Targa Tasmania - Bonnie and Clyde Ford

BONNIE AND CLYDE FORD RECEIVES TARGA FLAG CAR HONOUR It's been over seventy years since notorious partners in crime Bonnie and Clyde were shot down in a stolen 1934 model Ford V8 as they attempted a getaway from Texas lawmen. This year's 15th...

BONNIE AND CLYDE FORD RECEIVES TARGA FLAG CAR HONOUR

It's been over seventy years since notorious partners in crime Bonnie and Clyde were shot down in a stolen 1934 model Ford V8 as they attempted a getaway from Texas lawmen.

This year's 15th anniversary Targa Tasmania from April 25 - 30 will be as action-packed as a scene from the American gangster flick as a car with the same pedigree from the notorious real-life story being awarded the event's Official Flag Car honour.

There are no actual gangsters in Targa Tasmania, at least not this year. Instead Targa Tasmania's very own 'partners in crime', Devonport retirees Graham and Patricia Kent, will this year lead an expected field of 250 plus competitors from the Official Start Line at Launceston's Country Club Resort in their 1936 coupe version of the famed American car.

They will also lead the field from the Launceston, Burnie and Hobart city starts held during the event's five days of competition.

In recognition of their car's sordid heritage as the infamous American criminal duo's preferred choice of vehicle, the Kents have even superimposed bullet holes on the rear of their Ford V8 Coupe - markings they now declare their car's "signature" emblem.

"Everyone recognises this car as the 'Bonnie and Clyde' car," laughs Graham. "At events all around the country, that's all I get."

This year Graham will be contesting his twelfth Targa Tasmania and Patricia, her ninth. For six events, Graham has had his wife by his side. As one of Targa Tasmania's most praiseworthy ambassadors, the pair who won last year's Targa Tasmania Historic Competition have managed to convince almost their entire family to enter Targa Tasmania.

Really, if Targa Tasmania was a world - then the Kents would be one wad of cash that makes it go around. After all, not many competitors can say that they have encouraged their two sons, wife and two grandsons to enter Targa Tasmania.

"I was always interested in motor sport and so were my two sons," explains Graham. "When Targa turned up I saw it as an opportunity to do something different and their ears just pricked up."

"Then when my first grandson entered the event as a navigator, it just bridged the generation gap. It is interesting to watch the young boys get involved with the event and tinker with the cars."

Graham, who almost made it to the inaugural event until an unplanned jaunt overseas forced him to withdraw at the last minute, first discovered the Ford back in September 1993 as a trailer-load of rusting body parts in South Australia. Work on restoring the broken down, empty shell began in October that same year.

Seven months later, a determined and committed Kent had beautifully reconditioned the Ford for a start at the second annual staging of Targa Tasmania.

During the car's restoration process every endeavour was made to retain the vehicle as close as possible to its original form. Apart from minor changes and modifications made to accommodate safety requirements, the only two major additions to the V8-engined Ford were the fitting of 1939 hydraulic rear brakes and 1964 disc brakes to the front.

Unable to rebuild the Ford's original 3.6-litre V8 engine, post restoration Kent fitted the car with a similar standard configuration 3.9-litre engine. The current engine churns out only 78bhp which isn't a lot for a car that weighs a whopping 1780kg. So, as you can imagine, the car doesn't exactly pack a lot of punch- but for the Kents it's not about the speed.

"Driving this car is a massive challenge, but I love it and it's a lot of fun," says Graham of his beloved car. "It's different because it's an old car that doesn't have any handling characteristics."

"Let me tell you, she rocks and she rolls around those corners!"

Humbled by the honour of being appointed the Official Flag Car for the 15th anniversary event, Graham, who is also a councillor for Devonport City, says he and his wife could not be happier about their flag car role.

"We feel very honoured to be doing this," says Graham. "It's really is satisfying to be able to do it for an event that we consider to be the best tarmac rally in the country. It's just great."

To date, the Ford has contested Targa Tasmania seven times and is one of those cars that tend to make your head turn as it passes you. Really, it's just a grand old car.

It is such a car of its time that Clyde Barrow reportedly sent a letter of appreciation to Henry Ford acknowledging the performance of the V8 engined car that the pair had, on a number of occasions, used in high-speed chases from the law.

Our Graham, who in his younger years drove an exact model Ford to the one he know owns, may not have a lot in common with one of America's most renowned criminals but their shared love of the Ford V8 cannot be denied.

General Manager Tasmania for Octagon, Rob McGuire, says the Kents were an obvious choice for the 15th anniversary event's number one car.

"The Kents epitomise the spirit of Targa Tasmania," says McGuire. "Their family spirit, their car and commitment to Targa Tasmania perfectly represents the concept behind the Flag Car and its origins as the ceremonious leader of Targa Tasmania."

-www.targa.org.au

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Series Other rally
Drivers Henry Ford