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?
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Picture Credit: www.autopics.com.au

HDT’s Forgotten Heros

23. May 2016 11:50 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

Australia has had a lot to offer the world over the years: Vegemite, Fosters, Paul Hogan and perhaps the most iconic of them all, the Holden Commodore. Holden’s hero has seen many revisions since its creation in 1978 as advancements in technology, emissions and safety standards continually drove innovation and improvement. Of course we love the comfort and build quality of the modern, well refined models but there is something nostalgic about the wild styling and brutish performance from Holden’s glory days.

The Holden dealer team or HDT began producing vehicle enhancements after a string of motorsport successes in 1980. Here we will take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of HDT’s finest offerings that have flown under the radar and in some cases have been forgotten.
                                                                                                
VL Nitron
Released in 1986, the Nitron package was essentially a limited edition VL Commodore sold from select regional Victorian dealerships. The ‘Brigade Red’ painted car was offered with both a naturally aspirated and a turbo charged engine, sports suspension, a full body kit, HDT Aero wheels and interestingly enough, fitted with Peter Brocks controversial energy polarizer. The number of Nitrons produced is a mystery; however some suggest it to be under 150, making these cars incredibly rare. So rare in fact that most of us didn’t even know it existed!

VL LE
Whilst Peter Brock was riding the wave of super stardom, there was little that he didn’t put his name to. The VL LE was a luxury cross performance sedan that featured a number of Brock enhancements, including a Brock interior, Brock premium sound system and you guessed it, an energy polarizer. The car was a hit, with many high-end features as standard and the option of a naturally aspirated six, a turbocharged edition and a V8. It’s easy to see why models such as this made the VL a household name.

VK LM 5000
This edition of the Commodore was a temporary model that was released before the main VK series and commemorated HDT competing in Le Mans. The car was released with only a V8 option available, making them popular within the muscle car crowd and although the extras offered were limited, buyers could get an optional Borg Warner transmission and Scheel seats. The VK LM took the title of the most ‘Australian’ car ever built with the model featuring an Aussie flag and Brocky’s signature as standard.

VH Australian Dealer Pack
Once the VC commodore ended, HDT dealers were after the next high performance alternative. The result was the Australian Dealer Pack or ADP, and gave the common Commodore a degree of exclusivity. With any HDT offering at the time, all signs pointed to V8, with either a 4.2 or 5L option available. Those who wanted a little more above the deluxe FM/AM radio and larger fuel tank were treated to VC style flares, Stratos seats and 16 inch wheels, a wild option back in the day.

HDT established itself over the years as the go to company for Holden fans looking at an up spec’d machine and even today their magic is being applied to newer commodores, like the ‘Blue Meanie’. But with the Commodore soon to be extinct, you can expect these quirky cars to start fetching big figures at auction, so if you have been thinking of buying back your teenage hero, you better start saving!