A Valiant effort…

by mcowner

In 1970, Holden’s new Torana XU-1 six-cylinder high-performance Bathurst 500 challenger could hardly have been more different from its intended opponent, the Falcon GT-HO Phase II. But there was a third contender in Series Production racing that year, a new player with an altogether different machine. Chrysler’s VG Valiant Pacer landed somewhere in between the GT-HO and XU-1: a large car like the Falcon but without the grunt of a V8, and a six-cylinder like the XU-1 but hamstrung by a three-speed gearbox.

Despite the obvious shortcomings the big Valiant six went remarkably close to achieving success on the track – but for a touch of late race bad luck would likely have finished third at Bathurst that year.

This issue AMC celebrates the 50th anniversary of the near-forgotten VG Pacer. The wailing Hemi sixes were a colourful addition to the early ‘70s Australian performance sedan scene and they should be recognised for the genuine Australian muscle car classics that they are.

Fast forward to the start of the next decade to a momentous Bathurst 1000 as struggling Queensland privateer Dick Johnson’s bold bid for touring car stardom was destroyed along his Falcon when it hit a rock that had become dislodged from the spectator area. Of course, it wasn’t the end for Johnson, but rather a beginning – even though rival Holden ace Peter Brock scored what was a hat trick of Bathurst wins that day.

This issue we get reflections from crew members from both camps, and we track down one of the race officials who was first on the scene of the Johnson rock incident – a man who actually witnessed the whole thing.


Premature emasculation

by mcowner

What if Holden had stuck with its proven Monaro GTS 350 for the 1970 Bathurst 500. Could a Monaro have won Bathurst that year? Was it a mistake by Holden in switching to the smaller, lighter six-cylinder Torana GTR XU-1? It’s these questions that Australian MUSCLE CAR magazine explores in the latest issue, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the HG model Monaro GTS 350.

Premature emasculation

The Monaro had won the Great Race the previous two years but had been quietly retired from competition by Holden just a month or so before the 1970 race. Colin Bond’s startling debut win for the XU-1 at Warwick Farm – where the dynamic little coupe beat a fleet of Monaros – just four weeks before the 1970 Bathurst classic seemed to confirm to everybody that the big V8 Holden coupe had passed its use-by date.

But when it came to the very different challenge of the Mount Panorama circuit, the Torana fell short. Not only did it not prove to be the giant killer Holden hoped it would be against the bigger, more powerful V8 Falcon, but at Bathurst the new XU-1 was several seconds slower than the Monaro it was meant to be superseding.

This issue of Australian MUSCLE CAR takes a close look at the 1970 Series Production racing season that saw Ford introduce a vastly improved though not-any-faster Phase II version of the XW Falcon GT-HO, while its opposition chose to and Holden choose or race a new car that was as much as four seconds a lap slower than the Holden model it was replacing.

GT-HO Phase II turns 50!

by mcowner

This issue of Australian Muscle Car celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Falcon GT-HO Phase II – featuring the surviving road test model from 1970! This was the car loaned out by Ford to motoring journalists so they could put their impressions of the Blue Oval’s 1970 Bathurst challenger in print in newspapers and magazines. After the Falcon had been given a thorough flogging by our esteemed press corp, it passed through a series of private owners, most of whom remained oblivious to its star-car past. Remarkably it survives today, unmolested and unrestored – the car that adorns the cover of this issue of Australian MUSCLE CAR is more or less exactly as it was when it first graced the covers of motoring magazines 50 years ago!

Over on the other side of the ‘70s Aussie automotive divide, we go in depth Joe Felice, our featured Muscle Man this issue. Felice wasn’t a racing driver himself, but as Holden’s motorsport chief in the late 1960s and all of the 1970s, Holden racing effort might not have amounted to much without his efforts. It was Felice who was charged with the task of establishing the Holden Dealer Team in 1968, and it was Felice who later sacked both Peter Brock and HDT boss Harry Firth. Felice provides some candid and fascinating insights into Holden’s motorsport effort back in the day – and how much opposition it faced not only from the GM Detroit head office, but also from within Holden itself.

Allan Grice and Bob Morris together at Bathurst in a Holden Commodore in 1980

by mcowner

Allan Grice and Bob Morris together at Bathurst in a Holden Commodore in 1980 – that was the plan for this Group C touring car ‘superteam’. But the superteam fell apart half way through the year, with Bob Morris switching to Ford and Grice racing the Commodore at Bathurst – before he made a switch of his own, to BMW. Now, 40 years after it debuted alongside Peter Brock’s HDT Commodore at Symmons Plains – the world racing debut for the Holden Commodore – the Grice/Morris machine has resurfaced after a long spell in the wilderness, now returned to 1980 Bathurst 1000 trim. Read the full and exclusive story of this historic racing Holden in the latest issue of Australian MUSCLE CAR magazine.

AMC this issue also celebrates the history of Holden, in the wake of General Motors’ momentous decision to ‘retire’ the brand. AMC looks back at this once all-pervasive Aussie car maker that was known from the beginning as ‘Australia’s Own car’, and the forces that brought it to its knees – and how it was done no favours by parent company GM.

With Holden soon to be no more, AMC ponders the future for the Supercars racing series. What seems clear from the thoughts of the major stakeholders is that the likely direction will be a Chev Camaro Supercar to take on the existing Mustangs – in an echo of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s era of Bob Jane’s Camaro vs Allan Moffat’s Boss Mustang, if not quite the same.

Also in this issue, Dick Johnson returns to the track to shakedown son Steven Johnson’s new TCM contender – a ‘true’ blue Falcon XD race machine that pays tribute to the 1980 Dick Johnson Group C XD, the car that hit the rock and inadvertently kick started Johnson’s career as a professional racing driver 40 years ago.

Bolwell is back, 40 years after the Nagari

by mcowner

Half a century ago, tiny Melbourne car maker Bolwell released the stunning Nagari coupe – a 5.0-litre Ford V8-powered sleek two-seater that looked like a Ferrari or Lamborghini and yet didn’t cost a whole more than a Monaro GTS 350 or a Falcon GT-HO. It’s the closest thing we’ve ever had in Australia to our own genuine exotic supercar – or at least it was, because now Bolwell is back, and the company has celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Nagari by producing an all-new Nagari model. This issue of Australian MUSCLE CAR magazine goes behind the scenes with Nagari creator Campbell Bolwell to take the wraps off the ultimate Aussie supercar, the Nagari 500 Mk11 – and looks back at the legendary original Mk8 Nagari, where it all began half a century ago.

Around the same time in 1969 that Bolwell was proudly showing off its Nagari, Holden was preparing to deliver a new V8 baby of its own – a V8 engine to be more specific, namely the all-new all-Australian 253 and 308 series. The Holden V8 went on to major success – in the sales showroom and on the race track – over the ensuing 30 years but, as AMC this issue reveals, the really big achievement was simply the fact that Holden’s small engineering team was able to come up with a home-grown V8 that was the equal of – and in some ways better than – the legendary small block Chev. AMC tells the story of the lengths to which Holden’s backroom boffins went to get the engine right – including the 36 different oil pump designs they tried! The Holden V8 engine was a real triumph for the Australian automotive industry – and even today it remains among Holden’s finest achievements.

Those halcyon days for Holden contrast starkly with the current-day reality, because while AMC celebrates the Aussie Holden V8, in the same issue we lament the passing of the iconic Holden Commodore. Holden took the decision late last year to kill off the Commodore – followed soon after by the announcement that the brand will be retired.

Post-split and Polarizer-packed – the last Peter Brock HDT Commodores

by mcowner

Post-split and Polarizer-packed…. this issue of Australian MUSCLE CAR magazine tells the story of the forgotten Brock HDT Commodores – the Holdens which Brock built and sold against Holden’s wishes in 1987 and beyond, after Holden had taken the shock decision in early ‘87 to cast its favourite son adrift.

There weren’t many of them, the separation from Holden ultimately proving too much of a cross to bear for Brock’s HDT Special Vehicles, but among these cars were some rare gems. These were Brock Commodore models unconstrained by the need for standardisation dictated by racing homologation requirements, and unrestrained by the dictates of Holden itself – it was not an easy time for Peter Brock, but in the post-split era he was at least free to make his cars exactly as he wanted them to be.

Fast forwarding to the end of the following decade, we look back on one of the most significant moments in the history of the local car industry – Holden’s decision to develop the VE Commodore as a wholly home-grown exercise in the late ‘90s.

In motorsport, AMC mourns the loss of two giants of the sport, commentator and race promoter extraordinaire Mike Raymond, and the master engine builder/race car preparer and driver/rider mentor Peter Molloy.

Gypsies, tramps and thieves

by mcowner

Australian Muscle Car magazine this issue uncovers a genuine Ford Falcon Phase III Bathurst race car that has spent much of the last 40-plus years lost in the wilderness – or remote Western Australian mining town country, to be more precise – now painstaking restored to the trim in which driver Trevor Meehan took it to Mount Panorama in October of 1972 with high hopes of bagging a result in that year’s Bathurst 500.

As a race machine it was sponsored by Gypsie Carpets, but even if a thousand gypies had stared into a crystal ball, none could have predicted this GT-HO Phase III would survive today. Not when it had to endure not only years of neglect, but also cyclones, a rollover, and being pushed off a railway track by a mining ore train! This Ford’s former glory days were finally rediscovered only last year when it was unwittingly purchased from a deceased estate as a standard road car. We chronicle its brief racing history, and what sadly ended up being an aborted campaign at Bathurst in 1972.

As it’s Bathurst 1000 time, AMC also looks back on the 40th anniversary of Channel Seven’s ground breaking ‘racecam’ in-car TV camera technology, and reflects on the history of the top 10 shootout at the Great Race. When it was first run way back in 1978, ‘Hardies Heroes’ was considered by some to be a cheap gimmick – but in the 41 years since it not only has endured but has become a Bathurst tradition all of its own.

All that and a whole lot more in issue #112 of Australian Muscle Car magazine.

Rewind to Bathurst ’79

by mcowner

There’s never been a Bathurst classic anything like the ’79 Great Race – and that’s why Australian Muscle Car magazine has dedicated 50 pages of its latest issue to that year’s Hardie-Ferodo 1000. Over 90 percent of the 100+ images that colour these pages have never previously been published.

The Holden Dealer Team’s decimation of the field is unprecedented in the Bathurst 1000’s long history. The Peter Brock and Jim Richards-driven #05 Torana A9X won the race by an astounding six laps. Six!

To put that winning margin into perspective, no other winning car has put more than two laps on the field in the 60-year history of the annual Mount Panorama endurance race.

So the 1979 Hardie-Ferodo is truly an aberration of Bathurst history. The September/October 2019 edition of AMC puts the spotlight on that particular race 40 years on and it makes for a fascinating exercise. There are firsts, lasts, oddball entries, a stellar cast of internationals, giant-killers, new technological developments… and the truly limp-wristed efforts of the various Ford teams in that year’s race. Oh, and it’s not every year you have the son of a feisty female British Prime Minister in the field!

AMC begins its celebratory coverage of the 1979 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 with the extended recollections of key members of the victorious HDT – the team manager, the co-driver, the engine builder and wide-eyed new recruit. All have great tales to tell via the colourful recollections and insights.

But it’s not just the winners that we celebrate in issue #111 of AMC. We also present the story of that year’s giant-killing privateer performers, who were recently reunited with the newly-restored Torana that took them to a surprise podium finish. Not many racing reunions are 40 years in the making, but then very few privateer efforts jagged results as juicy as Ralph Radburn and John Smith’s third place.

We also detail Garry Rogers’ first big result on the mountain – as a driver. And examine why the Ford attack was so pathetic. If you think that sounds harsh wait till you read the story of Ford’s worst ever year on the Mountain.

Beyond our Bathurst ’79 anniversary coverage, we present a more positive Falcon story, one of a V8 Ford that has endured. This car is one of the three works Falcon XT GTs that finished top 10 in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon. It’s been out of public view for so long that most Ford and rally enthusiasts assumed it no longer existed – so it created quite a stir when it unexpectedly surfaced at the Falcon GT Nationals in Adelaide earlier this year.

No Muscle Man profile this issue. Instead, we feature a Muscle Woman. Sue Ransom is Australian motorsport’s most versatile female driver ever – and she might just be our most versatile full stop. In a career that began in rallying, Ransom transitioned to tarmac and made five Great Race starts before embarking on a career as a professional Top Fuel and Jet Funny Car driver in the United States. In between she worked as a motoring journalist and in public relations at Ford, Mazda and marketing manager at CAMS – and she also played an instrumental role in the creation of the icon ABC TV motoring programme, Torque.

All that and a whole lot more in issue #111 of Australian Muscle Car magazine, on sale from September 5 to October 23.

Disrupter! Allan Moffat’s Mazda era

by mcowner

For more than a decade, Allan Moffat was Ford’s racing hero, but all that changed in the early 1980s. Having been abandoned by Ford, he abandoned them, handing the Blue Oval mantel to Dick Johnson. Worse than that, he sided with Japanese carmaker Mazda to race an RX7.

Now, Australian Muscle Car magazine gives readers the most requested story of the last few years: an examination of Moffat’s RX7 era.

Moffat and controversy were always familiar bedfellows. But the Mazda RX7 ramped it up to another level, confirming Moffat as Australia’s ultimate motor racing anti-hero in the early 1980s. Not since his meteoric arrival with the Trans-Am Mustang in 1969 had the expatriate Canadian worn the metaphorical black hat so comfortably from the moment he declared his intention to race the Japanese sports, er, touring car.

The latest ‘Disruptor’ issue covers this tumultuous period over no less than 22 pages. In modern parlance a disruptor, according to our dictionary, is “Something that drastically alters or destroys the structure of something.” What better word to describe the man and his little Japanese cars!

In the end, the giant-killing RX7 almost killed Moffat himself, both metaphorically and physically. A huge accident at Surfers Paradise in 1984 left the four-time touring car champion battered and bruised in every sense. And then it was all over. CAMS adopted international Group A for 1985, Mazda and Peter Stuyvesant walked away from racing, and Allan Moffat was once again (at least until old rival Peter Brock came knocking) an unemployed racing driver.

Moffat himself, who sadly now has little memory of his glorious racing past, summed up the RX7 experience the article’s author David Hassall in a 1985 interview: “The fact that it took two years to homologate is Australian motorsport’s loss, as well as mine. I think you would agree that the Mazda RX7 did nothing but improve Australian touring car racing. It gave privateers an opportunity to compete at a financial level that wasn’t horrific. In the Ford days, 95 percent of everyone’s creative effort was spent on the engine and five percent on the car. The ratio with the Mazda was exactly the opposite. The only time we spent on the engine was how long it took to undo the box it came in…”

Our story also outlines what became of the chassis he raced between 1981 and early 1985.

Beyond our Disruptor story, the latest AMC examines another great civil war on the racetrack: the 1979 Australian Touring Car Championship, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. There may not have been much Ford opposition but it was still one of the most hotly contested ATCC title fights ever. It was a fiercely fought and sometimes bitter civil war between two Holden camps: Peter Brock and the factory Holden Dealer Team vs Bob Morris and the Ron Hodgson Motors squad. The respective team bosses, John Sheppard and Peter Molloy share their recollections.

Meantime, the dream of driving around Australia is something that for most of us will remain always that: a dream, an unfulfilled item on the bucket list. That’s not the case, however, for a small group of Ford enthusiasts, who earlier this year took on the challenge of circumnavigating this wide brown land in a pair of Falcon XY GT-HO Phase IIIs.

Our ever-popular Muscle Man feature this issue profiles a Geoff Brabham. He carries the biggest Aussie name in world motorsport, but Geoff wasn’t content to be just a famous son. He carved out a remarkable international career over two decades – in Can-Am, Indycars, IMSA sports cars, Le Mans and even stock cars – then returned home to score more wins, including a controversial one at Bathurst.

All that and a whole lot more in issue #110 of Australian Muscle Car magazine.

The first all-Aussie Monaro

by mcowner

The HT Monaro GTS celebrates its golden anniversary in 2019. To celebrate, the latest issue of Australian Muscle Car magazine presents 50 reasons to love these classic ‘Marilyns’.

What’s more, the 253ci-powered version of the GTS Monaro launched in ’69 was the first all-Aussie Monaro. The V8 versions of the HT’s predecessor, the HK, were powered by Chevrolet’s small block V8s, whereas the HT 253s were built at Fishermans Bend.

The cover of issue #109 is adorned by a green and gold example of a GTS 253. What could be more Aussie than an early Monaro with an Aussie engine painted in our national sporting colours?

Those same colours in form of stripes were drapped over the GTS 350 that Colin Bond drove to victory at Bathurst in ’69.

‘Bathurst Bond’ was the name they were calling ‘CB’ after his and Tony Roberts’ victory in the 1969 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 in their Holden Dealer Team Monaro HT GTS 350. In our latest issue Bond reflects on the whirlwind of success that he enjoyed upon becoming a factory driver for Holden that year. The ever-popular and cheerful driver also shares with AMC readers some Monaro pics from his own collection – including wedding day shots with new bride Robyn in a brand new roadgoing Monaro.

Our latest issue, #109, has over 30 pages of HT Monaro tales and content.

Beyond Monaros, our brand new issue has plenty of interest for students of motor racing history. In the second installment of our two-part Muscle Man feature, Ron Gillard talks us through some of the many racecars he built, prepared, and sometimes even got to race, through the 1970s and ’80s – including the V8 Commodores and the later VL Turbo six model in production car racing, and the pivotal behind-the-scenes roles he played in the one-make Triumph TR7 and Ford Laser Series.

For Ford fans, we present a classic Bathurst tale of a lone 351 V8 Falcon XY in a field mostly comprised of six-cylinder Toranas and Chargers. This sounded like a potential class D-winning proposition in the 1971 Bathurst 500 to Gerry Lister and David Seldon. It was a good plan, but sadly that year the pair just didn’t get the right breaks –or the right brakes.

Meanwhile, this year it was South Australia’s turn to host the Falcon GT Nationals – and over the ’19 Easter weekend the Crow Eaters turned on an impressive show featuring more than 250 Fords spanning the entire history of the Falcon GT. Full coverage in issue #109.

Our Sacred Sites section pays homage to a series of small regional tracks. Terry Walker in his book Fast Tracks: Australia’s Motor Racing Circuits 1904-1995 used some colourful phraseology to sum up the proliferation of small country racing circuits in north-eastern Victoria in the 1950s and ’60s. He wrote of such tracks being sprinkled through the region “like currants in a bun!” We pick the currants from that bun for you to digest!

All that and a whole lot more in AMC magazine. On sale now.