Obituary – Tony Fall

1940-2007

With the death of Tony Fall, rallying has to mourn one of its most versatile and charming characters as well as a raconteur who enlivened many a gathering. At the age of 67, Tony was doing what he enjoyed most, working with fellow rally men as an official on the East African Safari when, at the night halt in Arusha, he passed away in his sleep.

His rally career started while he was working as a car salesman for Ian Appleyard in Bradford and his first international success came when he won a Coupe des Alpes in 1965 at the wheel of a Mini Cooper. With works assistance, he won the Circuit of Ireland the following year and then the Polish Rally in a factory car. He won the Three Cities Rally with a BMC 1800 in ’67 and then did his first Safari in one in ’68. He also drove an 1800 on the London-Sydney, finishing 24th.

When BMC closed, he moved to Lancia, getting disqualified from first place in Portugal in 1969. He subsequently drove for Datsun, Ford, BMW, VW and Peugeot. With Ford he won the Rally of the Incas in ’69 and came sixth on the 1970 World Cup with footballer Jimmy Greaves. With Datsun he won the Welsh Rally and the Ethiopian Highland Rally in ’71.

In 1974, he started up his own business running and preparing Opels in England and was sufficiently successful that three years later he was invited to run the whole European operation. He moved to Germany and commenced a long struggle with General Motors management that finally resulted, among other successes, in Walter Röhrl winning the World Rally Championship in 1982 and Ari Vatanen the Safari in 1983. Tony tried to persuade GM to go down the 4x4 route by developing special Kadetts for the Paris-Dakar of 1986 but the death of Group B brought his tenure at Opel to an end.

He subsequently returned to Britain and took over Safety Devices, building it up gradually into a company that did more than offer rollcages. He had kept a Datsun 240Z from the old days and, often accompanied by Yvonne Mehta, demonstrated it exuberantly everywhere from Goodwood to Chatsworth. Perhaps the fondest memories that the rally world will have of Tony are his duologues with co-driver Mike Wood, describing their incidents and scrapes rallying together during the ’60s and ’70s.

John Davenport