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Dick Johnson's Tru Blu back on track

The TruBlu race car was built with money received from well wishers and Ford Motor Company.
Mark Hinchliffe

15 May 2009 • 4 min read

Dan Bowden of Bowden's Own museum which is restoring the car invited race fans to hear the engine fired back into life at the Pacific Ford FPV dealership in Maroochydore next Wednesday (MAY 20) at 6pm.

"It's raucous. It sounds fantastic," he said.

"We had it running for the first time yesterday and it just sounds gorgeous.

"It has a very distinctive note to it; very masculine"

"We had one of his V8 Supercars next to it and kicked it over and it sounds nice, but we kicked this over and we had our next door neighbour coming round.

"I'm not sure if the dealership quite understands what it sounds like, but they'll get over it ... eventually."

Bowden said reviving the engine was the first stage in the full restoration of the original vehicle.

The TruBlu race car was built with the money received from well wishers and Ford Motor Company after Dick Johnson famously hit a rock and crashed out of the Bathurst lead in 1980.

Johnson and co-driver John French had a fairytale Bathurst win and the Australian Touring Car Championship the next year in TruBlu.

"Hopefully we can get Dick and Frenchy back together in it when it's completed," Bowden said.

"The way we see it, it's not finished until the driver gets back in the car."

The Bowden family bought the car and Johnson's other old race cars two years ago after the legendary racer had a sponsor pull out.

"He needed to sell his cars so Dick contacted my father (David) and did the deal.

"Part of the deal is we always have cars on display at his workshop museum in Yatala."

The most recent Bowden restoration of an ex-Johnson race car was the 1984 Australian Touring Car Championship-winning Greens-Tuf Falcon which is now back at the Dick Johnson Racing Museum.

It features the engine from the 1983 XE Falcon destroyed at Bathurst during a dramatic top-10 shootout crash at Forest Elbow.

The TruBlu race car has been in the Bowden workshop for the past two months for mechanical restoration.

"The engine restoration was a big job," Bowden said.

"All the fuel had gone off, brake linings and everything.

"This is the problem when you leave them sitting around."

The next stage of the restoration is the bodywork.

"It's very important to restore the car sympathetically and keep it as original as possible," Bowden said.

"I've seen to many race cars restored and they look like a show car which is not how they were.

"It's important to retain the integrity and authenticity as well as having it presentable."

Bowden said the fully restored vehicle would be displayed and driven at historic race events around the nation.

"That's the plan with all our cars," he said.

"We're looking at different historic events, but nothing is yet planned."

Bowden said he could not put a figure on the cost of the restoration project.

"Let's just say it's not cheap. With these cars parts are hard to come by, particularly on race cars," he said.

"We have to fabricate some of the components and that's where the dollars add up.

"We've been doing this over 10 years and we have it pretty down pat and if we can't do it here we know someone who can."

Bowden said Johnson had been helpful with technical and historical information about his cars, which helped with the restoration.

"Dick is very emotional about his cars and he's very sympathetic," he said.

"He cares about the history of motorsport, unlike some drivers.

"We're lucky that he's that appreciative of the old cars. It's a pleasure to work with him."

Bowden said he would ask his father to contact Johnson to invite him to the firing-up ceremony on Wednesday.

"He's so very busy with his V8 team and they are going well this year, so we don't know whether he will come along," he said.




The Greens-Tuf Falcon is one of six historic Dick Johnson race cars at the DJR museum, at 10 Emeri St, Stapylton.

The museum also houses trophies back to 1980, race suits, pictures, posters, laurels and car parts.

Entry to the museum and race shop is free.

Visitors can also book in for a one-hour workshop tour conducted on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am.

Workshop tours cost $15 for adults, $7.50 for school children and concessions.

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