Tony Fall, founder of the UK Dealer Opel Team (DOT) operation, died of a suspected heart attack overnight on Saturday December 1st while in Tanzania officiating on the East African Safari Rally. He was 67.
His first job was a as a car salesman at Appleyards in his native Yorkshire. A talent for rallying soon developed and Tony had a distiguished career driving a number of different marques in UK and European events, including VW Beetles and Datsun 240Zs. But he is probably best remembered as a Works BMC pilot. Usually associated with Minis, his greatest success was winning the Danube Rally in the unwieldy Austin 1800 "land crab".
When DOT was established in 1970 by voluntary dealer contribution it commenced operations with an Ascona A rally car driven by Tony. In 1974 new premises in Tong Park, Yorkshire, were acquired and DOT became a commercial enterprise selling competition cars, converting road cars, supplying tuning and body kits as well as preparing and running the DOT team cars. For 1975 attention turned to the Kadett C GT/E coupe fitted with the 1.9 litre injected engine. The GT/E was homologated for International Group 4 competition and the black and yellow DOT “busy bee” driven by Tony Pond was soon a potent force in UK rallying. To increase sales, DOT converted a number of GT/Es to right hand drive with the help of Bradford University Engineering Department. The next iteration of the Kadett GT/E was a 2 litre injected model which was homologated for Group 1 and therefore became eligible for production car based classes and events. GHD502S, a DOT entered car driven by Brian Culcheth in a distinctive white and yellow livery, rapidly became something of a giant killer in the British International Rally Championship, winning its class on every round in 1978 and earning itself the nickname “Little Magic”.
On the race track the very effective Commodore GS/E models starred in production car racing with the DOT entry for Radio 1 DJ Noel Edmunds bringing huge publicity via his radio shows. In 1979 hot rod and rallycross ace Barry Lee joined DOT to give the team another dimension, while caravan racing and rallying had been tried with mixed fortunes a few years earlier!
Back in the forests, something big was stirring. In 1977 Tony left DOT to head a new Opel Motorsports Department in Rüsselsheim, Germany. For the coming season the use of special cylinder heads for International Group 2 homologation was banned (the rule that tripped Vauxhall up with the HS Chevette), so Opel needed to find, or create, a car with an advanced head design. The result was the Ascona 400, the name signifying the number that had to be built for homologation. Its twin overhead cam, 16 valve engine had first appeared as a display unit at the 1975 Frankfurt Show and it now came into its own when enlarged to 2.4 litres, with help from UK engine specialists Cosworth, and fitted to a specially modified Ascona.
In a parallel development, Opel Motorsports established the Kadett C /GTE as the rally car of choice for privateers in European rallying. While British forests thrilled to the rasp of an Escort twin-cam, in continental Europe the Kadett was king.
After leaving Opel, Tony went on to acquire the UK company Safety Devices, a leading name in roll over bar and safety cage manufacturing. He maintained a keen interest in motorsport via various MSA committees and the occassional outing in his Datsun 240Z, most recently at Goodwood this year.