Australian Muscle Car
Firstly, a big congratulations on AMC issue #115. I have managed to read it from cover-to-cover with my usual speed (as I do with every issue), and I now face the long and agonising wait (for me) until issue #116 hits the stands.
I thoroughly enjoyed the article on the Craven Mild ‘Dream Team,’ and about the Commodore itself. As a long-time enthusiast who devours everything related to motorsport, this article brought back some memories from some of the magazines of the day. I used to have every issue of Racing Car News and Auto Action going right back to #1, but had to part with them when I moved interstate. What really raised my interest is the two photos of the Commodore that were taken at Symmons Plains in 1980. In one photo the Commodore wears the homologated front spoiler, but in the other, it doesn’t. I remember reading that the car practised with the spoiler tted, but Frank Gardner told the motorsport reporters at the time that he was concerned about high engine temperatures. As a precaution, the spoiler was removed overnight in preparation for race day to allow better air ow to the radiator. As it turned out, Mother Nature decided to chuck it down, so engine temperature was never an issue.
Another car that was mentioned very brie y was the Barry Lawrence Commodore. It would be interesting to know whether this car has eventually been restored, because if it’s the car that I think that it is, then it’s had a really interesting life. In 1982 at Bathurst it suffered an engine failure on lap 2 in The Cutting, and the ensuing chaos involved Terry Finnigan and Steve Harrington, effectively ending the races for all three cars. In 1983, the same car quali ed well, but was bought off Barry by Ross Palmer. Ross then gave it to Andrew Harris and Garry Cooke to run, while Palmer took their XE Falcon for Dick and KB to run after the Hardies Heroes accident. If it is the same car, then it was repainted by the TAFE guys overnight, and is the only Commodore to ever run at Bathurst wearing sponsorship from a Ford dealership... and wearing Ford badges on both front mudguards. The Commodore went on to nish 10th, and in the process Harris won the Rookie of The Year Award. I can’t help but feel that if it is the same car, then there’s a story in that one as well.
One nal little piece of trivia. There was one unmentioned V8 at Symmons Plains on that weekend in 1980. That was Kevin Bartlett’s Nine Camaro. I can remember an article in Launceston’s local newspaper, The Examiner, from that weekend. KB hadn’t had a lot of seat time in the Camaro due to the injuries that he suffered in a Formula 5000 accident at Sandown in 1979. It was those injuries that had kept him out of the car at Bathurst, and he was keen to make up for lost time. I remember him telling one local journo that his team had been at the track at the break of dawn each day, and that it was just him racing the rabbits!
One last piece of reassurance. I may have had to part with my collection of RCN and Auto Action magazines, but NOBODY is getting my AMC collection!
Thanks for your time and take care in these crazy days.
The folly of Supercars
Congratulations, rstly, on an outstanding issue 115 – possibly the best Australian motor magazine for a long time. And I say this, still with lots still to read. But I have nished the Supercars story, thank goodness. When will this mob wake up?
They are reasonably good race series organisers, although they could be better.
As car designers, they’re bloody dreadful. Why, in hell’s name, does this small team of people think they can do a better job than Ford, GM, Toyota, Hyundai, etc at making a car? They do it badly and expensively, buggering around while trying to make everything equal. Like a McDonald’s burger, with as much appeal.
When will they understand that we want variety in the way races pan out, with different strategies and different circuits providing different scenarios? Close times, with everyone up everyone’s bum, doing the same thing all the time according to a big book of rules, is not breathtaking, hard-to-predict motoring racing.
Think Minis, Skylines, Toranas, Falcon GTs, Jaguars, Sierras, Camaros, Mazdas, Volvos, Lotus Cortinas, etc, etc. Current excitement seems to be to decorate a car differently, possibly harking back to better times. It’s money badly spent. It won’t interest the media or spectators.
When will someone in the series realise that, if one car has more horsepower than another, it will use more fuel, do more pit stops, be harder on brakes and tyres – and that a slower car may catch it, if not at Bathurst, then at Winton?
Weight, frontal area, front/rear weight distribution are all matters that make car comparisons interesting for the car companies, spectators and viewers.
When there were classes, there were numerous battles – outright, in the classes and then how some class heroes were going overall. Now they can’t even vary their fuel or brake performance. So there’s just one story to tell, for the commentators and the spectators.
For the Adelaide race a few years ago to be won because the car running fth had pushed 140 litres of not-needed fuel in and out of its tank where the four in front hadn’t was garbage. Races are run and won on race tracks, not in rule books.
Come on Supercars, open up the regs, stop racing to a thick rule book that prohibits innovation. Stop all your expensive aero testing. Get the engineers, the car companies, the team strategists back into the game so that a wider range of people can take an interest in nding out what might happen at this meeting – or the one after that.
Goodness, it might even interest car companies…
This hiatus is a chance to get back on course to exciting, innovative, unpredictable and more varied motor racing. And, hopefully, cheaper. Will Hagon
Dawn, not Diane
Just nished reading your Whaddayaknow article in issue #114, which covered married racing couple Max and ‘Diane’ Dickson. I have no connection to the family but can offer the following clue. On the right front quarter panel of the main picture you’ll see the names Max and DAWN Dickson. Great mag, I have every single issue from #1 and look forward to every installment.
ED: Indeed you’re right, Leigh – somehow not one of us in the AMC office spotted that as we were putting the issue together! But after we read your email we had another look at the pic, and suddenly it Dawned on us… Sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees…
Dawn at Catalina
Re Whaddayaknow from AMC issue #114, the Cortina pictured has Dawn Dickson as the driver in the official programme from
Catalina Park in 1968. Mrs D Dickson is entered in a Sportfour Mini in event 2. I found a photo of this car on autopics.com.au
ED: Well spotted, Richard, and here is that pic of Dawn (not Diane!) Dickson at the wheel of the Sportfour Mini at Catalina Park in ’68.
No longer Holden on
Here are my thoughts on the Supercars coverage by Mark Mathot in AMC issue #115 and where it should go from here. The category still provides appeal with name drivers and teams chasing glory, and there may be a snippet of emotion remaining for parochial fans if the chosen badge is
rst across the nish line; but that is still dependent upon there being an identi able relationship between manufacturer product and race car.
For Ford, that visual acceptance surely disappeared when the Falcon was retired. For Holden, the image
of a front-drive car posing as a RWD product, (and one not only not popular in the market place, but also not identi ed by both Holden and Ford fans as a Commodore), has always been a bit of a stretch. NASCAR found the headlight and grille stickers and badges thing on similar body shapes to be a bridge too far, so I couldn’t see it getting
much traction out here. And now there’s no Holden anyway…
No economical way out of this dilemma, if the sport is to continue to increase its support base. Would love to see a genuine Camaro/Mustang contest like the original Trans-Am, but that’s not going to happen.
You did a comprehensive summary with the Holden story in the same issue. The two Monaros, (p81), and the VE Sedan were all good looking cars. The
VE of course was a top car throughout. When I rst saw one at a dealer’s outlet I was impressed, and also worried, because from memory Ford had decided not to do a completely new Falcon at that stage.
Only criticism I had was that it was a big car, which wasn’t for me back then.
Regarding the FJ; back in the late ‘50s my folks lived outside Lithgow and one day there had been a head-on crash between said model Holden and a new MKII Zephyr out along the highway. My dad remarked that the Holden had folded up like a tin can with the steering wheel and shaft pushed up through the windscreen. The Ford was mostly in one piece. Ironical now but given the purpose of modern crumple zones the Holden may have been the safer car to be in. Eric Waples
The real Horst Kwech?
Paul Newby’s piece on Horst Kwech last issue (and references to Kwech in previous issues) reminded me of a character in a ctional book that I read as a kid
- Dead Heat at Le Mans, by Eric Speed. Today, I pulled the title out of storage and icked through its pages once again. And there it was… Horst Kwech, car builder from Chicago, with a couple of new Chev Monza IMSA-spec race cars.
Coincidence? Surely not. I wonder what the back story is to him being used in a ctional book aimed at teenage readers? Was Kwech aware of the book? Did he know the author? These are questions that might never be answered. Dead Heat at Le Mans, published in 1977, was the fth and nal title in the Wynn And Lonny Racing Books series that also includes The Mexicali 1000, Road Race of Champions, GT Challenge and Gold Cup Rookies.
I’ve not read these other titles, but would be interested to acquire them if any AMC readers had a copy they no longer wanted. Similarly, I’m on the hunt to nd another title from my youth, 500. It’s based around the Indy 500 in the mid ‘60s and is part of a Checkered
Flag series of children’s ction books that featured a chequered ag for the cover.
FYI #1 - I’m a long time reader of AMC and enjoy the old race car and driver articles the most – the famous and the obscure. Keep it up! FYI #2 – I collect & build model race cars and run a blog about it: www.wixy500. com Attached is a photo of a recent diecast conversion I did; TEKNO’s Jack LeBrocq/ Johnathan Webb ‘Truck Assist’ ZB Commodore from 2018 in 1:43 scale.
Another great issue. As per your Holden time line, here is a little-known GM interference. Around 1978 Holden when was working on developing a local four-cylinder engine they were looking at using half of the 5-litre V8, as per the current Pontiac Tempest in the USA (ie: with one cylinder bank cut off).
At this time the badge engineering between Toyota and GM was just starting to happen. The new Corona was coming and Toyota was struggling to meet the then minimum local content rules with that model. They approached GM for help, from my memory, and then sources within Holden decided on the four-cylinder version of the red six, as the half V8 Tempest engine would not t the Corona engine bay. Secondly, Toyota did not want to exceed a 2-litre limit, hence the 1.9-litre capacity.
You may remember about this time Peter Wherrett commissioned the tting of a 2.6-litre Mitsubishi Astron four-cylinder into the fourcylinder VC Commodore. Road tests agreed that this would have been the go and could have been a successful four-cylinder Commodore.
I had a four-cylinder Commodore ve-speed for a while as a company car and, except for hills and the A/C loading up the power, the car was good. It’s maybe difficult to go back in time, but if true it exhibits another short-sighted approach from GM.
Jim Murdoch (subscriber)