Murray Anderson – The Real Wizard of Oz

Outside of North America, the other great “hot spot” for drag racing in the world is the continent of Australia. For years many professional, and some not quite so professional, racers from the U.S. took advantage of the opposite seasons and traveled “down under” to supplement their incomes by match racing and putting on exhibitions during the Australian summer. It was during the preliminary stages of one of the more quirky, and ultimately ill fated, of these exhibitions that an inquisitive youngster from the country had his first brush with what would soon become an overpowering passion.

Murray Anderson moved with his large family to the sprawling city of Melbourne on the south coast of Australia in 1971. Always interested in things mechanical while growing up, 14 year-old Murray continued to tinker with old motorbikes or whatever motorized piece of gear he could lay his hands on after moving to the city. Shortly after graduating from high school at the age of 17, he embellished a bit on his technical qualifications and took a job as a Mini Minor mechanic at a Leyland garage. Ironically, directly across the road was a speed shop owned by Aussie Top Fuel legend Graham Withers, and unbeknownst to young Murray at the time, the future course of his life would eventually be charted due to that very juxtaposition of circumstances.

Looking back, Murray vividly recalled his first encounter with a professional drag racer. “It was in 1974, not long after I had talked my way into my first motor mechanic job,” he said. “Graham Withers brought an American Top Fuel driver over to Australia with the intention of putting on a demonstration on an unfinished section of freeway here in Melbourne. A major bridge collapse had left the road sitting unused for several years, and Graham thought it would be a perfect place to stage a Top Fuel exhibition. While waiting for government red tape to be cleared, he put the car on display in front of his shop. At the time, I knew nothing of drag racing; I’d only ever been to a speedway bike meeting in my local country town. During my lunch hours, I’d go across the road and just look the car over from every angle. I did this every day for a week, even bringing my camera to work so that I could get a few photos because I’d never seen anything like it. Like I said, I knew absolutely nothing of drag racing up to this time.