ROLLING GOLD!

LET’S GO LOOKING FOR A FUN CLASSIC THAT DOESN’T BREAK THE BANK

WORDS GUY ALLEN, STAFF PHOTOS ELLEN DEWAR

If you’ve had the dubious fortune to sit through an auction of el primo Aussie muscle cars over recent months, you’ll agree it’s great entertainment. Watching people squirm and agonise over whether they’ll spend $300,000 or $310,000 on some rare transport of delight has its rewards. So long as it’s not your money.

But when it comes to the reality of buying your own slice of motoring history, there’s that sobering moment when you realise your wallet may not be bottomless. With little luxuries like food and shelter to cover, you may even have to show a bit of restraint.

Never fear. The brains trust at Unique Cars mag is constantly agonising over that very problem, and has come up with a few suggestions.

First we’ll take a gander at what a few readers have done to solve the problem, then we’ll take a look at the sometimes wild and surprising suggestions from the aforementioned brains collective.

Got a few suggestions of your own? Share them with us at uniquecars.@bauertrader.com.au.

sedan, so it could do a whole lot more with what power was available. Throw in a four-speed manual transmission, disc brakes up front, some nice wheels and fancy instruments and you have yourself a nice pocket rocket. Just to reinforce the message, the driver also copped a GTS Monaro steering wheel.

Once overlooked in favour of the more glamorous and quicker XU-1s, GTRs in both LC and LJ form are very much back on the collector menu.

The big trick is finding one in decent condition, as a combination of youthful exuberance on the part of owners plus abundant rust saw many of them end up at the scrap yard.

Now we’ll let you into a secret: the car you see here is a replica and didn’t start life as a GTR. We spotted it at Hanging Rock some months ago and tracked down the owner, who makes no pretence that it’s anything other than a tribute car.

It proves two things: one is that you can build one yourself; the other is you need to know what you’re looking at when you go shopping. That’s where membership of a club – and Torana owners are well looked-after in that direction – could save you a lot of grief.

There is a belief that a well-sorted GTR is actually a good thing to drive, and probably a little more civilised than the equivalent XU-1. In any case, with XU-1s now well into the hundreds of thousands, they’re an investment vehicle and well beyond the reach of most.

GTRs however can still be found for around the mid-thirties in reasonable shape, more for a perfect one. And a tribute car like the peach shown here? That’s up for debate...

“A COMBINATION OF YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE AND RUST SAW MANY END UP AT THE SCRAP YARD”

DARREN CARR ENGINE MECHANIC MUM AND DAD always had a Torana all the way through and I ended up buying back a Torana they’d sold to someone else. From there on, I’ve always had a Torana, over 22 years. They’re nice and easy to work on, good to look at, a good little car.

A plumber two doors up from work used to have this car, It was a real mess, sat in the front yard as a wreck, so we bought it. I always wanted a GTR and couldn’t afford it, so we built one.

This car was an S two-door column shift auto with a 173, vinyl floor and really rough. We completely stripped and sandblasted the car, replaced a quarter panel, a lot of rust repairs, got some GTR flutes welded in. We managed to find someone who wrecked a genuine GTR, so we managed to get all the running gear from that. So we restored all of that and put it in. It’s got the 2600 engine with two-barrel Strombergs. It’s got an M20 gearbox – we were going to go with the Opel, but decided on something a bit stronger.

It took roughly 10 years to build the car.

I enjoy driving it – it’s nice to drive, really comfortable and it’s good on long trips.

Try to find something that’s got really good bodywork, because that’s where most of the restoration money goes. Everything else is fairly easy.

TORANA LC GTR

BODY 2-door coupe ENGINE 2.6-litre six POWER & TORQUE 92kW @ 4800rpm, 202Nm @ 2800rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 10.3 seconds TOP SPEED 170km/h TRANSMISSION four-speed, all synchromesh manual SUSPENSION Front – independent coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers.

Rear – live axle with coil springs, telescopic shocks BRAKES disc front, drum rear power-assisted WHEELS 13 x 5.5 steel PRICE WHEN NEW $2778

VALIANT CHARGER VH-VJ

HERO CARS COST A BOMB BUT THERE’S STILL VALUE OUT THERE

VALUE RANGE VJ-VH CHARGER

FAIR $25,000 GOOD $40,000 EXCELLENT $60,000 (Note: concours cars may demand more) It now seems incredible, but when this, the second major series of Charger was being built, the model line-up was going through something of a crisis.

For reasons which don’t entirely make sense from the safe distance of time, Chrysler management seemed to have lost its nerve and began cutting back on development money for the Charger program as it progressed from the first-gen, the VJ, to this the second in the VH. In fact, the malaise went across the entire Valiant range.

Though it doesn’t seem like such a big deal these days, but the pillared grille you see on the car here was condemned at the time, since it was a carry-over from the family cars. Gone was the whole R/T race and sports car program which, to mere mortals, seemed nuts.

From its inception in 1971, the Charger series had breathed new life into the local Chrysler range. Its styling was widely admired and, with the considerable talents of people such as the Geoghegan family, proved to be a formidable competitor on the track.

Over 17,000 examples found new owners out of that first series which, given the tiny local market, was an incredible result. It probably also got a whole lot more people walking through Chrysler showrooms and at least considering the

CHARGER SPORTSMAN

BODY 2-door fastback ENGINE 4340cc 6cyl, OHV, 12v single two-barrel carburettor (now fi tted with a 5.9lt V8) POWER 151kW @ 4800rpm TORQUE 355Nm @ 2000rpm GEARBOX 3-speed auto WEIGHT 1410kg 0-100KM/H 9.4sec 0-400M 17.2sec TOP SPEED 176km/h PRICE $5326 (1974)

PAUL MATHIOUDAKIS OWNER-DRIVER I’VE PUT A 360 V8 in it. It was originally a 265, but all the original stuff is at home.

I went from a 265 with a four-barrel to triple Webers. That gave me a little bit more grunt, but it was too hard to tune and keep running right – not quite what I wanted. So I went up to the 360. It’s got plenty of go – puts a smile on my face. The transmission is the original but upgraded.

Why a Sportsman?

Well I just came across it and fell in love with it. I didn’t know much about the Sportsman before I found it – to be honest with you I was just looking for a red Charger.

Funnily enough I fell in love with the tartan interior.

You can buy the whole interior already done as a cover set.

So you just take it to your local trimmer and get them to fit it.

So when the time is right to restore it, we’ll take it in and get it done.

Buying advice: get a good one. Rust and Charger go together and there can be some places in the chassis that are hard to get at. But they’re making just about everything for them: parts, quarter panels, repair panels, so you can fix them.

Other than that, buy a good solid car and build what you like.

Clubs are great and help is only a phone call away. In my case help is only a couple of steps away – my neighbour has been very helpful.

rest of the range. No small achievement.

Charger also proved that you didn’t absolutely have to have a V8 to compete with local touring cars. Sure a big Bathurst victory eluded the series, but it was far from disgraced.

Certainly there were V8 models – 318 and 340ci were available from VH series – and owners love them as big cruisers. Many, like the owner of this Sportsman, have retrofitted them in place of the original six.

The variant you see here is something of a rarity. Just 500 Sportsman coupes were planned – effectively a dressed-up VJ with the mighty 265ci (4.3lt) six in the snout, matched to an auto transmission. This was a fairly powerful car for its day and was something that would have been treasured by whoever drove out of the showroom.

Despite the limited time it was built (1971-78) there are myriad variations on the Charger theme and it really does pay to do your homework before heading out, credit card burning a hole in your pocket. The range began with a humble 215ci six with three-on-the-tree manual and vinyl floor mats, then ran the gamut of race cars and luxo cruisers.

The ultra-desirable E38 and E49 race homologation cars now command big numbers, particularly since the whole Aussie muscle car market seems to be bouncing back with a vengeance. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose hope.

We saw a perfectly presentable VJ with R/T warpaint, but stock 265 plus auto mechanicals, go for just under $30k at auction recently.

So there are still good buys to be had, if you look around, at a tenth of the price of a top-flight homologation car.

Something like the Sportsman? That’s a different kettle of fish. There were limited numbers made, and the kitschy paint and interior now appeal to a whole new audience, so they will cost you a premium. Start thinking more like $35k for one that needs tidying up, to considerably more for a concours car.

In any case, it’s still possible to get a decent Charger at reasonable money.

FORD FALCON EB GT

25 YEARS AFTER THE XR GT L aunched in 1992, it seems to have taken the EB GT Falcon forever to get on the collector radar. However now that it is, be warned the prices will – over the long term and ignoring the odd dip in the economy – continue to firm up. It may be the XYs of this world that are demanding telephone number prices right now, but it’s the EBs that hold appeal for a generation that grew up with them and for whom the era has some real meaning.

The late Howard Marsden – head of Tickford Product Planning at the time – was keen to point out at the launch of this car that manufacturers no longer were obliged to build homologation specials, so the EB GT was always a road car first and foremost. In that respect, it could draw a clear line to the first XR GT, launched 25 years earlier.

While the car shared its shape with the Ford V8 Supercars of the day – something that will help its value long-term – it was really a quick luxury car, or Grand Tourer in the truest sense, rather than a thinly-disguised production racer.

The five-litre powerplant claimed a healthy 200kW at 5250rpm and a torque figure of 420Nm at 4000. Top speed was around 230km/h and a standing quarter was achieved in 15.2 sec. In truth, its contemporary the S-XR6 could give it a serious nudge, but that wasn’t the point. Ford fans were very pleased to have the V8 cars in the line-up, particularly in anything with reintroduced GT badging. And it made all the

VALUE RANGE

FALCON EB GT FAIR $20,000 GOOD $35,000 EXCELLENT $45,000 (Note: concours cars may demand more)

right noises when you stepped on the loud pedal.

A distinctive body kit including bonnet scoop, rear wing and side skirts bulked out the monster, while a lowered ride height and distinctive wheels with flares on the guards gave it the right stance.

Inside it was more of a mailed fist in a silk glove approach: leather seating and walnut in the dash.

With development by Tickford, this was something a bit special. The ride was set to be comfortable rather than race-track harsh and overall it gave the impression of being a quick point-to-point car.

Three colours were available (blue, black and red) while you could option for an auto transmission rather than the five-speed manual.

For reasons which are difficult to explain, we’ve seen prices of these cars languishing in the doldrums for many years. Certainly the financial crash of a decade ago didn’t help and nor did the influx in cheap and serviceable new cars with ultra-long warranties, They made it a whole lot harder to justify owning an older V8 at a time when fuel prices were breaking records With age comes a little more dignity, apparently. At 25 years the GT is just old enough to be put on club plates in one or two places, while it’s finding a new audience that now has the cash to consider buying one as a toy/collectible/ investment.

A year ago, you might have scratched up a decent one for $25k, but that opportunity seems to be slipping away. Mint examples are hitting the $40k mark while $35k should find you a good tidy one.

“IT MADE ALL THE RIGHT NOISES WHEN YOU STEPPED ON THE LOUD PEDAL”

JAMES & RACHEL MECHANIC & STUDENT “WHEN WE WENT to the farewell Ford day at Geelong, I saw the EB GT there and fell in love with it,” explains Rachel. “I always liked the EBs – my Dad had one.”

James agrees. “I’ve pretty much grown up with EAs, EBs and the Fairlanes.

I’ve always loved the Fairmont Ghias and GTs and then we saw this one.

“We’ve been chasing this one for a fair while. It had to be this colour, manual, with sunroof, which is a rare combination.”

Rachel suspects only six were made in that configuration.

“We found this one with the predelivery plastic still on the seats – it’s virtually a new car,” says James.

It has just 27,700km on the odo.

“It’s a nice quiet V8 – a nice comfortable car – not overly firm.

If you give it a bit of a squirt it will kick sideways and makes a nice noise,” says James.

What’s their buying advice? “We weren’t looking for a daily driver, but something to store and look at and take out on special occasions.”

They have other cars to knock about in. Interior plastics can fade and crack, so it can pay to pay attention. Rachel advises you need to weigh up what you want in a car – is it a regular user, or a collectible?

“At the end of the day it’s a Falcon, so you can drive it and the parts are available,” says James.

FALCON EB GT

BODY 4-door sedan ENGINE 4942cc purshrod V8, EFI POWER & TORQUE 200kW @ 5270rpm, 420Nm @ 4000rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 7.3s, 0-400 metres: 15.2s

TRANSMISSION 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto SUSPENSION Front: SLALS, tele shocks, stabiliser bar.

Rear: live axle with trailing arms, stabiliser bar BRAKES vented discs pwr-assist TYRES P245/40ZR14 PRICE WHEN NEW $62,000