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.

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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.