Australian Muscle Car - - Pics - Au­

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.