A Look Back at the Cars of 1989

The final year of the 1980s closes out a decade of varying hair styles, musical tastes, the Indiana Jones and Star Wars sagas (before they got truly silly) and an innovative decade of car engineering and design.

Holden’s VN Commodore was reaching the end of its design life, and still packed a 5044cc V8. The SS was a hot looker thanks to well integrated body mods, and was the last Commodore without an independent rear. The VN of 1989 featured an upgraded 3.8L V6 which was quieter and more reliable, and would also be the basis for the Toyota Lexcen.

Ford had revived one of the brand’s most popular nameplates with its own, inhouse designed, Capri. A slim looking two door, available with a hard or soft top, the Capri didn’t set the automotive market alight and was available for just five years. The later models had a stylish “jeweled” look to the tail lights, and featured pop up head lights. Unfortunately, the entry level model was hobbled by a three speed auto.

Mitsubishi was moving the Magna along quite nicely with a design based on the American Galant. Essentially a “cut and shut” build, with some minor design changes but widened to suit the Australian lifestyle, the TN Magna came with two, four cylinder engines for power only. One sucked fuel via a carbie, the other pushed fuel in via fuel injection. Neither could be said to be “powerful” with the EFI version shunting out just 93kW from the 2.6L capacity engine.

Toyota’s Camry of 1989 was a complete revamp of the original hatchback version that was imported from Japan. An effectively expanded version of the Corolla of the day, it had been in production in that shape for just two years, after Toyota Australia switched local manufacturing away from the venerable Corona nameplate. Originally available with a front driven chassis powered by a four cylinder, a V6 option came along soon after.

Mercedes-Benz was starring with the C-Class in 1989. The 190 design was in overhaul mode, with 1989 seeing prototypes for what would be the 1993 release of the C-Class model range. The design was a freshen up of the 190 sedan, with a sleeker profile and more aerodynamically suited for the autobahns.

BMW was in a good mood too, with the E34 5 Series selling well against its main competitor of the day. In 1989 the design was still fresh, having been released just two years before. 1989 saw the release of the 520i, featuring an updated straight six that produced 110kW. The M5 was also virtually brand new too, with that year’s model packing a 232kW straight six.

What kind of car did you have in 1989? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below this article! 

Rare Spares sponsors the "Welcome Strangers” team in the Autumn Shitbox Rally, 8th – 17th May 2019

Rare Spares are proud to announce that they are sponsoring Aaron Barnes’, a long time Rare Spares customer, team the “Welcome Strangers” in the Autumn Shitbox Rally, Perth to Sydney via Uluru – May 8th – 17th.

The Shitbox Rally challenges teams to drive cars worth less than $1,000 across some of Australia’s most formidable roads, all in the name of charity. Aaron and the ‘Welcome Strangers’ will be tackling these formidable roads in a VS Commodore Ute.

Aaron Barnes provided us with an update on the build and everything that needed to be completed to get a RWC (road worthy certificate) for the upcoming rally.

“It’s been one hell of an undertaking to get this ute going. So far we have completed the following to get it RWC and ready for the long journey ahead -

  • New Tie Rods Ends
  • New Castor Bushes
  • New Front struts
  • New front rotors and brake pads
  • New rear rotors and brake pads
  • New rear shockers
  • New engine mounts
  • New Radiator
  • New water pipes
  • New LHS Rear tail light
  • New side indicator lens
  • New Tyre
  • New Spark Plugs and Leads
  • New Pinion bearing in the axle
  • Replaced Rocker cover gaskets
  • Replaced inlet Manifold Gaskets
  • New Oil Temp Sensor
  • New Air Filter
  • New Cat back Exhaust
  • New headlight globe
  • New RHS Bumperette
  • New rear reflectors
  • New Oil Filter New oil
  • New Coolant
  • New Fuel Filter
  • Added a Nudge Bar
  • Added a Tonneau Cover

 

Still to go are the flood lights on Nudge Bar and the Custom Roll bar to hold spare wheels and Jerry Cans.”

“I am sure there may be a couple of small things I have missed as well, but that is the majority of what has been done and is still to go. I completed all these myself with the guidance of a local retired mechanic called Neil Boyle. I call him "The Mechanical Yoda" as he knows everything and has saved 1000's in getting it done by a workshop.” 

“We had completed all the issues pointed out by the RWC report and completed them only to have it drop a cylinder, overheat and have coolant pissing out as we arrived to get it finalised. We managed to get a pass and came back to find the inlet manifold was stuffed and needed to be replaced. 7 Hours later we had it fixed and started it up and it purrs like a kitten now, the ECU has levelled out the missing cylinder and it's all going well.” 

“The day arrives to go to ViCROADS on Monday and we are driving along thinking we are home and hosed and all of a sudden the revs jump up to 4000 and we slow down. The transmission has just dropped 4th gear and is stuck in 3rd... I could not believe it, after all the work we had done it's just been one thing after the other with this ute. So we arrive at Vicroads having Transmission fluid pissing out on the inspection bay mixed with coolant and I am thinking "this is not good."

“Luckily the VICROADS guy was a top bloke and once he knew we were on the Rally he was happy to give the car a quick sighting and hand over the plates. So we are officially Road Worthy but have a potential time bomb transmission on our hands...”

“So hopefully everything is fixed now, if not, we may not make it across the Nullabor to start the Rally.” 

“We have raised $5,500 so far so we made our target of 5k and we are officially in the rally and the pressure is on to get this machine rally ready.”

Check out Aaron’s youtube channel “Barnesy’s Builds for further updates on the build - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN816jozxyemfTzXYNIM68g 

 

A brief history of Formula Ford in Australia

Motorsport started a few weeks after the first bunch of cars rolled off the production line. Two blokes looked at each other over a beer at the pub and simultaneously said “I’ll race ya!”. Bare seconds after they started racing they crashed. Again, they looked at each other and said: “ We don’t know how to race!”

Yes, that statement is essentially a bald faced giggle but you get the idea. That’s where categories that are seen as feeders into the big ones, like Formula 1, come into play. Step up, Formula Ford.

The cars are “simple”. Open wheeler, no wings, a tiny tub for the driver to lever themselves into and out of, and a basic four cylinder engine. Then there’s the organic component. It’s proven to be an ideal combination and here in Australia many, many, drivers in Formula Ford have gone on to compete in the top tier categories.

Formula Ford in Australia celebrates fifty years of the small cars pounding out thousands of kilometres worth of track time this year. The category itself was born in the UK just two years before. It was at Sandown, the famous Melbourne based circuit, that stakes its claim as the first track to see FF cars duke it out. 

A national series was first put forward to drivers in 1970 but it wasn’t until 1993 that the Confederation of Australian Motorsport awarded it their official status to make it known as the Australian Formula Ford Championship.

Formula Ford has been raced at a state level too, with the majority of the cars using the “Kent” engine. This is an iron, not alloy, block engine. The origins of this go back to 1959. It’s also opened doors for chassis manufacturers. Companies such as Van Dieman, Lola, Elfin, and Mawer have designed cars to fit within the FF guidelines.

Along the way, Formula Ford builds into drivers a knowledge of racecraft. There are aspects of engineering that are taught, chassis setup, and the technicalities of tyre pressure for the racing conditions. It’s these kind of aspects that teams use to expect feedback from a driver to enhance a car’s setup.

In 1971 a young chap called Larry won the championship, and would be sent to Europe to race. The Formula Ford Driver to Europe series would see Mr Perkins make his way into V8 Supercars and build his own engineering business. He can see his name alongside Mark Webber as racing in Formula 1 thanks to  being involved in Formula Ford.

Names such as Mark Larkham, Russell Ingall, and Cameron McConville head to the bright lights, whilst locally Leanne Ferrier, aka Leanne Tander, Garth Tander, and Jamie Whincup would become the big names in this talent driven category.

Formula Ford hasn’t run without hiccups though. CAMS effectively discontinued their support for Formula Ford in 2013 however the category did run a national series after and continues to do so. 

Have you ever driven a Formula Ford car? Or do you have any memories of big name drivers racing the tiny open wheelers? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us all about it in the comment section below this article! 

Rare Spares’ Automotive Movie Guide – 5 of our Favourites!

There are some topics in life which are more divisive than pineapple on pizzas. Star Wars versus Star Trek, Holden versus Ford, Connery versus Moore. Best car films in any discussion fall into the divisive category. 

What makes for a good car film, though? Is it the car or cars? The story line? The set pieces? Trying to pin down a definitive list is impossible, so we thought we’d shop around and get an idea of what people thought. One film that was a clear favourite is a homegrown production.

Starring a young up and coming actor named Mel Gibson, it’s a movie that brings in just about everything a good car film needs. Action, pathos, a chase scene or three, “The Goose”, and of course that incredible XB Falcon. “Mad Max” is a film that simply can’t be overlooked. 

Steven Spielberg is best known for a few films starring Harrison Ford and a mind-blowing sci-fi film or two. However, an early part of his career involved a story that is about as simple as it comes. With minimal dialogue it relied on Spielberg’s ability to heighten tension with a simple camera move. Starring Dennis Weaver and based upon a book written by a car driver that had a similar experience with a mad truck driver, “Duel” remains one of the most gripping films of its kind nearly fifty years on.

It’s almost impossible to write a list of car films without including this entry. The stars of the film were three little machines designed by Alec Issigonis. The story line, again, was simple. Money, in the form of gold bullion, a few gags, some brilliant scenery and an amazing chase sequence, toss in the broad Cockney accent of Michael Caine, and you have “The Italian Job”. This one celebrates fifty years of delighting audiences.

It was agonizing to toss out some of the films that could have made the cut. There is the original “The Fast and The Furious” from 1955, and the remake & subsequent series of films. There was Jason Statham’s “The Transporter”, and the sublime recreation of the relationship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in “Rush”. 

But number 4 goes to a Steve McQueen favourite. Based on real life events, and featuring film from one of the races itself, “Le Mans”. Takes our fourth grid spot. Packed with macho appeal, and the sense of unburnt “gasoline” hovering around the screen, Le Mans was notable for the bravery of the cameramen hanging on to the cars and heavy cameras of the time.

Number five features a product of Ford. Debate was heavy as to whether it was the Mustang called Eleanor, or a different hi-po machine wearing the Blue Oval badge. Ultimately it was another Steve McQueen film that won this intense battle and the honour of number five goes to a film that has an unbroken street-based chase scene of nearly ten minutes. Two cars were used, powered by a 325hp 390ci V8 powering down through a four-speed manual. The film is, of course, “Bullitt”

Tell us via our social media links what your top five films are? Is there a “Fast and Furious” in there, perhaps a different Mad Max film? We’d love to know your thoughts and feedback here at Rare Spares. 

 

How did Datsun become Nissan?

26. March 2019 12:13 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags: , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Those of us of a certain age will remember that the brand name Nissan was unheard of, and Datsun was synonymous with small Japanese cars. However, there is a substantial history to both companies.

Datsun itself was founded in 1911. Part of the name, DAT, comes from the company founders. Kenjiro Den, Rokuro Aoyama, and Meitaro Takeuchi. Mergers and minor name changes occurred, and in 1931, produced a car called Datson, son literally in the sense of meaning “son of DAT”. These were built at a time where cars with a certain engine size could be driven without the need for a license. However, as son may also mean “loss” in Japanese, it was changed to Datsun.

Nissan was founded in 1928, as a holding company named Nihon Sangyo, with the company governing manufacturers such as Hitachi and, crucially, Tobata Casting. The conglomerate was known as Zaibatsu.

Ni and San came from the Nihon Sangyo names and were quickly joined to become the name Nissan. Datsun itself had been merged with another company, Tobata Casting, in 1933. This gave rise to both brands expanding, with Nissan hitting the American market soon after.

It was 1934 that saw Yoshisuke Aikawa, the founder of Nihon Sangyo, created a separate automotive parts division of Tobata Casting. This was called the Nissan Motor Company Limited.

Prior to WW2, Datsun’s passenger car manufacturing was expanding well, however the Japanese-Chinese war saw Datsun manufacturing mainly trucks for the Japanese Army.

A need for cheap cars was seen after WW2 and both companies would soon be heavy hitters in this market. Cars such as the Patrol, the 240Z, and Bluebird came into being. Nissan entered the US market in the late 1950s and sold cars under the Datsun brand name. It’s about here that Nissan saw Australia as a potentially untapped small car market also.

The same was occurring in Europe and the U.K., with small cars such as the Sunny and Cherry gaining a strong market share. This came at the same time that British Leyland’s manufacturing woes saw their products not regarded as reputable.

It appears that the merge and rebranding of Datsun into Nissan was due to some internal politicking and a desire to have a “one brand” presence. It was in the first half of the 1980s that the rebranding was undertaken, with a rumoured cost of US$30 million at the time to change signs at dealerships whilst other associated costs such as manufacturing plant changes totaled over a half billion.

Datsun as a brand was resurrected in 2012 for low cost cars in just a few regional markets such as Indonesia and Russia.

What is your favourite Datsun? Let us know in the comment section below this article on Facebook.