King Street, Newtown, is renowned as Sydney’s uber-cool high street, the height of inner-west Sydney chic. But back in the early 1970s Newtown had none of the cafes, restaurants or designer fashion retail stores for which it’s famous today, and generally was rather more working class.
At the top end of King Street in 1970 was the famed motorsport tuning and preparation business, Malcolm Motors. Down the other end was D&P Traders, suppliers of racing karts and equipment.
‘D&P’ stood for the husband-and-wife duo Darcy and Pat Peck. Pat had raced karts in the ‘60s before graduating to cars, running a near-standard 327 Camaro in Sports Sedan racing. The Pecks dabbled brie y with a Falcon GT-HO in Series Production racing before opting for a Torana XU-1. Two XU-1s, in fact: a Series Production version and a Sports Sedan.
Darcy prepared the cars for Pat to drive but did not himself race. The Sports Sedan came together quickly, but before it could be tested the engine needed to be dyno tuned. Conveniently, Malcolm Motors a mile or two up the road (literally in the same street) was equipped with a chassis dyno – one of the few dynos in Sydney at the time. The company’s ad in Racing Car News offered ‘two hours preparing and setting up your engine’ on their dyno, from only $18. ‘Ask for Ron, the Motor Maestro!’ the ad read.
The Malcom Motors ‘Motor Maestro’ was Ron Gillard. The just-married Gillard was retired from racing (see our Muscle Man feature in AMC #108), but remained very much involved in the sport preparing cars for others to race. Gillard remembers the day he met Darcy Peck when Darcy fronted at Malcom Motors with the XU-1:
“Old Darcy Peck, he had one glass eye but he was a smart old bugger. He had decided to build an XU-1 Sports Sedan, so he gets a Torana shell from somewhere and puts it together with an XU-1 motor and three Webers on it, with bits of welding wire holding the carby linkages together. He turns up with it at Malcolm Motors wanting me to dyno it. Instead of dynoing it, I spent a full day xing it so I could dyno it without it catching re or having the throttle stick.
“He says, ‘do you want to have a drive of it?’ I’d stopped racing because I’d got married and promised I wasn’t going to spend money on motor racing any more. I said to Darcy, ‘do some work on it and then I’ll have a drive.’ So we got a Waggott 12-port head and a Seton manifold and put that on, and I built up the motor properly and sorted out the suspension a bit, and he ared the guards by belting them out with a big hammer – and this battered old green XU-1 was the quickest cheapest car! I used to beat a lot of things in that car that it shouldn’t have been beating. It looked ugly too, but it was fun to drive. It was nishing fourth and fth in really good company and winning some races. I’ve got a
Main: Colour shot shows Pat Peck at the wheel at Oran Park. Gillard wheel-lifting the green machine at Warwick Farm’s Causeway (left), and leading the V8s, (below right) and in the rain at Amaroo on monster Formula 5000 wets. photo somewhere of it at Warwick Farm leading Barry Sharp’s lightweight Falcon GT, Frank Ure’s Torana with all the special suspension bits, and Graham Ryan’s HB Torana with the Valiant motor in it. This car probably cost a quarter of any of those cars but it was just a quick car.”
Just as the D&P Traders XU-1 Sports Sedan was never likely to win the best presented car award, under the Torana’s beaten and battered skin there was nothing remarkable to report. Probably the most noteworthy thing about the car was the amount of weight Darcy Peck had managed to gut out of it. Outside of that, it really wasn’t much more than a stock XU-1 with big wheels and tyres and a pretty good engine.
Gillard raced it for the Pecks from mid-1971 through the middle of the following year. Pat Peck would sometimes drive the car at the same meetings, either in a lower division Sports Sedan race (the category was so strong that sometimes there were three divisions) or in the ‘Ladies’ races that were a popular feature of the sport in the early ‘70s.
Gillard remembers the day he raced it at the Easter ’72 Bathurst meeting. In a classic case of Sports Sedan diversity, the front runners in the
ve-lap sprint were three Toranas, each tted with completely different engines: John Harvey’s
Gillard vs Geoghegan
The best race ‘performance’ for the sixcylinder D&P Traders Torana XU-1 Sports Sedan came at Oran Park, when it was only narrowly beaten by Pete Geoghegan’s Super Falcon Improved Production machine, as Gillard explains:
“There was a huge crash at BP Bend on the rst lap, cars and crap going everywhere. I managed to get through all that OK, and passed a lot of cars. Then when the dust settled about four of ve laps into the race, Darcy’s holding out the pit board saying ‘POSITION 2.’ So with all the crashing on the rst lap, I’m now in second place behind Pete Geoghegan’s Falcon, which is about 20 seconds up the road.
“Then I notice that I’m catching him. I’m catching him in funny places, and normally I wouldn’t be catching him anywhere, and I’m thinking, ‘what’s wrong with his car?’ But then I thought, ‘wait a minute, he’s trying to put on a show for the crowd by making a race of it!’ So he’s waited for me to catch up, and then we’re racing. I started diving up the inside of him, and he’d accelerate away and I’d dive around him somewhere else, and then we come down to the last corner on the last lap.
“Back in the old days at Oran Park they used to have a row of witches hats on the straight on the exit of BP Bend, and that was where you peeled off to go into the pits. Well, last corner, he’s braked early and gone right over to the left of the track like he’s blocking me, and I hooked it up around the outside and just planted it, as fast as this thing will go, and then as we go round the corner he’s run me right out wide – but not trying to crash me – and into the row of witches hat, so I’m ploughing through them and there’s witches hats ying everywhere! Then we’re neck and neck to the line, and he must have just put his foot down on the nish. We go to the scrutineering afterwards, and the crowd’s cheering, and he’s sitting in his car and he says to me, ‘weh, weh, weh, weh, well how was all that, eh?’”
The Oran Park crowd was in raptures after this exciting David-and-Goliath ‘battle.’ It even made the following day’s Sydney newspapers, with Gillard being written up as the new young star who dared to challenge Australian Touring Car Champion Pete Geoghegan…
“And after that, the Oran Park promoter Allan Horsley started paying me appearance money!”
4.4-litre Repco-Brabham V8 XU-1, Gillard’s 3.3-litre Torana and Colin Bond in a Holden Dealer Team XU-1 – powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine. The latter, of course, was the prototype V8 XU-1 which HDT boss Harry Firth was secretly testing in preparation for the LJ XU-1 V8 production model Holden intended to race in the Bathurst 500 just seven months later (but which never saw the light of day). Gillard saw the XU-1 V8 prototype in action up close and personal, and was able to offer some interesting insights into what might have been in the Great Race that year.
With Harvey’s gearbox calling it quits on the second lap, the race came down to a battle between Bond in the HDT XU-1 V8 and Gillard’s D&P Traders XU-1 six.
“I nished second behind Bondy, but if we’d wanted to put money on it we could have had his car knocked out of the race because it had a 308 (5044cc) in it, and the capacity limit for an XU-1 Sports Sedan was ve litres. I mean, you knew what they were doing with it, and I spoke to Bondy a bit, but it was just a mildly hotted up 308. They were just sizing the whole thing up. But it was a pretty quick car. I was quicker than it in a few places; by Forrest’s Elbow I could get to its back bumper bar but it was quicker than me down the straight – and that XU-1 Sports Sedan was quick on the straight, let me tell you!
“It was doing 7500rpm in top gear on Conrod. That car was jumping off the ground over the last hump – I was having to get off the throttle, but of course it was about as aerodynamic as a house brick with half the front missing out of it.
“First lap in practice down Conrod Straight at out in it, about half way down it’s like a dust storm in the car as the air’s getting through all the holes Darcy had drilled in it; there’s dust and dirt and shit blowing everywhere inside! And the windscreen wiper, even though it’s switched off, has left the windscreen… It had a breglass bonnet held on with six pins, and on Conrod at high speed the air got under it and blew gaps in it so that it was bulging out about an inch and a half between each pin – the bonnet just grew! Then you’d get to the braking area at Murray’s Corner and as the car slowed down the bonnet would go back down to its normal shape! So aerodynamically, that car was pushing a lot of air.”
That same Bathurst weekend featured a combined race, where Sports Sedans like Gillard’s Torana were lumped in with the Improved Production cars that were there for the main event, the third round of the Australian Touring Car Championship. In the wet Gillard nished fth behind Bond in the HDT XU-1 V8, Bob Jane’s Camaro, Norm Beechey’s Monaro and race winner Allan Moffat’s Trans-Am Boss Mustang. It was only a three-lapper, but it was an eventful experience for Gillard.
“It was pissing down rain, and there’s water blowing everywhere inside the car. I’d put aero blades in the windscreen wipers because I already knew that they leave the screen at high speed, but it didn’t work properly. When the wipers were on the vertical they were full contact on the screen, but as they came down they’d start lifting, and at the bottom there’d only be each end touching. So the wipers didn’t really work, and there’s all this water rushing around the car because of all the holes in it, so it wasn’t a lot of fun. But the thing was: it was actually a very quick car in the wet.
“Darcy had bought some Formula 5000 13inch Dunlop wets to put on the XU-1. The back ones were huge, and the fronts were these tiny skinny things – in photos the car looks like a steamroller! But man was that XU-1 good fun in the wet on those tyres! In one race at Amaroo I started off the back of the grid; Wayne Rogerson won the race in the Jubilee Falcon off pole, but I was trying to get past him at the end. Both of us lapped just about every other car in the eld.
“You’d hurtle into the corner and it would steer pretty good, and on the exit you’d just stand on throttle because it had so much traction from these big Formula 5000 wets. The other thing was that because the rear tyres were so wide, going up the straight you couldn’t see a damned
thing in the mirror because of the spray from the huge tyres!
“They were nice people, Darcy and Pat. But Darcy’s favourite tool was a 14-pound hammer with a short handle. He used to do some funny things. At one meeting at Warwick Farm, in the second race I went out and the thing is oversteering like you wouldn’t believe. But in the
rst race it was understeering. After the race I said to him, ‘did you do something to it?’ and he said, ‘oh, yeah, I put a big sway bar on the back to see if you’d like it but I forgot to tell you.’ Maybe he was just trying to see if I knew what I was talking about, whether I would notice the difference – well, he got my attention!
“In another race at Warwick Farm, I’m trying to outbrake Wayne Rogerson’s Falcon at the end of the straight, and then a wheel brace comes ying through the car and bashes into my heel. I spent half the race trying to reach down to pick it up. Darcy had forgotten to take out before the start…”
The wheel brace incident was an experience Gillard took with him later in life, when he was preparing and team managing the Lansvale Smash Repairs Commodore V8 Supercar for Steve Reed and Trevor Ashby.
“With the Lansvale team I always made a point that before the car went out onto the circuit I would open all four doors and have a good look to check none of the mechanics had left anything inside that’s going to y around the car when it’s out on the track. It was a good thing to do – you’d be amazed how many times someone will accidentally leave a spanner or something in the race car!” it
The V8 version
Perhaps buoyed by Gillard’s strong results in the sixcylinder XU-1, in 1972 Darcy Peck decided to upgrade to a V8 version. However, the D&P Traders V8 XU-1 would be a classic case of bigger not in fact being better… It was, Gillard says, a ‘horrible’ car.
“I had nothing to do with building that car. That car’s the reason I didn’t stay with them. Darcy did a lot for me so I don’t mean to bag him out, but this was just a badly made motor car. It nearly killed me a couple of times… When I rst drove it, Darcy says to me, ‘OK, what’s wrong with it?’ I said to him: ‘I’ll tell you what’s right with it – bloody nothing!’
“I was told Don Holland came and drove it one day and then he’s run for cover! I drove it in one race at Oran Park, and that was it for me. Around Oran Park I was two seconds a lap slower in the V8 than the six-cylinder one. I said to Darcy, ‘I’m not driving it. I’ll drive the six-cylinder one from the back of the grid, but I’m not driving that.’
“That was one of my last races with them. Darcy got a bit hot under the collar and I got a bit hot under the collar; we should have sorted things out a bit better, but I just said to him, ‘Darcy, it’s just a pile of shit, it’s just not xable.’
“It had the 327 engine out of Pat’s old Camaro. They used to say it was a 283 Chev, but that was probably because the Sports Sedan capacity limit for a Torana was 5-litres, not 5.3-litres… The motor sat in the car jacked up so it was at an almost 30 degree angle. The gearbox extension housing was almost dragging on the ground – the tailshaft had to go uphill to the diff! The reason it was like that was that Darcy didn’t want to go to the trouble of redoing the sump to t around the Torana crossmember. So he just lifted the engine high enough at the front so it cleared the crossmember! You had to be real careful starting up the engine if you had the bonnet open because the fan was sticking right up in the air – it was almost touching the bonnet when the bonnet was closed! And because the carburettors were jacked up at the wrong angle, it used to fuel surge really badly. The steering was notchy and would jam up on right lock, the throttle used to jam and the clutch wouldn’t work when you were turning left because the motor was moving around on the chassis and jamming the clutch arm... If you look at pictures you can also see it also had a rectangular tube exhaust system – that way Darcy could just cut the square tubes at whatever angle he needed and the weld them. He didn’t have to bother doing proper round tube exhaust bends!”
2002 Ford Falcon AUIII XR8 Melbourne, Victoria
It’s a 2002 Ford Falcon AUIII XR8 in Monsoon with ve-speed manual transmission. It had the dealer- tted Speedline 18-inch wheels (including the spare) and was optioned with leather, premium sound and the Ford Motorsportinspired Peregrine body kit. It looks like an XR8 Rebel clone.
I purchased the car from David Nutter Ford in Berwick on the Monday after the 2003 Betta Electrical Sandown 500, and took delivery about a week later. I traded my 1989 Ford Falcon EA Fairmont Ghia, which was factory
tted with a ve-speed, and actually dealt with the same salesman that I had dealt with almost 10 years earlier.
I decided at the Sandown 500, where I was the Events Secretary, that I needed a V8 again (I’d previously owned a white XB John Goss Special, a manual, and an XC four-door (with a 302 and a four-speed, like the Goss Special). I had to have a Ford, and I had to nd something before I left for Bathurst. In actual fact, I’d been browsing for a while and had noticed this one online and fell in love with the understated colour (almost the same as the blue in the Ford badge) and wheels and loved the fact that it had essentially a hand-built, blueprinted motor. These cars have a plaque on the motor with the builder’s name engraved on it. What really swung the deal was when we agreed that they would give me a greater trade in deal if I kept the Ghia. From previous deals I understood that the cost of a trade in and its possible disposal had to be factored into the outright price. Because it was over 10 years old I knew they’d have to pass it on to another yard as they only kept ‘new’ cars in the second hand lot. I ended up giving the Ghia to a mate I go to a lot of races with, and who’d helped me out a lot, and I knew lusted after it. The deal was I had rst refusal if he decided to sell it, but unfortunately his son was driving it in the country and had a pretty nasty accident that wrote it off. What I really love about this model is that unlike other cars and models the AU XR series can be identi ed from a distance with the love-it-or-hate-it front. The AU XR’s are highly recognisable in a sea of mundane looking showroom muscle cars. With the Commodore of the same period you only needed a set of mags, a wing and driving lights to make your V6 Executive look like an SS.
It seems that David Nutter, the dealer principal (now retired) would ensure his daughter had suitable transport and would move them on through the dealership when the next model was due. At the same time as the XR8 she also had a Subaru WRX (the sort of father we’d all like!). When I purchased it, it had about 7900km on it. Once I drove it I knew it was something special and I wasn’t going to risk it driving to Bathurst. I knew I could never afford a classic GT and felt in time this model would become something special. She lives a pampered life and only comes out on special occasions, or when I’m going to Winton where I’m the Event Secretary for Supercars and Shannons events now.
It’s a great car to drive. Others who have driven it say it’s like it’s just come off the showroom oor. When looking at the car I wanted I decided I wanted an ‘old school’ type motor with the Windsor. Although the Coyote in the BA was listed as more powerful I found after some study that the power to weight ratio of the AU was very similar to that of the BA. What the Windsor does give is more low-down torque from the moment the accelerator is pushed, which on the road is what I wanted from a V8. I felt the Windsor in this state of tune feels more linear in its delivery of power. The gearbox linkages and selectors are just starting to free up as the mileage grows. It had to be a manual as I never intended to drive in city traffic. She has the standard brakes which are OK given I’ve got no intention of punishing them. At least I won’t have to re-mortgage the house to get a brake job. I’ve been fortunate in having had the pleasure of taking various cars for laps at a number of circuits both in Australia and overseas. One thing that stood out for me was the AU felt light, responsive and agile on tighter, winding roads and physics tells you that lighter cars go around corners
better than heavier cars. Very early in my ownership I was able to take her for a couple of laps at Sandown and was quite surprised at the feel from the backend in corners. I’ve had the opportunity to take a BA GT-P around Bathurst and while it felt good it didn’t feel as planted to the ground as my AUIII with the IRS. One thing that has been changed, apart from the oil, are the tyres (especially after a couple of laps at Sandown!). The original Dunlops were replaced in July 2005 with a set of Hankook K104s and almost exactly 14 years later with a set of Hankook K125s. The original Dunlop is in the boot untouched with mould bits still there.
As they say on the Shannons ad – I reckon she’ll be a classic one day! I don’t intend to part with my XR8 while I’m this side of the grass. It’s easy to tell the advances in the development of Australian cars when I step into a modern muscle car, although the main differences are the ease of driving at low speed and quality of ttings. Yes the gear change is a bit heavier and a little clunky but it’s more of a driving experience rather than guiding the car along. My AU doesn’t have things like traction control; my traction control is with my right foot (as God meant it to be!). Out cruising on the Hume the computer tells me I should get about 800k to a tank full, which in any language is good. As mentioned before, my involvement in motorsport as an official has allowed me to try many vehicles on a variety of tracks in varying situations and I’m proud to be the custodian of a great piece of Australian automotive engineering, the likes of which are quickly disappearing. I understand that there were only 300 manual AUIII XR8s (and 1964 autos) produced. How many are still as they rolled out of Tickford with some of the production line markings still in place?
I’ve also included a photo of one of my rst cars, 1964 Cortina GT (above), parked in the pits at Sandown in the early ‘70s. Frank Lowndes built the motor which was balanced and included twin 45 Webers jetted back to 42s, wild head work (Cleveland valves and Porsche 911 springs), F3 Cosworth cam (no punch below 3000 rpm) and a custom set of equal length extractors. The exhaust system comprised two 6 inch ‘hot dog’ resonators with no mufflers so that made for a great note. The inside of the block down the bottom was machined to a mirror
nish because of a talk with Frank Gardner about air bubbles being created by oil bouncing off the rough casting surfaces. In standard form the 1500 was redlined at 6500 but mine was redlined at 8000 rpm after the work. The timing was turned back as far as possible so I could run it on straight avgas. And because it had about 13.5:1 compression I always kept a spare battery available. The speedo only went to 120mph but one night I took it out to check its tune (run it at maximum revs in top gear for a mile) I wound the needle past 120 and it hovered around the generator light at the bottom of the speedo. Calculating revs against the diff ratio and height of the tyres etc. it was thought it was capable of 136-138 mph. Unfortunately I lent it to a mate and he over-revved it while it was cold and broke a lifter, causing massive internal damage. I became disillusioned and sold the engine and then sold the rest of the car separately. The car was reengined and had a later life as a Group N racer. Unfortunately the resurrected car met its match when it ran off the track at Phillip Island.
I saw that last issue you ran a piece about Paul Dan Automotive. Here is a pic of Paul Dan’s XT GT (above) at Lakeland Hillclimb that was taken with my trusty Instamatic when I was on the organising committee for events there.