Bob Jane Ca­maro

There is no more revered Chevro­let Ca­maro in Aus­tralia than Bob Jane’s awe­some 1969 427ci ZL-1. AMC out­lines why this bal­lis­tic bowtie beast is the most le­gendary of all Ca­maros down un­der.

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

There is no more revered Ca­maro in Aus­tralia than Jane’s 427ci ZL1 Im­proved Tourer.

Tough­est of the tough

AMC de­scribed Bob Jane’s Ca­maro in the fol­low­ing man­ner when the or­ange ma­chine was fea­tured in-depth in is­sue #6’s ‘Aussie In­vader’ cover story of 2003: “Quite sim­ply this is a bru­tally pow­er­ful son of a bitch Chevro­let that rede ned the term ‘mus­cle car’ when it erupted onto Aus­tralian race tracks in 1971. Prior to its ar­rival, the lo­cal tin-top scene was dom­i­nated by Ford Mus­tangs pow­ered by small-block V8s, but no one had seen any­thing like this. Un­der the bon­net of his new weapon lurked a 427 cu­bic inch (7.0 litre) all-al­loy V8 ‘Rat’ mo­tor with a zil­lion horse­power and so much torque there wasn’t a gear­box that could con­tain it.”

Driver to match

Be­hind the wheel was Bob Jane, whose pres­ence in and out of the car matched that of his new glam­our Chev. Jane had al­ready claimed two Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship (ATCC) ti­tles driv­ing Jaguars in the early 1960s, then had ve sea­sons cam­paign­ing Mus­tangs with mod­er­ate suc­cess in the mid to late 1960s. This left the for­mer champ hun­gry for more crowns. Crowds watched in awe as the nuggety Jane, in his typ­i­cally ag­gres­sive hunched-be­hind-the-wheel style, took on the best in the busi­ness – and beat them.

It’s a gen­uine ZL-1

The ZL-1 model was the pin­na­cle of Chevy high per­for­mance. Some ve decades later, it still is. Jane’s car, VIN 610732, was

#13 of a 1969 batch of just 69 cars fac­to­ry­fit­ted with fe­ro­cious 427 en­gines – with four-bolt mains, cast-iron cylin­der lin­ers, 12:1 pis­tons and open cham­ber heads – to meet drag race ho­molo­ga­tion re­quire­ments. These COPO (GM’s ‘Cen­tral Of­fice Pro­duc­tion Or­der’) No. 9560 cars were avail­able in a choice of five colours with ei­ther a four-speed man­ual (Mun­cie M-21 or M22) or heavy duty Turbo 400 au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. In ad­di­tion, the ZL-1 was also equipped with front disc brakes, a spe­cial raised ‘cowl in­duc­tion’ bon­net scoop, heavy-duty ra­di­a­tor, per­for­mance sus­pen­sion and a 12-bolt Posi­trac­tion rear axle as­sem­bly loaded with 4.10 gears. In re­cent years 1969 Ca­maro ZL1s have changed hands in their home coun­try for fig­ures ap­proach­ing $US 1mil­lion.

Can-Am en­gine ori­gins T

he ZL-1 fea­tured an en­gine de­vel­oped by Chevro­let for the vir­tu­ally un­reg­u­lated Cana­dian Amer­i­can Chal­lenge Cup – Can-Am!

From Mel­bourne to Mel­bourne H

aving iden­ti­fied the ZL-1 as the weapon with which to beat bit­ter ri­val Al­lan Mof­fat and friendly ri­val Norm Beechey, he pur­chased two from a US Chevro­let dealer in, of all places, Mel­bourne, Florida. That deal­er­ship just hap­pened to be owned by 1960 In­di­anapo­lis 500 win­ner Jim Rath­man and lo­cated near the Cape Canaveral Space Cen­tre. What could be more apt, when you’re a racer from an­other Mel­bourne af­ter a rock­et­ship! “When I went to Amer­ica in 1970 I thought it would make a great race­car,” Jane re­called ear­lier this cen­tury. “Gen­eral Mo­tors in Detroit told me there were two avail­able in Mel­bourne, Florida – this car in Hug­ger Or­ange and a Le Mans Blue (#52, VIN 620934) au­to­matic for drag rac­ing. So I bought them both.”

That colour A

ussie rac­ing fans had not seen more out­ra­geously coloured cars than Jane’s Hug­ger Or­ange Ca­maro when it lobbed. The colour – and the hue’s name – screamed ‘Amer­i­can mus­cle car’.

Cre­at­ing a leg­end T

he Bob Jane Rac­ing Team’s crew chief John Sawyer over­saw the trans­for­ma­tion of the ZL-1 into a state-of-the-art Aus­tralian tour­ing car con­tender, work­ing with skilled crafts­men like John Brook­field and Graeme Moore. “I had a steel sur­face plate spe­cially made for the build­ing of that car,” Sawyer told

AMC in 2003. “We built it on top of the plate so that ev­ery­thing was per­fectly flat and level and ev­ery­thing was mea­sured from that plate when we welded up the chas­sis. Jane was good mates with Bruce McLaren at the time and the Ca­maro build em­ployed some Can-Am think­ing. How? “Ba­si­cally in the sus­pen­sion lay-out, some safety fea­tures and the way the in­ter­nal frame (roll-cage) was de­signed and con­structed,” Sawyer ex­plained. “We built a cage in the car that went right from the rear of the chas­sis struc­ture through to the tops of the front sus­pen­sion pil­lars. It was like the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge in­side. It was very, very strong and it kept the car very rigid.” Sawyer went to a lot of trou­ble “us­ing the right ma­te­ri­als to lighten the car wher­ever we legally could.” When Sawyer be­gan run­ning Calder Park dur­ing the ’71 sea­son, John Shep­pard took over as BJRT team man­ager.

Drop tank T

he Ca­maro’s low­ered fuel cell or ‘drop tank’ as it’s be­come known was cut­tingedge at the time. The idea was to get the car’s cen­tre of grav­ity as low as pos­si­ble, while adopt­ing the lat­est in safety fuel cell tech­nol­ogy from the US.

Ti­tle on de­but J

ane claimed the 1971 ATCC ti­tle in the Ca­maro’s de­but sea­son, win­ning three of the seven rounds: Calder’s Marl­boro South­ern Sixty, Mal­lala’s South Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship and Oran Park’s Syd­ney Gold Cup. The lat­ter is a fa­bled oc­ca­sion in the cham­pi­onship’s 59-year his­tory, with the cir­cuit’s big­gest ever crowd, a se­ries of dra­matic mo­ments – in­clud­ing an er­rant road car en­ter­ing the track mid-race – and a three-way bat­tle for the ti­tle with Mus­tang driv­ers Ian Geoghe­gan and Al­lan Mof­fat. Jane emerged with a pop­u­lar race and cham­pi­onship vic­tory. “It was the first time I had raced at Oran Park and there was a huge crowd there,” Jane re­called. He missed a gear off the start and dropped back to third be­hind Mof­fat and Geoghe­gan. By lap 16 of 45, Jane was in the lead af­ter Mof­fat’s car jammed in se­cond gear and rolled to a tem­po­rary halt which dropped him to third be­hind Geoghe­gan. Mof­fat soon got mo­bile and set a scorch­ing pace as he reeled in the lead­ing pair, pass­ing Geoghe­gan and set­ting sail af­ter the Ca­maro. But Jane had more than Mof­fat to worry about. “There I was lead­ing the race, try­ing to keep Mof­fat be­hind me, when a spec­ta­tor drove onto the track in a white Valiant and joined the race – I mean he just drove onto the track from the crowd!” Jane says. “I was pass­ing him twice a lap and at the same time try­ing to keep Mof­fat be­hind me. It was un­be­liev­able. In those days it was not like it is to­day,” Jane said. “There were no yel­low flags or Safety Cars. They did not stop the race ei­ther. I don’t know how, but (they) fi­nally got that Valiant off the track and I went on to win the race. It was in­cred­i­ble. Win­ning that race was a great tri­umph.”

Dou­bling up I

n win­ning the 1972 ti­tle, Jane’s Ca­maro was the first car to win back-to-back ATCC se­ries. We em­pha­sise the word se­ries, as Ian Geoghe­gan’s se­cond Mus­tang won three con­sec­u­tive ATCCs, 1967-’69, the first two of these held over a sin­gle race.

Game-changer A

ctu­ally, this Ca­maro is more cor­rectly a rule-changer. Af­ter win­ning the ’71 ti­tle, changes to the ‘Im­proved Pro­duc­tion’ tour­ing car rules forced Jane to aban­don his beloved 7.0 litre big block en­gine for a 5.7 litre (350ci) small block but the com­bi­na­tion proved equally ef­fec­tive. Jane won his se­cond ATCC in a row with the Ca­maro in 1972 and the fourth tour­ing car ti­tle of his ca­reer. John Shep­pard: “The car went as fast if not faster with the 350 in it and that re­ally made Mof­fat tear his hair out!” Jane’s at­tempt at a hat-trick of ATCC Ca­maro ti­tles in 1973 was scut­tled when the rule mak­ers de­clared his car in­el­i­gi­ble to com­pete un­der the new Group C tour­ing car reg­u­la­tions and he sold it.

I’m a sur­vivor M

irac­u­lously, this ZL-1 sur­vived the next two and half decades and a mul­ti­tude of own­ers un­til Jane fi­nally res­cued it in a di­lap­i­dated con­di­tion in 1998. In 1973, Jane had sold the Ca­maro to Vic­to­rian driver Jim Smith who raced it as a Sports Sedan in Camel Fil­ters colours. Smith’s crew chopped the fire­wall and trans­mis­sion tun­nel to al­low his Wes­lake-headed 350ci Chev V8 to be moved fur­ther back in the chas­sis for bet­ter weight distri­bu­tion. Af­ter Smith had raced the car with lim­ited suc­cess it then passed through the hands of an­other owner, be­fore Mel­bourne, Vic­to­ria drag racer Mike Ty­dell bought it. In ’98 Jane was tipped off by Norm Beechey that Ty­dall had the now ma­roon and sil­ver car up for sale and the tyre mag­nate pur­chased it.

High-end resto I

ts restora­tion, by Myles John­son of Thun­der Road Restora­tions in Mel­bourne, was of the high­est qual­ity, re­turn­ing the car to the pris­tine 7.0 litre ZL-1 spec­i­fi­ca­tion in which it first com­peted in 1971. It was a long project for the New Zealan­der, who came to Aus­tralia in 1970 and worked for the Bob Jane Rac­ing Team from 1976 un­til Jane closed the team in 1983. “The trans­mis­sion tun­nel had been cut out of the car and a lot of the stuff had been dis­con­nected,” John­son said of the car’s pre­resto con­di­tion in 1998. “There were boxes full of parts. The car had been semi-gut­ted. It was a bit of a mess.” The restora­tion took four years and was de­tailed in AMC #6. While this is­sue is no longer avail­able as a back is­sue (ie printed mag­a­zine), the story can be ac­cessed via the Is­sue #1 to #50 Dig­i­tal

Mag­a­zine Li­brary on DVD avail­able from my­magazines.com.au

Emo­tional re­veal T

he re­stored Ca­maro’s un­veil­ing was an event in its own right. It oc­curred at Bathurst in the lead-up to the 2002 Bob Jane T-Marts 1000, a sig­nif­i­cant oc­ca­sion for Jane in more ways than one. John­son re­calls show­ing Jane the car for the first time, hop­ing he would be happy with the fin­ished prod­uct. “Bob stood there look­ing at the car for some con­sid­er­able time and then said, ‘You have done a great job’. I was pretty pleased with that.”

Fa­mous five A

MC un­der­stands that the Ca­maro to­day is re­tained by the Bob Jane Cor­po­ra­tion. It has not been seen in pub­lic for many years. With the pass­ing of the com­pany founder on 28 Sep­tem­ber 2018, it’s hoped that it will soon serve again as a fit­ting trib­ute on track at retro rac­ing events to this gi­ant of our sport. It’s 10 years since the Ca­maro was re­united with four other tour­ing car titans – Geoghe­gan’s Mus­tang and Su­per Fal­con, Beechey’s Monaro and Mof­fat’s Mus­tang – at the 2008 Mus­cle Car Mas­ters at Syd­ney Mo­tor­sport Park.

“Mus­cle car of the cen­tury” T

he fi­nal word goes to the late, great Jane, who de­scribed the or­ange Ca­maro as “truly the mus­cle car of the cen­tury. It was an in­no­va­tion for its day with its huge en­gine. It was the first pro­fes­sional tour­ing car to be built specif­i­cally for rac­ing in Aus­tralia on a solid steel plate. Not only did it have more bar work, that is, a far more ad­vanced roll-cage set-up, but it was also the first tour­ing car to have an in-board fire ex­tin­guisher. It re­ally was an amaz­ing car.”

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