The Falcon 300+ Prototype

Cars were simple once. Four doors, two doors, five doors in a wagon, three in a panel van. Australia’s own motoring history is full of variations on the theme, particularly of the two door variety. Holden had the Monaros and Toranas, Mitsubshi the Starion, Toyota the Supra and Celica, Chrysler the mighty Valiant, and Ford?

Ford had a “tudor” going back to the days of the XP Falcon, a beautifully proportioned and styled machine. Escorts and Cortinas bobbled in and out with two doors. There was the heavy hipped XA to XC coupes, and then….nada. And it stayed that way for some time, until a design proposal for an AU Falcon based coupe was put forward. Admittedly, the AU wasn’t the prettiest looking thing on the road, so a coupe?

Inspiration, in a way, came from brothers Troy and Clayton Hillier, well known in street machine circles. Based in Tenterfield, the brothers had, without attention and fanfare, converted an AU sedan to a coupe. Once Ford had been made aware of the car by W.A. based Advanced Engine Components, (AEC), and Millard Design in Victoria. Along with the soft approval of Ford, the car was put together in a relatively short time.

Showcased at the Melbourne Auto Show in 2001, the red and silver highlighted machine certainly grabbed plenty of attention. Power was courtesy of a supercharged 4.6L V8, said to produce 370kW and 660Nm (with varying figures for both, it must be said), thanks to the Sprintex huffer from AEC bolted on top.

Gears came courtesy of a six speed Tremec manual, that, when spun up, would join with the engine to see a 0-100 kmh time of 4.6 seconds, a rapid time in anyone’s book. Having 245/35 ZR19 and 275/30 ZR19 tyres to steer and grip certainly helped. Stoppers were four and two potters from Brembo.

But it was the styling that made this car, sadly a one off, stand out.  There was tacit support from Ford Australia, with the then head of Ford Motorsport, Howard Marsden, overseeing the build project. It was based on the TE50 sedan platform, and was given some serious massage work.

Computer Aided Design, or CAD, was employed. A redesign of the rear bulkhead and floorplan was undertaken to reduce weight and increase torsional strength. The rear guards were given a push outwards, but the main ingredient was the rearward movement of the B pillar by 200 mm. Naturally this meant the doors had to be lengthened and strengthened to suit.

In order to overcome what is called a “crown effect”, and working with an already bulbous roofline (which would be flatted substantially for the BA Falcon), visual and physical design cues were employed. The roof was flattened substantially, however a lower profile rear wing was fitted to assist in making the car, especially from the rear, look lower.

Twin headlights were fitted inside the triangular housings up front. The bonnet was massaged to provide clearance for the Sprintex supercharger. Bodywork here was a change to a simple looking air intake and the ground scraping chin on the bumper.

Inside, the trim was lifted by fitting leather clad seats with red and grey trim. The driver binnacle was upgraded by using the Fairmont dash, however the overall dash design, complete with its soft organic curves, was untouched in real terms.

The build itself was effectively a joint venture between the three companies and relied on Ford to see the project through for a viable sales base. Allegedly there were fifteen orders for the car, and at a price of around $100,000, that was a substantial investment.

However, without the deeper pockets of Ford being available when they withdrew their support, the Falcon 300+ would remain an orphan, and a blip in Australia’s “tudor” history.

What has been your favourite Australian made prototype? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below this article. 

Craig Lowndes Motorsport Career

His Mum calls him Craig. His mates call him whatever they want. Fans call him CL, or Lowndesy. We know him as Craig Lowndes. During his racing career he would become known for not just his talent, but his ever present smile, a great sense of humour, and a deep appreciation for his followers.

In a (V8) Supercars career that started in 1996, the year of his 22nd birthday, Lowndes became a winner at Bathurst seven times, including the memorable win in 2006 where he and Jamie Whincup became the first to have their names etched on the Peter Brock Trophy. He’s a triple V8 Supercars champion, and, as of the end of 2018, no longer a full time competitor in the Supercars championship.

Born in Melbourne on June 21, 1974, Lowndes trod a path many others have followed when following a motorsport dream. Karting was the weapon of choice, and at the age of nine he was likely to be found at the Whittlesea karting circuit, some forty or so kilometres north of the Melbourne CBD.

It took less than a decade before racing success came his way. In Formula Ford Lowndes found a kindred automotive spirit, gaining valuable exposure in the Motorcraft Formula Ford “Drive To Europe” series in 1991. Other drivers that found fame in this series were Russell Ingall, Tomas Mezera, and Cameron McConville.

1993 and Lowndes wins the Formula Ford championship, propelling him into the vision of Formula Ford in Europe. The championship title eluded him, but not by much, with third being notched up.

Come 1994 and he’s in Formula Brabham, winning the Australian Silver Star. Also known as Formula Holden, the series itself was short-lived. The Brabham nomenclature was part of the series for just five years, from 1991 to 1995. V8 Supercars were coming and the bright lights beckoned.

Lowndes was added to the test team crew of the Holden Racing Team and competed, in what was meant to be a one off appearance, alongside Brad Jones for the 1994 Sandown 500. The drive was successful enough to impress team principal Jeff Grech enough to offer a seat that had become vacant to Lowndes.

The 1994 Bathurst 1000 race cemented Lowndes as part of the Australian racing landscape. Ballsy driving, a rookie error or two, and a second place in 1994 set him on the path to become a full time member of HRT, winning the championship with them in 1996. On his first full season with them, mind. It had Lowndes drive next to Greg Murphy, with the win making Lowndes the youngest driver to win “The Great Race” at the time.

Although Australian success was his, the call from his heart to return to Europe was strong. 1997 and the International Formula 3000 Championship saw Lowndes sharing team driving duties with Juan Pablo Montoya. The candle was alight but the success proved elusive for the Victorian, with just one season completed and Lowndes returning to Australia.

By this time the V8 Supercars category was established and in full flight, with Lowndes quickly returning to form on Australian circuits. The 1997 Sandown 500 was added to the trophy cabinet, with “Murf” his co-driver. The next year Lowndes and Mark Skaife co-starred throughout the year, and Lowndes took out the 1998 championship. 1999 promised a lot inside the new VT Commodore and consistent performance had Lowndes on track to win that year’s championship by the time round eight arrived.

The location? Calder Park. The result? A car written off, one of the most spectacular rollovers seen in Aussie motorsport, and one very lucky CL. Although the crash gave him just minor injuries and being forced to miss the Sandown race that year, his lead was such that the championship was yet again his.

Australia’s automotive brand rivalry was brought to the fore at the beginning of the 21st century as Lowndes went from a red lion to a blue oval on his car. Further colour changes came in the form of his AU Falcon being a combination of black, silver, and green, the latter on the headlight covers and giving the car the affectionate nickname of “the green eyed monster”.

As much a talking point the car was, it didn’t deliver for Lowndes. It wasn’t until 2003 when a move to FPR, Ford Performance Racing, that his first win with Ford and the first since 2000 came along. The tenure with FPR proved short in time, with Lowndes signing with Team Betta Electrical, or Triple Eight Racing, for 2005. This was partly spurred by a 20th place finish for the 2004 season.

Again his tilt at the championship was looking good; he’d taken the most victories, and the most pole positions, but incidents such as a wheel smashing his windscreen at the 2005 Bathurst race had him place second behind Russell Ingall. However, there was a highlight for Lowndes in the form of the Barry Sheen Medal. Voted upon by motorsport writers, former drivers, and commentators, it was a recognition of Lowndes in that he’d won without being the year’s championship winner.

Perhaps the most memorable of wins for Lowndes was at Bathurst in 2006. Just weeks after the tragic passing of his friend and mentor, one Peter Brock, Lowndes and Whincup muscled their way through for the win to finish just a half second ahead of second placed Rick Kelly. Lowndes capped off that year by winning the Barry Sheene medal for the second year running. 2006 would also see he and Whincup take the first of three Bathurst victories in a row, making them just the third pairing to do so, with Brock and Larry Perkins, and Brock with Jim Richards the others.

In a flagging of what was to come, Ford Australia cut their motorsport sponsorship. Lowndes made the move back to Holden, with whom he would become the first driver to reach 100 wins, win his fifth Barry Sheene medal, and his third most popular driver award. 2015 saw him win his sixth Bathurst 1000.

2017 would be perhaps his career lowlight, with no wins to his name. Although this spurred talk of retirement which was denied, in mid 2018 Lowndes, CL, and Craig to his mum, along with his ever present smile, announced he would retire from full time competition.

What was your favourite Lowndesy career highlight? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below this blog! 

The New Mustang Supercar

In motorsport’s evolution in Australia, the category known as Supercars, formerly known as V8 Supercars Australia, has opened the door to cars not of a four door body shape. With the success of the Ford Mustang in a retail sense, it makes sense to have the “tudor” as the first to be built under the new guidelines.

But first, some history. The Gen 2 design regs mandates a common chassis for any team entering the category. Builders are open but have to build a chassis and cage to the pre-determined specifications. It’s this bit that has caused some consternation and raised eyebrows, as the end result may have a car not of the same physical dimensions as the one it’s based on.

The V8 engine is located 100mm further back and down to the preceding chassis style, for weight balance and safety. Wheels must be 18 inches in diameter and thanks to the upward change it means bigger brakes can be fitted. The drivetrain is a transaxle, meaning the drive axles and gearbox are in one case.

For extra safety the fuel cell has been moved forward and the windscreen is now of a polycarbonate build, which is 250 times as strong as glass. Specific to Gen 2 also is being rear drive, right hand side drivers’ seat, four seats, and based on a car available to the public, meaning it must reflect the look of the car accurately.

What this means for the Ford Mustang Supercar is proven strength and reliability. It also means that thanks to the common chassis and cage, only a slight rejig of the Mustang’s familiar profile has been required.

There will be a little piece of history when the car makes its debut in 2019. Chassis DJRTP 02 or Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske 02, which was used for Supercars’ tyre and aerodynamic testing last year, will become one of the first Mustang Supercars. It will be used for testing and is set to be the team’s spare race car. DJRTP will build one brand new car and convert another.

It is currently the team’s second spare, last raced as a Falcon FG X in Fabian Coulthard’s hands during 2016. Work began on converting the chassis in mid 2018. Tickford Racing will also build a pair of new cars and convert two cars to the new body style.

Anticipation from teams was seen in 2017, with Cameron Waters driving a car whose chassis was earmarked to be a Mustang. After a point in time had been reached where the signoff was past to have a Mustang run in 2018, the car was built as a Falcon. The chassis’ build commenced in March of 2017, such was the timeline teams were hoping for in order to see the Mustang body run on Australian circuits this year.

Specialist graphic design outlet ssMedia, headed by Scott Yorston, has produced 3D visuals of many V8 Supercars and the current Supercar designs. Working from concept drawings and with a livery idea from the US, Scott has also produced his view of the Mustang Supercar which has been greeted with acclaim in the Australian motorsport fraternity. It shows, as much as Scott is able to produce due to legalities, a car very close to the road going version. With panels placed around the control chassis it appears a little taller in height and perhaps a little shorter than the road goer as a result.

Testing of the 2019 Mustang Supercar is underway, and we can’t wait to see it hit the track in anger! Are you looking forward to having the Mustang back on the grid of Australian race tracks? Let us know in the comments section below this article on our Facebook page!

 

A Look into the Career of Allan Moffat

Although Australian motorsport has its fair share of locally grown heroes, there’s one that hails from Canada. He’s a name with a familiar voice to many thanks to his 1970s TV adverts for Ford and Victa but it’s his on track prowess that he’ll be remembered for. He is, of course, Allan Moffat.

Born in the double tongue twisting city and state of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in November 1939, Moffat became an Australian citizen in 2004. He had been eligible since the early 1970s but said he’d never bothered to follow it up. It was in the mid 1950s that Moffat and his family arrived in Australia, after his father, who worked for tractor manufacturer Massey Ferguson, was transferred to Melbourne.

Moffat commenced his racing career, which would span twenty five years, in 1964, co-piloting a Ford Lotus Cortina. The venue was Sandown Park and the race, the Sandown Six Hour International, was a precursor to the Sandown 500. What was called the Australian Touring Car Championship saw Moffat enter for the first time in 1965, again driving a Lotus fettled Cortina.

Travelling to the USA and back kept the taciturn Canadian busy for the next three or four years before finally settling down full time in Australia. It was 1969, the year of the first manned lunar landing, that would cement Moffat into Australian motorsport history. An interview with the US based head of Ford motorsport at the time after a ballsy approach by Moffat had one of seven Trans Am Boss 302 Mustangs become his drive and enabled him to take a tilt at the ATCC crown. The “Moffstang” as it’s now popularly known, was soon to be decorated with his new, and first, major sponsor, Coca-Cola. It’s history now that the car, although a race winner, never did win the championship for him.

Rule changes in the early 1970s saw the Mustang effectively retired from competition however Moffat had already established himself as a driver to beat in other Ford cars. 1969 was his first year in the Bathurst 500, driving a Falcon XW GTHO, and courtesy of a recalcitrant gearbox managed to miss the traffic jam that grew after the now famous Bill Brown rollover at Skyline.

1970 and 1971 were marquee years for Moffat, winning back to back at Bathurst, and also stamping his authority on the event by becoming the first driver to lead from the start and win. The car? The now fabled Ford Falcon XY GTHO Phase Three.

Moffat, although known for driving and promoting “Blue Oval” products, also made his mark in other marques. The 1980 Le Mans had him in a Porsche 935. His co-driver was a soon to be famous Bobby Rahal. Moffat also drove a Porsche in the 1980 Australian Sports Car Championship. 1981 brought with it a change of direction for the bespectacled Moffat. Enter Mazda and its ground breaking Wankel rotary engine.

Four consecutive top six finishes, a second and a third in 1983 and 1984, and wins in the Australian Endurance Championships, plus his fourth Australian Touring Car Championship win in 1983 have this car and its timeframe in history etched in Australian motorsport folklore.

Of his friends and rivals, it was perhaps Peter Brock that would be rated the highest in Moffat’s opinion. The pair would race together on numerous occasions, including one memorable outing at the 1986 Spa 24 Hour event. As part of a two car team from HDT they won the Kings Cup, an award for a team that had the highest overall placings for at least 3 of their cars at the end of the race.

After Holden cut ties with Brock in 1987, Moffat bought a car, a VL Commodore SS Group A that had been readied for an assault on the World Touring Car Championship to be held in Europe. The car placed seventh yet after a remarkable protest saw the top six cars, all factory backed BMWs, disqualified, Moffat and co-driver John Harvey were declared the winners.

A return to the Blue Oval came in 1988, in the form of the Sierra RS500. Although a troubled car, Moffat did win in one in 1988’s Enzed 500 at Sandown. What was then called the “Toohey’s 1000” would be Moffat’s last at “The Mountain”. Driving with Gregg Hansford and along with Ruedi Eggenberger and Klaus Niedzwiedz, the car would retire with a blown head gasket and a cracked block with just 32 laps remaining.

It was his friend and co-driver Brock that would present the still strongly Canadian accented Moffat his Australian citizenship papers in 2004. After his 1989 retirement from driving, Moffat would go on to continue his strong association with motorsport in areas such as team management and television commentary. And, like his now departed colleague, Moffat has long lines of fans awaiting his time and signature when he appears at events such as the Muscle Car Masters. And forty years after that famous 1-2 victory at Bathurst in the XC Falcon alongside Colin Bond, Sydney Motorsport Park immortalized him by naming the super-fast Turn 1, Moffat Corner.

What are your memories of the great Allan Moffat? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below the article.

Beginners Guide to getting into Motorsport – Part 2

In the first part of our article about how to enter motorsport, we finished with some hints about obtaining the relevant license to getting into entry level motorsport.

There are those that have both the time and monetary resources to drive their private car in track days. And here, setting a budget to get into motorsport should not be overlooked. Generally no license is required for some of these but a waiver is required to be signed before going onto the tarmac. There’s cost effective Formula Ford, Formula Vee, and HQ Holden racing, even the Excel racing class. There are also regularity events, where a time is nominated and the car is driven on the track to try and meet, as best as possible, that nominated time. A minimum license requirement is here. And for many, this is as far as they may wish to go.

There’s also a question of support. Not only does a prospective driver need to be aware that not always will there be obvious support, there may be, sadly, detractors that go out of their way to slow you down.

However there are those that have just started their journey, taken another path, or have raced in numerous categories and now race competitively in events such as the Phillip island Classic. We spoke to three such drivers: karter Hugh Barter, respected motorsports commentator Greg Rust, and Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe.

Greg Rust.

Greg Rust, Rusty or Thrusta as he’s known, has the pleasure of being a motorsports commentator that’s come from a racing background. As is the case with so many, Rusty started off with go-karting, piloting an 80cc Tony kart. The powerplant came from Japanese motorbike maker Yamaha and had a manual transmission. Rusty says he remembers driving the little machine on the now gone Amaroo and Oran Park circuits, along with the existing Eastern Creek raceway track.

However it was rallying that bit, and bit hard. Along with some pals from high school, a warmed over Mitsubishi Galant from the late 1970s was bought. Sporting some upgrades in the form of twin Weber carbies and a sports exhaust system, the car was entered at Supersprints at Amaroo, rallied in the western fringes of the Blue Mountains at Oberon and the beautiful Jenolan Caves area, and lead to some silverware being proudly displayed in the Rust home.

Backing up the involvement with CAMS, Rusty says: “So I’m a BIG believer in joining a CAMS affiliated club. Get a license and, for not a lot of money really, you can get something for club competition. The best part is competing & socialising with friends around this kind of motorsport and tinkering in the garage on the car between events.”

Rusty also points out that getting into motorsport is just the first step, but which way from there? There’s no doubt that driver training with experienced and qualified drivers will provide plenty of assistance but if there’s no goal to kick at, what can this training ultimately deliver?

Rusty advises perhaps doing what Australian F1 driver Mark Webber did: lay out a plan to aim for the goal but look at paths to the side if that goal proves to be out of reach. Rusty himself followed those guidelines early in his racing and rallying career and is now “part of the furniture” when it comes to motorsport broadcasting. However starting at the bottom can take you into areas never thought possible. Greg is also an in demand host at corporate events and has a successful podcast.

He says: “Finally you need good communication skills. Media Training is a must if you are serious. And you need to understand the business of the sport too. Be self starting. Work hard....bloody hard! And while the focus is what you do in the car, what you do out of it may end being where you spend the greater percentage of your time and it will prove instrumental in helping to open the right doors.”

It’s crucial to note this final piece of advice. If you are looking to make a career out of motorsport, and the success comes from hard work, being able to deal with the media, such as Hugh, Greg, and John do, will need to be part of the plan. One bloke that knows both sides of the media fence is John Bowe.

John Bowe.

Our own Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe is a natural fit for anything to do with motorsport. Thanks to a career spanning thirty five years, “JB” is well placed for gaining insight into what a driver that wants to race should consider.

John is well known not just for being a talented driver, but for his approachability and warm personality. It’s this latter point that John encourages in drivers wishing to be seen. John grew up in a family that already had ties to motorsport, however he pointed out that this can mean very little. Another well known Australian driver was mentioned and John asked him if his 11yo son had shown any interest in becoming a driver. The answer was “not really”.

John uses this to point out any aspiring driver must have a love, a passion, for the sport. “I started racing because I loved it” says John. There were no plans at an early age to become a Formula 1 driver or Australian champion, he drove in motorsport because he loved it.

John in no way discounts the natural ability in drivers, saying that there has been plenty he’s seen that are very, very, good, however the fire that got them to where they were was, in too many instances, extinguished because of a few speed-humps that had occurred. His point here was that in motorsport the balance between the good and the bad must be taken, and not to let some downsides override the passion that’s needed. Resilience is a key factor.

Personality is one of JB’s strong points and this personality had one of the greats of Australian motorsport, Gary Cooper of Elfin fame, take John under his wing and provide some opportunities that may not have otherwise been available. JB was at pains to point that if this hadn’t occurred he would have been happy to have raced constantly in his home state of Tasmania due to his passion and love of motorsport and not have travelled overseas to race.

John used this experience to highlight an easily overlooked factor for new drivers: coaching. Unlike a potential tennis champion, swimming champion, or golfer, motorsport doesn’t really have that one on one approach. Data acquisition and the ability to work with that, says John, in categories such as Formula Ford, is very important. But as to advice? John recalls one such situation at Perth’s Barbagallo Raceway, formerly known as Wanneroo Park. John was a relative rookie at the time and was campaigning with Larry Perkins. JB asked Perkins about which gear he was using in a particular corner. Larry’s advice was simple: “Go and try it for yourself.” This backs up John’s point about having that inner fire and desire.

A unique point that John raised was about the European theatre. The home of Formula 1, there’s been numerous Australian drivers that have taken aim at cracking open the door to get a seat, however the burgeoning South East Asian race scene shouldn’t be overlooked for a driver’s overseas aspirations.

John wrapped up his points by looping back to personality. This came in the context of marketability. John’s presence in the Australian motoring scene and his association with Rare Spares isn’t solely down to his driving history. By being a driver that is friendly, greetable and meetable, and is able to be media savvy and aware, such as the points Greg Rust raised, there’s a higher probability of overcoming perhaps the biggest single obstacle in Australian motorsport, the funds to go racing. JB says: “There’s no such thing as a free seat anymore.” Sponsors are looking to maximize exposure to their brand and a driver that’s looking to make a presence will have more chance of sponsorship and exposure.

It’s easy to see that getting a foot in the door of Australian motorsport for a beginner driver isn’t complicated. But thanks to the input from three drivers at varying points in their career, a timeline for where you want that open door to take you is important, plans for where you may wish to go if the driving side doesn’t pan out need to be considered, and to take the good with the bad no matter your inherent ability can be crucial.

A big thanks to Hugh Barter, Greg Rust, and Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe for their time and assistance.