Back on track

Australian Muscle Car - - News -

Hot on the heels of the John McCor­ma­ck­built Charger and Cel­ica race­track re­turns is more good news – an­other his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant Sports Sedan’s restora­tion is com­plete. No less a ve­hi­cle than the first ‘works’ BMW to race on Aus­tralian soil, one of the three Sports Sedan/GT cars cam­paigned by the leg­endary JPS Team BMW in the early 1980s.

Back in 2014 this page high­lighted that the car was slowly com­ing back to life in the USA.

The painstak­ing two-decade project by its owner – Cory Muen­ster­man – fi­nally bore fruit when the ex-IMSA car com­peted at North Amer­ica’s premier His­torics meet­ing in late 2016, the Rolex Mon­terey Mo­tor­sport Re­union. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a long, hard road for the Cal­i­for­nian. Be­fore we go any fur­ther, it’s im­por­tant we re­cap this 320 Turbo’s colour­ful and distin­guished his­tory as a fac­tory BMW racer on three con­ti­nents.

It was one of 28 ‘Group 5’ BMW 320 Tur­bos built by BMW Mo­tor­sport GmbH in Ger­many in 1977 and 1978. It was orig­i­nally raced in fac­tory BMW Mo­tor­sport colours in Euro­pean events in 1978, in­clud­ing by the late great Ron­nie Peter­son on the leg­endary Nord­schleife. This chas­sis then went to the USA for use in IMSA sportscar com­pe­ti­tion by the works-sup­ported Jim Busby Racing, with ad­di­tional back­ing from brewer Coors. The 320 Turbo was pre­dom­i­nantly driven by owner Busby in 1979, the team chang­ing the rear win­dow con­fig­u­ra­tion mid-sea­son search­ing for the op­ti­mum aero­dy­namic set-up.

When JBR moved to the M1 model for 1980, the car – plus a se­cond and lit­tle-used ‘spare’ chas­sis – was de­liv­ered to one Frank Gard­ner in Aus­tralia, then man­ag­ing Al­lan Grice’s out­fit.

The for­mer IMSA car’s lo­cal de­but came at Ama­roo Park in 1980 in Craven Mild colours with Grice driv­ing. He finished run­ner-up to Tony Edmondson in that year’s Aus­tralian Sports Sedan Cham­pi­onship, win­ning two rounds of the se­ries.

That US-sourced car was parked by the team for sea­son 1981 in favour of a right-hand-drive car con­structed lo­cally us­ing key com­po­nents from the famed Cor­vair. Grice and Gard­ner then fell out ahead of the 1982 sea­son and Grice’s time as a BMW driver came to an end.

The for­mer LHD IMSA car re­mained sidelined in ’82 at the ‘new’ JPS Team BMW – un­der Gard­ner’s own­er­ship and with Jim Richards driv­ing the 635CSi tour­ers – but hit the track again in 1983 when the tra­di­tional ASSC gave way to the new-look GT cat­e­gory.

“We were able to ba­si­cally put it back to IMSA specs again with its big guards and 19” wheels,” JPS Team BMW chief me­chanic Pip Barker says, “Jim ac­tu­ally led the cham­pi­onship in it in 1983.”

Richards won the two open­ing rounds and looked set to win BMW’s first Aus­tralian (GT) ti­tle... un­til the car was heav­ily dam­aged in the fa­mous multi-car ac­ci­dent off the Ade­laide start­line. All hopes of win­ning the ti­tle were lost.

The re­paired car passed through the hands of Glenn Mol­loy, Robin Do­herty and Syd­neysider Rob Burns, who sold it in the early 1990s to a Cal­i­for­nian who planned to re­store it to its IMSA spec and look. The project didn’t progress far beyond dis­as­sem­bly and the car sat around in pieces for sev­eral years – un­til the owner ur­gently needed to move it out of the fac­tory unit it was scat­tered around, as the prop­erty’s new own­ers were about to move in!

En­ter an­other Cal­i­for­nian, Cory Muen­ster­man, who agreed to buy the car from his friend.

“The car and a pile of spares were scat­tered all over the shop floor,” Muen­ster­man ex­plains. “As my friend didn’t have any­one work­ing for him at the time to help him move it all, it’s my be­lief that he was pre­par­ing to keep the me­chan­i­cal bits and throw away the rest! I did find some parts in the trash area out­side and there were some parts miss­ing that I know he had. So I col­lected the car and all the spares and brought them back to my ’shop. That was some­time around 1998-99.”

AMC #72 has more de­tail on the first 15 years of Muen­ster­man’s restora­tion ef­forts, be­fore he handed the car over to... Jim Busby Racing to com­plete it in 2015. That’s right, the same team that raced the car in 1979. Muen­ster­man de­scribes the Busby team’s ef­forts as “a great ex­pe­ri­ence. Jim’s guys Keith Hick­son and Steve Bounder did a great job on the car.”

The cel­e­bra­tion of BMW’s 100th an­niver­sary at the Re­union was an ex­tra in­cen­tive to have it finished in time for that meet­ing with Busby him­self be­hind the wheel. And that’s ex­actly what was achieved, as our main im­age shows.

“It was in­deed a long road to com­ple­tion,” Muen­ster­man ex­plained. “But it was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence to: a) have the car finished; b) have Jim (Busby) drive it again; and c) have it at the 100-year an­niver­sary BMW Mon­terey Re­union. The last time Jim ever drove the car was late 1979 at La­guna Seca in a Trans-Am race, so it was great that it was the same track again.

“The car was won­der­ful. We had two prob­lems: a clutch is­sue and a leak­ing in­ter­cooler that were both fixed at the track. It is a great han­dling lit­tle car and was re­li­able other that those is­sues. Jim said the car was much more drive­able that in the day.

“The car got a lot of pos­i­tive at­ten­tion; peo­ple re­mem­bered see­ing it run here and it hasn’t been seen since ’79. I gave away a lot of shirts!

AMC salutes Muen­ster­man’s com­mit­ment to pre­serv­ing an im­por­tant – and well-trav­elled – piece of mo­tor­sport his­tory. He’s chuffed its his­tory in­cludes time in Aus­tralia.

“I would love to make a spare set of body­work in the JPS colours so it could be run ei­ther way – kind of a two-for-one deal. It looks so good in JPS colours. What doesn’t?”

Vision of the car’s track re­turn can be found on YouTube. Search for “RE­PLAY: Fi­nals Day 1 - Rolex Mon­terey Mo­tor­sport Re­union!”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.