The Holden Monaro 427C - Australia's Homegrown GT Monster

The Australian automotive industry is an oddity in the global scheme of things. A small buying population, the most brands per head of population, and innovations not seen elsewhere, make it virtually unique.

Although we weren’t the first to build a car with a hardtop and two doors, we certainly made some great ones. Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Holden all have cars that are memorable and one that stands out was the Monaro 427C. 

Designed, engineered, and built in Australia, this car was intended to be a track weapon and race in the Bathurst 24 Hour. The first of these races was set to run in late 2002, meaning the development of the car, slated to run in 2003, had to be brought forward. 

The heartbeat of the 427C was its US sourced 7.0L or 427cid V8. With the Holden Racing Team turning down the offer of developing the machine, Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) took the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R engine, a Monaro body, and the responsibility of running the 427C as a race car. 

The car would later be a controversial one; the race would attract cars from outside Australia such as Lamborghini’s Diablo GTR, Ferrari’s 360 N-GT, and the monstrous Chrysler Viper ACR. All of these cars would race with the same engine they would come off the production line with. However, the Monaro at the time came with Chev’s fabled 350cid or 5.7L V8, and therefore would be ineligible to run. However, the organiser of the race, which would come under the umbrella of a racing group called Procar, allowed the Monaro to be run with the bigger engine to be seen as more competitive with capacities such as the 8.0L V10 in the Viper.

As the race was going to be run under the then current GT regulations, GRM had to design a body kit to suit both the regulations and the aerodynamics of the VX Commodore based two door. Using the V8 Supercars design as a basis, GRM fitted a wider rear wing that sat below the car’s roofline, as per the regulations. A similar front air dam was fitted to the front, and underneath the 427C utilized a number of components that could be found on a Supercar. 

A technically minded casual observer would see a Hollinger six speed manual transmission, wheels of 18 x 11 and 18 x 13 inches, MacPherson strut front suspension and a trailing arm rear, bolted to coil springs and thick anti-roll bars. The engine was said to be good for 600 ponies (447kW) and would be bolted into the front of a car weighing 1,400 kilograms. 

All up the Monaro 427C would be 4789mm in length, run a front and rear track of 1559mm/1577mm, and roll on a wheelbase of 2788mm. The aero package provided plenty of down-force and made for a stable on track racer. 

Raced at the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour by a team of four drivers, being Garth Tander, Nathan Pretty, Steven Richards, and Cameron McConville, the car was also being touted as being available as a road car. The race car itself would prove to be strong, durable, and a race winner. Although despite suffering a flat tyre and a collision with another car, the car would ultimately win in its debut race by 24 laps.

As a road car, it was potentially to be powered by a 433kW version of the 427cid engine. But, as a business case, the numbers simply didn’t add up and would result in a mooted buy price of $215,000 being out of reach of its intended market. Just two road going cars, and just four race cars, would be built.

The Monaro 427C would go on to compete in the Australian Nations Cup Championship in 2003, and the Bathurst 24 Hour race in the same year. A second race car had been built by then. Driven by Peter Brock, Jason Bright, Todd Kelly, and Greg Murphy, the car would win by just 0.3035 of a second. Tander, driving the 2002 winning vehicle, was thwarted in a last sector charge by a yellow flag thanks to a car close to the racing line.

The 427C would race in 2004 and see a third chassis completed, before the Nations Cup category collapsed due to fiscal issues. With regulations reverting to GT Championship rules in 2005, the Monaro 427C was deemed ineligible. Of the race cars, one is with a private collector, one is in the Bathurst Motor Museum, and little if anything is known of the locations of the others.  

A Brief History of Cheating in Motorsports

Human nature is one of the most diverse things we see on planet earth. Sadly, not all of human nature is benign, good, warm, welcoming. One of the negatives we exhibit is called cheating. Be it at school, on our partner, at work, it’s an undesirable trait.

But in motorsport? Yes, it happens. All too often. And it happens worldwide. It happens in rallying. It happens in Formula 1. It happens in IndyCar. It happened here in Australia.

America’s NASCAR was full of innovative people. At one time they had specified a maximum size for the fuel tank. A “clever” interpretation of the rules has Smokey Yunick fit a fuel hose that was eleven feet long and two inches thick. As a result, his car’s overall fuel capacity was increased. Ynick also sidestepped the rules by having an oversized tank fitted but with an inflated basketball inside. This allowed the tank to be filled to more than the regulated amount once the ball was deflated.

Tim Flock decided on a different way to improve the fuel economy of his NASCAR. His steel roll cage wasn’t steel. It looked like steel, but close inspection had a wooden structure smartly painted to resemble steel.

Australia’s royal motorsport name was involved in a somewhat cheeky cheat in 1981. Fabled F1 designer Gordon Murray built a car for the Brabham team that had adjustable ride height. When cars are scrutineered there’s a set ride height they have to adhere to. Murray built in a system that would lower the car under that ride height but would raise it back to the required amount when stopped. Murray’s sense of humour was brought into play by having a box with leads that would attach to the car, for no reason other than to visually distract onlookers, placed at random locations on the car when stopped.

Another entry from NASCAR with Ken Schrader finding his tyre wear exceeding the ability of the car to deal with it. Although leading a race, the second place car was closing rapidly. A quick thinking Schrader discharged his fire suppressant system and the second car’s driver, thinking Schrader’s car engine was about to explode, backed off. The canny Schrader timed this well enough for his lead to get him over the line for a win, with his car in perfect working order.

Japanese goliath Toyota dominated the world rally scene with its awesome and aggressive looking all wheel drive Celica. Complete with huge rear wing, quad headlight front, and legal turbocharger…wait, did I say legal turbocharger? 1995 and the car is dominating the rally world. The WRC had stated a maximum horsepower output of 300. Toyota had abided by the rules that stated a restrictor plate must be fitted inside the turbo.

What they also interpreted was that the regulations said nothing about the restrictor plate having to stay in one spot. Some brilliant engineering had the plate being moved by springs that allowed extra power to be generated, with an estimated fifty extra horsepower. The design of the turbo was such that a thorough pull-down of it was required to see the plate and even then this appeared almost as it should be.

Australia’s great race, the Bathurst 1000, closes out this quick look at motorsport cheating. The 1987 race was won by the stove hot Ford Sierras. Factory supported they were quick, at times almost undriveable according to Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe, but a little bit of physics came in to play for the win. Larger tyres cover more distance for little extra effort and the first two cars, both from the same team, were found to have enlarged wheel arches at the front, allowing a bigger rolling diameter tyre.

Subsequent investigation and appeals against the team had them disqualified, handing the win to the third placed team. That team was from HDT and the car was driven by David Parsons, Peter McLeod, and one Peter James Brock. The win, under less than ideal circumstances, gave the great PB his ninth and ultimately final ATCC win at The Mountain.

Do you know any ingenious tales of people skirting the rules in motorsports? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below this article.  

The Ford Barra Engine. A Modern Classic?

Grandpa’s axe. It’s a term usually employed to describe something that’s been around for decades and is almost unbreakable. And when it does break it’s repaired in a low tech way. Simplicity rules, you see.

Ford’s venerable straight six engine was Australia’s automotive equivalent of that axe from grandpa’s shed. Covering a range of capacities including the famous 4.1L or 250cid, its no nonsense, take what it was given, unburstable design, has it as a favourite in Australia’s car loving hearts.

The straight six that Australia saw was born in America. Available in various capacities there, including a 200cid six that was seen in the original US Mustang, Ford’s Australian arm unveiled the 250cid straight six in 1970. Its basic design was strong, simple, just like grandpa’s axe. A 2V suffix was given to the engine, denoting that the carbie had two venturi and would breathe deeper than the single carbied versions. Available from the XY through to XB Falcon, it was good for 116kW and 325Nm, a hefty increase over the standard 200cid’s 96kW/257Nm delivery.

Barra itself is a contraction of Barramundi. That’s not just a tenacious fish, it was the code name for the engine during development. It was applied not only to the straight six but also to the three valve 5.4L V8 version. The six was built from 2002 and was found in various Ford products such as the Falcon and Territory until Ford Australia ceased manufacturing in 2016.

The V8s, in Barra then Boss and Coyote form, were there until the FG-X model of the Falcon and derivatives wrapped in 2016. The Barra V8 ceased with the BF Fairlane which was available from 2005 to 2007, and became the last Fairlane model produced here.

 

The straight six was engineered into several different versions including a LPG fed engine. But many “revheads” would say the six’s finest hour was when it was built with a turbocharger and bolted into the XR6, F6, and suchlike. With “normal” engines pumping out an original 182kW, 190kW, and 195kW, with 380Nm, 383Nm, and 391Nm, the turbo took the power and torque to world class levels.

There was an initial offering, of 240kW and 450Nm, with that twist available from 2000 to 4500 rpm. Along came the 245kW and 480Nm version before the Barra 270T, with Garrett GT3576R turbo, and Barra 310T showed what clever Australian engineering could deliver.

Found in the BA, the BF, and then the FG, the big six may have actually undersold its capabilities. Rumours abound that in order to continue sales of the V8, the power and torque figures were deliberately quoted as being less than what they actually produced, with 360kW and 700Nm being whispered as the true figures.

Ford’s best six came in the form of the Barra 325T. This, sadly, was a deliberately limited run and sold in the limited edition FG-X XR6 Sprint. With ten pre-production vehicles, five hundred for Australia, and just fifty for New Zealand, it was a special engine in a special car. Power was quoted as 325kW @ 6000rpm, and 576Nm at a driver friendly 2750rpm. The engines also had an overboost feature for the turbo, which allowed an extra ten percent of boost to be added for up to ten seconds.

Combined with larger injectors at 82mm, a fifty percent bigger intercooler, and a carbon fibre air intake (a first for Ford Australia) with better airflow, Ford Australia said the overboost would deliver 370kW and 650Nm of torque.

Although the V8s sold well and were amongst the first in the world to feature what Ford called the VCT Modular design, they simply didn’t grab the attention as well as the six. Power outputs for the three valve V8s were reflected in the names, being Barra 220 (472Nm) and Barra 230 500Nm).

The grandpa’s axe straight six’s heritage and strength have it in the part of automotive history marked “To Be Revered Because Of Its Legendary Status.” Long live the Barra.

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.

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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.