Historic ex-Comstock Racing Team Lotus Cortina

owned and driven by Ron Goldsack

"I have been driving Cortinas for over 40 years, starting with this original Dagenham Factory supplied car to The Comstock Racing Team in Canada, which was delivered to FoMoCo Canada in April, 1963. Comstock Racing was the "unofficial" Ford Racing Team, as GM and Ford had agreed not to race against each other (Ford was cheating...). This 1963 Mk 1 is Z 74 C 05275, which is an extremely early number. The car was totally restored to plus spec. in 1996, and is now also used for rallying and tourning."

Comstock Racing Team

Excerpted story written by : Jimmy Johnston, SAC#54, Jpcon@idirect.ca, written 2/28/00

When racing buffs talk of the "Good Old Days" of Canadian racing, eventually the conversation turns to the exploits of "Team Comstock", and understandably so. The team, cars, drivers, and crew, were the very best that Canada had to offer, and in those days, were some of the best people in the international world of motorsport.

Chuck Rathgeb, a very successful business man, who owned and operated the Comstock Construction Company, and a great supporter of Canadian sport, in many disciplines, was the driving force behind the team. His passion for motorsport, his desire to win, and impatience with lack of success, his administrative skills, along with his connection to the Ford Motor Company, and Jack Still, Marketing Director of Ford Canada, gave birth to a period of Canadian automotive competition, that can not fully be given justice in this article. It really deserves to be documented in a book. Rathgeb's talent of selecting the right people for the right job, and being supportive in giving them the tools, and the freedom to get the job done, was the catalyst for the success of the Comstock Racing Team. Paul Cooke, team manager from 1963 to 1967, commented that "Comstock was a magnet, attracting the very best of people, and inspired them to excel".

In the early days of the team, Rathgeb drove cars, and provided drives for other drivers, in cars built by Bill Sadler, a Canadian engineer from St. Catherines Ontario, whose cars were very "state of the art" at the time. But then along came Ford with a "five year development plan", and Comstock Racing was the designated factory team for Ford's participation in the Canadian Motorsport events of road racing and rallying.

The cars were developed with the support of Ford, in Canada, England, and in the US, but the Comstock facility in 'gincourt, Ontario, was a 12 month a year operation, with some paid personnel, but also a lot of volunteer workers, who would work into the wee small hours of the night, and happily go to their day jobs, the next day.

Paul Cooke, who joined the team in 1963, as team manager, and some time driver, had worked with Eppie Wietzes the teams number one driver at that time, for a number of years previously, in their pre-Comstock racing days, and had the good fortune to work together again, just when the Ford programme was really taking off.

Some of the cars that the team campaigned in road racing, were the "Comstock EXP", driven by Fred Hayes, and John Cannon, who passed away recently in a private plane crash, a Lola Formula Junior, again driven by John Cannon, two Cooper sports racers fitted with Ford engines by Carrol Shelby, known as the "Shelby King Cobra", Shelby Cobra's , (the Comstock Cobra was fitted with a 289 cubic inch Ford engine, while a second Cobra, owned and driven by George Eaton, but maintained by Comstock, was fitted with the larger 427 cubic inch power plant.) Shelby Mustangs, Lotus Ford Cortina's, a Holman and Moody built Ford Falcon, (originally built for Wally Hangsen to drive at Daytona, but Wally never drove it, and it was purchased by Comstock), and the wonderful Ford GT40's of Le Mans fame. All of the cars, were painted in the very recognizable "Comstock Colours", white bodies with dark green stripes, and the team name always had the Canadian flag included.

The rally cars were 3 Ford Anglia 105-E's, Lotus Ford Cortina's (3 "A" body and 3 "B" body types), and 3 Ford Mustang's, as models changed through the Ford programme. The cars were driven by a number of drivers, that included, Doug Merson, Art Dempsey, John Wilson, Paul McLennan, Lloyd Howell, Bill Silvera, Eppie Wietzes, Craig Fisher, and Eric McDuff. Comstock won many awards in their rally days, with overall wins, and team awards in the "Shell 4,000 Rally", and the "Canadian Winter Rally", giving Ford lots of exposure for the backing that they offered the team.

1964 saw the team with a Shelby Cobra originally driven by Fred Hayes, but later by Eppie, who won every race entered in the car. The "Shelby King Cobra" sports racer was destroyed in a spring testing session at Mosport, Paul Cooke who was driving the car at the time was OK, but made comment that the "King Cobra" was an evil handling car at the best of times. The team also had a Lotus Ford Cortina, that was purchased in late 1963, and was mostly driven by Jerry Polivka, and Ron Goldsack. Ron purchased the car from the team at the end of the of the 63 season, after running as an independent, for a few races, Ron was invited back into the Comstock stable, and ran the balance of the 1964 season as a full member of the team. Ron still owns the car to this day.

While researching this story, I was constantly reminded that Canada, in the 1960's was at the centre of the world of motorsport. Tracks like Mosport, St. Jovite, and Westwood, were the envy of Europe, and the USA, and the drivers and crews of Canadian teams were right up there with the best of them.

I would be remiss, if I did not give credit to the people who helped me with all of the above information. Ralph Friskin, one of the many volunteer crew members for the Comstock Racing Team, and George Eaton's Can Am crew. Paul Cooke, team manager for Comstock, and later George Eaton, who took time out from a very busy schedule of ice racing in Quebec, to give me so much of his memories of his time at Comstock, and Ron Goldsack, former team driver. And a very special thank you to Barb and Eppie Wietzes for their hospitality, and use of their photographic archives.


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