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! 

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. 

 

Top 5 Australian Touring Car Drivers

Motorsport in Australia is, it’s fair to say, in a state of flux right now. There are new cars, new championships, and new drivers. It’d also be fair to say that the new crop of drivers would all want to be seen, be remembered, in the same category as those regarded as Australia’s best and legendary touring car heroes. Although the Australian Touring Car Championship effectively lives on in name only, as the award for the winner of the Supercars championship, it’s still an honour to be listed as a winner.

In no particular order, here are the five drivers we reckon will be remembered.

Peter Brock.

Any list of Australian motorsport drivers that doesn’t include Victorian born Peter Geoffrey Brock A.M. isn’t worth considering. Brocky, Peter Perfect, “God”, PB won a record nine Bathurst 1000 races, Sandown nine times, the Australian Touring Car Championship three times, and engendered an aftermarket car company that is synonymous with motorsport.

Brock was known for racing with Holden, but also saw his name on the side of BMW cars, Ford cars, Volvo, Porsche, and Peugeot. He even lent his name to a brief flirtation with Russian car company, Lada.

PB made his Bathurst racing debut in 1969, muscling Holden’s HT 350 Monaro GTS around Mount Panorama alongside Des West, with the 24 year old partnering West to a third position that year, an impressive debut. 

Brock raced in a number of categories including Formula 2, the Australian Super Touring Championship, and Le Mans. His record of 37 wins from 212 starts in the ATCC and V8 Supercars would stand until 2007. He also scored 57 ATCC pole positions and won from pole 22 times.

PB would have turned 74 on February 26, 2019. 

Jamie Whincup

36 year old Whincup has the dubious distinction of somehow being the most polarising driver in Supercars. Irrespective of how he’s perceived, there is no doubt that he has talent, talent that has given him a record seven (V8) Supercars crowns, four Bathurst 1000 wins, and a Bathurst 12 Hour hat in 2017.

Whincup has raced in Australia’s two main brands in the Supercars, being Holden and Ford. In 2016 he became just the second driver, alongside long term team mate Craig Lowndes, to have won 100 Supercars and ATCC races. Throw in 73 pole positions for good measure.

What’s impressive about Whincup’s record is simple: he didn’t start in V8 Supercars until 2002.

Craig Lowndes

Like pizza and garlic bread, you can’t have Whincup without Lowndes, Craig Lowndes. He’s retired from full time racing and leaves behind a fantastic CV. 42 pole positions, 3 championships, over 100 race wins and almost nose to nose as his former team mate in that respect. There are over 250 event starts in those numbers too.

With a background in small open wheeler racing and including a win in the Australian Formula Ford Championship, Lowndes started his V8 Supercars career alongside Brad Jones in the 1994 Sandown 500 and clocked up his first ATCC in 1996.

Mark Skaife

There’s a birthday coming up for our number four driver. Gosford born Mark Stephen Skaife was born on April 3, 1967, and cements himself in Australian Touring Car Championship history with 90 race wins. Factor in 41 pole positions, 220 event starts and 479 races for 87 podiums, international exposure, and clinically oriented driving style and it’s clear that Skaife is in the upper echelons.

1990 was the year Skaife started as a full time driver and 1991 saw three ATCC wins under his tyres. It was also the year that he, Jim Richards, and “Godzilla” worked together to win the Bathurst 1000 and inspire many to boo at the podium presentation. Skaife would finish his full time career as a driver with five championships to his name.

Dick Johnson

Our fifth grid position goes to Dick Johnson. DJ may have finished with a few less pole positions than others (28), a few less race wins (30), and a few less event starts (202), but the burly, genial, Queenslander did finish with five ATCC crowns, equal to Skaife and 1960s legend, Leo Geoghegan.

Much like Brock, the Johnson name is synonymous with one brand, yet Johnson started his career with the red lion against his name. FJ, EH, and Torana, including one previously raced by P.G. Brock. Johnson moved to Ford in 1977 and became a household name in 1980 thanks to a football sized piece of rock at Mount Panorama.

2001 and Johnson was inducted into the Supercars Hall of Fame. With 3 Bathurst wins to his name as well, along with co-running the DJR-Penske team, Richard Johnson gives us our top five ATCC drivers. Say happy birthday to Dick on April 26.

Who are your top five ATCC drivers? It’s a question sure to raise debate so we’d love to get your thoughts via our blog and social media pages. 

 

 

 

 

Best Australian Motorsport Liveries

Imagine, if you will, sitting in the grandstand at your favourite motorsport circuit, and watching a field of cars, all black, racing. Or all white. Or all blue…you get the picture. Yes, it may sound great but gees, it looks pretty boring seeing unidentifiable cars circulating.

Graphic designers and teams spend a lot of time designing the look of a car in order to do two main things: make the car look visually appealring, and to promote the sponsors of the team racing the car.

Sometimes though, it’s not the range of colours applied that have a car stand out, it’s how they’ve been applied. Here’s a few to consider.

Craig Lowndes AU Falcon

Holden, Ford, Holden. Craig Lowndes has stamped himself as a legend, however it was his 2001 AU Falcon that quickly captured attention. With a body scheme of black and silver, the rounded AU Falcon made itself a a car that took easily to being a team and sponsor billboard. But it was the lurid green appliqué to the headlights, a colour that somehow burned its way through any lighting conditions, that had eyes on it. The rest of the car was a mix of simple and elegant curves, with a large silver and black Ford logo on its rear flanks, a rare occasion of not seeing the Blue Oval in blue. 

Kevin Bartlett Channel 9 Camaro

“KB” is a lovely and genial bloke. Always with a ready smile and an anecdote from his extensive racing career in the back pocket, Bartlett took a metaphorical back seat to one particular vehicle.

Rule changes were under way for Aussie tin top racing in the latter part of the 1970s, and some American muscle found its way to the tarmac. Bartlett was handed the keys to a 1978 Camaro, and it would be painted in a simple combination of yellow icons over a blue base.

It was an immediate success in garnering attention; the massive front air dam had a television network’s name prominently displayed  in the centre, their logo in broad swathes on the right and left hand sides, and the station identifier on the landing pad sized bonnet. Front and rear bumpers had generous applications of yellow to provide some horizontal relief. Eye catching? Most certainly.

John Bowe Touring Car Masters LX Torana

A more modern entrant but with history on its sides (literally) is the LX Torana as campaigned by Rrare Spares brand ambassador, John Bowe, in the Touring Car Masters category.

The initial scheme is simple. A banana yellow base has acres of a light blue on the sides and a strong front to rear presence. That in itself looks fine, but it’s the subtle splashes of red, along with the careful placement of the numerous sponsors that somehow manage to be readable in a crowded canvas, that have Bowe’s “Torrie” in the list.

Dick Johnson Tru-Blu/Greens-Tuf Falcons

Sometimes a monochrome canvas can be hugely effective in standing out. Dick Johnson, a legend in Australian motorsport, kept things “simple” with his XD and XE Falcons.

Using the ethos of “KISS”, or Keep It Simple, Stupid, Johnson painted his XD Falcon in one shade of blue, and his XE in green. No fancy pants extra colours for the bumpers, or bonnet, or roof. They were kept free for the placement of the sponsors on the vast, flat, surfaces of the blocky Falcon’s bodywork. The basic design of the XD and XE made for excellent opportunities to place sponsors in strategically and highly visual locations, with the huge doors and bonnet seeing the main sponsors in pride of place.

It’s perhaps the Greens-Tuf car that has more of a place in history. The car hit a rock that had been accidentally dislodged by a spectator during the 1980 Bathurst 1000, with the end result seeing the bright green machine, complete with faux Ch7 logo on its flanks, reduced to a smoking shell.

Mark Skaife HRT Commodore

Evolution is a slow progress. But side by side a change in look can be plotted, and one line of change came to fruition on Holden’s Commodore in the early noughties. Again it was a duo of colours that made the car stand out.

The VY Commodore was a somewhat jarring mix of a rounded, organic, middle section, bracketed by a nose and rear that had defined angles. It was the smooth rear door section that lent itself best to Holden Racing Team’s logo; a combination of Holden’s lion and HRT’s helmeted race driver with an almost satanic glare inferred.

The slope to the bonnet allowed designers to front and centre a reverse colour image of the famous Holden lion as a visual counterpoint to the white outlines of the flank’s images. And, as we all know, a red car goes faster.

 

Rare Spares would love to know what you think is the best livery on a race car, be it a Mini from the 1960s, a Charger from the 1970s, or even a Formula Ford seen on track in 2018.

Drop us a line on our social media pages and keep in touch via our blog site.