The Ade­laide con­nec­tion

Australian Muscle Car - - Resurrected -

Si­mon Pfitzner grew up around Sports Sedans. His father, Bernie, along with Si­mon Aram and Peter Finch, op­er­ated the Develco En­gi­neer­ing com­pany that built so many Sports Sedans in Ade­laide in the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s – in­clud­ing the McCor­mack/Trenoweth Jaguar.

“When my dad was build­ing cars we had a busi­ness that was ba­si­cally in the back­yard of our house,” Si­mon ex­plains, “much to my mum’s dis­gust!

“I would walk out the back door at home when I was seven or eight years old and walk across the grass 10 feet and then you’re in the fac­tory. And in there, there’d be cars – Peter Finch’s Monaro is one I re­mem­ber be­ing built.”

To­day Si­mon runs his own en­gi­neer­ing con­cern, Pfitzner Per­for­mance Gear­boxes. As it hap­pens, PPG in Ade­laide is lo­cated right next door to a com­pany with a very deep con­nec­tion to Sports Sedans, K&A En­gi­neer­ing.

Si­mon re­cently be­came the proud owner of the Thom­son-Fowler Mercedes 450 SLC-Chev raced in the ‘80s by the likes of Brad Jones and John Bowe. The ad­di­tion of the Merc sees the Pfitzner fleet of His­toric Sports Sedans ex­pand to five.

How Pfitzner came to be­come some­thing of a col­lec­tor of old Sports Sedans is an in­ter­est­ing story in it­self.

“Barry Bray was a good friend of my dad’s. They built Barry’s Nis­san Stanza Sports Sedan at Develco be­fore Barry left for Mel­bourne to work at Nis­san Motorsport. Later, in my early 20s, I got a job at Gib­son Motorsport, and over there I lived with Barry, be­cause he knew my father. We be­came good mates, and out of that I started to be en­thused about Sports Sedans again.

“I came across Barry’s old Stanza Coupe, which he had sold when build­ing his Gazelle. It had since gone through nu­mer­ous own­ers, but luck­ily enough, never been mod­i­fied. I al­ways had an in­ter­est in the Stanza as I re­mem­ber it be­ing built when I was a kid, and my first car was a Dat­sun.

“I bought the Stanza some years ago and put it in stor­age till I had the time to re­store it. When I told Barry I had bought the car he couldn’t be­lieve it, and pushed me to get it out of stor­age so he could take it home and help to start restor­ing it – it was a bit like he got his baby back!

“I bought one of the orig­i­nal mo­tors off Barry which he still had. Those mo­tors are very rare as we be­lieve there may have only ever been 10-12 ever built in that tur­bocharged con­fig­u­ra­tion. They were the Nis­san LZ20BT twin-cam four-valve en­gines from Nis­san’s fac­tory Group 5 Sports car pro­gramme. They were never avail­able to the pub­lic and it was only through Barry’s Nis­san con­tacts that he ac­quired some of these as Nis­san moved on to their next en­gine in their motorsport pro­gram.

“It was fun to re­store the car as it sort of got all us Sports Sedan guys back to­gether and laugh about the old days. Barry’s mate and me­chanic on the Stanza back in the day, Ian Baird, was a big help, as well as Barry’s son, Michael.

“I must say the first time I drove it I was sur­prised at how fast it was! It was an emo­tional time for me as I lost my Dad at the age of 21 to Mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease.

“I found Barry’s old Austin A30 in Ade­laide and bought that as well. It ran a 2-litre fuel in­jected Nis­san U20 Speed­car en­gine back in the day, al­though it had a Ford 2-litre Pinto mo­tor when we bought it.

“We got to­gether as a group and re­stored that car as well. Then came across Mick Mon­terosso’s first Anglia, and yep, we re­stored that car as well.

“We also have the Tony Ross Holden FX, which my dad helped Tony build, and Barry still has the Gazelle he built after he sold the Stanza.

“I bought the ve­hi­cles, but as a group we’ve fixed them up to­gether. Ian Baird drives the A30, and Barry’s son, Michael, drives the Anglia.

“Our main push is to try to get His­toric Sports Sedans up and go­ing; to get all these old cars that are sit­ting in garages and that ev­ery­one thinks are old pieces of rub­bish, and get them go­ing and bring them out. Lots of peo­ple still like see­ing these old things and it’s sur­pris­ing how many peo­ple come up with a big smile on their face and say ‘I re­mem­ber see­ing this race!’ or ‘I raced against this car!’

“I’m try­ing to or­gan­ise it so that it can be cost ef­fec­tive and fun to run them at His­toric Race meet­ings

“Part of it for me, with the A30 and the Anglia, they’re road cars you don’t ever see on the roads these days, let alone on the track. As a group joke, we nick­named them the ‘Wacky Rac­ers’ be­cause they’re weird old things, with the wrong gear­boxes, the wrong mo­tors, and ex­tremely mod­i­fied.

“I’ve been rea­son­ably lucky with the cars that I’ve got, in that they never got re­ally chopped up and turned into some­thing they never were.

“It’s just a so­cial out­let and a lot of fun. There’s no stress; we just en­joy our­selves with some re­ally crazy old cars.”

Supra high­lights a par­tic­u­lar is­sue faced by the His­toric Sports Sedan move­ment.

The ba­sic premise laid down by CAMS for his­toric clas­si­fi­ca­tion can be summed up in this phrase: ‘as it was, so shall it be’. But added to that is when it was, be­cause in or­der to achieve His­toric recog­ni­tion, the ve­hi­cle must be pre­sented in a spec­i­fi­ca­tion rep­re­sent­ing a dis­tinct point in time in the ve­hi­cle’s his­tory.

For cat­e­gories like Groups A and C, this is usu­ally not a prob­lem in it­self. Rule re­stric­tions in these cat­e­gories mean there’s gen­er­ally a set spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the driv­e­line, body/chas­sis and brakes and sus­pen­sion, so a large per­cent­age of the car’s re­quired his­toric spec­i­fi­ca­tion is al­ready known, and there­fore not sub­ject to de­bate. But in Sports Sedans, where there are (by com­par­i­son with other cat­e­gories) al­most no rules, and where cars were rou­tinely up­graded and mod­i­fied, some­times al­most from race to race, de­ter­min­ing a point-in-time spec­i­fi­ca­tion is not so sim­ple a task.

It’s eas­ier for the ‘star’ cars: there’ll usu­ally be enough pe­riod mag­a­zine re­ports and photos (and TV cov­er­age) to be able to prove the cor­rect liv­ery and tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

How­ever, for the ‘si­lent ma­jor­ity’, the lesser­known cars that never fea­tured on TV or in mag­a­zines, it can be a very dif­fi­cult ex­er­cise. This is­sue looms as a sig­nif­i­cant hur­dle for the cat­e­gory into the fu­ture.

That’s not to say it’s an in­sur­mount­able one, though. In­deed, most of the six cars that have been is­sued with Group U log­books so far are in fact smaller-ca­pac­ity ma­chines.

Two of them be­long to Adam Duce. He’s one of the lead­ers of Queens­land scene, hav­ing picked up the reins from fel­low his­toric Mini Sports Sedan racer Fred Say­ers, who started off the his­toric Sports Sedan move­ment in the sun­shine state.

Adam was lucky in that the two Minis he re­stored were lit­er­ally part of the fam­ily, both cars hav­ing been stored in the back shed since the early ’80s. The cars did not have a chain of mul­ti­ple own­ers (one had only ever been raced by his father), and they hadn’t been run in some 30 years, so their bona fides were eas­ily proven. But for oth­ers it won’t be so easy.

“The difficulty is know­ing the cor­rect his­tory of the cars,” Adam ex­plains, “to be able to es­tab­lish what the car’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions were at a par­tic­u­lar

To­rana two­some: David Wall’s re­cently re­stored HDT LH Sports Sedan (AMC #80’s cover car) sets new stan­dards for Group U build qual­ity, while Frank Ure’s unique Oldsmo­bile V8-pow­ered XU-1 is as im­pres­sive in re­stored trim as it was when it was snap­ping at the heels of the front run­ners in the mid ’70s. Below: In Queens­land they’re al­ready run­ning Group U races, but with fields bol­stered by in­vited cat­e­gories such as Trans Am.

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