Lo­cal star, im­ported car

Australian Muscle Car - - Star Cars -

Some Aussie driv­ers lent their names to some racy ma­chines im­ported by lo­cal dis­trib­u­tors.

John French GTV Tur­bodelta


GTV 2.0 Tur­bodelta was the folly of in­com­ing Alfa Romeo Aus­tralia head, Dr Rug­gero Ro­tondo. Its 1981 in­tro­duc­tion 18 months prior to the suc­cess­ful GTV6 made no com­mer­cial sense, but it did show­case an ob­scure racer sig­na­ture spe­cial.

The Tur­bodelta, as its name im­plied, was a tur­bocharged Alfetta GTV built by the fac­tory’s com­pe­ti­tion di­vi­sion Au­todelta in 1980 to ho­molo­gate ma­chines for the Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship.

ARA ac­quired a num­ber of Tur­bodelta ‘kits’ (as many as 30) for its lead­ing deal­ers who un­der­took the con­ver­sion on GTVs and a lone Alfetta sedan. The price was an eye-wa­ter­ing $26,000, com­pared to $18,500 for the stan­dard GTV.

Pop­u­lar Bris­bane dealer and for­mer Alfa racer John French not only con­verted eight GTVs, he also added his name! For­mer ser­vice man­ager Brian Michel­more, a racer in his own right was re­spon­si­ble for un­der­tak­ing the la­bo­ri­ous con­ver­sions.

Michel­more, who will be the sub­ject of an up­com­ing AMC fea­ture, still has his notebook from the job.

“The fluted bon­net and en­gine bay cut-outs – to dis­si­pate heat – were farmed out,” re­mem­bers Michel­more. “The head and sump came off to fit forged 7:1 pis­tons and a cop­per head gas­ket. The KKK K26 tur­bocharger was fit­ted and the sump mod­i­fied to clear the spe­cial ex­haust man­i­fold. A spe­cial air­box to pres­surise the twin Dell’orto carbs went on. Boost was a low 0.6 bar (9psi) and we got 80KW at the wheels. The last one, we turned it up to 1.1 bar (16psi) and got 119kW, but the carbs leaked.”

Other mod­i­fi­ca­tions in­cluded fit­ting Koni shock ab­sorbers and lo­cally sourced brakes, namely Gir­lock slid­ing calipers on vented discs, and the Sim­mons two-piece wheels.

Fit­tingly, JF001 was John French’s per­sonal car and it to ho­molo­gate the RX-7 for the 1980 sea­son, for which Mof­fat pro­posed that a 250 to 280 horse­power ‘pe­riph­eral port’ en­gine be al­lowed. Or, it was sup­posed to…

Mof­fat put it to CAMS, but when the gov­ern­ing body failed to sanc­tion the car on the grounds that a spe­cial en­gine mod­i­fi­ca­tion couldn’t be granted to one make, the 10 light­weight RX-7s were sold through Vic­to­ria deal­er­ships for $13,995 each, which was less than a stan­dard RX-7.

There was no hot 12A en­gine in the road car and, given the RX-7s had been ear­marked for com­pe­ti­tion, there was no air-con­di­tion­ing or au­dio sys­tem ei­ther.

Buy­ers got a front air-dam and rear spoiler, 15-inch three-piece Sim­mons wheels, a sun­roof and a Mazda RX-7-lo­goed filler panel in be­tween the tail­lights. There was an ‘AMS’ badge on each B-pil­lar, and two paint schemes were of­fered – red over yel­low (pic­tured) and white over blue.

With just 10 ex­am­ples pro­duced, sur­vivors are not ex­actly thick on the ground to­day. still sur­vives. Un­til re­cently it was owned by Mike Bar­renger from Ho­bart [ED: So many cars of sig­nif­i­cance live in Tas­ma­nia].

“The guy I bought it from in Bris­bane kept blow­ing the en­gine. I had plans to re­store it – do the in­te­rior and re­build the en­gine prop­erly. But with other projects plus a move in­ter­state, I had to let it go. It’s now in Mel­bourne.”

Win­ning the 1981 Bathurst 1000 wasn’t Frenchy’s only achieve­ment that year!

Thus, we were un­able to track down a com­plete, orig­i­nal spec AMS RX-7 to pho­to­graph for this story. How­ever, we’re pleased to re­port that a sur­vivor is cur­rently un­der­go­ing a re­build in Ade­laide by ro­tary en­thu­si­ast, Brent. We look for­ward to pub­lish­ing im­ages of this red rocket when it’s back on the road. Brent is un­aware of any other sur­vivors, but hopes this ar­ti­cle might bring at least one other out of the wood­work.

He’s seek­ing im­ages of the afore­men­tioned B-pil­lar AMS badge so he can re­pro­duce a pair to re­place those stolen from his car, which is shown here pre-re­build.

Con­tact us via am­ced­i­to­rial@chevron.com.au and we’ll put both par­ties in touch.


Above: Quoted power was 110KW, up from the stan­dard GTV’s 90kW. Note air fil­ter can­is­ter used to help cool turbo. The cross-over pipe to feed forced air from the turbo to the pres­surised air­box has been re­moved. This car now runs a non-stan­dard in­ter­cooler.

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