Posts Tagged ‘1972 Bathurst 500’

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…