The Adelaide connection
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.