Archive for the ‘Touring Cars’ Category

Colin Bond in the Holden Dealer Team’s ‘new’ LC Holden Torana GTR XU1 V8 during the Easter Bathurst meeting in 1972…

New in the sense that this ‘cleverly disguised’, pensioned off 1970/71 Series Production V8 re-engined car fitted with rear wing, wide wheels was a ‘sleeper’- the prototype of the General’s (General Motors Holden) proposed ‘308 V8’ powered 160 mph 1972 Series Production Bathurst contender, make that winner.

The machine also featured widened 6X13 inch steel wheels and a full-width front spoiler incorporating brake ducts intended for the road-going variant.

During the weekend the V8 bullet was demonstrably quicker than the normal LJ 202 cid Series Production XU1’s winning the 5 lap Touring & Sports Closed Scratch Race from Ron Gillard’s XU1 and Graham Ryan’s Charger.

Bondy was a bit lucky as Bob Jane’s ‘full blown’ Torana V8 4.4 Repco ‘620’ Sports Sedan blasted away to an early lead only to slow, pit and rejoin the race back in 11th. But a win is a win, the only one for the car. Bond did a best lap of 2:39.6 to win, in comparison, he did a 2:43.9 in his Series Production LJXU1 to win the ‘Better Brakes’ Series Production Touring Car 17 lapper earlier in the day.

Its hard for me to picture my parents as ‘rampant rooters’, but they are of that generation who, free from the pressures of the war years hit the bedroom and created us ‘Baby Boomers’- that statistically big post-war rump of the populace who are still grimly hanging onto power.

Critically, we are a huge mob worldwide who drove demand for all sorts of consumer products throughout the sixties and seventies buoyed by a strong global economy and the expansion of consumer credit. The latter in essence allowed us to live beyond our means doing so as the houses we bought gained capital values of almost obscene levels (in Australia) thereby taking care of our debt/equity ratios. None of us are complaining mind you, even if our kids are!

In the US the car manufacturers noticed we youngsters, particularly our  burgeoning wallets and therefore the potential to flog us stuff. They delved into their parts bins and packaged existing hardware- engines, gearboxes and chassis underpinnings into very attractive packages. Ford’s Mustang and Chev’s Camaro being ‘Pony Car’ cases in point.

By 1966/7 those components were finding their way to their Australian subsidiaries and were packaged into yummy stuff such as the 289 cid V8 powered 1967 XR Ford Falcon GT and 1968 HK Holden Monaro GTS327. They were mighty fine racing cars compared with the Morris Cooper S and Ford Cortina GT/GT500 which had been the top guns at Bathurst till then.

The inexorable rise in Australian touring car racing gathered apace in the sixties and had morphed into three classes. ‘Series Production’ were essentially showroom stock cars, the class to which the Bathurst 500 was run. ‘Improved Production’, as the name suggests allows greater modification- was the class to which the Australian Touring Car Championship was contested. The category allowing the wildest modifications was ‘Sports Racing Closed/Sports Sedans’.

Inevitably motor racing played it’s usual part in the corporate brand building of the manufacturers and ‘moving metal’ of these new machines or rather the more modestly specified brothers of the race intended cars. The ‘win on Sunday, promote the shit out of it on Monday, flog on Tuesday’ adage has been a good, fairly accurate one down the decades.

For enthusiasts the cars modified for intended race use were what we sought and could buy if one had the readies as sufficient numbers had to be built and sold for road use to allow ‘Group E’ Series Production homologation for racing eligibility.

Holden initially raced V8 engined Monaro’s very successfully in Series Production winning a Bathurst 500 or two, 1968 and 1969 to be precise. Mount Panorama pickings were decidedly slimmer once the marketing focus changed to the six-cylinder Holden Torana in 1970.

There was nothing to stop privateer teams running the ‘Top Gun’ Holden Monaro GTS 350, some did, but the ‘factory’ Holden Dealer Team had to run the cars Holden’s marketing needs demanded. There was not the budget/resources to, say, develop, prepare and race Monaro’s on tarmac and Torana’s on dirt, that choice would have been the optimal one.

Without going into all of the detail for international readers, Ford and Chrysler competed locally with factory teams. General Motors Holden, the local GM subsidiary was a bit more ‘prim and proper’ over observance of the supposed American Automobile Association ‘no motor racing ban’, did so via the back-door ‘Holden Dealer Team’, a small outfit operated by ‘The Fox’, Harry Firth, former racer, mechanic, engineer and Bathurst 500 winner out of premises in Queens Avenue, Auburn, a twee inner-eastern Melbourne suburb.

Mason/Mason Mazda R100 and Cooke/Mason Monaro GTS350 Bathurst 1969. Digby Cooke qualified the Monaro 2nd, DNF with Trevor and Neil Mason 21st in the race won by the Colin Bond/Tony Roberts HDT GTS350 (S Jek)

Cooke/Bowden Monaro 350GTS Bathurst 1970 Q2 and DNF gearbox, Bathurst below (S Jek)

In creating the first ‘race variant’ of the Torana- the 1970 LC , ohv, 186 cid six-cylinder engined GTR XU1 Harry Firth and his small team including long time mechanic, Ian Tate, driver Peter Brock and GMH created the first in a series of the best all round competition ‘taxis’ in Australia. The LC and later 202 cid LJ 1971-73 XU1’s were supreme road cars (the LC ‘praps not so much, it was way too choppy in spring/shock rates to take your babe to the drive-in) and winners in rallies, rallycross and on the circuits.

The problem was, whilst there was an Australian Manufacturers Championship, run over rounds at Sandown, Bathurst, Surfers Paradise, Adelaide, Phillip Island (depending upon the year) the only race that mattered to the punters watching the Teev at home was the Bathurst 500- and Ford had a mortgage on that classic with their mighty, four door, 351 cid V8 engined Falcon GTHO’s.

Colin Bond’s HDT Torana LC GTR XU1 in the Bathurst pitlane 1971, 4th in the race won by Moffat’s works Falcon GTHO Phase 3 (autopics)

Whilst the Torana’s were continually developed they simply lacked the mumbo to win at the Mountain. The solution was simple, build a V8 variant of the XU1. The prototype of the car is the beastie Bondie is wheeling around Bathurst in the opening photo, it was put together in late 1971 using a cast-off HDT Series Prod LC XU1 raced by the team in 1970/71.

Fitted with a 5 litre Holden ‘308’ V8, M21 4 speed gearbox, suspension tweaks and away they went, the car was driven by Brock, Bond and Larry Perkins.

Repco Holden F5000 V8. Phil Irving designed, with assistance from Brian Heard, engine produced circa 470-520 bhp throughout its life (Repco)

Lets not forget that the Holden 308 V8 parts competition bin was deep. Repco had built and been racing the F5000 variant of the engine for about two years by the time the HDT boys started playing with the 308, inclusive of two Australian Grand Prix wins in cars driven by Frank Matich- 1970 in a McLaren M10B and 1971 in his self-built Matich A50

Bond, Hell Corner, Bathurst Easter 1972, XU1 V8

The test-bed car was registered for road use and carried the Victorian number-plate KSN-116 and was first raced by Bond as shown here at Bathurst.

Brock then raced the car at Adelaide International with Larry Perkins given the task of driving it across on the Great Western Highway and also racing in one of the support events. Firth was starting to get an idea of how their Bathurst contender would fare later in the year.

Perkins in Gary Campbell’s Elfin 600B/E Ford during the 1972 Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy at Surfers Paradise, first F2 home (G Ruckert)

Larry drove and tested for the HDT in 1972, mainly competing in Rallycross, his primary race program that season was driving Garry Campbell’s Elfin 600 B/E Ford ANF2 car to the national Australian Formula 2 title. He was off to Snetterton for the Formula Ford Festival with Garrie Cooper’s first Elfin 620FF late in the year, he won the Australian FF ‘Driver to Europe Series’ in 1971 but took his prize a year later knowing he would be better prepared, the rest is history.

Larrikins in the HDT Rallycross LC XU1 supercharged ‘Beast’ at Catalina Park in Sydney’s Blue Mountains in 1972. What a career!- FV to F1, Rallycross to Le Mans, he did, raced, built and won in everything (autopics)

Brock raced the LC V8 car at Calder on 14 May in the ‘Marlboro Trophy Series’ minus spoilers but with the widened steel wheels shown in the Bathurst shots earlier in this article, in a combined sports Sedan and improved tourer race running as a support event for the ‘Repco Birthday Series’ event for F5000 cars.

He raced mid-field amongst much faster sports sedans including Norm Beechey’s Monaro, Bob Jane’s Camaro, Alan Hamilton’s 911S and John Harvey’s Torana Repco V8 and barely rated a mention in the race reports.

That the car was ‘slipping under the radar’ was perfect from the HDT’s perspective.

Ford Falcon XA GTHO Phase 4’s come together at FoMoCo’s Oz ‘Skunkworks’ at Lot 6 Mahoneys Road, Broadmeadows on Melbourne’s north-western fringe.  Note the 36 gallon tank beside the standard item. 4 cars built (unattributed)

Whilst Holden were beavering away on their 1972 Bathurst contender, out in Mahoneys Road, Broadmeadows on the other side of Melbourne Ford were working on the new XA Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 4 whilst in Tonsley Park, Adelaide Chrysler were working on a V8 engined RT Charger, the E55.

For enthusiasts and racers these were mouth watering machines with enormous performance potential and engineering integrity.

GMH were proceeding to develop the production version of Harry’s V8 prototype ordering three GTR (not XU1) V8’s, which were sent down the Elizabeth, South Australia plant production line on 13 April 1972 for use by the Experimental Engineering team at GM’s Port Melbourne plant in inner Melbourne.

And then along came the media hysteria ‘Supercar Scare’ which was a frenzy of journalists and politicians whipping themselves into a lather over ’18 up year olds driving around the streets of our cities at 160 mph’.

This topic has been well ventilated down the decades amongst enthusiasts in Australia, their is little point adding to it here. Not that there is any doubt of the performance capability of any of these cars. Arguably a drum braked, cross-ply tyre shod, terminal understeering six-cylinder, ‘poverty pack’ Holden Belmont was a more lethal weapon than a well engineered ‘Supercar’ which was fit for purpose. A Belmont wasn’t fit for anything other than as an inner city cab operated at less than 35 mph.

So, the cars were all ‘pulled’ (or considerably softened as a luxury cruiser in Chrysler’s case) by manufacturers keen to maintain the high tariff walls the pollies provided which enabled them to produce sub-standard crap, flog it to the punters and make a poultice.

‘Let’s not piss the pollies off’ was the main aim of GMH, Ford and Chrysler management, the price of not building a few hundred high-performance machines was a cheap one to pay to keep the self serving State Governments and Canberra dickheads at bay.

(carthrottle.com)

It’s a shame really as the spec of the XU1 V8 would have been sweet- slinky, small (floppy in race terms) body, 308cid 300 bhp’ish V8, M21 4 speed box, Detroit locker diff, 6×13 inch Globe Sprintmaster wheels, long-range fuel tanks and aerodynamic aids. The car would have been a great 160 plus mph package with the slightly heavier V8 sitting back a bit in the chassis relative to the venerable Holden ‘Red’ six.

Torana racer/engineer Lee Nicholle had this to say about the prospects/charcteristics of XU1 V8’s on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’.

‘They do flex-horrid little car but they were also a great race car! I suspect though that Harry, Brock and Larry probably would have done the things that help- take all the rubber from between the front crossmember and chassis rails, that stiffens up the front no end plus of course the roll cage helps too, even the basic alloy ones in vogue then. Plus maybe some basic seam welding, though the car was road registered’.

‘That car (the HDT prototype) as an experiment seemed to work ok. I have seen no end of 308 LJ’s over the decades and they are NOT an evil monster, whatever the newspapers of the day insinuated. They are nicer to drive than a standard XU1 as the engine (V8) is far smoother than the lumpy, grumpy 6’.

‘With the right bits it (the V8) it is nearly a bolt in. There were over 30 built by a nearby country Holden Dealer here in South Australia as well as a few others by dealers interstate. They would not have been a great deal faster than a 6 cylinder XU1, unless the engine was worked’. (note the Repco parts bin comment earlier in the article)

Lee continued ‘My XU1 Chev Sports Sedan highlighted that. A 300bhp Phil Irving head Holden 6 was as quick as my then 380bhp Chev, though my engine bill was a LOT less which was the reason originally (to change from the Holden 6 to Chevy V8). Later with over 500bhp I was considerably faster than the sixes of course’.

With their V8 plans scuttled the HDT gave the specifications of the LJ six a tickle, by use of a wild ‘HX’ camshaft and with engines balanced and blueprinted they gave circa 212bhp. Globemaster Sprint alloy wheels were used and some revisions to the suspension- they evolved a good package which gave Peter Brock his first Bathurst win- the last solo win as it happens in 1972. In truth the win was as much down to Brock as the car.

The later V8 L34 and A9X Torana’s incorporating lots of Repco goodies would of course come soon but the LJ V8 is a wonderful mighta-been with KSN-116 proof positive of just what a weapon the XU1 V8 was…

Brock on his way to LJ XU1 victory, Fiat 850 Coupe behind, Bathurst 500 1972 (unattributed)

What  Happened to the Cars…

Depending upon your source there are some differences, but here we go all the same, he says with trepidation, ‘taxi’ enthusiasts are far more rabid then we open-wheeler nutbags.

1.HDT’s LC GTR-XU1 V8 Prototype

The ex 1970/71 HDT team car, KSN-116 was converted back into a 6-cylinder XU1, sold and has never been seen again, amazing given its significance

2.The three GTR V8’s were built in GM’s Elizabeth factory on 13 April 1972…

They were painted three different colours, lets identify them in that manner

Its said that Holden Experimental Engineers- Ed Taylor’s crew, fitted 308 V8’s with full spec ‘XW7′ parts with Harry Firth given the Pink and White cars to finish off, and, when completed, then handed them back to GM

.’Sebring Orange’ LGN-307

Registered by GMH on 6 September 1972 with a V8. Referred to as the ‘Lockwood Special’ due to the bonnet pin locks so fitted! Brock drove it as a loan car but the 308 V8 had been replaced with the 202 LJ 6

GM’s Administrator of Motorsport and PR also used the car as his company vehicle for a while before it was finally retired to Holden’s Engineering section.

Tendered for sale by GM in February 1975. Stolen in Melbourne’s Bundoora, Victoria in 1985 and never recovered.

.’Strike Me Pink’ LDH-255

Initially registered by GMH on 28 April 1972 with a 6 cylinder engine, a V8 was fitted later by Experimental Engineering

Tested by Brock at Calder where it was a ‘bit of a pig’ and then taken back to Queens Avenue, Auburn for attention to the suspension- spring rates, shocks and suspension bushes. When tested again at Calder by Brock on 31 May 1972, running a 2.78:1 diff and Detroit Locker it was a second a lap quicker than a normal XU1 driven by Colin Bond at the same test.

Brock recalled the car gave 271 bhp on Jack Hunnam’s dyno

.’White’

Intrigued to know the story

Photo Credits…

Dick Simpson, autopics.com, plannerpower, Sharaz Jek, Graham Ruckert

References…

Various online Holden forums, The Nostalgia Forum comments by Lee Nicholle, HDT Club of Victoria magazine, shannons.com, strikemepink on shannons.com, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Afterthought: Bruce Hodgson in the only 1972 Australian Supercar that ‘got away’…

(plannerpower)

Bruce Hodgson with Fred Gocentas aboard their Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 4 during the Southern Cross Rally, Mount Faulk Road outside Port Macquarie in October 1973.

For all the plans by Chrysler, GMH and Ford for the Supercars of ’72 only one ever competed albeit as a rally car, hardly the function for which Howard Marsden and the boys at FoMoCo intended!

Of Ford’s four Phase 4’s constructed, the least built up racer, the spare was given to John Goss, it was sold via McLeod Ford, assembled for road use.

Hodgson and Gocentas, Phase 4, rally and date unknown (unattributed)

The first and most developed of the racers was sold to a chap in Toowoomba and is now in the Bowden Collection.

The second racer was given to Hodgson, a Ford works Escort rally exponent who rallied it for several years before the machine was involved in a head on accident with a Holden Commodore, the wreck exists.

The production model was sold, via a car yard to an astute Sydney dentist in 1978 who is believed to still own it.

Tailpiece: ‘The Beast’- HDT Sports Sedan, the ultimate V8 LJ Torana XU1, Colin Bond, Warwick Farm, May 1973…

This race meeting must have been one of the last open ones at Warwick Farm. Car built quickly by HDT with an old shell, the essential element of which was a 480bhp Lucas injected Repco Holden F5000 V8. Mawer alloy wheels clear, a crowd pleaser, the car was too basic in spec by then to be a winner even in the hands of Brock and Bond

Finito…

(M Walton)

Pete Geoghegan’s famous ’67 Mustang GTA leads a packed field at the start of the Australian Touring Car Championship, Easter Bathurst round on 30 March 1970…

This is what rocks the socks off touring car enthusiasts in Australia, this era of ‘taxis’ above all others for the variety of cars across the various classes. The drivers were ‘characters’ as well rather than the anodyne media schooled pro’s of today.

Here Pete enters Hell Corner ahead of 1970 Champion Norm Beechey’s 1970 Holden Monaro HT 350 GTS. Brian Foley slips up the inside of Bob Jane’s Shelby built ’68 Mustang in his 1969 2.2 Porker 911S with Allan Moffat’s 1969 KarKraft factory Mustang TransAm on the outside. Chris Brauer in his ex-Jane Mustang is ahead of a glimpse of ‘Skinny’ Manton’s yellow 1969 Cooper S, the only tiddler in shot.

All of these beasties are still alive with the exception of Brauer’s Mustang which met its maker at Lakeside several months later, on 26 July. Chris was edged off the track in a race incident, he hit the end of an armco barrier side on, destroying the car, hurting himself badly and ending his career. It was a very sad, grisly day in Queensland, popular Glynn Scott lost his life aboard an Elfin 600 Waggott 2 litre ANF1 car in a support event.

It was and still is a superb racing sedan in concept, execution and presentation- Minilites added to the sex appeal. Beechey, Holden HT model Monaro GTS350 V8 (N Watts)

Geoghegan took the Bathurst pole with a time of 2:29.9, 1.4 seconds ahead of Bob Jane with Moffat completing the front row of the grid. On row 2 were Beechey and Foley, and then McKeown’s 911S and Brauer.

Beechey used all 500 plus of his rampaging ‘neddies to lead going up Mountain Straight on the first lap whilst Moffat, 7th off the line made his way back to 3rd behind Beechey and Geoghegan during lap 1-before both Geoghegan and Moffat’s TransAm Mustang passed Beechey’s ‘TransAus’ Monaro going down Conrod Straight.

Geoghegan and Moffat pulled away from the rest of the field over the next 2 laps whilst ‘Stormin Norm’ Beechey suffered a misfire. On lap 4 Moffat slowed with plug problems which eventually caused his retirement, this gave Geoghegan space over Beechey and Jane who were battling over 2nd place.

Nick Petrilli, Holden Monaro HT GTS 350 also retired when a piston let go, then Jane spun at Forrest’s Elbow (photo below) a few laps later, taking the pressure off Beechey.

Jane spins his Shelby built 1968 TransAm Mustang on the exit of Forrests Elbow whilst Norm disappears down Conrod, Bathurst in the distance below. Car now in the US (N Watts)

Pete Geoghegan raced on worn tyres, Firestone did not have new tyres available! As a consequence Beechey was able to easily reduce Geoghegan’s lead in the second half of the contest.

At the same time, Phil Barnes began slowing in his Morris Cooper S, allowing Peter Manton, Bob Holden’s Escort Twin-Cam and Roy Griffith’s Falcon GTHO Ph1 past.

Beechey took the lead going into Murray’s Corner on lap 18 and pulled away for the win. Geoghegan held on for 2nd whilst Jane was 3rd despite his spin. The Porsche 911’s of McKeown and Foley finished 4th and 5th respectively whilst Brauer was the final point-scorer in 6th.

Beechey won three of the seven championship rounds that year and the title- Bathurst, Sandown and Lakeside, all power circuits- not that handling was an attribute unrequired at each track as well. Jim McKeown’s Porsche 911S (won Warwick Farm) was 2nd and the Mustangs of Jane and Geoghegan (won Mallala) 3rd and 4th in a hotly contested series.

Jim McKeown, Porsche 911S, Forrests Elbow, 911’s visually didn’t come better than these competition ‘small bumper’ machines (N Watts)

Click here for a superbly detailed Mark Oastler penned article on the brilliantly concepted, engineered and raced Beechey GTS 350 ‘Munro’…

http://www.bowdensown.com.au/collection/norm-beecheys-ht-gts-monaro

Photo Credits…

Mark Walton, Nigel Watts on ‘The Roaring Season’, autopics.com.au

Tailpiece: Norm hooks into Hell Corner before the run up Mountain Straight where the Monaro’s 500 plus Chevy ponies were used to rather good effect…

Beechey, Foley and McKeown in their Porsche 911S from the Phil Barnes Cooper S

Finito…

(G King/oldracephotos)

Bob Jane leads Allan Moffat into Mountford Corner for the run past the Pits and start/finish line during the 1965 Longford Tasman weekend, Lotus Cortina’s both…

I’m not sure who won this encounter, over the years few other drivers have gone as hard at it- and swapped as much paint with each other as these blokes.

For a short time during 1968 Moffat drove for Bob, he had a few steers of the Elfin 400 Repco sports-racer and Brabham BT23E Repco Tasman machine- boofing them both! (the 400 at Warwick Farm and BT23E at Sandown) Moffat was soon picked up by Ford as a works driver during the halcyon Falcon GTHO/Superbird phase so the fall-out with Jane was timely really.

It was much better as spectators for self-made boy-from-Brunswick, businessman Janey to be ‘The Goodie’ and Canadian born pro-racer Moffat to be ‘The Baddie’- and didn’t they both give us some memorable battles to savour for a decade or so?

The Touring Car start- tail of Moffat’s car at left perhaps, cars folks? (E French)

Photo Credits…

Graeme King/oldracephotos.com, Ellis French

Tailpiece: Jane’s Cortina at Longford rest, what became of this jigger?…

(E French)

 

 

(oldracephotos/Harrisson)

Norm Beechey’s Holden Monaro GTS327 V8 leads the field away for the final, deciding round of the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship, Symmons Plains, Tasmania 16 November….

Behind him is Alan Hamilton’s partially obscured Porsche 911T/R, local boy Robin Pare’s Ford Mustang, and then a Melbourne trio- Peter Manton’s Morris Cooper S, Jim McKeown’s Lotus Cortina Mk2 and Jim Smith’s Morris Cooper S.

I was casting around my ‘stock of photos’ and realised I had quite a few shots of cars raced in the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC), or during other races that year, many by Dick Simpson so it seemed smart to pop some words to go with them.

This season has been done to death in many publications over the years, so treat this as a pictorial with enough words to provide international readers with the context they need rather than anything particularly insightful. For Australian enthusiasts the cars and drivers are well known, force-fed as we are in this country with all things ‘taxis’.

Moffat, Geoghegan and Jane at Calder in 1970. Mustangs a threesome- KarKraft TransAm, locally developed ’67 GTA and Shelby TransAm (unattributed)

What a sensational period for Touring Car racing it was, the ATCC was then run to Group C Improved Production Touring Car rules, there was so much variety from the big V8’s- the Geoghegan, Jane and Moffat Mustangs, Beechey’s HK Holden Monaro 327, Lotus Cortinas and Minis. The perennial giant killing ‘bricks’ driven by Brian Foley, ‘Skinny’ Manton, Phil Barnes amongst others.

That year was very significant, it was the first of the ‘modern era’, in that the championship was decided over a series of races rather than a one race, winner take all format as had been the case since the first title won by David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 at Gnoo Glas, Orange, NSW in 1960.

Brian Foley, Cooper S leads Geoghegan into the Warwick Farm Esses in 1969 (Dick Simpson)

Melbourne’s Alan Hamilton, his family were the Australian Porsche importer for decades, nearly pulled off a huge upset in ’69 coming within a point and five metres of beating Geoghegan to the title in his new 2 litre Porsche 911.

In 1967 after winning the Australian Hillclimb Championship and having on-circuit success with his 906, Hamilton decided to have a crack at the ATCC. I wrote an article about him and his cars a while back, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/08/20/alan-hamilton-his-porsche-9048-and-two-906s/

A 911R was out of the question as it didn’t comply with the rules but a steel-bodied 911R did.

The new 911T was homologated for Group 3 Grand Touring, Porsche in time honoured tradition developed a new Rallye Kit to cater for racers, offering a range of go-faster goodies and less weight by removing various luxuries.

As always with Porsche you could order whatever you liked, that included the ‘Carrera 6’ engine and running gear from the 911R! Hamilton knew the capabilities of the engine from his 906 Spyder. Two of them actually. The 1991cc six was good for 157kW/206Nm, complete with a lightweight flywheel, slippery diff, competition clutch and other bits a pieces, it turned the Rallye into a very competitive little weapon.

Hamilton in his 911T/R at Hume Weir in 1969 (oldracephotos,ocm/DSimpson)

The Signal Orange 911T/R arrived Australia in time for the 1968, one race ATCC at Warwick Farm, Sydney on 8 September, a highly technical circuit which placed a premium on handling, brakes and power, Hume Straight was a long one.

Geoghegan’s ’67 Mustang and Norm Beechey’s Chev Camaro 350 were the main threats to Porsche victory with local boy Pete Geoghegan the man most likely.

And so it proved, Pete ran away with the race securing his third title on the trot. Hamilton was as high as second but blew a rear tyre at Creek Corner on the last lap and disappeared into the boonies before recovering to finish third. Darrell King was second and Fred Gibson fourth in Cooper S and Niel Allen’s Mustang respectively.

In 1969 the title was decided over five rounds in five states- Calder on Melbourne’s Western outskirts in Victoria, Mount Panorama, Bathurst in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, Mallala, 60 Km north of Adelaide in South Australia, Surfers Paradise on Queenslands Gold Coast and Symmons Plains, near Launceston, Tasmania. Truly a national title indeed!

New star-cars of ’69- Beechey’s shortlived HK Monaro 327 and Moffat’s long-lived TransAm Mustang, Calder, late 1969 (R Davies)

Hamilton’s Porker was far from the only fresh 1969 ATCC contender…

Allan Moffat’s KarKraft Mustang Trans-Am 302, a sinfully sexy weapon in the hands of the droll, fast Canadian for the following six years was soon on the water and arrived in time for the Mallala round. Click here for the story on this magnificent machine;

https://primotipo.com/2015/07/21/marvin-the-marvels-magic-mustang/

Norm Beechey had thrilled the crowds with a succession of exciting cars- Holden 48-215, Chev Impala, Ford Mustang, Chev Nova, Chev Camaro SS but for 1969 he built, with Holden’s assistance, an HK Monaro GTS powered by a 327 Chev cid V8.

Very early race for the new Beechey HK327 at Warwick Farm in late 1968- already some scars on the door! Car painted Shell blue over the summer- this colour and stripe combo ex-factory standard (R Thomas)

The car was built during ’68 by Norm’s team led by Claude Morton at Beechey’s Brunswick, Melbourne workshop. Whilst it was not completed in time for the ’68 ATCC it did defeat Geoghegan at Calder late that year.

Knocking off Pete in a car which was continually developed by John Sheppard in Sydney was always going to be a big challenge, lack of development time was a barrier, on the other hand the team knew Chev V8’s well, if not the balance of the new cars running gear.

In any event, Norm’s car had towards 500 bhp under the bonnet as the ’69 season approached- and had shown, even at this early stage, the pace to best Pete.

Beechey’s Holden HK Monaro 327 engine bay, circa 500 bhp from the Weber fed V8 (unattributed)

 

Calder Improved Tourer race later in ’69- this is Moffat giving Beechey a ‘love tap’ on the warm up lap! Geoghegan, Hamilton and McKeown follow (autopics)

The championship opened at Calder Park on March 23…

Geoghegan made the most of the freshly resurfaced track to score pole ahead of Bob Jane’s TransAm Mustang with Hamilton fourth behind Beechey’s Monaro. This car was very significant as the first of the Australian ‘Pony Cars’ to take on the American heavy metal which had dominated in Australia since the end of the ‘Jaguar Era’.

Beechey booting his Monaro around one of Calder’s tight corners during the ATCC round. Track only 1 mile long then (unattributed)

In a difficult start to the season Norm popped an engine in practice, decamping back to home base in Brunswick to rebuild the Chev bent-eight overnight.

Beechey led from the start but was passed by Geoghegan before turn one, Melbourne businessman/racer Jane passed Norm on lap 4 and Geoghegan on lap 5. Beechey popped another engine on lap 7!

Geoghegan tried everything to get up to and past Bob Jane at Calder in ’69- here throwing the car around in the manner for which he was famous (oldracephotos)

Jane had a strong lead but Pete came back at him, a passing move under brakes resulted in him running wide. Bob won the race at a circuit he would soon purchase from the Pascoe family who first built the facility in 1962. Geoghegan was second and then Hamilton third, a  lap down.

Bob Jane’s Shelby built Mustang Trans-Am, Bathurst 1969. Q2 and DNF. Bobs fortunes would change with the purchase of a Chev Camaro LT1 soonish (Bob Jane )

The fabulous, challenging Mount Panorama at Bathurst was the venue for round two on April 7…

Geoghegan had a sensational meeting plonking his ‘Stang on pole by 5 seconds and then proceeded to disappear during the race at the rate of ten seconds a lap. Pete was the master of Bathurst click on these links, about his Ferrari 250LM speed;

https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

and his win in the ’72 Bathurst ATCC round aboard his Super Falcon;

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/15/greatest-ever-australian-touring-car-championship-race-bathurst-easter-1972/

Geoghegan, Mustang, Hell Corner, Bathurst 1968 (Dick Simpson)

In a meeting of attrition Jane qualified second but blew an engine on lap 9. Beechey boofed the Monaro in practice and did not start with Hamilton bending his rear suspension against the Forrest Elbow wall, finishing second, miles behind Geoghegan.

Phil Barnes, Cooper S from Mike Savvas Ford Falcon GT XT, Bathurst Esses  ATCC round 1969 (oldracephotos)

Phil Barnes did brilliantly in his Cooper S to finish third on this power circuit with Bob Inglis fourth in a Lotus Cortina.

After two meetings the pattern for the year seemed clear, Geoghegan’s pace, Hamilton in the Porsche finishing races and continually collecting points with the V8’s somewhat more brittle…

Moffat at Mallala in practice ahead of Kevin Farrisey’s Holden FJ (Dick Simpson)

Mallala, ex-RAAF Airfield 16 June…

Alan Moffat’s long-awaited TransAm Mustang was the star attraction, this car surely the most iconic ‘greatest’ touring car ever to race in Oz. Bias hereby declared!

Beechey was again a non-starter with yet another blown engine. The top four grid slots were Jane, Geoghegan, Moffat and Hamilton.

Moffat was the first to go out on lap 2 in what would become a race of attrition, followed by Jane at half distance. Hamilton followed Geoghegan home by a respectable 44 seconds for second with Peter Manton’s Cooper S third.

After a break of a month to prepare their mounts the teams took the long drive north to Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Melbourne’s Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina Mk2, Mallala 1969. Looks a picture in its Minilites (Dick Simpson)

Surfers Paradise on August 31…

Pete again took pole from Beechey and Hamilton who equalled the Monaro V8’s time- pretty amazing on this power circuit.

With Moffat and Jane non-starters, the race had looked like a foregone conclusion until Geoghegan was forced out with a puncture on lap eight, he had run over a piece of exhaust pipe left by one of his fellow competitors on circuit.

Pete returned two laps down but Beechey held on to take his first win of the season- and the first ever ATCC win for Holden with Hamilton second, collecting a bag more of points and Jim McKeown third.

A designers true intent is always shown with the first iteration of a car isn’t it? The ’68/9 HK Monaro a very cohesive design- and in GTS 327 spec a formidable tool in Series Production racing and here as an Improved Tourer. Here, Beechey’s car in the Surfers Paradise dummy grid/form up area. Car sold at the end of ’69 to WA, raced by Peter Briggs for a while and then, when some debts needed to be paid components ‘spread by the wind’. In the hands of a potential ‘restorer’ these days. Beechey focussed on his ’70 title winning, sensational HG GTS350 (unattributed)

The title now went down to the wire. Pete’s woes meant his championship lead was now only three points over the Porsche driver with Peter Manton moving into third in the title chase.

The competition rules provided each driver drop their worst score, the net effect of which was that Hamilton needed to win at Symmons Plains and Pete score no points for Hamilton to take the title.

These early 911’s are sex on wheels, Hamilton’s 911T/R as exotic as they came at the time. Still in Oz in the Bowden Family Collection. Clubhouse corner, Mallala 1969 (Dick Simpson)

Symmons Plains, 16 November…

Bob Jane had already withdrawn from the final round to attend overseas business commitments with team driver John Harvey driving his Mustang. Moffat was struggling yet again with engine trouble, the front row therefore comprised Geoghegan, Harvey, Moffat and Beechey with Hamilton back in fifth.

With just one minute to go before the flag, Geoghegan’s Mustang refused to start, leaving his crew little option but to bump start it after the race had begun and doom him to certain disqualification. All Hamilton had to do now was win!

Great arse! Moffats ‘stang has no bad angle. Symmons ’69 DNF typical of the unreliability of the car early on. It never did win the ATCC did it? Sadly. Car still in Oz, in the Bowden Collection of touring car racers (oldracephotos/Harrisson)

Harvey led Moffat until lap seven when the Mustang popped another Windsor 302. Beechey and Hamilton followed. Beechey extended his lead but the Holden started to suffer gearbox problems, he was having to avoid gearchanges, which meant he had to slip the clutch to keep the car mobile at lower speeds. By lap 15 Harvey was out with a puncture.

So near but so far! Beechey, his Holden trailing heaps of smoke from a failing gearbox, boots his Monaro away from Hamilton’s 911, last lap, last corner, last Symmons Plains round of the ATCC ’69 (oldracephotos/Harrisson)

Hamilton closed the gap getting to within a cars length of the Holden in the last corner of the race but Norm was able to boot the big V8, using all of its vast amount of torque, to accelerate away from the 2 litre 911 and win the race from Hamilton and McKeown.

Geoghegan had continued to race on, despite inevitable disqualification, breaking the lap record, making it onto the lead lap. With Hamilton failing to win, Pete won the ATCC title, his last, by one point…

Geoghegan flicking his Mustang thru Warwick Farm’s Northern Crossing in 1969. Pete always polls as Top 5 or 10 in any assessment of Australia’s Greatest Touring Car drivers (Dick Simpson)

‘You know, it’s funny’, chuckled Hamilton in a Unique Cars interview. ‘I’ve never really forgiven Norm (Beechey) for that one. Every time he comes around I like to give him a bit of curry about what happened in that race. You see, he was out of the (championship) running entirely at that point, and his car had all but expired. In fact it actually did expire about 20 metres over the line. It finally just dropped dead! Still, I can’t complain. We did well to get where we did. Unlike the V8s, the Porsche proved to be very reliable. We had a colossal season in ’69, doing hillclimbs and medal races as well as the Touring Cars, but aside from routine servicing we didn’t actually have to do anything to keep it going’.

Etcetera: ATCC Cars of 1969…

Beechey, Hume Weir 1969 (unattributed)

 

One of the earliest appearances of Moffat’s Mustang in Australia, Oran Park, 17 May 1969 (Dick Simpson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phil Barnes, Cooper S at Mallala in 1969. He was 7th in the ’69 title with 5th at Calder and 3rd at Bathurst (Dick Simpson)

 

Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina, Hume Weir 1969 (oldracephotos)

 

Bob Jane and Mustang TransAm at Lakeside’s Karussell in July 1969 (G Ruckert)

 

Alan Hamilton, Porsche 911T/R during 1969 (oldracephotos)

 

Moffat at Peters Corner, to start the run up Sandown’s back straight. Moffat forever a BP man but displaying Ampol allegiance early in the Mustang’s career – May 4 1969 first race meeting? (autopics)

Bibliography…

‘History of the Australian Touring Car Championship’ Graham Howard and Ors

Photo Credits…

Dick Simpson, oldracephotos.com, Robert Davies, autopics.com.au, Graham Ruckert, Robert Thomas

Tailpiece: Pete Geoghegan, Mallala 1969- five time ATCC winner in 1964/6/7/8/9…

Geoghegan, Clubhouse Corner, Mallala 1969 (Dick Simpson)

 

 

 

(unattributed)

Craig Lowndes dropping into Mount Panorama’s Skyline/Esses, McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes V8, 22 March 2011…

Australian Formula Ford has been a factory for the creation of V8 Supercar Drivers for a couple of decades now. Every now and again one escapes to international racing success, Mark Webber, Will Power and Daniel Ricciardo spring to mind. I’ve not forgotten Larry Perkins I’m just referring to more recent times. But in the main V8 Supercars and to a lesser extent Porsche Cup racing has given local aces a place to ply their trade as well paid professionals.

The popularity and commercial success of Touring Car Racing in Australia relative to Single Seaters began circa 1960 and has continued unabated since. Even very popular single seater formulae such as the 2.5 Tasman and F5000 classes did not put a dent in the rise and rise of ‘Taxis’. Why? Its a topic for a whole series of articles but perhaps fundamentally the cars are easier for the average punter to understand and relate to, are spectacular to watch and have had a succession of ‘characters’ racing them. The absolute professionalism in the way V8 Supercars has been managed for so long now has widened the gulf further.

Lowndes, Van Dieman RF93 Formula Ford, Oran Park August 1993. Craig won 5 of the 8 ’93 rounds including OP (autopics)

Sponsors re-prioritised their spend over time away from the purer form of the sport to tourers. Drivers chase the dollars of course. So Taxis grew and grew. Its not that simple but its not much more complex either.

Back to the point of the article which is to discuss young talent and progression into the professional ranks.

It wasn’t always the case though, a career path into tourers. Often guys won the AFFC right into the nineties and none were picked up by professional touring car teams- the class was a bit of a closed shop with the young thrusters not especially welcome. Tomas Mezera is perhaps an exception but he ended up at HRT after he came back from his sojurn in Europe, so too did Russell Ingall make the transition after he returned from Europe.

Cameron McConville, the 1992 AFFC champ looked as though he may set a trend when Dick Johnson recruited him to race the second DJR machine at Bathurst in 1993 but then he boofed a fence and that was it for him, so it seemed. A 1996 win in the Australian GTP Championship in a Porsche 993 RS CS saw him brought back in from the cold- he beat Jim Richards in the Warwick Fabrics car that year, I remember being hugely impressed by his speed and professionalism.

None of yer poofhouse single seater stuff in here matey! Peter Brock was a great mentor to Lowndes early on , this shot of an HRT Commodore circa 1996. Brocky had an all too brief sojurn into ANF2 circa 1973 with a Birrana 272 Ford (unattributed)

Lowndes was the one who really paved the way for the guys who followed- most of the V8 Supercar champs have been Karting and Formula Ford graduates since Craig showed the way.

Out of Karts of course, initially he raced an old RF85 Van Diemen Formula Ford in 1991 and then won the AFFC title aboard an RF93 in 1993. Longtime openwheeler racer and enthusiast (and 1975 Bathurst 1000 winner with Peter Brock) Brian Sampson threw him a lifeline by giving him some drives in his Cheetah Mk9 Holden Formula Holden in 1994. It wasn’t the latest bit of kit by any stretch, in fact it was and IS the very first FH built. But Craig made the thing sing, I recall some very good drives in the car against Greg Murphy in a much more recent Reynard.

Lowndes, a motor mechanic by trade, didn’t have much money but he had ability, a likable and engaging personality and ability to communicate and some contacts via his Dad, Frank Lowndes who had been in and around motor racing forever as a car/engine builder and scrutineer.

Holden Racing Team tested him and he was immediately quick, consistent, and easy on the equipment getting a drive in the 1994 Sandown 500. Soon he was team-leader and won the V8 Supercar title in 1996. He hadn’t lost the fire in the belly for open-wheeler success, and even though he had the local scene at his feet he negotiated a year in the European F3000 Championship via Tom Walkinshaw who by then owned HRT.

Lowndes, Lola T96/50 Zytec Judd F3000, Silverstone 1997 (LAT)

Lowndes had a shocker of a year being comprehensively blown off by Juan Pablo Montoya, his teammate at RSM Marko aboard the mandated Lola T96/50 Zytec. To be fair, he was coming back into single-seaters after an absence of some years into a group of the best F1 aspirants in the world straight out of F3 or doing a second or third year in F3000. Lowndes did not get a fair crack of the whip in the team with minimal testing, Marko ran Lowndes to settle a debt owed to Walkinshaw- and focussed, not unnaturally on the fellow who was winning races- Montoya.

What Lowndes needed was another season, but back to V8 Supercars he came and a couple of other titles, six Bathurst 1000’s and all the rest. Of course he is still racing at the top level too. It would have been interesting to see how far he could have progressed with another season in Europe.

(B Moxon)

Jenson Button and Craig Lowndes, car a 2008 spec (champion that year in Lewis Hamilton’s hands) McLaren MP23/4 Mercedes 2.4 V8

Lowndes nipping a brake into Hell Corner (unattributed)

The opportunity to get to drive a contemporary F1 car was too good to be true and came about due to Vodaphones sponsorship of both McLaren and Triple Eight Racing who ran VE Holden Commodores that year. The day, just before the AGP at Albert Park involved closure of the Bathurst public roads- the circuit is just that, roads for most of the year with Lowndes and Jenson Button swapping seats between their respective F1 and V8 Supercar racers.

(unnatributed)

For misty eyed open-wheeler fans it was also an amazing ‘if only’, for Bathurst is indeed, in the words of Australian motor-racing historian John Medley ‘The Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ and is where the Australian Grand Prix should be held. What a spectacle that would be! For that to occur the circuit would be destroyed to meet F1’s safety requirements, so of course it will never happen.

But for one day it was a reminder of what could be for enthusiasts and what might have been for Craig Lowndes had the racing cards been dealt or fallen a different way…

Comparo- F1 McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes Benz (2008) and V8 Supercar Holden ‘VE’ Commodore (2011)…

(Motor)

YouTube footage…

Credits…

Vue Images, LAT, Bruce Moxon, Motor

Tailpiece: Imagine 26 of them zipping past…

Finito…

 

(Eldougo)

Peter Manton, Austin 1800 tow car and his ‘Improved Production Touring’ Cooper S, perhaps at Surfers Paradise in 1970…

Manton is long way from home, the Gold Coast is 1720 kilometres from Melbourne, the Mini aces home base. That cut down Austin 1800 is a really nice rig but I don’t fancy towing that Mini with that car, even if it has a couple of SU’s bolted to the side of the ‘B Series’ head. It lacks the ‘mumbo’ needed for such long tows across our big, brown, parched continent. Nice thing to ponce around Surfers Paradise in mind you.

By 1970 Peter was winding down a long career in the sport which dated back to the thirties. Born in 1922 Gerald Peter ‘Skinny’ Manton began racing at 16 in his mothers Austin 16.

He worked at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in product engineering leaving to work for John Ould Motors and later Monaro Motors, of which he later became a partner.

Monaro Motors sold MG’s and developed performance parts for the marque. They were agents for Wade Superchargers and became sole distributors in Victoria for SU carburettors. ‘Skinny’ progressed to design and research developing many twin-carb manifolds and other bits. As the Issigonis front wheel drive BMC products swept the market Manton swapped his Marshall-blown Morris Major for a succession of Cooper S’ with which he became synonomous. He formed Peter Manton Motors which was a well known destination for a generation or so of Melbourne enthusiasts

Was the Mini King of Oz Peter Manton or Brian Foley? Are the honours equally split?, without doubt they were the Mini Kings of Victoria and New South Wales respectively throughout the sixties in any event!

Photo Credit…

Eldougo, Dick Simpson

Tailpiece: Manton’s Cooper S being monstered by Shell teammate and 1970 ATCC champion Norn Beechey’s Holden HG Monaro GTS350, at Calder…

(Simpson)

 

 

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…