The Ford Barra Engine. A Modern Classic?

Grandpa’s axe. It’s a term usually employed to describe something that’s been around for decades and is almost unbreakable. And when it does break it’s repaired in a low tech way. Simplicity rules, you see.

Ford’s venerable straight six engine was Australia’s automotive equivalent of that axe from grandpa’s shed. Covering a range of capacities including the famous 4.1L or 250cid, its no nonsense, take what it was given, unburstable design, has it as a favourite in Australia’s car loving hearts.

The straight six that Australia saw was born in America. Available in various capacities there, including a 200cid six that was seen in the original US Mustang, Ford’s Australian arm unveiled the 250cid straight six in 1970. Its basic design was strong, simple, just like grandpa’s axe. A 2V suffix was given to the engine, denoting that the carbie had two venturi and would breathe deeper than the single carbied versions. Available from the XY through to XB Falcon, it was good for 116kW and 325Nm, a hefty increase over the standard 200cid’s 96kW/257Nm delivery.

Barra itself is a contraction of Barramundi. That’s not just a tenacious fish, it was the code name for the engine during development. It was applied not only to the straight six but also to the three valve 5.4L V8 version. The six was built from 2002 and was found in various Ford products such as the Falcon and Territory until Ford Australia ceased manufacturing in 2016.

The V8s, in Barra then Boss and Coyote form, were there until the FG-X model of the Falcon and derivatives wrapped in 2016. The Barra V8 ceased with the BF Fairlane which was available from 2005 to 2007, and became the last Fairlane model produced here.

 

The straight six was engineered into several different versions including a LPG fed engine. But many “revheads” would say the six’s finest hour was when it was built with a turbocharger and bolted into the XR6, F6, and suchlike. With “normal” engines pumping out an original 182kW, 190kW, and 195kW, with 380Nm, 383Nm, and 391Nm, the turbo took the power and torque to world class levels.

There was an initial offering, of 240kW and 450Nm, with that twist available from 2000 to 4500 rpm. Along came the 245kW and 480Nm version before the Barra 270T, with Garrett GT3576R turbo, and Barra 310T showed what clever Australian engineering could deliver.

Found in the BA, the BF, and then the FG, the big six may have actually undersold its capabilities. Rumours abound that in order to continue sales of the V8, the power and torque figures were deliberately quoted as being less than what they actually produced, with 360kW and 700Nm being whispered as the true figures.

Ford’s best six came in the form of the Barra 325T. This, sadly, was a deliberately limited run and sold in the limited edition FG-X XR6 Sprint. With ten pre-production vehicles, five hundred for Australia, and just fifty for New Zealand, it was a special engine in a special car. Power was quoted as 325kW @ 6000rpm, and 576Nm at a driver friendly 2750rpm. The engines also had an overboost feature for the turbo, which allowed an extra ten percent of boost to be added for up to ten seconds.

Combined with larger injectors at 82mm, a fifty percent bigger intercooler, and a carbon fibre air intake (a first for Ford Australia) with better airflow, Ford Australia said the overboost would deliver 370kW and 650Nm of torque.

Although the V8s sold well and were amongst the first in the world to feature what Ford called the VCT Modular design, they simply didn’t grab the attention as well as the six. Power outputs for the three valve V8s were reflected in the names, being Barra 220 (472Nm) and Barra 230 500Nm).

The grandpa’s axe straight six’s heritage and strength have it in the part of automotive history marked “To Be Revered Because Of Its Legendary Status.” Long live the Barra.

History of the LS Engine

There’s a saying in the automotive world: “There’s no replacement for displacement.” Somehow, that tag became attached to an engine, in a vee shape and packing eight cylinders, made by Chevrolet in America.

In the late nineties General Motors and Chevrolet debuted a new V8. Dubbed “LS” for “Luxury Sport” it’s this name and engine that have popularized the above saying. First seen in the 1997 C5 Corvette, the all “aluminum” block, called the LS1, was also known as the small block Gen111. It replaced the LT or “Luxury Touring” engine that had been a mainstay for some time.

It was what’s called a clean sheet design; essentially a start from nothing design, the only common points the LS had with the LT was bore spacing and conrod bearings. Even in the LS range of engines themselves items such as the bore centre, at 4.40 inches, cross bolted six bolt main bearing caps, and a four bolt per cylinder head bolt pattern are common.

Alloy blocks are used for performance oriented vehicles whilst blocks made of iron are used for SUVs and trucks.

At 5.7 litres or 350 cubic inches in capacity, as the most common iteration is seen in, it produced 257 kilowatts or 345 horsepower. Maximum torque was 470Nm or 350 pound-feet, found at 4400rpm. It was bolted into a substantial range of cars such as the Corvette, Firebird, and of course in Holden and HSV cars like the Statesman and Senator Signature.

LS6 is the name given to a higher output but same capacity engine largely found in the C5 Corvette Z06, with production starting in 2001. Peak grunt was bumped to 287 kilowatts and torque to 522Nm initially, with further development lifting both to 302kW and 540Nm.

There were also smaller engines based on the same architecture. Engineered for use in passenger SUV and trucks, the LS1 4.8L and 5.3L blocks have a 3.78 inch diameter for the bore.

In 2005 GM unveiled the GenIV or LS2 engine. There were bigger capacities, cylinder deactivation technology for improved fuel savings, and variable valve timing. Capacity went to 6.0L (5964 cc in real terms) or 364 cubic inches. Base engines made 300kW and 542 Nm. Holden and HSV saw this installed in cars such as the Monaro and Grange.

L76 is the designation given to the LS2s fitted with Active Fuel Management or AFM. It was some time before Holden chose to use the feature; from 2009 it was installed however only in cars with an automatic called the 6L80. Power was rated as 260kW and maximum twist of 510 Nm came in at 4400rpm. Designed to assist in bettering fuel economy by shutting down firing in four cylinders, the engine gave rise to the L77. This designation defines the LS2 as being ethanol fuel compatible.

Various engines with names such as LY5, LH6, and LMF were produced and seen in SUVs such as the Chevrolet Trailblazer and GMC Savana.

LS7 was a rarely seen engine in Australia. It was intended to be produced for a specific HSV car here called the W427. Corsa Special Vehicles beat HSV to the punch here, with their engine producing 400kW and 600Nm. HSV’s version, first shown at the 2008 Melbourne International Motor Show, offered 375kW and 640Nm.

A supercharged and slightly capacity increased engine, at 6.2L and called LSA, was released in 2009. This was first seen in the ballsy Cadillac CTS-V and Australia had it in the GTS, GTS-R, and Maloo R8 LSA, just to name a couple. 480kW was the peak power and an amazing 754Nm of torque. These came courtesy of a block with revised compression, cast pistons, and a “blower’ of 1.9L in capacity.

With Holden ceasing local manufacturing in late 2017, the LS engines are now only to be found in cars already on Australian roads or in vehicles allowed to be imported from the US to Australia.

For now….anyway. Stand by for Camaro.

Keep in touch with Rare Spares and updates on our product range via our main website and for news and tips via the blog.

Aussie Motorsport Classic: The Channel 9 Camaro

October 3, 1982. Reid Park, Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Lap 27. Kevin Bartlett. Camaro. A time, location and car that are forever etched into Australian motorsport history.

KB is up with the leaders in the famous Bathurst 1000 when one of a batch of fourteen wheels the team had bought for the Camaro fails. It’s the rear left. Instantly, the tyre deflates, pitching the Channel 9 branded car’s rear into the concrete safety wall. The left front bounces off as the nose swings around and it’s just on a right hand curve on an uphill run.

Unsettled, there’s momentum enough to cause the Camaro to roll over to the right, landing on its roof. The car skids to the other side of the track and quickly a trackside official is there to assist a shaken Bartlett out of the inverted Camaro. He’s ok, points at the clearly ruined wheel and tyre, and walks into the crowd.

In context, it was a miracle that Bartlett and the Channel 9 sponsored car were in the race at all. In practice just a couple of days before, co-driver Colin Bond was at the wheel when a ball joint nut on the front left wishbone came adrift. The front left suspension collapsed and flung the corner into the wall. The location? Almost exactly where the wheel would fail two days later.

As KB says: “it was a miracle that my crew and the TAFE smash repair team had it back together in time for qualifying.” However, there’s more to the story in getting the car on track in the first place.

Bartlett bought the car, a brand new 1978 built machine, from an American dealership and imported the car into Australia. The intent was to race it in what was then the Group C regulations. Once the car landed, Bartlett says, a lot of work was needed to get the car down to the weight as stipulated. The leaf spring suspension was replaced with fibreglass units, super strong Kevlar for the front guards and spoilers, but CAMS insisted that the car use drum brakes at the rear, instead of the optional disc brakes.

In case you’re wondering why the car looks different to a 1978 model, it’s because CAMS also said the car had to run with bodywork from the ’74 to ’77 models. Bartlett still shakes his head in disbelief. But there was a hidden benefit as it turned out. The earlier bumpers were aluminium, not steel…

Is the Channel 9 Camaro your favourite Aussie Motorsport classic? Or maybe you're a GTHO or Torana sort of person? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us about your favourite cars to hit the Australian motorsport scene!

David Ryan’s FX Holden Build

In this week’s Rare Spares Blog we will be taking a look at a project car close to the heart of Rare Spares Director David Ryan. It would be fair to say that David has an affinity with old Holdens, more specifically 1950’s FX’s and FJ’s, having owned numerous of the early Aussie classics and having raced them across the country and overseas!

David has recently been able to purchase back one of his old Variety Club Bash cars, and has an ambitious plan laid out for it to be completely restored by Christmas 2018 for a special occasion – his granddaughter Chloe’s wedding! The 1953 FX in question has had anything but an easy life, let’s take a look!

In 1953, David’s father, uncle and a mate decided to take part in the REDeX  Around Australia Reliability Trial using a black 1953 FX Holden taken from the fleet of the family taxi service and used for the event.

Upon its return it was reinstated to the rank to serve out its days once again as a cab.


 

In 1986, David, and some mates decided to take part in the famed Variety Club Bash event using an EH Holden setup specifically for offroad racing. Officials deemed the car was too fast and not suitable for this sort of event, hence a more suitable replica of the original FX was decided to be built for their next foray into the Bash the following year.

The work undertaken to build the replica FX was completed by David and his mates utilising the converted bus depot that was at that stage the premises of the fledgling Rare Spares organization.  David’s father was kept in the dark on the build until the time of unveiling, when one day he drew back the garage doors to unveil the pristine replica of his beloved REDEx machine.


 

 

In 1990, the FX was sold and David was left to focus on his many other ongoing projects. These included competing in the 1993 London to Sydney Marathon in a HK Monaro, taking an Aussie 1946 Chev ute street rod to the US and a trip to Mexico to compete in the 2013 La Carrera Panamericana, a 3200km open road event, racing a 1954 FJ! You can read about this incredible restoration and event here

Over the past decade David was in regular if not frequent contact with the owner asking if the FX would ever be available to buy back. The once loved car was languishing in a suburban backyard, dying a slow and rusty death, with the new owner unwilling at that time to part with it..

Fast forward to early 2018, David was searching through some online early Holden forums where low and behold, his FX was listed as possibly coming up for sale! A quick phone call was made to the owner to re-express his interest.

 

 

After a week or two of negotiating back and forth, the car is now back in David’s hands and plans are well underway for a complete restoration to be finished by December for Chloe’s wedding. With an abundance of options for her wedding car, one would think Chloe would go for something a little more luxurious. However, with the FX once again back in the hands of her grandfather, there was only one car Chloe had in mind!

The car is now in Adelaide where it is being paint stripped and rust treated, this is due to be completed by mid next week. From there extensive rust repair will be undertaken before being baked, primed and painted by a good friend. The seats will be re-trimmed in their original colour (red) all while a full mechanical refurbishment will be undertaken. The 132ci grey motor, 3 speed transmission, differential and suspension will all be rebuilt to stock specifications.

We will be paying close attention to the FX Holden build, so stay tuned for further updates as 2018 progresses!

What are your memories of the early 1950s Holden’s? Did you or someone you know own one? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comment section below!

History of the Sandman

The Holden Sandman, a car that represented a generation of Australians and likely one of Holden’s most iconic cars has undergone a number of reincarnations throughout its lifetime. While the true Sandman will always remain the 1970’s surf and lifestyle icon for most, the Sandman name has been used on a number of cars throughout the four decades between then and now. In this week’s blog we’ll recap the different looks the Sandman has undertaken throughout the years.

The Original Sandman (HQ, HJ, HX, HZ)

A combination of the ever increasing costs associated with owning a sports car combined with the increasing liberation and freedom of the youth of Australia led to a boom in the popularity in panel vans before the Sandman was even announced. Not one to miss a sales opportunity, Holden brought out the Sandman, a panel van by nature, with the added performance and luxury initially of the Belmont and eventually the Kingswood. Optional extras included the 253ci V8, a mattress, and sunroof while softer suspension and a drop-down split tail gate for ease of access differentiated the Sandman from the regular panel van. Understandably the Sandman was a huge hit among young Males who now had a car that could do everything – you could sleep in it, transport surfboards and ‘woo’ mates and lady friends alike; the Sandman was sexy.

The Concept

In 2000, Holden teamed up with surf wear brand Mambo to create a modern day Sandman concept. Based on the VU ute, the Sandman concept was received very well amongst the general public, with many calling to introduce it into production. Featuring a ‘burnin’ love’ interior, ‘bushfire orange’ exterior and the Sandman logo gracing the tailgate - the concept was true blue Aussie. Gracing the side panels were murals designed by Mambo’s head art director, featuring bush and beach goddess’. In reaction to the favourable reception from punters, the Sandman styled canopy was included as a $6,150 option to regular Utes in 2003, although was discontinued in 2006 when interest decreased, not to mention the incredibly complex nature of installation.

The Race Car

Supercar team Red Bull Holden Racing set about creating a tribute to the original Sandman in 2014 when they created their new ride car. In what looks like a VF ute from the side, and a VF Wagon from the rear, the Red Bull Sandman was met with mixed reception, although is none-the-less, an impressive vehicle. The car was originally built with a 700HP V8 and featured new-to-the-sport technology such as paddle shifting and a fly-by-wire throttle. This year, however, the Sandman has been used as a test dummy for the incoming twin-turbo V6 that will grace the sport come 2019. The car was used to unveil the new engine to the public in October 2017 with demonstration laps at the Bathurst 1000.

The 40 year anniversary ‘reincarnation’

In 2015, Holden decided it was time to reincarnate the Sandman in the form of a limited edition Sportwagon and Ute. Although without a true panel van option, purists were left disappointed in what were essentially SV6 or SS-V Commodores with added logos, pinstripes and a ‘retro’ coloured interior. Given the small production run of only 250 across all options, the 2015 Sandman may very well end up a collectable in the future, particularly as Holden manufacturing in Australia has ceased. Time will tell…

What are your thoughts on the various Holden Sandman’s throughout the years? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.