Any Brabham is an over Australian $175-200K proposition these days, except one!…

There was a time, a long time, that the Australian Motor Industry was in expansionary mode behind the high tariff walls that allowed us to live in fools paradise along with most other western countries. Said tariffs in Australia started to reduce circa 1972/3. That was a pivotal moment for our automotive sector, it was never the case that our industry would cease to manufacture cars as a result of that policy change, there are a host of factors company by company that led to that outcome, but the quite correct reduction in tariffs was the first factor in a death by a thousand cuts.

The big three of the Australian industry in the sixties were General Motors Holden, Ford and Chrysler Australia. Chrysler/Mitsubishi’s Adelaide, Tonsley Park manufacturing facility is long gone, it is essentially a technology park these days whilst Holden and Ford have ceased manufacture much more recently, Holden in the last month. It was quite eery to drive past the Ford Geelong factory a week ago and see it in silence, the carparks empty of the workers who built engines there for decades.

GMH, Ford and Toyota, the other local manufacturer in more recent times are mere importers these days, a whole sector of manufacturing is gone due to the failure or desire of the local subsidiaries of global transnationals to make cars the punters want. Our cost structures are high, the global transnationals can and do decide where to make cars in a manner which maximises their profits and high cost locations hardly enhance that. Not to mention Government Policy Fuck-Wittery. It’s more complex than that, I’m getting off-point!

Back to 1963, much simpler times.

GMH, dominant in big cars, but with Ford chasing them down, looked enviously at the growth in the small car market and particularly the market share of BMC, (British Motor Corporation) Ford, VW and others.

GMH’s answer was the Vauxhall Viva, provided by GM’s UK subsidiary and first introduced in Oz in April 1964. The two door, small cars performance was ordinary, its virtues cheapness of running costs and a slick gearbox.

From small acorns do big things grow though- the late sixties to early seventies six-cylinder Torana GTR, GTR-XU1 and later the mid-seventies V8 L34 and A9X owe their parentage to the little, wheezy, Pommie Vauxhall Viva.

Its initial Australian performance credentials were bolstered by Class A (cars costing under 900 pounds) victory in the 1964 Bathurst 500, where the Spencer Martin/Bill Brown (car #46 in the ad above) driven Viva triumphed over 5 other Vauxhalls, Hillman Imps, Morris Mini 850, NSU Prinz and VW Beetles.

An updated car- the ‘HB’ Holden Torana was released in May 1967. With its conventional front engine/rear drive format, it found favour amongst traditional Oz buyers compared with some of the opposition- the new-fangled BMC cars and rear engined ‘Gunter-Wagen’ – VW Beetle. Small Fords- Anglia, Cortina always did well here. Perceived positives of the ‘HB’ were just enough power, the ‘box, rack and pinion steering and coil sprung, as against leaf sprung rear end.

By 1968 the 1159cc pushrod OHV engine gave 69bhp. It was to this base that the ‘breathed on’ Brabham Torana was released. It is not my intention to go through the timeline iterations of the Brabham Torana but in essence the package included a free flow exhaust system, twin Stromberg carbs which gave circa 79bhp, not a lot but 20% more than a base Torana ‘poverty pack’. The spec also included disc brakes up front, low profile 6 X 12 inch wheels/tyres on super wide 4 inch rims!, rally GT stripe and Brabham decals. The top speed of the base model Tommy Torana was 80mph, Jack’s did 89…with a huge tailwind I suspect.

It was pretty unimpressive though, ‘me mums Morrie 1100 with yours truly at the helm had no trouble regularly shutting one down on the trip from North Balwyn to Monash University- the fellow parked in a different corner of the Clayton car park to hide its shame.

Progress is an amazing thing though. By 1969 the little Viva had evolved into six-cylinder (as well as the four cylinder) cars, by 1970 the only car I was interested in at the Royal Melbourne Show car display was the ‘LC’ Torana GTR-XU1.

And the rest as they say, is history- a swag of Australian Touring Car Championship and Rally wins. Depending upon the model, these cars were amazingly adaptable motor sport tools.

And Jack started it all!

Not really at all.

For him it was a commercial deal, he had nothing whatsoever to do with the spec of the Brabham Torana’s- but they are the cheapest Brabham’s on the planet albeit not ones built by Motor Racing Developments!

Credits…

Unique Cars and Parts

Tailpiece: Jack Has His Hand On It…

 

 

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