Mystery Box Rally

It’s been wryly said that the first rally came after the first twenty owners of “horseless carriages” met at a pub. Disclaimer: there may be little, if any, truth, to that but it is true that car rallying sprang into life very early in the history of the car. It is generally accepted that the first rally was the Monte Carlo Rally of 1911. The format, without the name as such, goes back even further, with the 1894 Paris – Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition.

As cars, or automobiles, developed, and the technology evolved, rallying grew in popularity. Worldwide, various formats grew, with perhaps the best known being the WRC, with intercontinental rallies also proving popular. All of these take money, and sometimes lots of it. So for those with an eye on the economic side?

Australia’s world renowned for the larrikin streak and sense of humour and with a strong aftermarket car culture various forms of rallying have come and gone. One of the newer ones has, at its heart, what Australia holds dear. Mateship. Called the Shitbox Rally, drivers have cars that hover around the $1000 and are driven on a variety of road surfaces. The funds raised go towards cancer research via the Cancer Council of Australia.

The rally has spawned a child, and this is called the Mystery Box Rally. One key component of the regulations is that the cars must be at least 25 years old. It will be a looped drive, starting and finishing at the same location, and in October of 2018 the rally began from Mildura, in Victoria.

Founded in 1887, the town is situated around 100 kilometres east of the South Australia/New South Wales/Victoria border and sits on the banks of the Murray River. It’s a beautiful little town and ideal for the rally start. The cause itself is identical to the Shitbox Rally, with funds raised (teams are asked and expected to raise a minimum of $3500) going towards cancer research. Teams cover incidentals such as registration fees, food and accommodation, and fuel for around 2,500 kilometres.

To add to the enjoyment and the struggle, the regulations stipulate that only two wheel drive cars can enter. All wheel and four wheel drive cars are excluded, as are historic and vintage vehicles. The organisers, with perhaps a wise eye, also stipulate that the car to be entered should be cost effective in the possibility of a breakdown. Smartly, the organisers limited each team to just two drivers, again with an eye on the potential for carrying passengers, they being those that have had a vehicle give the ultimate sacrifice.

Drivers are kept in the dark as to the day’s route overnight – which adds the element of mystery, with information only provided to the teams early in the morning. And organizers are at pains to point out it’s not a race, as such. The winner is judged on how much was raised, the actual condition of the car (or, how hopeless it is), the joie de vivre the team exhibits, and literally anything that organisers decide on as the event progresses.

The 2018 Mystery Box Rally saw something in the order of over one hundred cars entered, ranging from a 1992 Toyota Camry wagon to a 1993 Ford Laser, from a 1990 Toyota Celica to a 1993 Holden Commodore wagon. Most teams reached their minimum $3500 amount, with Jasmine Brill & Felicity Pollock, in Fergus, a 1992 Mazda 626, raising $13,607 under the team name of “All The Gear And No Idea”.

“Two Burkes In A Merc”, Paul Marsh and John Koerner rallied a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300C and snared $11,700, whilst Lindsay and Nicholas McAulley raked in $5725 in their 1982 Volvo 244GL, an unbreakable car if there is one.

This year’s rally raised over $367K, with a guaranteed minimum 80% going towards cancer research. If this looks like something that appeals, register here: https://www.mysteryboxrally.com.au/contact/

Have you ever entered the Mystery Box Rally and have a story to tell? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know all about it in the comments section below this article! 

Classic Australian Touring Cars

Brand loyalty. It’s a “thing” that companies spend a lot of money on in research and making it happening. Perhaps the best example of this is in the world of cars and there’s nothing more stronger nor more divisive than the love a man hath for the brand of car.

That’s why any list of Australia’s top touring cars will always be subjective, sure to cause discussion, and will be debated at length. Agreed, there are the drivers and team to consider but tell that to the marketing teams.

1. Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III

1971 and Bathurst see this car linked permanently in our motorsport history. Lap 43 of The Great Race saw Bill Brown and his yellow XY roll along the Armco after his front right tyre blew at over 100mph coming into McPhillamy Park. Three and a half rolls later Brown and his XY became part of folklore. Though it wasn’t the first time Bill had put a GT-HO on its lid, but that is a story for another day.

However there is the car itself. In qualifying for 1971’s race the top seven grid spots would be occupied by this racing machine from the Blue Oval factory. The top two cars were factory backed, the other five from privateers, and just 1.1 seconds separated fourth through to seven. Pole sitter Allan Moffat would take pole by three seconds ahead of John French.

Moffat and his Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III would go on to win the 1971 Hardie-Ferodo 500 and would fill in five of the top ten positions at race finish.

2. TWR Jaguar XJ-S

Jaguar is one of those brands that is either a love, or it’s a ummm, no thanks. And whilst it may not instantly be recognized as a classic Australian touring car, it did win a Bathurst 1000. The Jaguar’s Bathurst story started when Tom Walkinshaw Racing took the long and elegantly designed V12 from one of Britain’s oldest brands, and turned a grand touring car into a race oriented touring car.

The car itself took over from the legendary E-Type in 1975 and in racing trim would be entered into the then Group C category. This was for cars with engines of over three litres in capacity and placed the near five metre long “Jag” against Holden’s VK Commodore with a 5.0L V8.

In the hands of TWR and Tom himself, three XJ-S machines would be in the top ten for the 1985 James Hardie 1000. Entitled “Hardies Heroes” grid spots 6, 2, and 1 would have the JRA Ltd backed cars in place. John Goss piloted the number 10 badged car for sixth in the shootout, with Jeff Allam and Walkinshaw himself taking second and pole.

Come race time and it was the German/Australian pairing of Armin Hahne and John Goss that would greet the chequered flag after 163 laps and a race time of six hours forty one minutes. Goss would also set the fastest lap with a 2:21.86.

3. Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback.

Regarded as possibly one of the prettiest yet aggressive looking cars on Australian roads, the Holden Torana hatchback of the mid 1970s would be powered by a choice of six and V8 engines. With the tag of A9X giving the car a stronger differential and rear disc brakes plus slightly modified suspension and a Borg-Warner T10 manual four speed transmission.

Powered by the L34 spec 5.0L V8, Holden entered the LX into the Class A category for the 1978 Hardie-Ferodo 1000. That years was the introduction of the Hardies Heroes shootout, where drivers literally would draw the top ten running order for qualifying from a hat.

This era was also the sweet-spot for the Holden v Ford rivalry, as the top ten would see six Holdens and four Ford XC Falcon hardtops. Driven by Peter Brock, it would be the Marlboro-HDT Torana that would take pole by 8/10ths ahead of the Moffat Ford Dealers pairing of Colin Bond, a long time friend of Brock, and Allan Moffat.

History shows that the Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback would fill four of the top ten finishing positions, with another two being the A9X four door versions. Brock and co-driver Jim Richards would be the only car to complete the full 163 laps, finishing a full lap ahead of another A9X hatchback driven by Allan Grice and John Leffler.

And then there was the legendary performance at Mount Panorama in 1979, where Brock and Richards would finish a staggering 6-laps ahead of everyone else – the next seven placed cars were also A9X Toranas.

4. Ford Falcon XC GS Hardtop

Ford Australia had resurrected a two door design for its legendary Falcon nameplate with the “coke bottle” XA Falcon in 1972. A slender nose would be offset by a somewhat heavy tail, with the rear flanks seemingly overwhelming the 14 inch diameter wheels. Subsequent redesigns would see subtle changes at the rear and with the blunter XB and XC noses adding an assertive presence.

Although perhaps of itself not a car that imprints itself into racing consciousness, it was the 1977 one-two finish of the big machines that has the XC Falcon two-doors in this list of classic Aussie touring cars.

Although Allan Moffat, the Canadian born driver that had made Australia his home, had qualified third, behind team mate Colin Bond, he would subsequently lay down the quickest lap of the 1977 race. Finishing a lap ahead of Peter Janson and Larry Perkins in their A9X hatchback, team orders had Moffat lead Bond into the final turn and across the line by a half car length in vision that brings tears to the eyes of Ford fans.

5. Volkswagen Beetle 1200.

1963 and the Volkswagen Beetle is finding love and homes throughout the world. It also found success on Australian racetracks. Entered into Class A, a category for cars costing less than nine hundred pounds, the “Dak-dak” would be amongst the list of cars racing at Mount Panorama for the Armstrong 500. The race had moved from Victoria’s Phillip Island and with the Australian Racing Drivers Club the new organizers.

In Class A, four VW 1200s would be in the top 5, with the winners of the class, Barry Ferguson and Bill Ford completing 116 laps of the new venue, and completing this list of the top five Australian Touring Cars.

What do you think is the greatest classic Australian Touring Car?
Tell us below or join the conversation on our Facebook page!

Picture Credit: www.autopics.com.au

Classic Bathurst Recap - 1989

Changes were in the wind in the 1989 Bathurst 1000. Sponsored by beer giant Tooheys, the event continued its growth in stature internationally, and internally. Teams expanded from one car to two, and a return to the past was made, in the form of a standing start.

The all-conquering Ford Sierra RS500 was back and in bigger numbers. Enough were here that one of Australia’s favourite sons and a Holden icon had made the jump into the Blue Oval camp. The King of the Mountain would also be involved in an incident that, although technically within the rules, wasn’t seen as being of a sporting nature.

The Sierras attracted big names from overseas. Briton Andy Rouse came in to drive alongside Peter Brock. Ruedi Eggenberger returned to run the Allan Moffat operation, with a brand new car for Klaus Niedzwiedz, Moffat and Frank Biela. Alain Ferté flew in to drive a Glenn Seton car. Toyota was here, with the six cylinder Supra. John Smith and Drew Price, while Nissan had Anders Olofsson.

This year’s race was also an advance in television coverage, with the Tooheys Top ten shootout broadcast in full for the first time. The fastest ten cars from qualifying on Friday were sent out on the Saturday to determine the positions. Of the top ten final results, all but one were Sierras, with Nissan and Jim Richards claiming seventh.

Peter Brock would be given pole and it would be the only pole position of his career that wasn’t in a Commodore powered by a V8. It would also be a frustrating result for the Holden faithful as there were no Red Lion cars to be seen in that ten. There is also a little bit of history here, with all cars in the top ten being powered by a turbocharged engine, a feat not seen before or since.

The controversy around Brock and his car was simple, in essence. A fire suppressant system in the cars used a gas called Halon. A nozzle in the engine bay after the top ten run was found in scrutineering to have been pointed towards the engine’s turbo intercooler. The theory was that the gas had been discharged, lowering the temperature and boosting the engine output. Although later deemed to be not illegal, Brock was fined five thousand dollars.

A return to the standing start procedure also raised eyebrows. With a set start time of 10:00am, a formation lap had been performed and cars lined up on the grid. However it appeared that some were a little early and the subsequent wait may have contributed to a number of cars suffering engine failures during the race.

Race start and Brock lead the field, with old mate and sparring partner Dick Johnson, (with co-driver being Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe) in hot pursuit. There would be drama for Andrew Miedecke inside the first lap, with his #6 Sierra stuck in fifth gear thanks to a broken gear selector. This came on top of the #8 sister car, driven by Andrew Bagnall, crashing during the top ten shootout, however with only light damage allowing the car to start as the tenth car.

Coming down Conrod Straight, Johnson’s Sierra would pass Brock to take the lead, where throughout the next 160 laps it would remain.

The race would see a number of cars fail to finish due to mechanical problems. Brock himself would pit his Sierra, complaining of a loose rear wheel. The Tony Longhurst and Giancarlo Brancatelli Sierras would retire with Brancatelli’s car losing a wheel, and Longhurst out after his Benson and Hedges #25 car blew a head gasket. Longhurst would move into the #20 car and along with Alan Jones and Denny Hulme completed the race in fifth.

Glenn Seton’s Sierra had found oil on the track at Skyline. Seton’s #30 Peter Jackson sponsored car slammed into the tyre barrier backwards. Seton was ok and the car was able to be driven to the pits for repair where he, John Goss, and Tony Noske would later pilot the car to 20th. The #35 car would not complete the race.

Debris from Seton’s vehicle had an unfortunate knock-on effect for Brad Jones. Brake lines are an effective piece of equipment in a car when they’re in one piece. Jones’ car would have theirs cut by the debris, leaving Jones to find that out at speed coming into the Chase. He and co-drive Paul Radisich benched the car and would lose eight laps, finishing 9th.

The Sierras were showing signs of stress with the #18 Shell Ultra Hi car, driven by the UK pairing Jeff Allam and Robb Gravett, suffering electrical issues. Allan Moffat’s second car would be parked after just thirty laps, whilst John Mann and Murray Carter’s Sierra lasted just ten.

However the Skylines and Commodores were showing no such signs. Alan grice and Peter Janson would find themselves in the top five thanks to smart fuel pit strategy however some gremlins got into the transmission, dropping them to tenth at race finish. Brock’s rear wheel issue looked to have been fixed and the team would be back in the top three half way through the race. But again a problem occurred, this time with a recalcitrant wheel nut needing to be cut off. The hub was discovered to be so worn a new one could not be fitted and the team was out.

Bowe and Johnson had cemented their lead but in the closing laps the turbo boost pressure was falling. Bowe nursed the car along enough to hold the lead, watching the second Moffat Sierra, driven by Niedzwiedz and Frank Biela eventually fall off enough for Bowe to pit for a final fuel stop and get the car across the line for the win a full minute ahead of Biela.

Third would go to Jim Richards and a young Mark Skaife, in the Nissan Skyline HR31 GTS-R, with a team driver swap having Anders Olofsson bring home the second car in fourth.

Of fifty six cars entered, twenty nine would not see the chequered flag for the Tooheys Bathurst 1000 in 1989.

Touring Car Masters 2018 - Previewing the final rounds

The Australian historic racing car category, the Touring Car Masters, is definably Australia’s premium historic racing cars group. The guidelines are comparatively simple: have three driver categories and have cars of a pre-1976 era. Trackside watchers will see Chevrolet Camaros, BOSS Mustangs, and entrants from Australia’s own automotive vaults of history, the Valiant Chargers, Ford Falcon GTs, and Holden Monaros.

The driver regulations cover ProMaster for professional drivers, ProAm for part time “let’s have fun” drivers, and ProSports. This is something different in allowing a car to be entered by different contestants in order to try and gain extra points for the car in a championship sense.

There are some BIG names in the TCM as they’re known; Phil “Split-pin” Brock, Glenn “The Babyfaced Assassin” Seton, Andrew Miedecke, Jim Richards, Steve Johnson, and Rare Spares Ambassador John Bowe.

The category itself is now in its twelfth year having being born in 2007. The 2018 season has eight rounds and is part of the Supercars overall presence. This year kicked off in Adelaide and has completed five rounds so far. There’s three more rounds to go and all three will be part of the Supercars enduros: Sandown for September 14-16, Bathurst over the weekend of October 4-7, and then the final round in Newcastle for the November 23-25 weekend.

In the overall standings its John Bowe on top, having won three of the five rounds thus far. Steve Johnson is tapping on his rear bumper, with 959 points, just 18 shy of Bowe’s 977. Former V8 Ute drivers Adam Bressington and Jason Gomersall are in third and fourth, with all four in the ProMasters driver group. Fifth overall goes to Cameron Tilley, well known for his driving exploits in a Falcon GT-HO. Cam also leads the ProAm driver standings, with respected Production Touring Cars pilot Jim Pollicina leading the ProSports.

Unless both Bowe and Johnson have shockers over the next three rounds, allowing Bressington, Gomersall, and Tilley a sniff of top two success, the gap they have over the third placed Bressington, currently on 837 and 97 ahead of Gomersall on 744, it’s likely either of these heroes from the DJR historic stable will claim the top step of the podium at the end of the 2018 season. Former Mustang driver Bowe has been driving a Holden Torana once owned by fellow racer Charlie O’Brien in the 2018 season, a car featuring a permanent tribute to the late Jason Richards. Johnson has taken over the wheel of the car Bowe raced and sold a couple of years ago to his good mate Tony Warner. The car is unsurprisingly known as “Mustang Sally”.

Of the 2018 season so far Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe has a few words. “The cars are sensationally difficult to drive. In some cases there’s over 700 horsepower and only 15 x 8 inch wheels and tyres! No wonder they need a bit of caution.”

John has stated that he feels the category’s driving standards may need some scrutiny, “These old classics are way more expensive to fix than modern cars. There’s no doubting that the TCM is popular with the spectators and TV audiences but no one enjoys seeing these cars wrecked.” John himself has been on the receiving end of some of the driving standards he feels needs scrutiny, which makes his 2018 results all the more remarkable.

What’s your thoughts on the Touring Car Masters? Let us know on our Facebook page in the comment section below this article!

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.