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 - 2006

The Bathurst 1000 of 2006 will be forever etched in history as the one “The King of the Mountain” watched from up high and saw his protégé’ Craig Lowndes, alongside a champion in the making, Jamie Whincup, hold the first ever Peter Brock Trophy over the pit lane crowd.

It was the second win for CL, as he’s known, and the first for Whincup after his second place the year before.

Thirty one cars would be entered in this year’s “Great Race”, with an almost even split of Holden and Ford branded vehicles. Ford would field fifteen BA Falcons, the first model after the ill-fated AU Falcon, whilst Holden showcased sixteen VZ Commodores, the final iteration of a design essentially a decade old.

Qualifying was tight and intense, resulting in the top eight cars being separated by under a second, and the top eighteen cars separated by under two seconds.

Again it was almost an even split for the then top two locally made cars, with four Falcons and six Commodores. Of the top five though, just one blue oval branded car would be there, with a former Holden driver, Jason Bright, in second. Provisonal pole had gone to Holden driver Mark Skaife in a blistering 2:06.9764, just a tenth ahead of Bright’s Falcon.

The Top Ten Shootout would see Skaife carry that form onwards, with a 2:07.4221, a full three tenths quicker than Bright. Rick Kelly, New Zealand born Jason Richards and Greg Murphy, all in Commodores, would round out the top five. Eventual race winner Lowndes, driving the Ford BA Falcon, would be beaten to fifth by a mere four one thousandths of a second.

The race itself was held on Sunday October 8. In 2006 it was the ninth race weekend of the then V8 Supercars Championship. It would also prove to be the longest race since 2002. With all 161 laps completed it finished just seven seconds shy of seven hours and a full twenty two minutes longer than the previous year.

A race start incident proved to be crucial in the final results. Pole sitter Skaife went from hero to zero within a half minute, with a clutch failure leaving him battling to get his Commodore moving to race speed. Although he had cleared the first corner he had got as far as the first rise on the road to the top of the mountain, and with heavy traffic behind him an unfortunate Jack Perkins was blindsided, ploughing his Commodore into Skaife’s and forcing him into the wall.

This allowed the second grid spot driver, Jason Bright and his co-driver Mark Winterbottom, to take the lead. However a brake lockup had Bright require a tyre change with just fifteen laps completed. More woe befell the duo with Winterbottom garaging the car on lap 28. A full fourteen cars would fail to finish the 2006 race, with Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe, alongside his mate and co-driver Brad Jones, finishing eleventh.

The race was punctuated by a number of safety car interventions, including one of over twenty minutes after the veteran Kiwi born Paul Radisich, on lap 71, had his Commodore spear into a retaining wall at the Chase. The impact rolled the car onto its side and left Radisich in need of trackside marshal intervention to remove him from his stricken vehicle. Just six laps would be held in that fourth hour of the race.

As seems traditional with the Bathurst 1000, a late race incident played a part in the final standings. Jason Richards also lost control and hit a wall. Laps remaining were just ten. Rick Kelly and Craig Lowndes were dealing with a six second buffer prior to the final safety car call to deal with the Richards car. A fired up Lowndes would lay down the race’s quickest lap on the 158th circuit of the 6.213 kilometres worth of tarmac, and would greet the chequered flag a bare half second ahead of a determined Kelly.

In tumultuous and emotional scenes on the presentation balcony, Lowndes would be in tears as he acknowledged his late friend and mentor, Peter Brock.

Is 2006 your favourite Bathurst 1000? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us your memories of the weekend in the comments section below this article.

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!

Blast from the Past – The Supercars tracks of yesteryear

In two weeks’ time the 2017 Supercars season will reach fever pitch as the championship comes down to the wire at the brand new Newcastle street circuit. The Newcastle circuit is undoubtedly going to prove to be one of the more picturesque racing locations on the circuit and a worthy replacement for the at times dull Sydney Olympic Park race. The Olympic Park location isn’t the first track in Supercars history to make way for a new and improved location, in this article we’ll take a look at some of the rounds that are no longer on the Supercars calendar.

Calder Park

Calder was staple on the ATCC and V8 Supercars throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and along with Sandown was one of two championship races within a stone's throw of Melbourne CBD. The Supercars utilised the ‘road’ circuit at the facility, bypassing the iconic Thunderdome, a feature which many feel could have added to the variety of racing on the Supercars calendar and potentially lead to a NASCAR style duel format of racing. Unfortunately racing ceased at the venue after the 2001 event when the racing surface and facilities were deemed not up to scratch. The circuit was also the scene of one of the biggest touring car crashes in recent memory when a young Craig Lowndes and his VT commodore went cartwheeling down the front straight after making contact with Steven Richards and Garth Tander.

Oran Park

Another iconic Australian racing circuit, Oran Park played host to battles from Brock and Moffat through to Ambrose and Skaife before closing down in 2008 to make way for a housing estate. A favourite of many drivers, the short and narrow circuit included one of the only ‘over-under’ bridges in Australian racing. Now unrecognisable to the average racing punter, the only remaining indicator of racing ever taking place on the site is the motorsport related street names.

Hamilton Street Circuit

Running between 2008 and 2012, the Hamilton 400 took the place of Pukekohe on the Supercars calendar and provided a happy hunting ground for 6 time series champion Jamie Whincup, who took 2 of the 5 race victories at the venue. The racing itself at the track was interesting enough, however bubbling away behind the scenes was a massive debate within the Hamilton City council when it was discovered the event had been operating at a significant loss in its final 2 years. Subsequently the event was relocated back to Pukekohe where it remains today as the Auckland SuperSprint.

Mallala

Mallala Motorsport Park flew the South Australian flag in the ATCC right up until 1999 when it was replaced on the calendar by the incoming Clipsal 500, which itself was also filling the void left by the Adelaide iteration of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The track received mixed reviews from competitors with Dick Johnson openly criticizing the track’s lack of facilities and bumpy racing circuit; however such remarks were uncommon from Johnson who was renowned for being not much of a fan of any tracks outside of Queensland. On the other hand, Jim Richards suggested the tight track would even the competition up, ensuring close racing at a time when the RS5000 Sierra’s were dominating the competition. Racing at lower levels still takes place at the circuit; however with the passing of longtime owner Clem Smith earlier this year, the future of racing at the circuit is unclear.

With a number of other circuits coming and going over the years including trips to Bahrain, Texas and local circuits such as Amaroo Park, Lakeside and the Canberra Street Circuit the Supercars championship has spread its wings far and wide, we’re just scratching the surface!

Which former Supercars or ATCC circuit was your favourite? Which would you replace on the current calendar? Head over the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

The History of Fuel Injection and how it impacted Australian Automotive

The history of fuel injection dates back over 100 years ago, to 1902 where it wasn’t used in cars, rather in aviation applications. A French aviation pioneer by the name of Leon Levavasseur installed a device of great similarity to a fuel injection system on his Antoinette aircraft, which  also holds the distinction of carrying the first V8 engine of any type ever produced.

Many other pioneers experimented with the fuel injection concept over the next 20 years, and by 1925 John Hesselman, the pioneer behind the Hesselman engine, established what we know as petrol direct injection. On the diesel front, it was very common for these types of engines to be utilising a primitive version of fuel injection.

Throughout the Second World War fuel injection played a huge part in the German air fleet, with many of their aircrafts running direct fuel injection and capitalising on the inherent efficiencies associated with the technology.

Post WW2, fuel injection began making its way into more consumer oriented products and eventually made its way to Australian manufacturers by ways of the XE Falcon and VK Commodore. The XE Falcon, released in the early 80’s featured a 4.1 litre six cylinder Electronically Fuel Injected engine that was introduced to replace the 4.9 litre and 5.8 litre Cleveland V8’s. The reception among the general public was spotty at best, who were left to rue a significant decrease in power when compared to the lumbering V8’s.

The VK Commodore in general was very popular amongst punters; although the fuel injected straight six optioned VK struggled to take off. The lack of uptake among the public was reflected in Holden’s choice to recruit the Nissan RB30 for the VL, which of course has gone down in folklore as one of Holden’s most iconic and popular vehicles.

Since those early days of fuel injection in Australia, the concept has improved by leaps and bounds worldwide, and the packages included in the outgoing Commodores and Falcons were up there with the best. Of course the engine packages included in these models have come a long way since the early 80’s, and engines such as the Ford Barra showcased exactly what Australian motoring was all about – just enough tech, just enough efficiency and a whole lot of power.

What’s next in automotive technology? Are Electric Vehicles going to spell the end of fuel injection, or does the internal combustion engine have some fight left? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.