IAN LATTA, ALBANY, WA 1953 MORRIS VAN
> AN OLD BREAD VAN GETS A NEW LEASE ON LIFE WITH AN INJECTION OF JAPANESE TECHNOLOGY
AMONGST a sea of European supercars, high-revving Jap sports cars, and Aussie and US muscle at Motul Racewars sat the bright blue ’53 Morris panel van of Ian Latta. Talk about standing out like the proverbial dog’s balls!
It had some widened steel wheels and an exhaust that exited just in front of the rear wheel, but that’s about the only hint you got that something special might be hiding under the bonnet. At a guess, I would have said a hot Holden six, maybe even a V6, or possibly an SR20 or some kind of turbocharged four-cylinder. Well, it was Japanese and it was turbocharged, but I would never have thought of a rotary!
“My first car was a ’53 Morris van and I always wanted another one – you always go back to what you had – but it had to be quicker this time,” Ian said. “I’ve never owned a Mazda before, but when I was about 20 I heard a bridge-ported 13B go past and loved the sound.”
To make his dreams come true, Ian chose a 13B-REW mill out of a Series 6 RX-7, keeping the Mazda five-speed ’box and mating it to a Hilux diff with 4.5:1 gears.
I saw it race a couple of times and was pretty impressed with how well it went; not surprising considering the 350hp at the tyres and a kerb weight of around 800kg. If you do the maths, it would be similar to having a Commodore or Falcon with 700hp at the tyres, but in something with a much shorter wheelbase and the aerodynamics of a wheelie bin.
The engine work was handled by Rotomotion, including all of the polishing and prettying-up. From the factory these engines ran a twin-turbo set-up, but that would never have worked in the tight confines of the Morris’s engine bay, so a