Rare Spares’ Automotive Movie Guide – 5 of our Favourites!

There are some topics in life which are more divisive than pineapple on pizzas. Star Wars versus Star Trek, Holden versus Ford, Connery versus Moore. Best car films in any discussion fall into the divisive category. 

What makes for a good car film, though? Is it the car or cars? The story line? The set pieces? Trying to pin down a definitive list is impossible, so we thought we’d shop around and get an idea of what people thought. One film that was a clear favourite is a homegrown production.

Starring a young up and coming actor named Mel Gibson, it’s a movie that brings in just about everything a good car film needs. Action, pathos, a chase scene or three, “The Goose”, and of course that incredible XB Falcon. “Mad Max” is a film that simply can’t be overlooked. 

Steven Spielberg is best known for a few films starring Harrison Ford and a mind-blowing sci-fi film or two. However, an early part of his career involved a story that is about as simple as it comes. With minimal dialogue it relied on Spielberg’s ability to heighten tension with a simple camera move. Starring Dennis Weaver and based upon a book written by a car driver that had a similar experience with a mad truck driver, “Duel” remains one of the most gripping films of its kind nearly fifty years on.

It’s almost impossible to write a list of car films without including this entry. The stars of the film were three little machines designed by Alec Issigonis. The story line, again, was simple. Money, in the form of gold bullion, a few gags, some brilliant scenery and an amazing chase sequence, toss in the broad Cockney accent of Michael Caine, and you have “The Italian Job”. This one celebrates fifty years of delighting audiences.

It was agonizing to toss out some of the films that could have made the cut. There is the original “The Fast and The Furious” from 1955, and the remake & subsequent series of films. There was Jason Statham’s “The Transporter”, and the sublime recreation of the relationship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in “Rush”. 

But number 4 goes to a Steve McQueen favourite. Based on real life events, and featuring film from one of the races itself, “Le Mans”. Takes our fourth grid spot. Packed with macho appeal, and the sense of unburnt “gasoline” hovering around the screen, Le Mans was notable for the bravery of the cameramen hanging on to the cars and heavy cameras of the time.

Number five features a product of Ford. Debate was heavy as to whether it was the Mustang called Eleanor, or a different hi-po machine wearing the Blue Oval badge. Ultimately it was another Steve McQueen film that won this intense battle and the honour of number five goes to a film that has an unbroken street-based chase scene of nearly ten minutes. Two cars were used, powered by a 325hp 390ci V8 powering down through a four-speed manual. The film is, of course, “Bullitt”

Tell us via our social media links what your top five films are? Is there a “Fast and Furious” in there, perhaps a different Mad Max film? We’d love to know your thoughts and feedback here at Rare Spares. 

 

How did Datsun become Nissan?

26. March 2019 12:13 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags: , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Those of us of a certain age will remember that the brand name Nissan was unheard of, and Datsun was synonymous with small Japanese cars. However, there is a substantial history to both companies.

Datsun itself was founded in 1911. Part of the name, DAT, comes from the company founders. Kenjiro Den, Rokuro Aoyama, and Meitaro Takeuchi. Mergers and minor name changes occurred, and in 1931, produced a car called Datson, son literally in the sense of meaning “son of DAT”. These were built at a time where cars with a certain engine size could be driven without the need for a license. However, as son may also mean “loss” in Japanese, it was changed to Datsun.

Nissan was founded in 1928, as a holding company named Nihon Sangyo, with the company governing manufacturers such as Hitachi and, crucially, Tobata Casting. The conglomerate was known as Zaibatsu.

Ni and San came from the Nihon Sangyo names and were quickly joined to become the name Nissan. Datsun itself had been merged with another company, Tobata Casting, in 1933. This gave rise to both brands expanding, with Nissan hitting the American market soon after.

It was 1934 that saw Yoshisuke Aikawa, the founder of Nihon Sangyo, created a separate automotive parts division of Tobata Casting. This was called the Nissan Motor Company Limited.

Prior to WW2, Datsun’s passenger car manufacturing was expanding well, however the Japanese-Chinese war saw Datsun manufacturing mainly trucks for the Japanese Army.

A need for cheap cars was seen after WW2 and both companies would soon be heavy hitters in this market. Cars such as the Patrol, the 240Z, and Bluebird came into being. Nissan entered the US market in the late 1950s and sold cars under the Datsun brand name. It’s about here that Nissan saw Australia as a potentially untapped small car market also.

The same was occurring in Europe and the U.K., with small cars such as the Sunny and Cherry gaining a strong market share. This came at the same time that British Leyland’s manufacturing woes saw their products not regarded as reputable.

It appears that the merge and rebranding of Datsun into Nissan was due to some internal politicking and a desire to have a “one brand” presence. It was in the first half of the 1980s that the rebranding was undertaken, with a rumoured cost of US$30 million at the time to change signs at dealerships whilst other associated costs such as manufacturing plant changes totaled over a half billion.

Datsun as a brand was resurrected in 2012 for low cost cars in just a few regional markets such as Indonesia and Russia.

What is your favourite Datsun? Let us know in the comment section below this article on Facebook. 

The Holden ECOmmodore

Holden has a history of quietly sneaking concept cars or forthcoming design changes into public view. Possibly its biggest hidden in plain sight concept of the last two decades was the ECOmmodore of 2000.

Ostensibly a four door coupe version of the VT Commodore, it would eventually point the way towards the upcoming rebirth of the Monaro after showcasing a concept in 1998. But the real talking point was the engine package inside the swoopy body.

Holden had joined the then burgeoning hybrid technology race, and in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, put forward a petrol and battery powered engine combination.

The petrol side was a transversely mounted 2.0L four cylinder, replacing the 3.8L V6 normally found under the VT’s bonnet. An electric motor, complete with super-capacitors and lead-acid batteries, supplemented the four, with power rated as 50kW. The fuel tank was down to 45L yet the expected range was 800km thanks to a near halving of consumption. There was plenty of torque available for the hybrid with a total of 290Nm, but thanks to the electric motor, 100Nm was there on startup.

The transmission was a five speed manual and, because of the east-west engine layout, fed that oomph to the front wheels, not the rear. Emissions were said to be 10% of the normal V6 engine yet performance would have been within cooee of the existing engine and auto transmission.

The body was a slightly modified Monaro shell; not only were there four doors, it was fitted over the longer wheelbase wagon floorpan. Aluminium was used to replace sections of the steel floor, with other weight saving additions such as polycarbonate replacing the glass windows, strong but lightweight carbon fibre panels, and some fibreglass panels also.

Good looking 18 inch alloys were bolted to the reduced weight suspension components, with rolling resistance lowered by fitting narrower than standard tyres at 165/55. All up, the modifications lowered drag from 0.32cd to 0.28cd.

The ECOmmodore would star in the Sydney Olympics torch relay, leading the first 70km stretch from the heart of Australia, Uluru. Although never intended to be a production vehicle, costing showed that if it had been produced, it was at a $3000 premium over the VT at the time.

Ahead of its time at the time, the ECOmmodore foreshadowed other marques developing four door coupe bodyshells, and even more, it was 18 years ahead of a tantalizing piece of “what if” with HSV revealing that plans to electrify the ZB Commodore were being investigated.

The last known location of the ECOmmodore was inside The Powerhouse Museum.

What’s your favourite Holden concept car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments sections below this article! 

History of the LS Engine

There’s a saying in the automotive world: “There’s no replacement for displacement.” Somehow, that tag became attached to an engine, in a vee shape and packing eight cylinders, made by Chevrolet in America.

In the late nineties General Motors and Chevrolet debuted a new V8. Dubbed “LS” for “Luxury Sport” it’s this name and engine that have popularized the above saying. First seen in the 1997 C5 Corvette, the all “aluminum” block, called the LS1, was also known as the small block Gen111. It replaced the LT or “Luxury Touring” engine that had been a mainstay for some time.

It was what’s called a clean sheet design; essentially a start from nothing design, the only common points the LS had with the LT was bore spacing and conrod bearings. Even in the LS range of engines themselves items such as the bore centre, at 4.40 inches, cross bolted six bolt main bearing caps, and a four bolt per cylinder head bolt pattern are common.

Alloy blocks are used for performance oriented vehicles whilst blocks made of iron are used for SUVs and trucks.

At 5.7 litres or 350 cubic inches in capacity, as the most common iteration is seen in, it produced 257 kilowatts or 345 horsepower. Maximum torque was 470Nm or 350 pound-feet, found at 4400rpm. It was bolted into a substantial range of cars such as the Corvette, Firebird, and of course in Holden and HSV cars like the Statesman and Senator Signature.

LS6 is the name given to a higher output but same capacity engine largely found in the C5 Corvette Z06, with production starting in 2001. Peak grunt was bumped to 287 kilowatts and torque to 522Nm initially, with further development lifting both to 302kW and 540Nm.

There were also smaller engines based on the same architecture. Engineered for use in passenger SUV and trucks, the LS1 4.8L and 5.3L blocks have a 3.78 inch diameter for the bore.

In 2005 GM unveiled the GenIV or LS2 engine. There were bigger capacities, cylinder deactivation technology for improved fuel savings, and variable valve timing. Capacity went to 6.0L (5964 cc in real terms) or 364 cubic inches. Base engines made 300kW and 542 Nm. Holden and HSV saw this installed in cars such as the Monaro and Grange.

L76 is the designation given to the LS2s fitted with Active Fuel Management or AFM. It was some time before Holden chose to use the feature; from 2009 it was installed however only in cars with an automatic called the 6L80. Power was rated as 260kW and maximum twist of 510 Nm came in at 4400rpm. Designed to assist in bettering fuel economy by shutting down firing in four cylinders, the engine gave rise to the L77. This designation defines the LS2 as being ethanol fuel compatible.

Various engines with names such as LY5, LH6, and LMF were produced and seen in SUVs such as the Chevrolet Trailblazer and GMC Savana.

LS7 was a rarely seen engine in Australia. It was intended to be produced for a specific HSV car here called the W427. Corsa Special Vehicles beat HSV to the punch here, with their engine producing 400kW and 600Nm. HSV’s version, first shown at the 2008 Melbourne International Motor Show, offered 375kW and 640Nm.

A supercharged and slightly capacity increased engine, at 6.2L and called LSA, was released in 2009. This was first seen in the ballsy Cadillac CTS-V and Australia had it in the GTS, GTS-R, and Maloo R8 LSA, just to name a couple. 480kW was the peak power and an amazing 754Nm of torque. These came courtesy of a block with revised compression, cast pistons, and a “blower’ of 1.9L in capacity.

With Holden ceasing local manufacturing in late 2017, the LS engines are now only to be found in cars already on Australian roads or in vehicles allowed to be imported from the US to Australia.

For now….anyway. Stand by for Camaro.

Keep in touch with Rare Spares and updates on our product range via our main website and for news and tips via the blog.

A Look into the Career of Allan Moffat

Although Australian motorsport has its fair share of locally grown heroes, there’s one that hails from Canada. He’s a name with a familiar voice to many thanks to his 1970s TV adverts for Ford and Victa but it’s his on track prowess that he’ll be remembered for. He is, of course, Allan Moffat.

Born in the double tongue twisting city and state of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in November 1939, Moffat became an Australian citizen in 2004. He had been eligible since the early 1970s but said he’d never bothered to follow it up. It was in the mid 1950s that Moffat and his family arrived in Australia, after his father, who worked for tractor manufacturer Massey Ferguson, was transferred to Melbourne.

Moffat commenced his racing career, which would span twenty five years, in 1964, co-piloting a Ford Lotus Cortina. The venue was Sandown Park and the race, the Sandown Six Hour International, was a precursor to the Sandown 500. What was called the Australian Touring Car Championship saw Moffat enter for the first time in 1965, again driving a Lotus fettled Cortina.

Travelling to the USA and back kept the taciturn Canadian busy for the next three or four years before finally settling down full time in Australia. It was 1969, the year of the first manned lunar landing, that would cement Moffat into Australian motorsport history. An interview with the US based head of Ford motorsport at the time after a ballsy approach by Moffat had one of seven Trans Am Boss 302 Mustangs become his drive and enabled him to take a tilt at the ATCC crown. The “Moffstang” as it’s now popularly known, was soon to be decorated with his new, and first, major sponsor, Coca-Cola. It’s history now that the car, although a race winner, never did win the championship for him.

Rule changes in the early 1970s saw the Mustang effectively retired from competition however Moffat had already established himself as a driver to beat in other Ford cars. 1969 was his first year in the Bathurst 500, driving a Falcon XW GTHO, and courtesy of a recalcitrant gearbox managed to miss the traffic jam that grew after the now famous Bill Brown rollover at Skyline.

1970 and 1971 were marquee years for Moffat, winning back to back at Bathurst, and also stamping his authority on the event by becoming the first driver to lead from the start and win. The car? The now fabled Ford Falcon XY GTHO Phase Three.

Moffat, although known for driving and promoting “Blue Oval” products, also made his mark in other marques. The 1980 Le Mans had him in a Porsche 935. His co-driver was a soon to be famous Bobby Rahal. Moffat also drove a Porsche in the 1980 Australian Sports Car Championship. 1981 brought with it a change of direction for the bespectacled Moffat. Enter Mazda and its ground breaking Wankel rotary engine.

Four consecutive top six finishes, a second and a third in 1983 and 1984, and wins in the Australian Endurance Championships, plus his fourth Australian Touring Car Championship win in 1983 have this car and its timeframe in history etched in Australian motorsport folklore.

Of his friends and rivals, it was perhaps Peter Brock that would be rated the highest in Moffat’s opinion. The pair would race together on numerous occasions, including one memorable outing at the 1986 Spa 24 Hour event. As part of a two car team from HDT they won the Kings Cup, an award for a team that had the highest overall placings for at least 3 of their cars at the end of the race.

After Holden cut ties with Brock in 1987, Moffat bought a car, a VL Commodore SS Group A that had been readied for an assault on the World Touring Car Championship to be held in Europe. The car placed seventh yet after a remarkable protest saw the top six cars, all factory backed BMWs, disqualified, Moffat and co-driver John Harvey were declared the winners.

A return to the Blue Oval came in 1988, in the form of the Sierra RS500. Although a troubled car, Moffat did win in one in 1988’s Enzed 500 at Sandown. What was then called the “Toohey’s 1000” would be Moffat’s last at “The Mountain”. Driving with Gregg Hansford and along with Ruedi Eggenberger and Klaus Niedzwiedz, the car would retire with a blown head gasket and a cracked block with just 32 laps remaining.

It was his friend and co-driver Brock that would present the still strongly Canadian accented Moffat his Australian citizenship papers in 2004. After his 1989 retirement from driving, Moffat would go on to continue his strong association with motorsport in areas such as team management and television commentary. And, like his now departed colleague, Moffat has long lines of fans awaiting his time and signature when he appears at events such as the Muscle Car Masters. And forty years after that famous 1-2 victory at Bathurst in the XC Falcon alongside Colin Bond, Sydney Motorsport Park immortalized him by naming the super-fast Turn 1, Moffat Corner.

What are your memories of the great Allan Moffat? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below the article.