DAVE MORLEY GIVES YOU THE CAR ADVICE YOU NEED – AND MAYBE A BIT ABOUT LIFE AS WELL
firstname.lastname@example.org or via snail mail at Unique Cars, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, 3166. Yep, he’s gonna fix you up in no time…
Two Cents AND ONE MORE THING...
If you look at the factors that drive our four-wheeled passions, one of the biggest is the Bathurst effect. That’s reflected in the cars you see on these pages and the chat in this column.
And in a wider sense, the whole Aussie collectible car scene is also largely a function of that Bathurst rub-off. It’s one of the reasons a Phase 3 GT-HO or a HK GTS 327 Monaro is such a gilt-edged commodity.
And fair enough. But I’m also a big fan of the JDM (Japanese Domestic Model ) scene; a movement that has emerged in the last couple of decades as the cultural cringe (remember the cries of Jap-crap?) subsided and the Japanese makers started turning out crackers like the Evo Lancer, WRX and the mighty Godzilla. Suddenly, the earlier-gen stuff from Japan Inc started to get noticed. Gear like Celica GTs, Galant GTOs and old-school rotary-engined Mazdas to name just a few.
And I reckon the time has come to recognise another batch of cars that have largely gone unnoticed. And they’re from much closer to home.
I’m calling my new movement ADM (Australian Domestic Model) and it’s a non brand-specific clutch of cars that were produced specifically (if not necessarily strictly) for our market. You’ve probably forgotten about most of these gems, but I reckon their time has come and we need to celebrate them.
So what cars are they? Home-brewed specials like the Wherrett Sigma, Corolla AE82 Twin Cam, Skyline GTS, TX-3 Laser, Camira SJ and many, many more. These weren’t all higher performance cars (some were decal packs and alloy wheels) but they all represented aspirational motoring back in the day and they all deserve a bit of respect.
Some of the cars on my list weren’t actually very athletic either, but when you consider that, in 2016, a VW hatchback can shoot down a Phase 3 HO in a straight line, then I don’t reckon that matters too much now.
Significantly, my ADM cars are still affordable and although some of them are pretty thin on the ground these days, if you search around you can find them.
So let me kick the ADM movement off right here and right now. Let’s have your photos, memories and details on your current ADM should you be lucky enough to own one.
Meantime, anybody got an idea for an ADM window sticker?
At the end of May, I travelled to rural Victoria to attend a surprise birthday party for one of my best mates from way back in school days.
As it happened, there were a lot of stories about cars and various racing antics, crashes and stupid risks.
Back in the day, my mate Stuart had purchased his dad’s near-new 1971, runout HG Holden Kingswood 186. His dad had bought a magnificent low-kilometre HG 186 Premier in burgundy and white, which is why the Kingswood was sold. Stuart mistreated his car badly, but found it to have an exceptional engine which went far better than his dad’s new Premier, even though both were threespeed manuals.
One day, while paddockbashing, Stuart found that his battery was leaking fluid which stripped some of the paint off the block of his car, whereupon he noticed three differences in the engine of his car, compared with the one in his dad’s Prem. The block on Stuart’s car appeared to be thicker where it met the head and was fitted with a slightly different rocker cover. In addition, although both rocker covers had the 186 decal, Stuart’s decal was a bit different. The other difference was that Stuart’s car was fitted with power disc brakes up front, while his Dad’s Premier had power-assisted drums.
Officially, both cars had identical 186 engines, but it seems possible that a 202 was fitted to this particular run-out vehicle, particularly if the factory had run out of 186 blocks prior to the imminent release of the HQ range with the new 202 and 173 engines.
Rod Force, Sandy Bay, TAS.
AINT IT amazing how you can go without seeing a good mate for years and years but instantly pick up where you left off when you do catch up? I reckon we’re a bit like dogs in that regard: My own flea taxi has no sense of time.
I can be gone a week or an hour and it’s all the same to her: Good to see you big guy, now feed me.
Anyway, I’m more than prepared to accept that your mate’s Kingy might indeed have been fitted with a 202, but here’s why I reckon it wasn’t: For a start, I’ve now personally seen a couple of HG Holdens with factory-fitted 202 cubic-inch sixes. So I know they exist(ed). Thing is, both examples that I’ve seen up close had absolutely nothing to hide. There was no attempt to disguise the
I mentioned a floormounted dipswitch to a colleague the other day and got a bucketful of blank looks. But if you’re too young to remember, the floor dipper was a little switch down in the footwell that you stomped on to switch between high and low beam. Better than the current stalk stuff it was, too, because you didn’t need to lift a single finger off the wheel. Young ’uns eh?
We’ve been talking about Cortinas a bit lately, and somebody reminded me that all TC XLEs had a vinyl roof. Apparently, it was one of those ‘mandatory options’ that car-makers used to love.
But why was it a musthave on your XLE? The story goes that the turrets for the XLE came out from Britain but didn’t actually fit the Aussie-made bodies properly. So the turrets were cut and shut and the vinyl roof was a cheap, easy way to hide the fact. Is it true? I hope so. Does anybody out there know?
202 as anything but, and the build sheet for one of them had the engine listed as a 202. And that’s the factory documentation. Both even had 202 decals on the rocker cover. Seems like Holden couldn’t have given a monkey’s back in the day, so out the door these mutants went and straight into dealership showrooms.
What I’m saying is that if Holden couldn’t be bothered disguising two HGs, why would it have been concerned enough to slap a 186 decal on your mate’s car? Also, both HGs with factory 202s that I’ve clapped eyes on were utes and what I’ve gathered from other readers over the past 18 months is that commercial vehicles were far and away the most common recipients of the thenunreleased 202 engine.
What I reckon is far more likely (and far more common as anybody who knows their Holdens will tell you) is that we’re talking about a simple case of production tolerances. That is: All 186s were created equal, but some were more equal than others. Some were pretty pathetic things even from new, other 186s were fire-breathers. The Holden six-cylinder foundry was also credited with the invention of core shift – where the block is cast with the bores all over the place (in a micro-engineering sense, you understand) – and that could even explain why the block on one engine looked a tad thicker than the other.
Throw in the fact that a Kingswood is a bit lighter than a Premier (not to mention your mate razzing his engine all day every day, loosening it up nicely) and I reckon you have your mystery solved. That said, if anybody out there can tell the difference between a 186 and a 202 by the thickness of the block or the shape of the rocker-cover, let’s have it.
Speaking of production tolerances, things only got worse after the HG and by the end of the 202’s production life (with the VK Commodore) the tooling was so worn out, even brand new engines were technically rooted before they were run in. I worked for one place where the boss got a shiny new VK Berlina. And he could never work out why it rattled on start-up, used a bit of oil and never really felt ‘right’. The Holden dealer couldn’t figure it out, so eventually, some of the lads pulled down this 10,000km six, measured it up and found that the bores were oval and everything else was right at the limit of its wear tolerance. Ooh, bugger.
When Morley says “the people building the cars (E-type and Range Rover) hated the people they were building them for”
(Goodbye Dolly, Morley’s Workshop, May 2016) he was largely correct but his other statements, that the Range Rover was a brilliant design and that the Dolomite design wasn’t at fault, are largely incorrect.
For my sins, I worked for a large UK auto parts supplier and saw first-hand the malaise of what BMW later dubbed “the English patient”. Design means a lot more than a good idea or a sketch on the back of a fag packet, and the true design was severely underdone in the British car makers in the ’60s and ’70s. With insufficient resources and time the detail design was usually skipped and no attempt was made at design for production. An English institution offered excellent courses on the latter, dominated by German and Japanese participants; I was the first from a British company in over a year.
The hurried design was passed over to the somewhat token development section (yes, they did have them!) whose findings were routinely ignored. The Mini ignition splash shield being a case in point. A cheap aftermarket solution was on sale within weeks of the car’s launch but took years to make it into production. Production engineers seemed very proud that their shoes were never sullied by going into the filthy factory so they were blissfully unaware of the inadequacy of the equipment foisted on the trackside workers, such as spot welding guns so contrived and unwieldy that the operator could not see or control the position of the tips. What little light passed through the small uncleaned windows was absorbed by the oil haze and communication by voice was prevented by the constant din. The trackside workers quickly realised that they could never make a car properly no matter how hard they tried, so they simply gave up. Although even the little finger on my left hand is somewhat right of centre, if I worked there and was offered a day outside on strike, even in the cold and drizzle of a typical English day, I would have taken it whatever the pretext. All this was done because the twerps at the top (yes, mainly upper class types with no chin) thought this was how to save money.
Meanwhile Ford UK implemented Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) to drive out defects, especially those which affected safety or stop, turn, run, driving warranty and manufacturing costs down and customer satisfaction up. Ford correctly identified that they were in business to make money, BMC/ BL thought they were in business to make cars.
Sadly, in Australia most
manufacturers thought they had to “dumb down” their designs in the belief that the local industry could neither make nor assemble parts with tight tolerances. Hence the catalogue of failures in the Escort Twin Cam built here (Hot Euros, May). However, within six months the same road tester enthused over the re-worked version with all faults eliminated from production, the strengthened “Type 49” body used for all subsequent Australian Escorts became the basis for all the RS/Mexico versions and is now a sought after base for UK restorations.
Shows what can be done by a UK-based manufacturer.
If the Porsche 911 is a triumph of development over design, the E-type and Range Rover are triumphs of fag packet sketches over both design and development.
I’m loving the coverage of “non-muscle cars” by the way.
Lawrence Glynn Geelong Victoria
I LOVE your definition of design, Lawrence, and it does make a difference to the outcome when you put it that way. I used to think I was a frustrated designer, but it was recently pointed out to me that I was, in fact, a frustrated doodler. That is, I’m keen on coming up with the ideas that will make a car faster or more efficient (mainly faster) but as far as I’m concerned, it’s up to the blokes in the white coats to actually make it all work.
Which, as you tell it, is exactly what was going on at BMC and British Leyland all those years ago: There was nothing wrong with the concept at the ciggie-packet stage, but nobody bothered to follow the design process through to the point where the car in question could be made either effectively or profitability. Makes you realise how the original Mini could have been in production for years, sold in the millions and yet never return a profit to the company making it. And it was far from the worst of the bunch.
I take your point about local manufacturers dumbing things down to make them possible, but I also blame local content rules in the 1960s and 70s for some of that. The Feds mandated that a percentage of local content required (and it has varied over the years) that had to be met by anybody calling themselves a local car-maker. That effectively locked out some imported components which may have done a better job than the locally sourced bits and pieces forced upon manufacturers. That said, by the time the 1980s rolled around, the Aussie OEM industry was up there with the best of them… because it had to be.
When it comes to the E-Type, I reckon your assertion that it was a triumph of a fag-packet sketch over design and development is bang on the money. But I also think there’s a bit more to it than that. If you’ve ever had
an E-Type up on a hoist, you’ll marvel at why the hell anybody would ever engineer a car the way the E-Type designers did. But I reckon part of the reason for that is that the original concept of the E-Type was a racy coupe that could be built by two or three blokes wearing tweed caps in a shed in a cow-paddock. The huge success of the E-Type when it was shown at the Geneva Show in March 1961 pretty much took Jaguar by complete surprise. Suddenly, the company knew it had to take the car into mass production and it did, building a total of 72,000 of the things. So I agree that some UK designs were never designed for production, but it wasn’t always for the obvious reasons of a blindfolded, chinless, in-bred management. In the E-Type’s case, it was simply a victim of its own success.
Can’t agree more with you Dave about your comments on the Triumph 2500S. It is a fantastic car now and in its day would have been exceptional once you sorted out all its issues if there were any common ones. I purchased one of these last November at auction for $400 plus fees, unregistered and sight unseen on a whim over the net. Once it was sorted and registered – roughly $1500 labour and similar for mechanical parts and hoses as it had been in storage for seven or eight years – she has been on the road since January of this year and is one of my daily drivers without any failures.
This car is complete with dealer papers sold in November 1978 for $9200 which was a good deal of money back then. In comparison my HJ GTS was owned by an old gent from new who disposed of it when he went into a nursing home about five years ago, also complete with dealer papers. It was purchased in July 1975 for $6408. I drive this car less regularly because, for one thing, it isn’t air-conditioned and it’s just not as comfortable as the Triumph. And I get just as many thumbs up in the beautiful Triumph anyway.
John Hamilton, Email
YEAH, THEY’RE a lovely thing, aren’t they? Like a lot of European cars, they work better as a manual and if you scored one with the optional overdrive gearbox, you had yourself something really special. Like most cars from Pomgolia from that era, electricals were the big bogey, specifically that Lucas electric fuel pump. I’ve also heard of plenty of people who have junked the troublesome fuel-injection to replace it with a pair of good old carburettors.
Sounds like you got a good ’un, though, John, so keep driving it and keep enjoying every kilometre. I also have it
This one features retro touring car racing, celebrating classic eras of Australian motorsport.
Collector and trade stands also on site.
on good authority that one of UC’s resident experts, Cliff Chambers, has just bought himself a Triumph 2500. And he’s a recidivist; he last owned one about 40 years ago, so watch out for a run-down on it in future issues.
I read with interest the recent discussion on $1000 Best Buys and would like to share my best $1000 buy.
Actually, it came about by not really being a ‘buy’, but by having lent my brotherin- law Bill $1000. Bill had in his possession a HZ ute that he had procured from the now defunct SEC Board in Victoria. It was a 202, threeon- the-tree, stock standard ute that had deteriorated quite badly and, being a ‘Ford man’ myself, I wasn’t initially too keen on taking possession of the ute in lieu of Bill’s $1000 debt payment.
I did reluctantly agree to take the ute as payment but could see I had a bit of work in front of me. I normally store my 1970 Mach 1 M Code Mustang in the garage but realised the Stang would need to find a new home for the next few months as I planned on respraying and tidying up the ute (yes, sacrilege having work done on a Holden in an acknowledged ‘Ford garage’).
On checking the paint code on the Vin plate in the ute, I found out that indeed the ute had been originally procured as an SEC Service vehicle in 1978 as the paint code came up as ‘Kiewa Grey’, a colour that was not available to the buying public and was strictly within Holden’s Government Commercial Range. This was further highlighted by both seeing how clean the tray was (absolutely no rust in the tray area which amazed me) and, while doing prep body work, I found a perfect circle shape in the middle of the roof that I can only assume must have been where the SEC had its beacon light).
The ute had rust in the usual places (aside from the tray). I prepped all the body, masked up and fired up my compressor. It was all done in my garage at home.
During the wet sand period, strange feelings began to make themselves felt, I found myself beginning to appreciate not only the ute, and the $1000 it had cost me, but the Holden brand in general, so to readers of the mag who feel they could never own a Ford or Holden as they have only eyes for one Brand as I had, you could be surprised, I’ve since found both brands rewarding to own an drive.
Mechanically the old 202 didn’t really have any major issues, I rebuilt the old AC Delco fuel pump, tidied up a few electrical issues, dropped in some new oil/filter some new plugs and tune up and she runs perfectly now; a great little motor. All I’m waiting on now is the front bumper which I’m having rechromed as the rest of the car came up to such a great
A lot of jobs on cars tend to involve a left and righthand version of the same component. So, if you’re tackling a job for the first time (or in a long time) my tip is to do each side one at a time. Instead of ripping out both assemblies and stripping them on the bench, do them one at a time. That way, if you get distracted or have to come back to things a bit later, you’ll be able to reference the side you haven’t started yet as a guide to how it all goes back together. Simple, but it works.
standard. Overall, a great $1000 ‘buy’and an eyeopener for the benefits of both Ford and Holden.
Phillip Pavlidis, Email
PHILIP, YOU’VE hit on a very important truth: We shouldn’t get all dogmatic and hung up on Brand A versus Brand B. It might have been by complete accident (and a desire to get your grand back from your dead-beat brother-in-law) but I’m sure you’re a more complete, rounded person for having experienced the joys of a Holden red-motor. And regardless of brand, who doesn’t love a chrome-bumper Aussie ute?
As a kid, I was a member of a Holden family, and it wasn’t until I started driving my mates’ Fords and Valiants (not to mention Toyotas and Mitsubishis) that I realised Holden wasn’t the only maker of cars worthy of a place in my garage. And you know what, now that you’ve made that leap, you’ll soon spot the narrow-minded, one-brand dummies for what they are.
Just a short note to say thanks for the kind words regarding the book The Mail Must Get Through in the June 2016 Unique Cars.
Dad was absolutely thrilled.
Unfortunately he has had a serious stroke recently and some days he is with us and others not so much, but when I showed him the photo of Uncle Fred’s old Austin jinker truck his eyes lit up and he said “I took that photo”. Thanks again.
Vaughn Becker, Tarooma, QLD
MATE, IT was my absolute pleasure to let UC readers know about your book. I was fascinated myself by what your dad went through to get the mail through to outback Queensland residents for four decades, and the book is full of ripping yarns. And don’t worry, next time I’m up Taroom way, I’ll be sure to drop in for a beer and a yak.
Give your dad my regards; he’s a legend.
Can I just say I am completely on board with Glenn Torrens: This is Australia and we should try and keep our version of the English language alive and well, especially in this day and age of Americanisation by stealth (smart phones etc). We should be maintaining our own vernacular, slang, expressions, expletives and idioms. And while we are at this destination, can we also put the clamps on gas-tank, gas-station, hood, fender, stick shift…?
Gary Hunt, Bellbowrie QLD
A 1982 Sigma purchased recently by Glenn Torrens is partly responsible for my ADM idea (but don’t tell Torrens that). Anyway, I’ve had a lovely time winding him up by casually dropping the phrases I knew would fire him up. It probably didn’t help that I told him I’d help him fix his gas pump before he hit the interstate at the end of his vacation. His Sigma? It’s a stick-shift with a 2.6 litre under the hood.