26 Muscle Mail
The reader’s letter that is judged to be the best in each issue will win a Meguiar’s detailing pack.
We hear from readers who: raced Pacers at Bathurst; scrounged an L34 part from Sir Jack’s Bathurst ‘76 Torana; took their Phase IIIs on holiday; love their Prince Skylines and love/hate Phil Anders. Theme song: ‘Please Mr Postman’ by The Beatles.
Sir Jack’s crew to the rescue
Found these photos whilst moving house recently and they jogged my memory of my LH Torana L34 that I bought new in 1974. Well, it was ‘nearly new’.
Here’s the true story... I had ordered a standard LH SL/R 5000 from Freeman Motors in Adelaide in 1974 for around $5000 in those days. An L34 was a tad over $7000 and out of my price range unfortunately. Whilst waiting for my SL/R to be delivered, my brother called me (he was spare parts manager at Freemans in those days). They had an L34 stolen off the lot a week or so earlier and it had just been found in Darwin and returned to Freeman Motors. It had about 4000km on the clock and other than that was in pretty good nick, just a long joy ride!
Anyway, this particular car had never been registered but could no longer be sold as a new car due to being reported stolen and the insurance claim, etc.
Would I be interested to take it for the price of my ordered SL/R no questions asked? The catch being NO warranty. Hey, I was 18, did I care about warranty, I was about to get a Yellow L34! The deal was done.
My car is the last in the pictured line-up of four L34s in early 1975 of guys I knew and went driving with in Adelaide. I used it for country camping trips, note the trailer and roof racks, and for circuit sprints. The photo is exiting the bowl at Adelaide International Raceway.
Anyway the car was no problem, ran like a dream... until a trip to Bathurst in 1976 to watch the 1000. Along the Hay Plain from Adelaide to Bathurst it developed a miss that gradually got worse. After several stops we found the troublesome twin-point distributor rotor button had a crack in it. Great (note sarcasm). Ever tried to buy one of those from a country Holden dealer? You guessed it, no luck. We made it to Bathurst, thinking logically that someone in a Torana racing team would sell me a rotor button so as to get a young South Aussie Torana fan back to Adelaide.
After the race, straight to the pits, cracked rotor button in my pocket to prove I wasn’t a tacky souvenir hunter. Well, to my surprise every mechanic from a major team I talked to shook their heads, they had all replaced the factory twin-point, twin coil with Mallory distributors, because the genuine ones were unreliable at high revs and prone to failing (no shit!), so they had Mallory spares, but no parts for the original unit.
It would be fair to say that I didn’t have a lot of spare cash in those days and the thought of having to purchase a complete new distributor to get home was pretty daunting. Walking out of the pits we came across the Stirling Moss/Jack Brabham L34 on a crash truck. It, of course, was involved in a startline crash.
Anyway, I made one last pleading question to the cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking mechanic sitting on the bonnet of the car, whilst sadly producing my cracked rotor and telling him my whole sad story.
He turned around, popped the bonnet, reached back, flipped off the distributor cap and pulled the rotor off Sir Jack’s crashed L34!
Yep, I reckon Sir Jack’s and Stirling’s L34 was about the only one running a genuine factory twin-point, twin-coil distributor. Ten bucks and it was mine.
Fitted it and drove home, happy as could be. I wonder if anyone ever tried to start Sir Jack’s Torana sometime after the race, probably wondered how the crash had knocked the rotor button off. I think my $10 was going towards the purchase of the next slab of beer.
I sold my car around 1980 and I believe it’s now in the hands of a prominent car dealer and Torana collector in Adelaide. I imagine it’s still got Sir Jack’s rotor button.
If the new owner reads this and wants more photos/details of a car with stories, I’d be happy to chat. ED: Great story and pics, Peter. We will put you in touch with the owner when they contact us – nudge, nudge – as we’d love to see a photo of the car today.
Letter from a Pacer racer
Isaw AMC #71 at the newsagency at Tullamarine, so as an old Pacer man I had to buy it, didn’t I! You might be interested in hearing about my love affair with Pacers, starting off with my blue VF. It was my everyday road car, but in those days of Series Production racing, it was worked a bit harder on some weekends, visiting places such as Catalina Park, Warwick Farm and Oran Park.
It was bought to race, so it had the optional slippery diff, and I had it balanced. It was always competitive: at the 1970 Easter Bathurst I had a race-long dice with Leo Geoghegan, which led to an invitation to be his co-driver in October for the big race.
The VF was a great car to drive. The old slant six had so much torque that the lack of a fourth gear did not matter as much as you might have expected. The handling was outstanding for the era, helped by the torsion bar suspension’s ability to allow plenty of negative camber. The brakes were not wonderful, but were adequate if you did not abuse them. It did, if I remember, 118 mph (190km/h) down Conrod Straight.
The only problem I ever had with it was cracking a hub at Oran Park. I then discovered that this was a known problem, and Chrysler fitted race cars with X-rayed cracktested hubs. As my car was bought to race, it had the special hubs fitted – not to my knowledge! Mine was the first special hub to fail, and the only spare Chrysler had available had the wrong directional thread – Chrysler used left- and right-handed threads. Pity the guy who bought it and found three left-hand threads and one right-hand thread!
Before the 1970 Hardie Ferodo I was involved in testing both the 2-barrel and the 4-barrel VG Pacers, with the 4-speed gearbox minus first. The 2-barrel was a big improvement on the dear old VF. It handled at least as well, and with the ventilated front discs braked better for longer. It could do around 130mph (209km/h) on Conrod Straight. Despite having no first gear, the ratios were pretty good at Bathurst, although a bit slow out of The Cutting.
The 4-barrel was over-carburettored. Out of The Cutting the 2-barrel could just about stay with it, and it was very hard to get the carby right. I preferred driving the 2-barrel. [ED: Nick is too modest to mention that he and Leo finished fifth at Bathurst 1970].
A year or two later I had to get a company car, and I got a VH Pacer. What a tool! It was quicker than the VGs, and handled and stopped as well. It was as quick as any automatic V8, and was not too thirsty. The wheel and tyre combination was an improvement, as was the interior design and comfort. The three-speed gearbox was a pity, but unless you wanted a real thrash over an interesting bit of road it was not a real problem.
Ah, Pacers. They summed up Chrysler Australia’s problems. They all just missed out, because of lack of money, short-sightedness – or both. Still, a largely unappreciated part of Australia’s motoring history. Nick Ledingham Email ED: Thanks for dropping us a line, Nick. Great to hear those vivid recollections from a racing Pacer pioneer. Meantime, when we posed the question, ‘What’s your favourite Oran Park memory?’ on our Facebook page, one of the respondents, with a familiar surname, offered this...
Son of a gun’s memories
many to have a favourite. The Tasman rounds there; the 1974 AGP, which was bittersweet with the old man miles in the lead with two laps to go but forced out; Toby Lee Sports Sedans; Agostini doing a demo in the 1970s; Graeme Crosby doing wheelies down the entire straight mid-race because he was so far ahead; Alan Jones jumping the start at the 1977 AGP; Moff in the ‘Stang (nearly) being taken out by some bloke in a Valiant; sitting on the hill on practice day and listening to a F5000 alone on the track and thundering down the straight as it went up through the gears.
I remember as a kid arriving and saying hello to Max Stewart. He would pick me up and toss me in the air. Man, I got some height, but thankfully he caught me on the way down. Watching the Camaro win the ATCC round there after a big battle with Brock in 1980; Big Pete sideways in the Monaro – everywhere! The 1976 Rothmans round for F5000 in the wet – big cars sliding round on a wet track on slicks. Like I said, too many to have a favourite! Greg Bartlett From Facebook
Early OH&S measures
Issue #72 is a ripper. I have fond memories of Oran Park, both as a spectator and a flag marshal in the 1960s so it was an appropriate choice as AMC’s first Sacred Site. I imagine you’ll do Catalina Park at some stage, so have included some images shot there.
Seeing your Windsor speedway story brought back Sunday afternoon memories of another speedway in Sydney’s west, at Westmead.
Thought you might be interested in a snap that I took of the top-notch OH&S facilities at Westmead, to avoid being hit by flying mud. All you needed was an asbestos cement sheet with an eye-hole punched in it, picked up from the spectator mound.
It would be interesting to do an archaeological dig where the hospital is now. The old stock cars (the barred-out Ford V8 sedans and coupes) were buried in a big rubbish tip at the rear of pits at Westmead, when they no longer could get around under their own steam.
Keep going! Alex Fry Email
Sun, sand and Phase IIIs
Thought I would drop you a line to tell you about an interesting experience I had over the holiday break. Like many other families, we headed to a favourite summer destination – in our case, the Tallebudgera Caravan Park on the Gold Coast.
As usual, the family was enjoying the summer sun and beach environment, but this year, in amongst all the caravans, the campers and four-wheel drives, were a couple of vehicles that looked a little out of place in the modern era: two fully restored and immaculate XY Falcon GT-HO Phase IIIs.
As a regular reader, I’m well aware that one of the magazine’s themes over the past couple of years has been to look at how our revered Aussie muscle car classics were used in the past – i.e. the daily driver, work vehicle and pulling the family caravan on holidays (such as in Punter’s Pics – issues #66 and #67). Of course lately the majority of these highly-prized vehicles are fully restored and securely locked away by their proud owners, only to see the light of day when it’s time for their regular clean or to attend some special event. Here however, were two owners who decided that going away wasn’t going to stop them enjoying their beloved classics.
For Simon (Vermillion Fire example), the caravan park was just down the road from his home in Brisbane. However, for Mark (Monza Green), driving up from Melbourne took a little longer. Not that Mark is unaccustomed to driving Phase IIIs long distances, as he and Dave Frake (GT Ford Performance) are well known for their trip across the Nullarbor in 2007, for the GT Nationals that year. As one can imagine, the sight of two Phase IIIs in a caravan park saw many people dropping by to chat about the cars and reminisce about the old days when such cars were the towing vehicle of choice.
But as the cars were there to enjoy and not just look at, I suggested a trip down to Ballina to look at a nice collection of rare small Fords. As you can imagine, two Phase IIIs travelling down the highway got plenty of attention by drivers and passengers of other traffic, not to mention the locals of small country towns that we detoured through due to traffic issues around Byron Bay. I’m sure the fact that both cars were running 3.9:1 diff ratios and were revving freely, had nothing to do with it!
Once at Ballina, we got to look at some great cars (including some ex-Bathurst Escorts and Cortinas) as well as Graham Mein and Ron Gillard, who both competed at Bathurst and had some wonderful stories to tell.
On the way back to the coast, we stopped in at the Hotel Brunswick at Brunswick Heads for a late lunch and caught up with a group of other GT owners – including Dave Frake also up from Melbourne – who were already there soaking up the holiday atmosphere. One of the highlights of the trip however, was coming back up the old Pacific Highway from Brunswick, up through the Burringbar Range and along the back roads to Murwillumbah and along the Tweed Valley Way. These are some of the best roads on the east coast on which to truly enjoy a thoroughbred classic car and the guys had a great time.
Although different people look at classic car ownership in lots of different ways, it’s great to see a couple of owners who aren’t afraid to still use them, despite what the market says they
are worth. When I asked Mark why he brought decided to bring his car up, he said, “Why preserve it just for someone else to enjoy after you are gone. The time to enjoy it is now, while you can.”
My sentiments exactly. Paul Tilley ED: Amen to that, brother! Paul also politely pointed out that a photo in the Oran Park Sacred Sites section last issue featuring the Geoghegan Lotus Cortina was incorrectly captioned 1963, when it was from 1964.
More Muscle Car rules
First off, great magazine. Not that there was anything wrong with the old format, but good to see some fresh sections – R-Rated sounds like a great idea.
I especially like reading Phil Anders’ columns. His recent ‘13 rules of muscle car ownership’ ( AMC #72) got me thinking. I agree with the 13 listed, (especially the custom rego rule) but I was wondering his opinion on three more I thought of.
Rule 14: Chev badges on Holden Commodores are a no-no. Do Americans drive around with Holden badges on their Chevs? Can’t say I’ve seen a Holden Camaro recently.
Rule 15: Classic cars on LPG. If a classic car was meant to be on BBQ gas it would have been built that way. If you’re worried about fuel consumption then you’re in the wrong market. An XY Falcon 500 GT clone running on LPG isn’t fooling anyone.
Rule 16: Not specifically a classic car, but XR6 Falcons with XR8 bonnet bulges and/or Boss stripes. Your bonnet bulge doesn’t make you look tougher, nor is it even remotely as iconic as a XY Shaker. So no points there either.
Anyway, keep up the good work. Loved the Pacer feature last issue. Great to see an underrated car get some much deserved attention. Luke Charteris Email Phil’s reply: Thank you for your support, Luke, and for your contribution of rules 14, 15 and 16. I had intended to only have 13 rules, that being my favourite Bathurstwinning number. However, in honour of Dick Johnson, I will add one more. Rule 17: Take rules 1 to 13 with a grain of salt.
Less Muscle Car rules
In response to Phil Anders 13 rules of muscle car ownership – what a load of garbage!
If an owner of a muscle car wants to paint his XY GT Wild Violet then they should do it. If they want to put aftermarket flares, scoops and Simmons on their Torana then they should do it. If they have the wrong tyres, crap number plates, stickers, incorrect apparel, art, signatures, nicknames, etc, then that’s up to the owner.
It’s their car and they should feel free to enjoy it as they see fit.
Not everyone wants a perfectly restored car as it came from the factory.
Phil Anders can have his opinion but his judgemental guide wasn’t worth printing. Rob Humphreys From Facebook
Ihave been asked to help spread the word of an upcoming ‘reunion’ of participants, officials and fans of the Cannonball Run which was staged in the Northern Territory in May 1994. So this year marks the 20th anniversary.
The reunion will held at the memorial on the Stuart Highway, approximately 98km south of Alice Springs and at the Stuart Well Roadhouse and Caravan Park which is 5km north of the memorial on May 24, 2014.
There have been previous gatherings at the memorial by a few Cannonball fans over the last few years, however it is our aim to bump this up a notch or two and encourage former drivers, crews and officials to attend this year’s gathering, and if possible some of the original entered cars.
Please be aware that this reunion is not ‘official’ in nature and we make no claims of representing any organisation related to the original Cannonball Run. We are simply a group of enthusiasts who wish to remember the event for how it was intended and not for how it ended up. It is not a ‘catered for’ event. It is strictly BYO everything. Accommodation is available at the Stuart Well Roadhouse and Caravan Park which is the closest available to the site. Bookings should be made directly with them.
There will be no admission price charged for the reunion, with all of the attendees paying for their own food and drink.
If enough interest is received, we intend to pass the ‘can’ around amongst attendees to raise some money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, who we feel to be a worthy cause.
We are asking for help in spreading the word around amongst known Cannonball competitors, crews and officials that this get together is now happening. So please contact us via email: email@example.com
There is also a Facebook page - simply type in ‘Cannonball Run NT 1994 - 2014 20th Anniversary and Reunion’. Darryl Kelly Email
Prince and the evolution
Just a quick note to say that 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Prince Skyline GT (launched May 1964). It’s a car which has a similar story to the EH S4 featured in AMC #68, the difference being the Prince GT was conceived by a small Japanese company and created by aeronautical engineers, but with the same goals in mind: to go racing as a production sedan to promote the model and the company. Prince merged with Nissan in 1966. A total 293 examples of the high performance GTBs were exported to Australia from 1965-1968 of which some 30 survive. Some are on the road or being restored, according to the Prince Skyline GT Register.
The similarities to the S4 include that it was a four-door sedan with a two-litre (EH was 2.9-litre) in-line six-cylinder engine and that both models competed in the early Bathurst 500s.
The Skyline had multi carbs, a five-speed gearbox, disc brakes (on the front), LSD, and a big fuel tank (99 litres) and various other mods, all factory standard and it was homologated for competition.
The birth of the Skyline may not be of interest to your readers, as I do appreciate it is not a muscle car, but I do remember there was a story on the Gibson-era Skylines in an early edition of the magazine, with a small mention of the Prince GT heritage.
The Prince Skyline GT Register is planning to celebrate the milestone with a gathering of owners in May 2014. Noel Sinclair Email
What went wrong?
RRegarding Paul Gover’s comment piece in AMC #72, it’s hard to know what would have happened to the Commodore and Falcon had both companies identified the trend to smaller vehicles much earlier.
Sure both companies had smaller imported options, but these did not have the appeal of the home-grown product. The reality was that for decades the ‘big two’ were indispensable for Australian families and property owners for a myriad of tasks, such as towing boats and carting hay, etc.
But over time the twin-cab ute and SUVs were encroaching on the big sedan/wagon’s versatility and the menial task of shopping was relegated to the smaller sedan imports.
The exception, of course, were the large two-tonne SUVs that mothers just had to have for the twice-daily school run. At 40km/h in a
school zone at peak times these are death on wheels for the kids – grumpy old man speak I know, but true just the same. Eric Waples Albion Park, NSW
Like father, like daughter
Just a little story of our family’s XA GT – and how history has repeated itself. The XA was bought by my Dad, Kevin May, back in the early 1970s as a demo model from Allan Lung Ford, Port Augusta, South Australia. The XA GT is the first car I ever had a ride in after leaving hospital as a newborn.
My wife and I recently had our first child and I think you can guess which car our bundle of joy came home in. Our bub, Sophie, loved it too. No sooner had we started to drive off and she fell asleep to the sweet tune of the V8.
The XA GT was my Dad’s daily drive for the most part up until 1978 when he traded it in on a 1978 Fairmont GXL.
Throughout my childhood, Dad would always reminisce about the XA GT and say that he wished he had never sold it. During the 1980s we saw it on one occasion, parked on the side of the road. We also saw it advertised once for sale but were not in a position to buy it. I used to keep pictures of it on my bedroom wall surrounded by other GTs, etc.
Then in 1994 a GT club member informed us he knew the whereabouts of the car. We got contact details and rang the owner, Ron. He had the car in his shed, as it had belonged to his son but he had unfortunately passed away. Ron was then intending to complete the restoration of the car that his son had already begun.
We asked if he wanted to sell, given our history with the car but he was not interested at that stage. So Dad gave him our contact number and asked to him to call if he ever changed his mind. Meanwhile, Dad bought an XW GT, restored a Red Pepper XA GT and sold the Fairmont GXL which was fully loaded with a warm 351 – Midnight Blue with grey vinyl roof.
Moving forward to 2000, Dad received a phone call out of the blue. It was Ron wanting to sell the car. We went straight around to his place and there it was still in the shed in the same state as it was in 1994. He had not touched a panel. The rest is history! We bought the car, restored it together and had it on the road by 2003. We were proudly awarded ‘Best Restored XA GT’ at the GT Nationals 2005.
Dad had also retained the original XA GT owner’s manual from when he had first owned the car, for all those years, and was very happy to see them reunited with each other. Adam May Adelaide, SA Due to a bumper crop of great Muscle Mail, our regular Muscle Assist section has been ‘rested’ for this issue. Assist will return next edition. Meantime, reader Rob Bailey pointed out that one of the two Customlines that crashed in 1958 at Albert Park (shown in Muscle Maniac last issue) was driven that day by Owen Bailey and not former owner Norm Beechey as stated in the story.
Peter Perrin Langhorne Creek SA