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.

When Plastic Becomes Classic – The New Historics

If you are anything like us, in the last couple of years you may have found yourself with a confused look on your face as you sit at the traffic lights or cruise down the highway on the weekend. 

 

In front of you is a car on Historic or Club plates that is absolutely not historic from your perspective!

Of course Historic and Classic are different things to different people and even definitions vary, but we would be safe to assume that most people view an XYGT Falcon, an original Mini Cooper, a Datsun 1600, a ’57 Chevy and a A9X Torana as classics, whereas Historic vehicles tend be 1940’s and earlier in our book.

As time marches on though, so does the rolling Historic/Classic/Club registration systems that have been adopted across the country. Most Australian States and Territories employ rolling 30 year Historic/Classic permit schemes, whereas Victoria and WA have a rolling 25 year cut off for Historic vehicles. SA has adopted an alternative philosophy, with a fixed date for cars needing to be built before 1/1/1979 to be eligible.

For the most part, these schemes rely on a club’s helping to administer the approvals and there are generally some additional requirements and technicalities across the states, however we would have to write a thesis to explain all the ins and outs for each state. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have some Australia wide regulations on these types of schemes! It may be a pipe dream, but we can always hope.            

It’s important to note that as we write this article, if we wind back time 30 years, it would be March in 1987. Even scarier however for the status of ‘Historics’ is that WA and Victoria are now accepting vehicles older than March 1992! As 1992 represents the newer wave of what is eligible in these states, we will focus on this year for the sake of simplicity; and for other states, take it as a sign of things to come.

As we scan our way across models released in 1992, a picture starts to emerge of the reality we are starting to see appear on our roads.

So what cars were built in 1992?

Starting locally, the Holden VP Commodore was well into production and everything from a Berlina to a rare VP HSV Maloo Ute could receive the historic treatment.

Over in the blue oval corner, Ford had just released the EBII Falcon GLi and in fact next month is 25 years since the EBII XR8 hit the showrooms.

The records show that after the Falcon and Commodore, the remainder of the Top Ten cars sold in Australia in 1992 are the Mitsubishi Magna, Toyota Camry and Corolla, Ford Laser, Toyota Landcruiser, Nissan Pulsar, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Lancer and the Holden Rodeo. Perhaps not all of these cars will meet criteria or will be approved, but from what we can see generally could be considered under the schemes in Vic and WA.

If money was no object, why not register a 1992 McLaren F1 road car?

Another shock has been was seeing imported JDM vehicles such as the Nissan Silvia and Skyline’s already running around on Club/Historic plates.

 

Hyundai X2 Excel anybody? Didn’t think so, but if you were keen the option is there!

The rest of Australia may be eyeing off 30 year old vehicles still, but if Victoria and WA’s schemes are anything to go by, we will be quickly shifting our definition of Classic and Historic, at least as it applies to registration.

So the next time you double take on a car that is very un-historic, consider the future. There will come a time when that VF commodore wagon in the garage might be ready……..scary thought!

Are you currently running a car on Historic/Club/Classic registrations schemes or eyeing off a model that is about to become eligible? We’d love to hear your stories and experiences in this area from around Australia.

Power Boost - Taking a Look at Two Iconic Aussie Turbo’s

Over the years, Australian manufacturers have been mostly known for producing family sized rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated six and eight cylinder vehicles. However, throughout the years, both Holden and Ford have dipped their toes into turbo-charging technology, providing affordable cars with oodles of power and a plethora of modification options. Whilst there have been a number of turbocharged vehicles from Australian manufacturers, none have captured the hearts and minds of the public quite as much as the VL Turbo and the XR6 Turbo. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at these turbo powered favourites and discuss what made these such successful models.

Holden Commodore VL Turbo

With unleaded petrol coming of age throughout the 80’s, Holden battled to find an engine appropriate for their new VL model that could deal with the new fuel. So, when they turned to Nissan and sourced the Skyline bound RB30 six cylinder for the new Commodore, Australian car enthusiasts were understandably excited. Excitement levels would reach their peak when it was announced that a turbo would be coupled with the RB30, producing a powerful 150kw. Not only was the turbo of significance, improvements were also made in the form of front disc brakes, 15 inch wheels and FE2 suspension, making the VL turbo the affordable modifiers dream.

The Australian Police Force also took note as they adopted a modified version of the VL Turbo as their new pursuit vehicle. These VL’s were denoted “BT1” and featured a number of modifications such as different pistons, upgraded four wheel disc brakes, Corvette front calipers, larger oil pump and a knock sensor. These modifications not only gave the Police a vehicle capable of chasing crooks down a highway, they allowed officers to perform breaking manoeuvres out of reach to the average car of the time.

VL Turbo’s and particularly BT1’s are worth a pretty penny on the used car market these days and you’ll be doing well to find one that isn’t modified to the gills. However, VL Turbo’s still contain a certain level of “wow” factor that will buy you a level of street cred that’s out of reach to a current model Commodore.

Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo 

In 2002, the BA Falcon XR6 Turbo brought upon a step outside of the Falcon’s recent conservative comfort zone and was a Falcon truly deserving of a performance car reputation. By bolting a Garrett turbo onto the 6-cylinder ‘Barra’ engine platform, the XR6 turbo was able to produce a lively 240Kw/450Nm whilst giving its 8-cylinder competition a serious hurry-up. Fast in stock form and a tinkerers dream, the Barra platform was able to handle a wild level of modifications.

Fast forward 14 years and Ford has released its last iteration of the XR6 Turbo – the FGx XR6 Turbo Sprint. Producing a mind bending 370kw/650nm in overboost form, which is only activated at full throttle for a maximum of 10 seconds; the XR6 Turbo Sprint is the fastest 6 cylinder ever produced in Australia. Based on the previous FPV F6 model, features of the new Sprint include a new lower airbox, carbon fibre intake and a freer flowing exhaust. Other specifications include updated suspension, new Pirelli tires and a recalibrated ZF automatic transmission.

Despite a somewhat lackluster interior, which has remained largely unchanged since the original BA, a 0-100 time of 4.7 seconds and a quarter mile time “in the 12’s” is enough to ensure Ford enthusiasts aren’t at all bothered by the interior. The end result is quite possibly the best ‘bang for your buck’ Australian car ever built.

These two cars will most likely go down in history as the two greatest turbocharged Australian produced cars ever made. Do you own either of these two iconic fan favourites? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your turbocharged pride and joy in the comments below.

Falcon Farewell – Saying Goodbye to the Aussie Icon

When Ford introduced the XK Falcon to the Australian market back in 1960, not many would have predicted the impact that the ‘Falcon’ name would have on the Australian motoring landscape. Production of the Falcon came to an end in 2016, although along the 56 year journey Ford was able to produce a number of iconic Australian cars. Here we take a look at six Falcons that will forever be remembered by Australian motoring enthusiasts.

1965 XP Flacon

The original XK is remembered as a car that unfortunately wasn’t built with local conditions in mind, resulting in the model receiving a poor reputation amongst consumers. Ford went back to the drawing board; with build quality issues being quickly remedied and by 1964, the XP Falcon was the car that kick started over five decades of manufacturing of the Falcon in Australia. In order to overcome durability issues faced in the original Falcon, Ford conducted 70,000km of around the clock on-road testing at their You-Yang’s facility. The end result of this arduous testing was a car that proved to be capable of handling everything Australia’s harsh conditions could throw at it.

1971 XY GT-HO Phase III 

Arguably Australia’s most iconic car, the XY GT-HO Phase III was originally built in order to homologate the XY Falcon for racing. Only 300 units were built. The 351 cubic inch that lay underneath the bonnet was a true fire breather, non-standard heads and valves with an increased compression ratio of 11.5:1 coupled with a 780 Holley carby. It was capable of a top speed of 142mph and 14.4 seconds down a quarter mile which propelled it to the fastest four door sedan in the world at the time. The HO also came couple with  These days a very good example of one of these cars would set you back a bit south of $500,000.

1973 XA GT RPO83

In 1972 the XA Falcon range was introduced, with arguably one of the biggest body styling changes since the introduction of the Falcon it certainly made an impression in the car park. With the Supercar Scare and the cancelling of the Phase 4 program hope was not completely lost for a hero car beyond the GT staple.1973 gave rise to Regular Production 83, a performance package option with 250 units scheduled 259 were eventually built. The package included a big 780 Holley carby and extractors along with some other rumoured extras. Not all were fitted with the same equipment supposedly and this has led to many theories as to what was factory and what wasn’t on the limited run cars. They now demand a substantial premium with a recent Lime Glaze RP083 Sedan said to have sold for $240,000.

1980 XD ESP

1979 brought another body styling transitioning from the XC range which marked the introduction of side intrusion bars and the forever iconic blue oval grille and bootlid badges. The XD was more reminiscent of the XY styles with sharper body lines and was heavily influences by the European Granada Mk2. With the departure of the GT name in 1976 the public now were deemed ready for another substantial sports package, the European Sports Pack (ESP) option in 1980. Option 54 – ESP, included “Scheel” fornt seats, Red lit instruments/clock, Bilstein shockers, dual rear radius rods and Bathurst Globe rims. Ever since the introduction of the ESP they have been a sought after vehicle with XD and XE ESP’s demanding between $15,000 and $45,000 in most cases depending whether they were 6 cylinder’s or fitted with the highly desirable factory T code 351ci engine.

2002 BA XR6 Turbo

In 2002, the BA XR6 Turbo brought upon a step outside of the Falcon’s recent conservative comfort zone. This turbo charged engine package option utilized the new Barra I6 4.0L with a Garrrett GT40 Turbo, it was able to produce a lively 240Kw/450Nm whilst giving its 8-cylinder counterpart some serious competition. The new look BA design with the XR6 Turbo offering went a long way to erasing the memories of the largely unpopular AU range.
 

2014 FGX XR8 Sprint

The 2014 FGX XR8 Sprint will go down in the history books as the most powerful Falcon ever produced. The brochure will tell you that the XR8 Sprint produces 335Kw/570Nm, although as a result of its ‘transient over-boost’ feature, maximum power figures will read closer to a whopping 400Kw/650Nm. The FGX brought in a number of cosmetic changes compared to the outgoing FG, although the interior stayed much the same. Whilst some may deride the fact the interior is a little plain, and that the car is lacking a few common technical features, it still remains that the consumer had access to unbelievable power figures at a very competitive price point.

The Ford Falcon will forever hold a special place in Australian motoring enthusiast’s hearts, and with a number of other Falcons arguably being capable of making this list, we’d love to hear which have been your favourite Falcon’s over on the Rare Spares Facebook page and in the comments section below.

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!