Converting Classics

16. June 2016 10:25 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

The Holden Monaro and the Ford Falcon have represented Australia’s finest domestically produced automotive muscle and for many decades they have been enduring icons of Australian lifestyle and manufacturing ability. However with such a strong connection to American car culture through the media and in particular movies, it was inevitable that U.S classic cars became the target for people looking for something unique.

Aussie’s could never go to the dealership and purchase a Mustang (not until recently anyway!) or a pristine Camaro, Dodge, Pontiac, Chevrolet, or Plymouth, just to name a few. Maybe the fact they were so rare added to their mystique and perhaps what made them so desirable?

Importation was possible, but there was a very large difference between Australian and U.S built cars. Americans drove on the left hand side of the road and Australian’s drove on the right hand side of the road. As a result, American cars were built as Left Hand Drive vehicles to suit the conditions, whereas Aussie cars were built to suit driving on the right hand side of the road.

Early on, most Australian states determined that any LHD vehicles imported had to be converted to RHD. Where there is a will there is a way and although some may see it as sacrilege, conversion laws were written and those keen enough started to have a crack at conversions themselves.

Enthusiasts had to go through the hard yards and get their hands dirty to find out what worked and what didn’t, but conversion specialists soon created an industry and were able to cater to those seeking to own an American classic by taking care of the entire process, at a cost.

The conversion process has never been an easy task, generally including removing and changing the firewall, steering column, pedals, brake and clutch masters, wiring, lights, hand brake, wipers, seats, console, control leavers and gear selectors, just to name a few items.

Fortunately for us, times have changed and so have the laws. For the majority of American classics, Australians won’t need to go to the lengths of carrying out a conversion as most can be legally driven in left hand drive, depending on their age and the state you live in. However, if you have had yours eyes on some later model vehicles you would be best to wait it out or start saving those pennies!

To find out more about the regulations around conversions in your state, contact your local roads authority.

The Holden V8 Engine Rainbow

6. June 2016 09:56 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

After covering the history and evolution of the humble 6 cylinder, it's time to look at the type of engine that established Holden as a performance heavyweight, and that’s their V8. These engines didn’t miss out on the brands trademark colour coding treatment and here we will dive into the variations and lineage of one of Australia’s most iconic engines.

The first of Holden’s mighty V8s were given the go fast treatment from factory, starting with the colour. The rocket red engines began production in 1969 and were available in either a 253 (4.2L) or a 308 (5.0L) cubic inch format. Both of these variants made their way into some seriously special cars, including Holden’s entire classic Monaro line with the HK through to the HG featuring the iconic red V8. The HQ to HZ Statesman, HK to HZ Kingswood and both the LH and LX Torana’s also received the roaring red heart. The first ever commodore, the VB, was also given the red powerhouse option, igniting our countries love affair of affordable sedans with grunt.

After the Monaro and Torana ceased production, the market was evolving and it was time for the engine to receive an overhaul in 1980. Improvements were signified by the new blue colouring with both the 253 and 308 engines receiving upgraded 12 port heads and double barrel carburettors. Although the bottom ends remained unaltered, the EGR ports on the heads were changed and the engines were fitted with electronic ignition. These engines featured in the final WB Statesman alongside the VC and VH commodore.

The last of the old ‘colour’ series Holden motors were the Black variants, available in either a 302 (4.9L) or 308 (5.0L) cubic inch format. They featured in the VK Commodore and not a lot had changed in regards to design however the cylinder heads did receive improved gas flow and valve changes.

Although the colour coding ceased, our countries affinity with the Aussie V8 did not. Public outcry led to the hugely popular “V8 till 98” campaign and saw Holden produce their iconic V8’s up until 1999, with the VT HSV GTS being the final hurrah.

Even though Holden then chose to import the LS1 V8 engine from GM, it allowed us to keep the legendary Commodore and continue our proud motoring history.

 

Wheelvolution

31. May 2016 11:35 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I know what you are thinking, what’s so special about the wheel right? The answer in short is…a lot! From the earliest wooden creations to the carbon and titanium built wonders we see today, the wheel has undergone numerous makeovers and has been responsible for driving modern civilization forward (no pun intended). Here we will look at a brief history of the humble wheel, and where it may be headed in the future.

The old saying necessity breeds invention has rung true since the humble beginnings of humanity. The wheel is up there with electricity and flight as one of our greatest accomplishments.

The wheel was necessitated by the fact humans were struggling to transport goods and build materials over long distances effectively. The first wheels were believed to have been created around 3500BC. It’s hard to imagine that back then people were getting around on solid stone Flintstone rims. The biggest advancement came around the time the axle was invented, allowing it to be placed inside the wheel thus allowing livestock, goods and people to be transported on a platform of sorts.

Most commercial applications of the wheel began when it was in its simple wooden incarnation. This style of wheel was used for thousands of years, undergoing only slight alterations during that period. From a single solid piece of wood to carved and inserted spokes, the world was changing and so was one of its most important inventions.

The biggest advancement since the wheels inception, took place in the 1870’s, when wire wheels and pneumatic tires were invented. The addition of air filled tires allowed an otherwise uncomfortably bumpy journey to become bearable and paved the way for today’s high tech offerings. The wheel really is something that we now all take for granted as we drive to work, have car parts delivered, or move huge materials and resources that assist our way of life.

The history of the wheel has not finished being written, with many companies attempting to write the next chapter by developing ideas that are straight out of a science fiction movie. One example, patented by Michelin, the ‘Tweel’ is an airless wheel with flexible spokes. Although its commercial applications are limited, NASA has contracted the company to produce them for their next generation Lunar Rover.

So the next time you head out to the garage and admire your ride, consider those wheels you run are the result of thousands of years of evolution and with the transportation of people, goods and anything else you can think of relying on the wheel, we say roll on the next century.

 

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!

 

Round Australia Trials

16. May 2016 10:05 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Back in 1953 a remarkable race took place in the remote and unforgiving Aussie outback. It featured some of the world’s first mass produced vehicles taking on searing heat, river crossings, dry deserts and back country bush tracks.

The original 1953 REDeX Round Australia Trial was the second longest trial event ever staged in the world at the time. It was immensely popular with more than two thousand people scrambling to be involved and almost every news outlet in the country reporting on it. Many of the roads linking Australia back then were in such poor condition that automotive manufacturers used it as an opportunity to prove that their cars could stand up to the harshest of conditions.

The cars were allowed to be modified, with elements such as springs, clutch and tyres all taking top priority but the regulations stated that engines had to remain as they were from factory. Under-carriage clearance and overall durability were important as many of the so called roads were nothing more than two wheeled tracks, divided by grass up to four feet high.

Some of Australia’s pioneering motorsport icons took place in the event over the years including Eddie Perkins in a Volkswagen Beetle, Harry Firth in Ford Cortina GT and the one and only Peter Brock in a Holden VB Commodore. Other cars to feature in the golden years of the Trials were Peugeot 203's, Citroen’s, Ford Customline’s, Jaguars and even a couple of Fiat’s.

Although there were almost 15 of these events spanning over five decades the majority took place in the 1950’s. Today an event of this scale would require a well-equipped 4WD and a wealth of mechanical knowledge, but back then 4WD’s hadn’t even appeared on the market. Nowadays these old school beauties are driven on warm sunny days and freshly paved roads, but next time you see one, remember that they might not be as fragile as you think.