Project Kaleda

The Kaleda fam­ily has cre­ated a tribute Charger in the liv­ery of pa­tri­arch Ray’s most suc­cess­ful Bathurst chal­lenger. The E38 has proven a hit at car shows as it helps keep mem­o­ries alive of an un­sung pri­va­teer’s Great Race feats.

Australian Muscle Car - - Mopar Muscle -

Every­one needs a project to crack on with, right? In the case of the Kaleda fam­ily, the re­cently com­pleted project car you see on these pages serves sev­eral pur­poses. Among them was the fam­ily’s de­sire to high­light the rac­ing achieve­ments of pa­tri­arch Ray to Chrysler en­thu­si­asts and the wider mo­tor­ing pub­lic.

You see, Ray is one of the fondly-re­mem­bered gi­ant-killing Bathurst pri­va­teers of days-gone-by. His is a name that has popped up reg­u­larly in the pages of Aus­tralian Mus­cle Car but, truth be known, we’ve never re­ally stopped to tell his story. Un­til now.

And what a story the Kaleda clan had to tell us, too. It’s not just about Ray’s time in rac­ing that hit its heights with eighth in the 1972 Hardie-Ferodo 500 and go­ing two bet­ter the fol­low­ing year.

We’ll elab­o­rate on ‘Project Kaleda’ and Ray’s ex­tra­or­di­nary early life a lit­tle later on, but first it’s im­por­tant to high­light the mag­ni­tude of Ray’s sixth place in the 1973 Hardie-Ferodo 1000. The ’73 Great Race at Bathurst will be re­mem­bered as a year of change. Not only had the dis­tance been in­creased from the tra­di­tional 500 miles to 1000km, but the race also came un­der the new reg­u­la­tions. The pre­vi­ous year’s Su­per­car Scare saw the ban­ish­ment of the road le­gal ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cials and teams took ad­van­tage of mod­i­fi­ca­tions that were per­mit­ted un­der CAMS’ Group C rules. The Holden Dealer Team, for ex­am­ple, took a leaf out of Chrysler’s book and turned up with a triple We­ber carb To­rana XU-1 for Peter Brock/ Doug Chivas and a (slightly less thirsty) triple SU ver­sion for Colin Bond/Leo Geoghe­gan, fin­ish­ing sec­ond and third re­spec­tively be­hind the Al­lan Mof­fat/Ian Geoghe­gan fac­tory Ford XA Fal­con GT. The race was prob­a­bly best known for Chivas push­ing the race-lead­ing XU-1 up­hill to the pit bay af­ter run­ning out of fuel, hand­ing the race to Mof­fat and Geoghe­gan. Round­ing out the top five was a pair of ex­pertly driven XU-1s pi­loted by Bob Jane/ John Har­vey and Bob Forbes/Dick John­son. Be­hind the il­lus­tri­ous quin­tet, to the as­ton­ish­ment of all, was a pri­vately-en­tered Chrysler Charger in its third Bathurst start, driven by Kaleda and Peter Granger. They started 18th on the grid and out­lasted, out­wit­ted and out­played (to bor­row the catch­phrase of TV’s Sur­vivor) all the other bat­tlers to fin­ish sixth. It was the first Charger home and sus­pi­cious race of­fi­cials im­me­di­ately pulled its head off to check its le­gal­ity. For Ray Kaleda, this was a very sweet mo­ment. His team was largely self-funded and he had pre­pared the car him­self in his own work­shop. But then bat­tling against the odds was some­thing Ray was very much used to, for he had been a battler all of his life.

Ray Kaleda was born in Lithua­nia in 1935; his fa­ther was a for­est ranger. When Soviet Rus­sia in­vaded Lithua­nia in 1939, his fa­ther was ar­rested and in­terned sim­ply be­cause he was armed and in uni­form. When Ger­many sub­se­quently in­vaded Lithua­nia, they re­leased his fa­ther. But when the Sovi­ets re-in­vaded in 1944 he was again on the wanted list!

Af­ter a tip-off that the Sovi­ets were com­ing to get him, Ray’s fa­ther took his fam­ily and fled west on foot, fin­ish­ing up in Ger­many. Ray’s son Garry Kaleda said his fa­ther doesn’t talk much about his child­hood mem­o­ries in war-torn Europe. Only re­cently his fam­ily learnt that he once found an aban­doned tank and climbed in­side, only to dis­cover a dead crew­man in there with him.

The fam­ily ended up in a refugee camp run by the Amer­i­cans and re­mained there for five years. Ray re­called that his par­ents wanted to im­mi­grate to the USA, but af­ter watch­ing a news­reel on Aus­tralia with peo­ple cook­ing meat on a BBQ with fat drip­ping on the ground he de­cided this was the place to be!

The fam­ily ar­rived in Aus­tralia in 1949 and moved to a refugee camp in Mait­land, NSW. Sadly, his fa­ther was soon sent to an asy­lum af­ter a spell work­ing on the docks in the harsh

Aus­tralian sun. From what the fam­ily un­der­stands, this could have been as much for the ef­fects of sun­stroke and a lack of English as it was for the hor­rors of war that had taken their toll. His fa­ther ac­cepted his spell in the asy­lum with some grace, stat­ing that it was so much nicer than when in­terned by the Rus­sians in Lithua­nia...

Mean­while, 14-year-old Ray was sent to a boy’s home in Syd­ney. Af­ter briefly work­ing in a bike shop, Ray was ac­cepted as an ap­pren­tice me­chanic with Al­li­son Mo­tors, Rand­wick, at the age of 16. The prin­ci­pal of the boy’s home signed Ray’s ap­pren­tice­ship pa­pers. Ray soon dis­played a nat­u­ral aptitude for things me­chan­i­cal and proved to be a quick learner. He stayed with Al­li­son Mo­tors for 13 years, fi nish­ing up as the com­pany’s work­shop fore­man. In 1962, Ray mar­ried Irena, an­other Lithua­nian refugee who came to Aus­tralia the same year as Ray’s fam­ily.

Ray’s pas­sion for mo­tor­sport be­gan in the mid-1950s when he helped form the Eastern Suburbs Car Club in Syd­ney. His first car was a good old FJ Holden in which he com­peted in hill climbs and time tri­als. Ray self-funded his rac­ing but said his kindly boss at Al­li­son Mo­tors would help out when­ever he could. He got his com­pe­ti­tion li­cence in 1959 and

he raced a Mor­ris Ma­jor at places like War­wick Farm, Oran Park and Catalina Park. Ray said in those days he was just happy to be com­pet­ing and get­ting a place. In 1963 Ray left Al­li­son Mo­tors and bought his own Nep­tune ser­vice sta­tion and work­shop on Vic­to­ria Road at Gladesville, Syd­ney. His fa­ther-in-law had guar­an­teed a loan to buy the busi­ness, a mas­sive un­der­tak­ing for a 28-year-old who had ar­rived in Aus­tralia as a refugee. Ray, de­spite his heavy busi­ness com­mit­ments, con­tin­ued rac­ing and made his Bathurst de­but in 1964 in a Mini 850. To­gether with Barry Thiele, one of Ray’s em­ploy­ees, the Mini fin­ished a cred­itable 15th over­all and third in class. The cam­paign was self-funded, with some spon­sor­ship from Nep­tune. Ray re­turned to Bathurst in 1965 with Gra­ham Moore, one of his ser­vice sta­tion cus­tomers, this time in a Mini Cooper S. They came eighth out­right and fifth in class, also pick­ing up the teams’ tro­phy. Again, the bulk of the cam­paign was self-funded with Ray pre­par­ing the car him­self in his own work­shop. Moore, who would ul­ti­mately com­plete at Bathurst an im­pres­sive 25 times, in­clud­ing a drive with the Chrysler Charger fac­tory team in 1971, has the high­est of re­spect for Ray. “Ray was al­ways very up­front and hon­est,” Gra­ham told AMC. “What you saw is what you got and there was never any fuss work­ing with him. Ray was an ag­gres­sive driver but be­cause of his me­chan­i­cal back­ground, he was easy on the cars he drove.” For a change of pace, Ray pur­chased a Lo­tus Su­per Seven in 1967, a car he re­calls as one of his all-time favourites. He was very suc­cess­ful in the Lo­tus and tro­phies he won in this car dom­i­nate his tro­phy cab­i­net to­day. He sold the Lo­tus in 1971 and bought an Aus­tralian-made Wel­sor club­man. He man­aged to crash it twice be­fore sell­ing it in 1973. Dur­ing this time he con­tin­ued to dab­ble in tin-tops. He pur­chased a To­rana XU-1 in 1970 but didn’t race it in the Bathurst 500. He re­turned to Bathurst in ‘71, this time in a Mazda 1300 en­tered by the Mazda Dealer Team. Un­for­tu­nately, co-driver Bernie Haehnle rolled it on lap 17 be­fore Ray could get a drive. Bathurst 1971 will be re­mem­bered for the dom­i­na­tion of the Al­lan Mof­fat-driven fac­tory Fal­con GT-HO Phase III and the Chrysler Charger’s de­but. One of those Charg­ers, the Hot Mus­tard E38 of Bob Forbes and John Mill­yard had a dra­matic race, as out­lined by Forbes in is­sue #95. The E38’s en­gine ul­ti­mately gave up the ghost af­ter 46 laps, af­ter which it was put up for sale. Ray pur­chased the E38 off Mau­rie Selke of Selke Mo­tors, Drum­moyne, re­call­ing he pre­ferred the Charger to the XU-1 he had pre­vi­ously owned, and the price was right.

Chrysler supplied Ray with a new short block, which he in­stalled and dyno-tested him­self.

“Chrysler rec­om­mended a 6000rpm rev limit and (told us) not to ex­ceed that,” Ray says.

“Some driv­ers over revved the Charg­ers at Bathurst and paid the price!”

He en­tered the Charger in the 1972 HardieFerodo 500 with co-driver Paul Pressler. By then Chrysler had re­leased the four-speed E49 which was over two sec­onds a lap quicker than Ray’s three-speed E38. Car #20C lined up 26th on the grid on a rain-soaked track de­scribed by Leo Geoghe­gan as a “500 mile lot­tery!”

The Kaleda Charger was the only E38 in the race and was in class D, while the E49s were in class C.

“My co-driver was very slow,” Ray ex­plains, “and I ended up do­ing most of the driv­ing my­self.”

In an ac­tion-packed race, which saw a young Peter Brock drive bril­liantly to take his first Bathurst win in the HDT XU-1, Ray stayed out of trou­ble to bring his car home an im­pres­sive eighth over­all.

Main: Kaleda’s finest Bathurst mo­ment was in ’73. In­set left: What a life Ray, far left, has led. Top right: It all started in Humpy Hold­ens, this is Gnoo Blas in Or­ange.

Far left: He owned Col­lege Auto Port, on the cor­ner of Vic­to­ria Road and Col­lege Street, Gladesville, from 1963 to 1977. Left: Ray looks happy about his Bathurst 500 de­but, in 1964, back­ing up in ’65 in #19. Right: With Cham­pion sticker in hand; this is one of the Kaleda fam­ily’s favourite shots. Be­low: Ray was eighth at Bathurst in ’72.

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