoom meeting.
Ford's definition of a factory racing effort has never been parallel with the rest of the world's. Rather than using their engineering power and intellectual property, they have consistently written checks and passed the effort off to someone else - usually a hot rodder. In this case, Fran was a Ford employee obviously... but he got zero support from Ford proper - just an assignment and a budget. It was up to him to go build a team that would actually make this happen. And when he did, he used guys that Ford was comfortable with - Ray Brock and Bill Stroppe. Both Ray and Bill worked with Ford a lot and understood the limitations.
Ford wasn't building performance cars. They were building cars for a larger market than that. So, when you went racing with Ford you had to understand that limitation and work around those short comings. If you went to work with performance marques, you didn't face these same limitations.
Now, I would be totally fine with this... I mean, Ford killed it financially and made some fantastic road cars. But it bothers me when Ford tries to be everything to everybody... And they try to sell themselves as performance minded. Ford doesn't deserve that credit. Hot Rodders like Fran, Ray, Bill, Carol, etc... do.
Anyway, this all came to the surface (again) after I read a quote from Fran this morning:
"The Mercs were great fun to put together. I had a Ford budget and no direction. I had a bottleneck with the platform, but total freedom otherwise. Just not as much freedom as the privateers in the Cortinas."
The guy in one of your photos holding the trophy aloft is Joginder Singh, he finished last but made up for it the following year when he won the event outright. He then went on to became the first person to win the Safari 3 times, he was a bit of a rallying god.
Also on YouTube
I love that interior detail shot as well. And those tires are really cool looking whether or not they were any good is another matter.
To me the containers in the console sure look like these Thermos bottles from the mid 60s. I remember my folks had one of these when I was a little kid in the early 70s.
Is Bill Stroppe related to Steve Stroppe I wonder?
(sorry. it just popped up and had to ask)
I dunno... I mostly know Bill for red, white, and blue paint jobs... some foggy NASCAR stuff... and a whole lot of Baja efforts. I'm sure he's got a story and I prolly need to read up!
If you ever see one of those Mercuries today it seems they're always built as a drag racer, I'd like to see some built as rally replicas instead. I was always fascinated by them.
I've always dug these and the Monte Carlo rallye Falcons.
Not exactly sure whether Fran was Fred Offenhauser’s partner or right hand man prior to working for Ford. Fran saw to it that the SoCal high performance industry got more than their fair share of work for Ford/Mercury in-house projects. Offy had a lot of V-6 Cortina intakes in the back room and was the go to for Pinto intakes. Fran never forgot his roots.
Fran was the ultimate hot rodder and innovator... and I think that's most likely why Ford hired him. Even then, it gave them some credibility on that front... If Ford was a different kind of company, not as influenced by the bottom line as they were/are (and who can blame them), they would have put Fran's office a little closer to those of the engineers and product concept people...
At the end of the day, the Comet and Falcon both had the potential to be more than an economy car. The Cortina Lotus proves that... Imagine if someone like Fran was put in place to develop his own variant of the platform from the start. Instead, they developed another car for the general population of posers - the mustang.
I spent a few years for work in Kenya in the 2010's. Was lucky enough to see the rally come through Mombasa. Not quite HAMB era, but enough to remind me of my youth. This year's entry list here:
No Aussies, but one US entry in a Ford Escort RS1600.
I always say I enjoy the complete Hamb era regarding go fast...
This is a perfect example why...such a cool competition Coupe/Hotrod and a cross between street and dirt...
I found it understandably interesting you focusing in on that service bay with it's nod to Hotrod...the subdued mooneyes staring right at you...I suppose if the budgeting and company focus had been alotted differently as you mentioned, we might not have seen that...It sure has a military feel about it...but rugged does that...
I wonder what the fates were of the ones that didn't make it...
Sport that unites not divides...I like that...South America/Argentina comes to mind but this stuff was bigger than that as witnessed by this...and seeing North American Iron in the mix gets my head turning...winning or not...
SO many cool cars...and only room for one in my garage, I can never have them all anyway...this is the next best thing...thanks for sharing.
Ryan, thank you so much for featuring in this car. I have been a big fan of the East African Safari and Monte Carlo rallies for decades. I collect 1/43 scale models of cars from both events. I have the Ford Falcon Sprint that finished 2nd in the 1964 Monte Carlo, but have not yet been able to find a replica of the Safari Comet.
I was bummed when this rally was removed from the World Rally Championship for many years, but it's back now as Rally Kenya and is on the 2024 calendar for late March. Oftentimes the main event is accompanied by a "Classic" event open to historic rally cars that were prepared for the Safari Rally.
at least one survived
I believe this is the same Comet that I have seen at Luguna Seca vintage races in August a few years ago. The owner had a display of documentation that showed the car during the safari. I have photos of it somewhere, if I find them I will post them.
Thanks for sharing the story Ryan! Having been to that part of the world even in recent years, I can definitely understand the atmosphere of a race like this. I would love to do something like this and had those thoughts when I was in Uganda a few times only a few years ago.
Nice write up of a portion of Bill Stroppe’s involvement in getting those cars prepped for racing.
Wow, Tanganyika. In our geography classes, we poured over an ancient world map book, my edition was the 12th and it was a 1964-65 version. That is an old edition that was the most current edition of a world map. The bound map book should have been a notice of what was ahead for the world changes. But, who knew back then?
"Shortly after Ray Brock's firsthand account of the 3,188-mile '64 East African Safari rally was published, Tanganyika became part of what is now the United Republic of Tanzania, which, along with Kenya and Uganda, made up the host nations for the grueling race."
I had to look it up again in the old Goode's World Alas bound book.
The dull green cover stood out in any library and the early maps had the original names prior to some joining forces and borders to make a different country within a continent. We always enjoyed being able to spell Tanganyika in any classroom spelling contests. (Phonetic spelling helped )
Who keeps a 1964-65 bound World Atlas?
I found my copy of the book and since it has significance with my wife, she allowed me to keep the old bound history atlas. In college, I shared this book with my wife’s mom. Her mom went back to finish her degree and we happened to be in the same Physical Geography class. Yes, it was weird, but college was weird. So, it was as if I sat next to a co-ed and shared notes from the lectures. But, I scored points with my wife, thanks for being nice to her mom. Ha!
My copy of Goode’s World Atlas 1964 Edition for 1965. (Including some strange names of places from way back then…)
The course was one of the dry African desert plains areas, with washes, steep culverts and flat out runs, but the European Rally folks knew the style of racing and had less problems with their European race cars. Despite the quality of USA entries made by Bill Stroppe and the top notch crew + drivers, the results were not one for the books. YRMV
Because Bill Stroppe’s shop was in the “Signal Hill” portion of Long Beach at the top of the Hill Street hillclimb event, we followed his exploits in all racing. At the peak of Hill Street on Temple, Stroppe’s shop was at the top and on the cross street, Temple Ave. Plus, Bill Stroppe was Long Beach Poly H.S. graduate well versed in the early versions of the Metal Shop and Autoshop Techniques/Programs. But in the 30s.
OK, I found some of the pictures I took at Luguna Seca in 2018. This Comet has all the documentation to back up its history.
Fran wrenching on Ray Brock's #73, Ray standing next to him.
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