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John Goss, the pioneer of Ford’s XA GT

In the midst of a major change in local motorsport when the Group C regulations came into being for the 1973 Australian Touring Car Championship after combining both the Series Production and Improved Production rulesets.

John Goss was a pioneer for Ford, the Tasmanian spearheaded his own development of the XA GT Hardtop as the factory team elected to modify its Falcon XY GT-HOs to the more liberal Group C regulations.

Allan Moffat secured his maiden ATCC title and transferred into a XA GT for the endurance segment of the season where he successful won his third Bathurst crown.

But what of Goss? Teamed with Kevin Bartlett, Goss qualified on pole though was involved in a collision and was forced to pit for repairs on lap 105. However, this further spurred the pair on to take victory the next year.

Development of the XA GT was one of tenacity and experimentation.

“At the end of 1972, Ford built an XA for me just prior to its release,” Goss explained.

“Ford did a version with some high performance options on it before it was homologated. Don Bettison at the plant oversaw the production of that particular chassis for me, which was a klate-1972 early production XA GT two-door.

“That car was sent up to us in Sydney I remember quite late in the year.

Work was undertaken to turn the new XA GT into a track weapon at McLeod Ford, where Goss worked in its high performance division.

“I think I did some rounds of the South Pacific Touring Car Championship and I also did so entered a few events of the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1973,” Goss explained.

“The car was at a pretty basic specification as it was before the homologation option package, but I sent the XA GT to Bathurst with an anticipated spec in Easter 1973 and entered in a combined touring car/sports sedan race.

“I don’t think Allan was there, but Ian Geoghegan was in his Mustang and Bob Jane was there. Anyway, I saw an opportunity to run the car in a sanctioned event at Bathurst to be able confirm some ideas I had about gearing, suspension set-up and aerodynamics.

“When I took it to Bathurst, it was fitted with a front airdam, rear spoiler, different suspension settings, wider wheels than Series Production and fitted it with a combination of gearbox and rear axle ratios, which I thought would be suitable.

“I also fitted it with some exhaust headers and the like, so it now had a bit more power.”

Goss left Bathurst confident his development pathway was heading in the right direction and it was only he who knew due to completing most of the work himself.

However, ‘The Fox’ Harry Firth was at Bathurst with the Holden Dealer Team and attempted to spy on Goss.

“Harry had a car entered for Bondy, but he was very interested in what we were doing,” Goss recalled.

“So I had to shroud what I was doing from his view, so he knew what was going on.”

Although not a factory Ford project, this doesn’t mean the Blue Oval weren’t indirectly involved in the Goss-run program.

Fast Forward to the first Bathurst to be run in metric elevating the distance to 1000km, Goss employed open-wheel rival Kevin Bartlett to join him.

A campaign full of hope after the development work completed by Goss earlier in the year and it started off perfectly when Goss took pole.

“It sent a bit of a shock through the field,” Goss thrillingly recalled.

“I was just a private entrant and was running the whole thing myself really. I was really pleased to put the thing on pole, I remember I was awarded $10,000 and it was important.

“We went onto dominate the race and we had a long gap of about half a minute. The weather deteriorated in the early afternoon and the car became almost impossible to drive because I couldn’t see out of it.

“There was a bit of buffeting also going on, but in the end, I aquaplaned at McPhillamy Park and hit a concrete gutter, breaking the front-right wheel. It punctured the tyre and damaged the wheel.

“I managed to return the car to the pits by driving as quickly as I could down the grass verge.”

In the end the Bridgestone-supported Goss was given wets by Marsden and the factory Ford crew to use of which he and Bartlett finished the race many laps down.

Ford did secure victory through the factory XA GT driven by Moffat and Geoghegan.

As for Goss and Bartlett, the pair executed revenge the next year at the Mountain.