74 Phillip Is­land Clas­sic re­port

Strong thought-pro­vok­ing con­tent, myths de­bunked, facts only, no nu­dity. Writ­ten by Ben Ste­wart.

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

His­toric rac­ing in Aus­tralia is a bit like NASCAR – the sea­son starts with the year’s big­gest event. AMC’s Bruce Moxon checked out the quirky, quick and quak­ing at the 2014 PIC. Theme song: Richard Clap­ton’s ‘I am an Is­land’.

How much power does it put out? It’s an age-old ques­tion ut­tered by gen­er­a­tions of ‘car people’. And a ma­jor sell­ing point for man­u­fac­tur­ers when pro­mot­ing the per­for­mance po­ten­tial of a car aimed di­rectly at the sport­ing-minded en­thu­si­ast driver.

When it came to Aussie mus­cle cars built dur­ing the golden days, from the late 1960s to mid-1970s, the ques­tion took on an im­por­tance of un­prece­dented pro­por­tions.

This was when (seem­ingly) the sky was the limit in terms of what car­mak­ers ad­ver­tised, and what the mo­tor­ing press some­times spec­u­lated.

This in­no­cent enough ques­tion was prob­a­bly the most chal­leng­ing of all when it comes to a car pack­ing se­ri­ous mus­cle un­der the hood. It has been known to turn faces bright red, with the po­ten­tial to cause con­sid­er­able em­bar­rass­ment. It’s also the ul­ti­mate ar­gu­ment starter! Yet, no mat­ter what the an­swer to the peren­nial ‘how much’ ques­tion, some­how it is never quite enough.

There were pe­ri­ods when Chrysler, Ford and GM-H were hell-bent on out­do­ing each other in a bat­tle to claim brag­ging rights as to who had the most pow­er­ful car.

Some­times, man­u­fac­tur­ers were more ‘hon­est’ than oth­ers. Some­times they only told half the story. And some­times, out­side spec­u­la­tion was based purely on a spe­cially pre­pared race-spec car and not an ex­am­ple in stan­dard show­room trim. It is al­ways im­por­tant in these sit­u­a­tions to com­pare ap­ples with ap­ples.

The even­tual ‘win­ner’ was Chrysler Aus­tralia with their E49 R/T Charger. It won on two fronts, but lost in the most im­por­tant area – ve­hi­cle sales. With the high­est ad­ver­tised horse­power and the fastest ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ures of any­thing from the ‘big three’ from the era, the E49 stands un­equalled at the top of the tree.

To level the field, Aus­tralian car man­u­fac­tur­ers fol­lowed their par­ent com­pa­nies and rated en­gine out­put ac­cord­ing to a stan­dard de­vised by the So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neers, which they des­ig­nated ‘SAE gross’.

For the pur­pose of ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion, only the high­est horse­power fig­ure was good enough to use. As a re­sult, both Ford and GM-H used a peak fig­ure of 300 horse­power in their ad­ver­tis­ing and ve­hi­cle spec­i­fi­ca­tions while Chrysler Aus­tralia topped that with 302 horse­power.

The SAE gross out­put was an un­re­al­is­tic fig­ure in many ways as ul­ti­mately the en­gine had to be in­stalled into a ve­hi­cle in or­der to make the car per­form. Be­cause of this, a sec­ond (but rarely pub­lished) fig­ure was ob­tained from the same en­gine dressed and run­ning all an­cil­lar­ies. This lower fig­ure was des­ig­nated ‘SAE net’.

A slid­ing-scale sys­tem known as ‘GM 1-20’ tests were the bench­mark used by Gen­eral Mo­tors and adopted by GM-H. Chrysler and Ford had sim­i­lar test pro­ce­dures and as such we can com­pare the re­sults ob­tained. The ‘GM 1’ test was done on an en­gine dy­namome­ter with the en­gine un­der test to­tally un­en­cum­bered of pow­er­rob­bing ac­ces­sories such as the al­ter­na­tor, starter mo­tor, wa­ter pump and air-cleaner as­sem­bly. Air was plumbed into the car­bu­re­tor, and the en­gine was run with­out closed ex­hausts. The re­sult­ing horse­power and torque out­put rat­ings from such tests were con­sid­ered to be the ‘gross out­put’ of the en­gine.

Tests were also con­ducted on the same en­gine but with the front of the en­gine fully dressed, us­ing the am­bi­ent air, run­ning a closed cool­ing sys­tem and with a closed ex­haust con­nected. This test was re­ferred to as a ‘GM 20’ test, and the out­put of the en­gine in this case was rated as a ‘net’ out­put.

The first re­ally im­pres­sive fig­ure was claimed for the XR Fal­con GT at 225 horse­power (SAE gross). Strangely though, the XT model with a larger en­gine only had a mi­nor lift to 230 horse­power, yet the per­for­mance in­crease was sig­nif­i­cant. The con­sid­er­ably heav­ier Holden Monaro GTS 327, with 250 horse­power, left both of them in its dust as it set a whole new stan­dard in per­for­mance with a 0 - 100mph time of less than 20 sec­onds.

1969 was a high point for both Ford and GM-H when 300 horse­power was claimed for the Fal­con GT-HO and the Monaro GTS 350. In a strange twist though, Ford was erring on the side of cau­tion in terms of spec­i­fy­ing the power out­put of its rac­ing car en­gine at just 10 more than the reg­u­lar GT. GM-H on the other hand was hon­est to good­ness as the chart il­lus­trated re­veals.

There was to be no fur­ther in­crease in the

ad­ver­tised power out­puts from ei­ther Ford or Holden. In stan­dard road trim, the 0-100mph times were down in the 15-sec­ond bracket by mid-1970 – the Fal­con GT-HO con­tin­u­ing to shade the Monaro GTS 350. Both cars had top speeds in ex­cess of 130mph.

Ford kept the ad­ver­tised horse­power at 300 when the XY Fal­con GT-HO Phase III was re­leased in mid-1971. Some sec­tions of the press were sug­gest­ing that the ac­tual power out­put of the Phase Three HO was in ex­cess of 330 horse­power. Maybe for a blueprinted and racepre­pared car…

How­ever, the road­go­ing cars still could not crack the magic 100mph be­fore the mea­sured quar­ter-mile yard­stick. Some­thing didn’t seem quite right here.

To put this in per­spec­tive, Ford’s Broad­mead­ows plant man­ager, Don Deve­son, had a “Phase III plus” com­pany car run­ning “a Cobra Jet cam, man­i­fold and 850 cfm car­bie”. This mod­i­fied GT-HO put out 232 horse­power at the rear wheels on the Ford dyno. A stan­dard HG GTS 350 has just 200 horse­power at the rear wheels.

Come mid-1972, Chrysler Aus­tralia set new stan­dards every­where with its E49 R/T Charger fig­ures. Namely, 302 horse­power, a 0-100mph time of 14.1 sec­onds and a stand­ing quar­ter-mile in 14.4 sec­onds! Game, set, and match thank you very much.

The E49 was some­what lighter than the Ford and Holden, but in any­one’s lan­guage the 265ci 6-pack Hemi six-cylin­der en­gine was a work of art – the awe­some per­for­mance matched by awe­some looks.

The last Aus­tralian mus­cle car with 300 ad­ver­tised horse­power was the 1974 Ford XB Fal­con GT.

On the whole, the car com­pa­nies were up front with ad­ver­tised power out­puts. Nat­u­rally they claimed the more at­trac­tive fig­ures (who wouldn’t?), but they weren’t fib­bing as such in spite of the fact that many people to this day still be­lieve that the fac­tory fig­ures were grossly in­flated.

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