Shiel of steel

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents - Story: Steve Nor­moyle Post-resto images: Chris Cur­rie

The story of 1983 AMSCAR win­ner Terry Shiel’s Mazda RX7, now re­stored to its for­mer glory.

There were three tour­ing car se­ries in Aus­tralia in 1983 – and all three were won by Mazda driv­ers. Al­lan Mof­fat claimed the ATCC, while var­i­ous RX7 driv­ers com­bined to win (jointly with Holden) the Cham­pi­onship of Makes. But be­fore both of those tri­umphs, Terry Shiel was vic­to­ri­ous in the AMSCAR Se­ries at Ama­roo Park. AMC spoke to Terry about his ti­tle suc­cess, of tak­ing on Mof­fat’s fac­tory RX7s and be­ing a privateer try­ing to make his way in a cat­e­gory with a fa­mously flex­i­ble set of tech­ni­cal rules.

Rice burn­ers. Jap crap. These are the deroga­tory phrases some used to re­fer to the Mazda RX7 (and the Blue­bird Turbo) when these cars took on the lo­cal Holden and Ford V8s in Group C tour­ing car rac­ing in the early 1980s. Some of the hos­til­ity no doubt came from an­guished Ford fans deal­ing with the fact that Al­lan Mof­fat had done the un­think­able and aban­doned Ford to race a Mazda, which ig­nores the re­al­ity that it was Ford which had aban­doned Mof­fat. Look­ing back to­day, though, even the harsh­est crit­ics of the RX7 can­not deny these sleek-lined lit­tle coupes were a colour­ful – and noisy, with that dis­tinc­tive raspish wail of the ro­tary en­gine! – ad­di­tion to our tour­ing scene in the ’80s.

Not that ro­tary Maz­das were a new phe­nom­e­non in Aus­tralian tour­ing car rac­ing: they’d been there since the start of Group C. But with the Bridge Port 12A ro­tary en­gine, the Mazda RX3 and early RX7s were no more than com­pet­i­tive un­der three-litre cars. It wasn’t un­til Mof­fat’s ex­haus­tive cam­paign to get CAMS to al­low the more pow­er­ful Pe­riph­eral Port en­gine nally suc­ceeded that the RX7 emerged as an out­right con­tender.

Pro­vid­ing a sneak pre­view of what a Pe­riph­eral Port Group C RX7 might be ca­pa­ble of was Mike Grif­fin’s ro­tary-pow­ered Dat­sun 120Y Sports Sedan. The rst run on the dyno for Grif­fin’s 13B Pe­riph­eral Port en­gine in late ’79 de­liv­ered nearly 270 horse­power. Those were promis­ing num­bers given the RX7 was more than 200kg lighter than its V8 op­po­si­tion, and with its sport­scar bodystyle it surely must have been more aero­dy­nam­i­cally ef­fi­cient – in terms of cross-sec­tion frontal area, the Com­modore VC and Fal­con XD looked pos­i­tively Taj Ma­hal-like com­pared to the small, low, wedge-shaped RX7.

As Mof­fat spear­headed the fac­tory Mazda RX7 cam­paign, the privateer Mazda driv­ers ea­gerly eyed off the chance to com­pete not for class hon­ours but with the big boys at the front of the eld.

One of those was Terry Shiel. The Syd­neysider had been a top RX3 run­ner for a num­ber of years, al­though by the time the rst RX7s were rac­ing in 1979, Shiel had sold his RX3 and was out of rac­ing. But at Bathurst that year he teamed up with Queens­lan­der Ross Bur­bidge in the lat­ter’s RX7. “Ross and Steve Bal­lard built that RX7 from

a new road car,” Shiel says. “It was not com­pet­i­tive. They went back to Queensland, some time passed, and then Al­lan Mof­fat got the Pe­riph­eral Port en­gine passed. I saw that as an op­por­tu­nity to get back into the cat­e­gory. So I bought that car off them, re­built it and tted the Pe­riph­eral Port en­gine. I had spon­sor­ship from Pen­rith Mazda, which re­ally helped.

“Pen­rith Mazda’s sup­port was cru­cial be­cause it al­lowed us to pur­chase a cou­ple of Rac­ing Beat (a US ro­tary tun­ing com­pany) en­gines and some other Mazda stuff from the US. The Pe­riph­eral Port en­gines made a huge dif­fer­ence but they were ex­pen­sive. With the ro­taries at the time, there was a lot of ex­per­i­ment­ing go­ing on with bridge ports and ex­tended ports, and there was a lot of heart­break and dis­ap­point­ment with dif­fer­ent con gu­ra­tions.

“I did some of the en­gines my­self, not all that suc­cess­fully, and I think Phil Alexan­der did the one for Bathurst in ’83. Ev­ery­thing was a learn­ing curve for me. And some­times it could be an ex­pen­sive learn­ing curve!”

As that learn­ing curve con­tin­ued, Shiel shared the Pen­rith Mazda RX7 with Don Hol­land in an un­suc­cess­ful run at Bathurst in ’81. By the fol­low­ing year, Shiel had honed the car into a com­pet­i­tive ma­chine – just in time for the ARDC to ditch the 3.5-litre Bet­ter Brakes Ama­roo se­ries in favour of a re­turn of the AMSCAR Se­ries for out­right ma­chines.

But it was no longer the Pen­rith Mazda RX7; it was now the Euro­cars Mazda RX7.

“The Pen­rith Mazda deal had nished and I had noth­ing. But I was very lucky there, be­cause the man­ager of the Euro­cars deal­er­ship, Jeff Burl­ing, was out at Ama­roo watch­ing at the third round, when Mof­fat came up with his RX7. It turned out to be a re­ally good bat­tle

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