Local star, imported car
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.