American Hero – Top American Import

When it comes to American muscle cars it’s hard to look past the iconic Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Although there are a number of other stateside classics that will go down in history as American greats, it’s the Mustang and Camaro which typify what the scene is all about. In this article we’ll take a look at the two US classics, what made them special and how they were received in Australia.

In 1961, Lee Iococca, the Vice President and General Manager of Ford had a vision. This vision was to build a car that could seat 4 adults, have bucket seats, a floor mounted shifter, weigh no more than 2500 pounds, be no longer than 180 inches long and sell for less than $2500. After a few years and a couple of interesting looking prototypes, from this vision the Ford Mustang was born, with the first car rolling off the production line in March 1964.

In Australia, the Mustang has gone through periods of great popularity mixed with periods of little interest, mostly as a result of the cost of importing and RHD conversion proving to be a bridge too far for local consumers. However, early Mustangs were a hit from the get go, with up to 200 first generation Mustang’s being imported by Ford Australia in 1965, converted to RHD at their Geelong plant and sold to the public for around $6000. The timeless design was received well by enthusiasts in Australia. Throughout the last 50 years, early year Mustangs have remained a desirable car for Aussie enthusiasts which are reflected in modern day re-sale values.
Of course, it would be remiss of us not to mention the current 6th generation Mustang which has proved to be a hit on our shores. The rear-wheel drive 5.0 litre V8 producing 306kw/530Nm is somewhat filling the void that has been left by the departure of the Falcon, providing the public with a high powered substitute for the XR8, albeit in coupe form.


On the General Motors front, the main competition to the Mustang over the years has been that provided by the Camaro. The Camaro was born in September 1966 as an answer to the booming popularity of the Mustang. Featuring a long hood, short deck, seating for four and a unitized body construction with a separate front sub frame, the Camaro came with engine options ranging from a 230ci straight six to a 427ci V8.


The Camaro was received well in Australia in the beginning, and was successful in Australian motorsports, further thrusting the classic car into stardom. Bob Jane would win both the 1971 and 1972 ATCC at the wheel of a Camaro ZL-1. Much like the Mustang, the Camaro went through a period in which they were less desirable to the Australian public which, unlike the Mustang, has not really recovered in the form of Camaro Australian sales. Unfortunately for Australian motoring enthusiasts, in its current 6th generation guise, there are no formal plans for the Camaro to reach Australian dealership floors.


Which generation Mustang’s and Camaro’s are your favourite. Would you like to see the latest Camaro on Australian showroom floors? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

Rare Spares Feature Car Story: Jarcon Moore’s 1975 HJ Panel Van

Rare Spares have been a supporter of the classic car modification and restoration scene for over four decades and are proud to witness the sheer number of enthusiasts who share in our passion. Rare Spares’ recent 40 Year Daily Driver Facebook Promotion has proven the place that classic cars still have on our roads. We recently spoke to promotion winner Jarcon Moore, who gave us the rundown on his beloved 1975 HJ Holden Panel Van.

When the Western Australian spotted a pale blue HJ Panel Van on the road on his way to TAFE a year and a half ago, it was love at first sight. A long-time lover of Holden’s and Panel Vans, Jarcon approached the owner, successfully negotiated a deal to take the popular Australian classic off his hands and has been using it as his daily driver since ever since.

 

I’m the third owner of the car; the second owner had it for 38 years. It was originally purchased by a demolition company from Melville Motors and was white in colour, before being repainted the pale blue it is today”, Jarcon says.

 

Commenting on the positives and negatives of using a 42 year old car as his daily driver, Jarcon notes the lack of air-conditioning and power steering. However, these things don’t really worry him and he’s quick to point out the Panel Vans ability when helping any family and friends who need to move things and the ease of general maintenance. Jarcon hasn’t encountered too many issues with the HJ and mentioned his favourite moment with the car was when he got his P’s and was finally able to drive it on his own.

 

“I don’t really have to worry a lot about the car, just some general maintenance here and there. I haven't had many issues as of yet other than a lot of rust, and on one day it decided to shut down twice, I’m still not sure of the cause.”

 

Jarcon hasn’t made any modifications other than converting it back to a column shift, and as far as what the future holds for the 42 year old HJ?

 

“I plan to restore it, put in a 308 as well as a four speed transmission and possibly turn it into  a Sandman look-a-like”.

 

As a reward for winning the Rare Spares 40 Year Daily Driver Facebook Promotion, Jarcon has earnt himself a $500 Rare Spares Voucher and a signed Rare Spares cap. We look forward to hearing how Jarcon’s restoration goes!

 

Do you still use a classic car as your daily driver? Or maybe you have a 1970’s Holden parked in your garage? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

 

Roaring Heart – The Aussie Powered Alfa

In 1986 Paul Helstead and Formula 1 engineer Barry Lock set about building one of Australia’s first supercars; a rear-wheel drive Alfa Romeo Sprint. The initial plan was to pair the Sprint body with a mid-mounted 2.5 litre Alfa Romeo V6, coupled with a ZF 5-speed transmission and Brembo brakes. This hot coupe was to be named ‘Giocattolo’, which translates in Italian to ‘toy’. Shortly after testing began, the Giocattolo team was to face issues in guaranteeing a steady supply of engines from Alfa Romeo, thus the search began for a replacement power source.

Halstead and Lock were to eventually decide on the Holden Walkinshaw 5.0 litre V8 Group A engine as the new power plant. Producing 220Kw/500Nm, the new engine package was a rocket, capable of powering the Giocattolo to 0-100kph in just 5.4 seconds, whilst having an electronically limited top speed of 250kph. As a result of the upgraded tires, brakes, transmission and a high tech Formula 1 style rear suspension setup, the Giocatollo possessed handling characteristics not dissimilar to a road registered go-kart on steroids.

The interior of the Sprint was also modified in the Giocattollo build process. The standard seats were replaced with leather Recaro’s, a Momo steering wheel was added and the dash was modified to fit the extra gauges. Other interesting features were the new centre console with integrated handbrake lever, power windows, air conditioning and even central locking.

As a result of the $80,000AU price tag, the Giocattolo did not sell particularly well, with only 15 of the Italian-Australian supercars were built, including 3 prototypes. In 1989 the Giocattollo closed its doors after 3 years of production, finding that it was not the right time for such a car in the Australian market.

Of the 15 built, car number 007 was destroyed in an accident in 2001, whilst one other is unaccounted for. Car number 007 was originally owned by the Brisbane Bears Australian Rules Football Club and was painted in the club’s colours; with a gold exterior and maroon interior. Car number 011 is also believed to have been owned by Lindsay Fox at one point in time, whilst the Queensland Police were even considering using Giocattolo as their pursuit car! All known remaining cars are reported to be in great condition and have been known to change hands for well over the original $80,000 price tag.

What is your favourite uniquely Australian car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Rent-A-Racer - The Ford Shelby GT-350H Mustang

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to drive an iconic American muscle car? Back in May 1966, Hertz New York took that same wondrous thought and made it a reality with the “Rent-A-Racer” program. This genius idea gave every day people the ability to rent a street legal track spec Shelby GT-350 for only $17 per day ($70 per week) plus an additional 0.17c per mile.

Apart from the colour scheme, the 1966 Ford Shelby GT-350 was mechanically no different from the Ford Shelby GT-350H with the H simply stating for “Hertz”. The Hertz version was released in the incredibly popular gold stripes on black paintwork compared to the standard Shelby with white with blue stripes plus a few other optional variations. The 1966 Shelby delivered 306hp under foot (a 35hp increase from standard high performance mustangs with 271hp) plus a few other go fast bits such as high rise manifold, a big four barrel carby, 11 inch Kelsey-Hayes disc brakes to help pull up the extra horsepower, wider tyres to aid the muscle car physique, front sway bar for stiffness and a full set of Koni’s at all four corners.

50 years on Hertz is once again offering the performance thoroughbred to the world. This year the iconic Ford Shelby GT Mustang has been released with the “H” attached to selected Hertz outlets. So if you’re flying around America, you are able to enquire about the Hertz Adrenaline Collection of cars and you will soon have the option to rent a 2016 Ford Shelby GT-H Mustang. Although the $17 per day price point may have taken a slight increase, the newer edition has some major increases to merit the cost, improvements in drivability, aesthetics and power will be the main updates for the new halo car.

There were 1000 Mustangs produced for Hertz in 1966, while it’s unsure at this point how many are to be produced for the 2016 release, it’s sure to be limited, so early bookings will no doubt be a necessity if you want the chance to realise your dream of driving one of the most iconic & prestigious American muscle cars ever to grace the black top.

What did you think of the Rent-a-Racer idea? Did the car look the part or fail to impress? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments!

Wooden Wonders – The world of wood panelled cars

As automotive enthusiasts, there are a million and one things we love about cars. From exhilarating performance to their racing pedigree and history, there is a broad spectrum of things that appeal to us, but all of this is nothing without style. There have been a number of body styles over the years, some quirky and some more practical, but one of the most unique to appear in the automotive spectrum would be those with wood panels or “Woodies”. These vehicles were the example of outstanding craftsmanship and design flair and here we will take a brief look at the origins of the style and some of the cars that defined the movement.

In the early days of engineless transport, wood was used in the construction of many horse drawn carts and carriages. These sound design elements naturally transferred across too many early motor vehicles, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that cars with wood become the desirable choice. It was Ford in 1929 with the Model A that claimed the title of the first mass produced Woodie, with more than half of the vehicles exterior being crafted with timber. Although the use of this material was a relatively common place at the time, advancements in steel stamping slowly pushed wood to be used more for styling than structure.

The 1946-48 Chrysler Town and Country was one of the vehicles that adopted wooden styling and hit the nail on the head in terms of design. The station wagon was the first Woodie with an all-steel roof and featured wooden double doors (also called “Barrel Back” doors) and came in a four door sedan layout. The popular Chrysler Town and Country two door convertible was also offered and at the time was the most luxurious car on the market!

The Packard Super Eight was produced pre-WWII and was one of the most luxurious of the time. The vehicle featured a 160HP straight eight engine, not to mention wooden doors and rear quarter panels. However, the Woodie movement was not without its ugly ducklings and this generally came in the form of “faux” wood made with vinyl trim which began plaguing cars from the 1970’s all the way to the 1990’s. Thankfully this trend never really caught on in Australia.

When it comes to cars of a bygone era, its clear to see how outstanding design and creativity can stand the test of time. Although beautiful, we are pretty happy that manufactures steered away from termite-bait on wheels to more practical and durable materials.

What do you think of these wooden wonders? Timeless beauties, or better left to rot? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments!