The ‘Welcome Strangers’ and the 10th Annual Shitbox Rally

A convoy of 275 cars and 550 participants left Perth on Wednesday May 8, 2019 to start the 10th Anniversary Shitbox Rally. The 10-day rally travelled via Uluru and finished up in Sydney on Friday May 17th.

The 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.

Like other teams, Aaron Barnes and the ‘Welcome Strangers’ took on the challenge in a VS Commodore Ute, spending countless hours sourcing and decorating their shitboxes, furiously fundraising and preparing for the epic Aussie adventure.

“The rally went really well for our first attempt.  The Ute made it through in one piece although looking a little worse for wear now.” Aaron Barnes

“We travelled over the Nullabor first travelling the best part of 4,000km before the rally begun and then once the rally started we travelled 5,500km over the middle of remote WA, ULURU in NT, Camerons Corner on the QLD/SA/ NSW border, then on to Sydney to cross the finish line.”

“The Ute performed pretty much floorlessly over the 10,000km with only 2 punctured tyres and an ignition issue based on using Opel fuel in the Northern Territory. The Opel fuel has less Octane, so it can foul up the injectors and fuel filters etc creating ignition and fuel issues.”

Rare Spares are proud to have sponsored Aaron and the team for such a worthy cause and great adventure. 

 

 

 

 

 

1970s Aussie Street Machines

Street Machine. Two words that, for a slowly diminishing band of brothers, mean a lifestyle, a form of rebellion, a chance to self-expression via changes to sheetmetal, shoehorning into a tight engine bay a donk that shouldn’t fit but does, or layers of luscious custom “kandy” pearl paint.

Although largely a forgotten scene in the eyes of the public, street machine aficionados will be happy to tell you the cars and the lifestyle are alive and well, and that there are names as revered in the field as McCartney is in music or Hawking in science.

One particular magazine, born of the era, and still living in an age of electronic media, was originally called Street Machine and Van Wheels. That second part provides an echo of the past, with panel vans from Holden, Ford, Chrysler, and a smattering of others, part of street machining history.

One such entry was the 1977 HZ Holden panel van of Greg Mercer. Starting with a clean sheet, Mercer and his dedicated team reworked every aspect of the humble HZ. Gull wing style doors, flares, a TV in the interior watched whilst one relaxes on shagpile carpet and an enlarged rear window in the tailgate, plus a huge mural on the rear flanks, mark this one as having history in both the panel van era and as a street machine. 

Rodney Neal cast his eyes over the coke-bottle flanks of an 1973 XA Falcon “tudor” in bright yellow, liked what he saw, but thought to himself it’s lacking in.....big rear rubber, a lowered road scraping stance, and a “Clevo” fitted with one of the biggest “huffers” available at the time, breathing through a scoop big enough to catch whales. Rodney dreamt, and his dream came true in the form of the eyeball searing “Lethal Weapon”.

Kevin Monk etched his name into street machine history with a car so good, its American based body has many thinking it was modified in the States. Nope. His 1970 Dodge Challenger is a work of art and all homegrown down under. Slammed to a floor meets tarmac stance, coated in a red paint so deep one could drown in it, Monk’s epic work was powered by an engine Thor was scared of. Packed with all of the proper go-fast good bits, the alloy 426ci monster churned out a massive 1000 ponies in its time.

Sometimes a street machine can look for all the world like a car that’s had some big tyres melted on to the rims and not much else. Craige Wood had a Falcon XW/XY ute that looked a little like this, with the addition of a pair of oil refinery draining carbies bolted to the top of a meaty 429ci engine. A resprayed body hides hundreds of hours of painstaking work underneath, chromed bumpers were filed and straightened to look like new, and huge Cragar 15x12 alloys at the back add up to a noticeable yet subtle looking piece of street machine history.

Our final pick is one that Australia had never seen the likes of before, and has not seen since. Allan Cooper had a philosophy that mirrored the two “O”s in his name. Cooper took a Holden HQ ute, painted it black and called it Blo Bak. He added an extra pair of tail lights for a 2x2 look, filled in the tailgate’s gaps and added a spoiler to crown the tail lights, added fins from the ute’s roof down to the spoiler and that was almost enough. No sir. Clad in silver paint and slotting in a 253ci up front, Blo bak 2 was born. Out back, slap bang in the middle of the ute’s tray, is a heavily reworked and blown 350ci Chev carried over from the first version. Power goes to the ground via a TH425 transaxle “tranny” and the rubber wraps Moon wheels.

Are you a street machiner? Own a car that is a street machine? Tell us your story via our blog comments or drop us a line via our social media links.

(Pictures courtesy of Which Car and Street Machine)

 

 

 

 

 

A Look at the Dodge Hellcat Crate Engine

There are blokes that like simple things. Press a button on a remote, the television springs into life. There, nothing to it.

When it comes to cars, surprisingly enough there is the same thing when it comes to engines. Yes, second hand ones, complete with stinky oil and worn out spark plugs can be bought, but to do it properly, a “crate engine” is the go. What is in a crate is substantial but there will be some extras to buy.

American muscle cars have a great crate history and Dodge keeps that tradition going with the availability of the Hellcat crate engine. There are two available and there are some seriously big numbers involved.

There is the “standard” engine and it’s good for 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. In Aussie speak that’s a hefty 521kW and 881Nm.  They come from a 6.2L or 371ci capacity V8 and it’s almost ready to go straight out of the box.

The block and heads have some deep breathing capabilities; bore is a huge 103.9mm, and the stroke a long 90mm. In order to feed those huge cylinders, intake valves of 54.3mm are fitted, and to breathe out there are 42mm exhaust valves. And with a compression ratio of 9.5:1, premium pump fuel is highly recommended.

By buying a crate engine, nearly everything is packaged and little else is required. This particular crate has the basic engine block, heads, standard water pump, and front sump oil pan. There is also the flywheel and clutch, intake manifold & throttle body, the coil pack ignition system, and fuel injectors.  As a package, it’s called the “Hellcrate”. Cost is around $15K in U.S. dollars. That’s around $21,600 AUD.

However, dig deeper into the pocket and there is the “Hellephant” crate engine.  At a monstrous 426ci or 7.0L in size, this takes out of the box power and torque to a whole new level. 1,000 horsepower or just under 748kW, 950 lb-ft, or a truly incredible 1288 torques are there for the asking. Dodge says this alloy blocked behemoth isn’t available to buy here in Australia. And then there’s some serious conversations with a bank manager if it was. Figure on around $43k AUD...

Much like the “Hellcrate”, a buyer will need to source their own ECU, wiring, throttle, sensors, and some other parts, but according to Dodge, there won’t be a need to buy a supercharger. That’s standard fitment. Custom forged pistons are part of the internals, as is a higher profile camshaft.

So if simplicity is a thing, and a desire to upgrade with not a lot of extra work needed, then a crate engine such as the “Hellcrate” or “Hellephant” is a good starting point if changing the earth’s rotation is required.

Have you bought a crate engine? Tell us what you bought and where it went in the comment section below this article on the Rare Spares Facebook Page! 

History of the Holden Torana

2019 marks the fortieth anniversary of the cancellation of an Aussie icon. Originally based on a small and boxy British design, the Holden Torana started as an edgy and squared off two door body shell. The HB Torana was released in 1967 and came powered by a 1.2L four cylinder, with a four speed manual attached. If you wanted a self shifter, a three speed auto was made available as an option.

The HB was very heavily based on the then Vauxhall Viva, with essentially minor cosmetic changes and differences visually. Underneath were drum brakes front and rear, and Holden offered disc brakes up front as an option.

1968 saw an engine boost, under the name of Series 70. Compression was modified, a different carbie was fitted, and power reached the heady heights of 51kW, or 69 horsepower as was measured then. The auto was deleted from the standard engine which produced a mere 42kW/56hp.

Another Aussie icon, Brabham, would be added to the Torana’s history early on. The Series 70 engine which featured a single Zenith-Stromberg carbie, was upgraded to a pair of them capped with sports air filters. Along with front disc brakes, standard with the HB’s Series 70 engine, the Brabham Torana had a low restriction exhaust, wider wheels, and some body styling. Peak power here was 59kW/79hp.

Holden and Vauxhall collaborated on developing a four door HB and September 1968 saw the release of the HB four door. This differed even further from the Viva, with the styling markedly changed from its British cousin. A new collapsible steering column was standard, a redesigned dash with instrument cluster and indicator stalk update, and a steering wheel pinched from the larger Kingswood/Monaro.

A complete redesign was given for the LC, with early versions featuring a close resemblance to the HB but from the A pillar back was completely new. Engines were upgraded to offer a six cylinder for the first time. The 2.6L or 161ci would morph into the 173ci and finishing with the legendary 186ci.

The body was modified from the HB to allow for the bigger straight six, transmissions were a three speed manual or auto, or a four speed manual. The Brabham model was discontinued here. Seats went to bucket seats as standard across the LC range and the British dionated a more powerful 1.6L four, with 60kW/80hp on tap.

But perhaps the standout for the LC was the addition of the GTR. A two barrel Stromberg WW carbie on the 161ci was standard, as were front disc brakes. This would form the basis for yet another Australian automotive icon.

The Holden Torana GTR-XU1 used the 186ci engine, fitted with three Zenith-Stromberg CD-150 carburettors. The engine breathed out via cast-iron headers through a performance cylinder head and camshaft, and a four-speed manual gearbox was sourced from Opel. The car was developed by HDT and “The Silver Fox”, Harry Firth. Visually it appealed, with front guard flutes, a rear spoiler, wider wheels, and had a Monaro like dash with sports dials.

Holden revamped the LC into the LJ. This featured a redesigned grille and three boxes for the tail lights instead of the LC’s horizontal strip. Engines changed slightly, with a 1.3L unit added to complement the 1.2L and 1.6L. The 1.2L was available in the two door body only, the new 1.3L was available in both two and four doors. The 161ci and 173ci, or 2.2L and 2.8L engines, were carried over and Holden transplanted the 3.3L, or 202ci, into the LJ.

That engine would be the heart of the LJ GTR-XU1. With 200hp or 149kW, a M20 four speed manual, and a triple CD-175 Zenith-Stromberg carbie induction, the LJ would be part of history in 1972. The Hardie-Ferodo 500 was won by the up and coming Peter Geoffrey Brock, in a drive that would become the basis for the legend that would become “Peter Perfect”.

Unfortunately, a development of the XU-1, colloquially known as the XU-2, would not see the light of showroom days. Rumoured to pack a 224kW/300hp 308ci V8, the “Supercar Scare” would see Holden, Ford, and Chrysler, bench there hi-po vehicles.

In the early-mid 1970s the Torana would change again. A limited release TA model would be seen for just eleven months. And then, in March 1974, another body change. The LH and LX Toranas were bigger, boxier, four door sedans and would also see the design feature a hatchback.

The LH kicked off with a unique engine range. A buyer could choose from a 1.9L four, the 2.8L and 3.3L sixes, and the thumping 4.2L/253ci or 5.0L/308ci V8s. However, the 308ci was reserved for the SL/R 5000 sedan, which also offered the limited run L34 option. The 263 versions built had engines with stronger internals and higher compression ratings, and the wheel arches outside to fit in even wider wheels and tyres.

Come February 1976 and the updated LX was released. Headlights were back to round after the LH’s squarish style. Prototype hatchbacks from the LH body saw production in the LX, and performance was hobbled somewhat by the introduction of emissions reduction equipment. Power outputs were starting to be officially presented as kiloWatts, not horsepower. The four cylinder engine would see life under the name of the LX Sunbird, with the sixes and eights badged as Torana.

Holden’s then revolutionary RTS, or Radial Tuned Suspension, would also be marketed alongside the Sunbird and Torana. 1977 and a three letter/numerical option would become yet another part of the car’s legend. A9X. The engines were largely untouched but it was the handling and braking packages, and the addition of the huge bonnet mounted air scoop, that made the option a standout. The racing version in the hands of Brock and Jim Richards would win The Great Race at Bathurst in 1978 and 1979.

March 1978 saw the final update, with the UC Torana losing the V8, softening the appearance externally, and revamping the interior. The hatchback didn’t last either, deleted a year after release. The UC revamp also had the Sunbird updated to fit the UC spec. However, Holden saw the VB Commodore in competition with the Torana and the nameplate was retired in late 1980.

Which Torana was your favourite and why? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below this article! 

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!