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

X Why?

29. September 2014 14:47 by Rare Spares in Rare Spares  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Meet James Mackie. James loves old Ford’s. James also loves drifting. Finally, James loves the Holden V8 LS series engines. What do you get if you combine these three things together?  One crazy XY Falcon.

James would describe himself as a Ford man, but loves all cars.  His previous collection included another XY Falcon, an XW Fairmont and an EB Falcon that he modified with a turbo and drifted over the course of a decade.  He has also owned a VT Clubsport R8, so it is not just all about Fords.

“I’d bought a XW Fairmont for a thousand dollars and then sold it on again not long after, but I regretted not putting the EB Falcon running gear into that XW so I kept a look out for another similar car.

James bought the current Falcon XY you see for $3,000 but his original engine swap idea didn’t turn out as appealing as he had first thought.

“I’m into burnouts, Performance Car Mania, drag racing, drifting and circuit racing so I needed the new car to be a real all rounder.”

“I was going to put the engine and gearbox from my EB Falcon turbo in to the XY, but it was going to be complicated, expensive and require some cutting of the radiator support so I wasn’t keen on cutting up the chassis for an engine swap.

James then spent time thinking through the various other engine options for the XY.

“The two common paths are to build a Cleveland 351 or a 351 Windsor engine, but my budget was limited and to get the horsepower I was looking for (400hp+) I was probably looking at up to twenty thousand dollars to build one properly.

A Toyota 2JZ engine is a super strong engine popular in the drift scene and James even considered this, however it was also going to require chassis modifications so it was ruled out.

James remembered reading about a XY Falcon in a Street Machine magazine that was running a supercharged LS1 engine, so figured it could be an option. However going down this path, James knew he would be (according to some) committing a cardinal sin.

“I knew it was one of Australia’s most iconic cars and it was a hard decision to make, but putting that aside, the LS1 seemed to be the smartest, most practical and cheapest swap available to be able to do all the things I had in mind.”

A friend was selling a LS1 engine and gearbox for only $1,100 which was too good to pass up and very soon the build began.  

“I started by pulling the car down to fix some rust issues and also prepare it for a roll cage.”

 

The cage is very comprehensive and not only stiffens the chassis but will keep James safe in any motorsport discipline he chooses.

New engine and gearbox mounts were fabricated at this time in preparation for the engine. James also purchased some XY floor pan panels, sills and rubber seal kits from Rare Spares to assist in the restoration.

The engine was modified with a camshaft, new valve springs and new oil and water pumps. A custom exhaust system was also produced, before a tune was carried out, which resulted in a solid 370hp at the wheels.

“It took 12 months to build and was a full restoration, without the paint job. I love the rat rod look so the car doesn’t actually look like it has been restored” said James.   

“I nearly had three nervous breakdowns over the build and it really hit home what I had done when I got the car running. Many times during the build I thought ‘what the hell am I doing?”

After unveiling the car on social media and at his first few events, James copped a lot of negative comments which he expected, but after explaining the reason he went that way, most people seemed to come around.  

One of the car’s early outings was at the Calder Park drags where it ran a solid 12.2 second pass down the quarter mile.  

The car remained bulletproof for a year but then things started to go wrong in 2014 when James competed in the Victorian Drift Championship. During Round 1 the wheels studs snapped. At Round 2 the clutch let go and in Round 3 he snapped an axle.

Snapping an axle at Calder Park while going sideways at 100km/h was not part of the plan.

The mid-season drifting festival resulted in a spun bearing so the engine was rebuilt properly with head work and pistons for Round 4. Unfortunately at Round 4 the motor self-destructed. James believes it was something oil related but the engine was so badly damaged he is not sure the exact cause.

Although James is now in limbo with the car’s future, he hopes the next step will be a 6 Litre LS2 with a supercharger, which is the dream.  

A lover of all motorsport, James is keen to have a crack at hill climbs, circuit days and motorkhanas moving forward and the car will no doubt attract attention and divided opinions wherever it goes.

James hopes people can look past the engine swap and just appreciate the car for what it is.

“I absolutely love the car now and don’t have any regrets. I can drive it in just about any form of motorsport. There are not many XY Falcons that can do that and do it well.”

“Nothing is over the top, it has a standard steering box, it still has leaf rear springs and is quite mild to drive. Anyone could take an X series Falcon and do what I’ve done without breaking the bank.”

“I want to thank Mick, Mish, Chris and Dale for all their assistance in the build.  I couldn’t have built it without them and of course my girlfriend Tanya for her support.”