For the last two decades Adelaide International Raceway has been something of a Clayton’s circuit – the racetrack you have when you don’t have a racetrack. It’s still sitting out there in the sun, too.
This was one spot ahead of Moffat’s GT-HO Phase III that had endured a series of setbacks. Kaleda’s was the third Charger to finish, behind the Chivas and Leo Geoghegan E49s. Ray was fourth in class D and picked up a prize for the best-presented pit crew.
By 1973, Chrysler had withdrawn all official support for motorsport and the Charger teams were very much on their own, and uncompetitive. Ray still decided to enter the E38, again sponsored by his own business and Roamer watches, which had been providing Ray with sponsorship since 1969. With the new CAMS Group C rules in play he was able to install a fourspeed gearbox and competition rims. Chrysler did provide some upgraded engine components, which Ray installed himself.
Sixth place outright would be his best Bathurst result ever. His co-driver was Peter Granger who was also Ray’s friend and solicitor! Ray again did most of the driving.
“We drove the car within its limits, never overrevving the engine,” Ray recalls. “We completed the entire race without a brake pad change.”
The Charger was sold to Peter Granger’s business partner who wrote it off in a serious accident that left him badly injured.
“This guy hit a tree head-on and the car was completely destroyed.”
Ray moved back into a Torana for 1974, purchasing an SL/R 5000 L34. The Kaleda family’s photo albums included a shot of this car (on trade plates) in the driveway of the family home ahead of its debut, as best we can work out, in the ’74 Sandown 250. It retired after 78 laps and the team didn’t make the trip to Bathurst a couple of weeks later.
There were sporadic outings in 1975 and ’76, including at Amaroo Park, but he struggled to get the sponsorship needed for another Bathurst challenge.
He gathered the necessary funds for a return to the Mountain in ‘76, this time with Bob Stevens. Sadly, after qualifying 16th, the L34 didn’t start after an incident with a small car in final practice.
Kaleda later built a Torana A9X hatchback that made occasional outings in touring car events. He later modified the A9X with an injected 308 V8 for sports sedan racing.
Ray finished his racing career in 1981, with the ever-increasing cost of motorsport being a major factor in his decision to finally call it quits. Over a 20-plus year period he had largely self-funded most of his campaigns and self-prepared all the cars he raced in his own workshop. He had gone to Bathurst six times and the sixth placing in 1973 in an uncompetitive car against the powerful factory teams would prove to be the pinnacle of his career.
Ray’s six Bathurst campaigns netted no fewer than four top 10 finishes.
Fast forward now to 2002, when Ray received an award, a ‘Lithuanian sportsmanship medal’ that acknowledged his motorsporting and the
community efforts. It was recognition for his contribution to the country he made his home after arriving in Australia as a penniless refugee. He had to learn a new language and culture, married, raised three sons – Danny, Garry and Alan – worked hard and built up a successful business which he kept until he retired.
His success in Australia’s Great Race in one of its most iconic cars is very much the icing on a rich and well-deserved cake.
Hence, a few years ago the Kaleda family wanted to find Ray a Charger and present it as a replica to the E38 he raced at Bathurst in 1972 and 1973, as son Garry explains.
“Ray had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so the family decided the Charger project would
provide him with some excellent therapy.”
Finding a genuine E38 is not easy and they initially found a Hemi Orange R/T E37 in ‘barnfind’ condition. Not long after they had settled on the E37, the family found a matching numbers Hot Mustard E38 belonging to Tony Guarnaccia, a panelbeater from Victoria. The E38 was the right colour, but was a ‘small tank’ version with the standard size fuel tank and single rear-mounted filler.
Nonetheless they bought the E38 and sent it to Melbourne-based Chrysler restoration specialists Elko’s for completion.
They decided to install the ‘big tank’ twin-fillers and connect them to the tank under the boot floor. Garry says they decided to replicate the Charger as Ray’s E38 in 1972 because at the time it was a road registered car.
The tribute car came with a four-speed gearbox, a common modification for E38s today. Garry says they would like to get a three-speed for it, but these are very hard to find. After Elko’s, the Charger was sent to Brad Tilley, at Tilley Auto Garage, who set up the triple Weber carbs and the suspension.
Ray and his family are delighted with the E38 and have proudly displayed it at various events, including the 2017 Chryslers on the Murray show at Albury-Wodonga, where our photography was taken.
“Most importantly, it provides a great way for Ray to spend his time and to exercise his mind,” Garry says.
The Charger drives beautifully, Garry says, and has been very reliable with 1000km trips undertaken with no problems.
Of course, the Charger’s driveability and reliability would be no surprise to Ray after his remarkable results at Bathurst in 1972 and 1973!
Top left and bottom left: Matching damage. Above and right: Ray ran an L34 Torana spasmodically when budget allowed. An attack on Bathurst ’76 with Bob Stevens came unstuck on the Saturday afternoon. Despite an all-nighter, the car didn’t make the start Sunday. Below: Mackenzie Kaleda, one of Ray’s seven granddaughters, with the tribute Charger that acts as a rolling family history lesson.
Ray and Irena with sons Danny and Garry at Chryslers on the Murray, where the tribute E38 proved a big hit. It unlocked the Kaleda story for many Mopar maniacs. Check out AMC’s Facebook page for other Kaleda family archive pics and a home movie of Ray’s 1972 Bathurst campaign.