no images were foundEDITORIAL – October 2012 Steve Schmidt Have you ever wondered what particular aspect of your sporting or classic car gives you the most satisfaction as a driver? I imagine that if I owned that lovely BRG Mk.II Jaguar on chrome wires I’ve always hankered after, it would be the ambiance of the burr walnut and leather interior. Perhaps if it was an old Mercedes or BMW it would be the engineering precision where everything still fits and works exactly as it was intended. French cars have long been associated with ride comfort and very supple suspension; just the thing for transporting a basketful of eggs across a ploughed paddock! With my pair of Fiat 124s it’s all about the twin cam engine designed by Ferrari engine man Aurelio Lampredi. This beautiful little four-cylinder engine (available in capacities from 1297cc to 1995cc) predated the Lotus-Ford unit and when paired with a couple of deep-breathing Webers it’s an aural delight which becomes the heart and soul of the vehicle. The Sprite has the steering and responsiveness other sports car makers must dream about. Pin sharp accuracy with great feel and feedback. When driving the Bugeye you forgive the lack of power, the barely adequate brakes and the paucity of creature comforts, because it comes alive through the steering and reacts almost telepathically. The Cooper S is a different kettle of fish. My ‘S’ is modified with parts homologated by BMC’s Special Tuning Department and developed for competition use during the 1960s. As such, it runs the 3-syncro, straight-cut, close-ratio 4-speed gearbox that makes it a pig to drive in traffic, but an absolute gem on the track. First gear has no syncro and is very tall – closer to the standard second gear than first; but then second, third and fourth are very close together which helps to keep the revs within the engine’s narrow power band. The remote shifter has rifle-bolt precision and a lockout on the reverse gate allows shifts to be very aggressive yet fool-proof at the same time. Although the straight-cut gear whine is noisy, it’s also quite intoxicating and great fun to drive. It’s a shame more of our younger drivers can’t experience the satisfaction that comes from driving cars that actually require active participation. Despondency descends on me when I hear the local lads take off in their hotted up Commodores and Hondas. The strangled, catalysed exhaust notes rise and fall like a slipping clutch as the slushbox eventually decides when to merge one vague ratio with the next. There’s no crispness, no precision, just an embarrassing exhaust note telling the world that this is not a drivers’ car. When shopping around for a replacement every-day-driver/tow-car late last year, I had the opportunity to test drive a wide range of new vehicles. Most were only available with automatic transmissions, but the salesmen and women were always adamant that their new twin-clutched, paddle-shifting, electro lock-up slush boxes were far better than any old manual box could be. When it came to the crunch, however, none of these modern transmission systems came anywhere near the directness, precision and satisfaction I enjoy from shifting real gears in a real gearbox. The chosen vehicle therefore has 3 pedals and 1-2-3-4-5-R embossed into its leather and aluminium shift knob. The fact that I rarely get to drive it is another story. SELECTING AND USING A CLASSIC OR HISTORIC VEHICLE The Classic and Historic Car movement is alive and well and thriving! Classic and Historic cars of all descriptions, have their own distinct individual appearance and characteristics. They are unique in the history of the automobile, and are quite different to today’s ‘homogenised’ (all-be-it safer) designs. Different cars from different eras appeal to different people, but the most important thing is that you only choose a vehicle that you have a strong feeling or affinity for, so that it becomes ‘valuable’ to you. This also enables you to ‘make allowances for’ any of that Marques specific characteristics or idiosyncrasies / problems should they arise. So why are so many people deciding to invest their time and money into a ‘collectable’ old car? Our current new cars have all types of aids to assist the driver: such as Cruise Control, ABS, Stability Control, electronic controlled variable suspension settings, and of course, Power Steering, Power Windows, Power and Heated Seats, sophisticated auto and semi-auto gearboxes, climate control, air bags etc. The downside of this is that these aids effectively mean that the driver does not have think or do as much, so they almost become ‘steerers’ with limited interaction with the car – which can even lead to boredom – as well as an over-riding belief that the car will get them out of any critical situation without much skill needed on their part. (Many who ‘cut their teeth’ driving the older more ‘primitive’ cars, find this a concern for the younger drivers.) The 25 -30 plus year old vehicles were much less sophisticated, and needed full driver input, attention and control. In fact it could be said that with these vehicles you actually had to ‘Drive’ them all the way – and this ‘challenge’ and resulting satisfaction and enjoyment is one possible reason why people choose a collectable old car. But it seems there are many other different reasons for choosing an old classic, with perhaps the most common being a return to those cars that their parents owned or they aspired to own, when they were young. Others have developed an enthusiastic interest in a particular car over time after seeing/ hearing/ experiencing that car. These cars can often ‘transport’ us back in our mind to a simpler, less hectic time which many find to be a desirable aspect as well. Some see the purchase as a financial appreciating investment, but most enthusiasts do not even consider this. Whatever the reason, when finances allow it, an ever increasing number of people are seeking out these heritage cars. Another benefit is that as their time permits, it also allows the new owner to be at home in the garage periodically working on, or tinkering with their new ‘toy’ – made easier because of its relative simplicity. And then of course, there is the fun of actually driving it. Some organisations suggest that there are a number of eras or classes when it comes to categorising cars from the past. Those made up to January 1919 are classified as Veteran – and one feature is they have wooden wheels. Vintage cars are those produced between 1919 and 1930, and the wheels often have wires in them. Pre-WWII cars of the 1930’s and 40’s, saw huge mechanical innovation as well as moves to full metal enclosed bodies, in a range of large luxury and small basic cars. Classic cars are those between 1950 and 1959, where styling and ‘quality’ dominated. The head lights started to blend into the mudguards which in turn start to merge into the body. The Historic cars are those from the highly collectable era between1960-69. The mudguards fully blended into the bodies during this period, introducing a new smooth shape. The Modern-historic cars were made in the 70s until the 80s, and provided bold new aesthetics in styling and technological advances. The search for a particular car from the past can be a long painstaking – but rewarding – journey. We can learn a lot about that specific ‘marque’ not only from research, but also from other owners, and from the inspection of the possible cars to buy. Some may find that a good car with a genuine full history can be even more desirable than a restored car without a history. You may well have to pay more for a car with a proven unique or desirable history, whether it is restored or not. Buying a car to drive and progressively restore is an easier option that also spreads the cost over time, but the purchase of a ‘basket case’ car to totally restore is initially cheaper and an exciting and challenging option, whereas the possible cheaper long term option of buying a car that has been totally restored (with receipts) and ready to enjoy now, is another way to go. Everyone will have a different preference depending on their own circumstances, but each will provide great satisfaction to the owner. Vehicle restoration can be particularly rewarding, but driving it and showing it off could still provide the greatest enjoyment. People often worry about the availability of spare parts for their intended classic, but there is a world-wide movement of enthusiasts collecting and restoring heritage cars, so there is a world –wide trade in selling auto parts. It seems that for many Marques there are companies scattered around the world that specialise in producing new reproduction parts for them, so do some simple research before your purchase. For other Makes, there are still many ‘donor’ cars available for spares out there in the community. These can be especially necessary with a total restoration job. The prospective owner must always be aware that there are always some ‘dodgy’ sellers out there, and this is now particularly so with buying on the internet. Regardless, make sure you (or a reputable ‘agent’) actually see the car and fully check it out, and check its authenticity and verify its ownership, as there are many ‘scams’ occurring. Many photos and descriptions of cars have been high-jacked, and these ‘ghost’ cars offered for sale in many different ways to the unsuspecting buyer, with money demanded before the car is either seen or delivered. If it sounds almost too good to be true – it often is! “Buyer Beware!” During this process of researching, purchase, tinkering or restoring, and then driving the car, the new owner will have some great opportunities to meet other like-minded enthusiasts who have had contact with that model. These enthusiasts can provide invaluable information about the particular car under investigation or restoring. This process in itself can provide some enormous enjoyment when it comes to the discussion of that particular model and its characteristics, and of course overcoming its particular problems or sourcing parts. As we drive these classic or historic vehicles, we often get waves or admiring looks from the public, and when we stop, there are often people who turn up who want to look at, discuss, and reminisce about it. This can give you good feedback and sometimes provides valuable information, as well as providing enjoyment to the others. You could be in for long enjoyable talks with perfect strangers! Servicing and ‘tinkering’ with these older and often simpler designed cars, can be very enjoyable, satisfying and therapeutic – but also potentially time consuming! Panels and parts can usually be removed easily by an amateur enthusiast for servicing or replacement – with little more than a good Workshop Manual (although a Parts Book with its ‘exploded’ diagrams is sometimes a great help). The relative ease with which work can be done on the car, encourages the owner to get more involved with it, and to even develop a ‘relationship’ with the car – often giving it a name! Perhaps most of all, just admiring this classic or historic vehicle should give the owner a huge amount of satisfaction and enjoyment. Many owners get huge enjoyment out of the simple acts of just cleaning and polishing their classic, and admiring it as they do so. Some look fast just sitting there, whilst others glisten and reflect with a huge array of chrome, and others have marvellous proportions and ‘lines’ that draw you in and mesmerise you. Each individual will find visual aspects of their car that excites them, so you could even just sit down and admire it for ages – such are the aesthetics of these old, collectable cars. But perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy these cars is to meet other like minded individuals at specific events for these cars, which can be great and rewarding fun. These displays or rallies can be almost as rewarding as the opportunity to join a drive with others on some enjoyable or even challenging ‘drivers’ roads. Many find that to be part of a convoy is exhilarating, especially when you can see these wonderful machines snaking away in front of and behind you on the winding or open roads. There is a huge array of activities available to the Classic and Historic car owner every weekend across our state (& nationally & even internationally), so there is no excuse not to be able to get your car out and enjoy it. The Classic and Historic car scene is thriving, with available activities expanding rapidly each year – particularly since the introduction of the new Log Book Club Permit Scheme. We have seen a dramatic increase in these cars on the road since the new scheme was announced, as it has encouraged many to finish their restorations (& others to start a restoration), and others to just get their cars out of the garage and back on the roads to enjoy them. So how can we maximise this motoring enjoyment? All of the above can be enhanced by being part of a club of like-minded enthusiasts, where the opportunities to join in activities that are regular and varied enable us to enjoy these classics all the more. We are all very fortunate to be members of the GSCCR which welcomes all varieties of old classic and historic vehicles and their owners to events. As a result, one of our ’pluses’ is the huge variety of Club vehicles from all eras which we can admire and enjoy for their own individual characteristics and differences. Also there are enough members who have, or have owned a particular vehicle, if an owner needs more information, or even help in locating a particular car. Our Club puts on events with venues that are designed to be attractive to both the partner/spouse and the owner, so that the vehicle can be taken out on a stimulating drive, and finishing at enjoyable eating places, wineries, parks, historic buildings and antiques, museums etc. The friendships and camaraderie shown within the Club, together with quite a balanced mix of genders, is one of the main reasons for its success. It can be a lot of fun! Are you getting the most out of your car and the GSCCR that you could? John Fowler EDITORIAL – Steve Schmidt 14th July 2012 I rarely take notice of new car releases nowadays, you get the same old rhetoric about safety, fuel economy and refrigerated cup holders – and if it’s a Toyota, I take even less notice. After all, this is the company that gave us the oxymoronic Camry Sportivo and has perfected the art of turning cars into characterless domestic white goods. You have to think back to the MR2 to find the last Toyota that had any real sporting pretext, and they copied that design from the Fiat X1/9. The recent release therefore, of the Toyota and Subaru joint venture sports coupe, badged as either the Toyota 86 GT or the Subaru BRZ slipped petty much under my radar as just the latest cynical exercise by Toyota to produce another hairdresser’s car like the Celica. Reliable sources are trying to convince me otherwise. A tarmac-rally mate in South Australia has written a glowing report on the car after an extended test-drive session and independent journalists are drooling all over their notebooks. So what is this strangely named vehicle? It a typical angular Japanese over-styled 2-door coupe with a 2-litre Subaru flat four engine producing 150 Kw coupled to a 6-speed manual or auto gearbox up front driving an independently sprung LSD rear end. The good news is that the prices start at about $30,000 for the 86 GT and range up to $40,000 for Toyota’s top of the range 86 GTS. The Subaru BRZ badged clone fits somewhere in the middle in respect to both price and standard equipment. The bad news is there’s anything from a 10 to 18 month wait on delivery depending on the model, colour and transmission combination. The Subaru link is bound to add an element of street cred to the 86 GT and you can bet it won’t take long before after-market suppliers are producing turbo kits, wings and wheels for the drift/poseur set. If you’ve got a spare $30g the 86 GT could be a prudent investment, providing of course, that we can still afford to run our cars on 98 octane petrol in 20 years time. ALEX’S Mk.1 ESCORT RESTORATION – update Feb 2012 So far Lachy (Fowler) has methodically worked his way welding up patches from the back of the body, through the boot floor, wells behind the rear wheel arches, arch lip itself, rear floor of the cabin and recently finishing the rust patches that were in the ‘B’ pillars where some models had hinges for rear opening side windows. I should be collecting all of the blasted and primed panels and parts from Blast Away in Moe tomorrow and taking them back to Lachy’s for damage assessment.
Still to be done is:
– Finish rust repair of the floor
– Move onto upper and lower ‘A’ Pillar repairs
– Firewall/Bulkhead repair and patching
– Rust repair doors
– Dummy up engine and gearbox to assess transmission tunnel mods required for fitting new C/R 5spd, and carry out the mods
– Receive new diff with LSD centre for mating up and fixing new rear suspension components/brackets (Anti-tramp bars and Panhard Rod)
– Fit new Front Panel, wings and battery tray, spot welding where ever possible
– Source new alternator, starter motor, pedal box and reservoirs front discs and calipers, interior, front seats & harnesses, windscreen and door glass, Minilite-style wheels and tyres
– Get engine dyno’d, run in, setup and tune 3D mappable ignition, hoping for 130+bhp from the 1600 Kent engine
– Decide if I go for a half cage or not????????
– Then send it all off to the spray shop for prep’ing and spraying
– Finally, build it all back up, take it to Top Performance for Front Suspension rebuild and ride height setting
– And, I hope that is all!
Although it was a daunting sight upon receiving it back from the blasters, progress so far has been steady, fitting things in around work, holidays and trying to maintain a personal life, making for busy times all round really. But I can say that taking things on little by little has meant that we have maintained motivation and enjoyed the process.
The main heartache throughout the process has been watching the reciepts roll in as my bank account balance tumbles down.
Finish time was hoped for late September 2012 in time for the RSOC Concourse, but in reality it will most likely be this time next year for the RSOC Small Ford Sunday in Bundoora where you can see a few GCC stickers on cars in the rows.
As for intentions, it is intended to be a Club Plated weekend fun machine that can be run in Hillclimbs/Sprints/6hr in the future. Initially though I think I will be too scared of scratching it to be competing much, just smiling and admiring our joint handy work (and hopefully not cursing a temperamental beast). Alex Weymouth.. I DON’T KNOW HOW IT HAPPENED, BUT ….. ! Well, it all started with Jan complaining about how her back hurt after a day’s driving in the Mk 111 Sprite. This was on top of her concern about the possibility of getting cold or wet if we drove off without the soft top attached on days of ‘iffy’ weather – so the top was often erected down here in Gippsland!Hmm, I thought – it is either a new wife or another sports car. I quickly decided that getting rid of the old wife would be quite expensive, and then there would also be the problems of ‘breaking – in’ a new one, so it looked as though buying another sports car would be the only viable option!However, I was still reluctant to get rid of the old Mk 111 which I have had for over 20 years (as the third owner), and which had served us well as a regular tourer, although its body was now looking a bit tired and showing its age. (My old Mk 1 – ‘Gunge’ only gets used occasionally, because of its low and hard ‘race suspension’). However when I raised the option of buying another sports car with Jan (whilst not mentioning the ‘other’ option above), she quickly took the wind out of my sails by saying that I had already accumulated too many unrestored cars and trucks – and that another vehicle was not on ! I was told to sell some vehicles and the Sprite first – before another car could even be considered ! (That other option above was immediately ‘fleetingly’ considered – but ……). It was going to be difficult to give up the Mk 111, however….. Anyway as it happened, I finally got a reply to my ‘For Sale’ ad that I had had running for my wonderful old ’65 Bedford truck (going, but not being used), and after some negotiation it was sold. (However, it is still here waiting to be picked up. I will have to start charging rent soon.) Phew! That was the first barrier down with Jan.So then I started to think about what I wanted in a sports car. I wanted an easier and quicker to erect soft –top (or even a folding hard-top) – push button preferably. (I know, I know – I can hear you saying now that I have gone ‘soft’ – but remember what started this off). Secondly, it had to be comfortable to drive – once again refer to the points at the start. Thirdly, it had to handle and brake well, and lastly it had to look good.So, the wish list then started to be worked through. Being an old Jag enthusiast (I still have my ’65 Jaguar S Type waiting to be worked on), I just lust after a Jaguar XKR (Supercharged) Convertible from about 2002 which I think has a fabulous shape and a lovely V8 engine. They are still a bit expensive, so the ‘fall-back’ was for the XK8 (non-supercharged) version. Then came the next blow – Jan did not like the shape ! Unbelievable ! I wonder if she had seen the prices over my shoulder of the Jags I had up on CarSales.com ?Next on the list was a new Nisan 370Z convertible which although a bit expensive, we actually drove and we liked – except for the large Drivers’ side door mirror which blocked much of Jan’s vision when she was turning, and surprising for such a bulky car, the interior space was not large. But it was great to drive !Logically then, the next to be checked out was the earlier Nissan 350Z. After some input from Lachlan it seemed that the better versions were the updated models from 2007. We found a couple and drove them, but the clutches in both seemed quite worn and ‘grabby’. This appeared to be a problem with them, although we both found this model to be easier to see out of and to park. My nervousness about their clutches put them ‘on the back burner’ however. One owner was a bit too ‘smooth’ for his own good too. We then drove what seemed to be quite a good auto version at a Big Nissan dealer, but it did not have the same sporty feel to it – and the salesman was just a bit pushy and a little ‘sleazy’ for our liking. So they were then dropped from our list – although I thought we could re-visit them at a later stage if something good turned up and we had not found something else.An MX5 with its folding hard-top had always been on my list to investigate – because of its Sprite-like characteristics – and I had long been excited by their folding hardtops. Whilst investigating their prices on Carsales, I checked out the new prices as a comparison, and I was amazed to discover that Mazda and our ‘local’ Nar Nar Goon dealer had a special deal on the go which made them only slightly more than a one or two year old version. So we drove down to have a look. As we drove in, Jan remarked that she has always liked Mazdas – because we had had a fantastic run from our old Mazda B2000 Ute many years ago, and those new Utes looked good too. We soon took this very attractive red manual MX5 with 2km on the clock for a run up the road, and we both concluded that it was a fantastic car to drive, and the Hardtop was extremely cosy and kept all the noises out. Absolutely delightful – except that the boot was smaller than the Sprite’s, and it had no spare tyre – just a puncture kit, and there was actually less room inside the cabin of this Hardtop version than in the Sprite ! Where would I put my handbag said Jan? So reluctantly this was dropped off the list. Whilst there we checked out the RX8, although it looked good, and the seats although comfortable, they were a bit difficult to get over the edge and into, and I guess you need to be excited by Rotary engines too. So it was back to the drawing board.I combed through CarSales.com for all possible other soft-top options, and developed another list. This list finally included both Mercedes SLK (2 seat folding H/T) and CLKs (4 seat soft tops) from the early 2000s (classy, but a question mark over costs of parts and services), a Porsche Boxter S (great appeal, but a bit expensive for its age), an ’88 model Porsche 911 Carrera (exciting, but expensive for their age – and potentially costly to repair and service), a BMW Z3 (interesting, but the appearance is a little different and potentially costly services), an Audi TT (great value for money, but a question mark over the timing belts). I did not get to drive any of these, but did sit in them. I was quite keen to check out the Audi TT further, but Jan was rather ‘nervous’ about the mechanicals. So after alot of discussion and investigation of the above list, and of course the power of ‘veto’ by SHMBO, the new type Cooper S Mini Cabrio was added, after Jan suggested this as a compromise – because this was a ‘sporting type’ car she had always liked. After we test drove a Supercharged Cabrio we found the rearward vision was a problem with the roof up – particularly when reversing out of a parking lot as found in a supermarket. We test drove a later Turbo charged Cooper S (with a Sunroof) belonging to some friends (Graham and Margaret), and we were both extremely impressed with its appearance inside and out, its performance, and its handling and sporty feel. So the Mini Cabrio then ‘morphed’ into a Turbo Cooper S, but with a sunroof, on our new serious shortlist. I found a number of Cooper ‘S’s on CarSales.com, made a shortlist, and then contacted a few. Eventually we made a cash offer on a low km. one (subject to it being as he had described) – a bit below his asking price – and he accepted. I was going to be away in Bright over the weekend, so our son Hayden agreed to go down to St. Kilda with Jan (and the cash) to pick it up. They drove down on the Saturday, had a long test drive and agreed to buy it, but then at that late stage ‘out of the blue’ the owner said he now wanted a thousand dollars more for it! Jan then rang me, and we both agreed that he had broken his word and the agreement, so on principle that meant we would not budge on the previously agreed to fair price. Jan then drove home without it. We were all furious with the owner, and noted that it was still for sale many weeks later. This experience left Jan quite ‘cheezed off’ with second hand car sellers, and she said she was ‘over’ looking at any more old cars! Bummer –I thought – where to now!? Anyway whilst we were looking at all these cars, an old ‘70’s repair to the ‘A’ Pillar on the Sprite finally gave up – and a large lump of filler fell out of that big dent. It did not look at all nice, and since I knew that there were rust spots in the rear guards and sills, I decided that perhaps I should get Lachlan to cut these sections out and weld in new ones. It ended up being a bigger job than I had hoped – especially when we found that the new replacement panels I had bought did not fit at all well because they had the wrong curves to them. Lachlan then had to fabricate new ones, but it ended up being a great job. Painting proved to be another issue which ‘grew’. Since the repairs were now too extensive for my ‘normal’ approach of ‘blowing over’ with a close matching spray can colour, I was forced to consider a full respray. I had the compressor and spray-gun, but not the expertise or suitable shed, so I had a local Panel Beater/Spray Painter give me a quote. It quickly became apparent that I would have to strip all the bits off the car myself if I was to keep the cost under control, plus the fact that I find it difficult to spend money on something that I could do myself anyway. (Me – Tight?) So away I went and steadily stripped the car. Getting the windscreen out proved to be a problem because someone in the 70’s had put the mounting bolts in from the wrong side somehow, but the worst job was removing the quarter vents and windows! The bare car then went in to be resprayed in a somewhat brighter shade of red (a Holden colour). I soon decided that since it was being repainted, that I should replace not only the rubber gaskets behind the bodywork bits, but that I should replace the boot and door seals, and the window seals (inside and out). Well, after I had bought the repainted Sprite home, the difficult job of just replacing the window glass then got a whole lot harder when I went to put these seals in place! It took me ages – and only worked after I had made up a special thin right-angled tool to push/lift the clips for the seals into place next to the glass! Eventually the MK111 was all back together, and it did look fantastic – except for the dust, drips, and paint and filler left on inside dash, carpets, and on the velour seats by the panel shop. Oh well – just another job! After the Sprite was repainted, I had the seats re-packed with foam to make them more comfortable, and they were a huge improvement, and Jan was now happy in the seats. ‘Well’ she said, ‘I know you, and now that the Mark 111 has been re-painted and improved – you will not want to sell it, so it is a waste of time looking at any other cars – because we are not having any more old cars hanging around !’ Bother, I said (or something equivalent to that)! Luckily this had all been part of my ‘devilishly cunning plan’ (as Baldric from ‘Black Adder’ would say) – just so that I could get the Sprite refurbished! (And you probably had been thinking that I was ‘hen-picked’ and ‘under the thumb’ too.) The result looks fantastic, and it will look even better when I get the new soft-top in place. But this is not the end of this frustrating long drawn-out saga. One day shortly after, we were returning from Melbourne, and we needed fuel, so we stopped at the independent Nar Nar Goon Fuel stop (next door at the same Mazda Dealers we had been to before). Whilst filling up, Jan said ‘Look, there is a nice looking grey Mazda Tray over there in the Dealers – and that is really what we really need ! We should have a look, because that would save the damage you boys do to the Territory when you put engines etc in the back’, she continued. I replied that we were always very, very careful when we put car stuff in the back of the Territory, but this was met with a ‘Harrumph’ – or something equally derogatory! Anyway, to keep the peace I agreed to have a look at this new BT50 tray, because of the warm memories of our earlier Mazda B2000 ute. Pretty soon we were out on a test drive, and I must say I was impressed with the acceleration and torque of the ‘nippy’ diesel engine and the delightful gearbox. Of course the ride was firm with our backs moving up and down against the backs of the seats without a load in the back, but it was not unacceptable. When we returned, Jan asked for a quote, and we were amazed with the relatively low price of it – because of Mazda’s run out subsidy policy on this model. A quick discussion then took place of the benefits of this extra vehicle to the household, and the benefits for us as far as farm use would be. We both agreed the benefits of this tray were worth the relatively low cost outlay, but that we would re-visit the Sports car upgrade in about 12 months time. So we signed up and bought it there and then! Well, has it been a right choice? No, it is not a sports car like I wanted, but the Sprite now looks great, and the Mazda tray has proved extremely useful already. Practical and useful ? Definitely! Value for money ? Definitely! Enjoyment value ? Definitely not in the same class as a sports car (although it does only carry two – as Jan quickly pointed out – just like a sports car!) Hmmm! So how did all this happen? We started out looking for a replacement for our 46 year-old small sports car – the Mk 111 Sprite, and somehow ended up with a new commercial type Mazda Tray! I still don’t know how it happened, but………..? John Fowler YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE MAD, BUT YOU DO NEED PASSION. If you were to select a vehicle for an extended weekend road trip into the alpine region of southern NSW during April; an ageing, open-top Italian sports car would probably not immediately spring to mind! But with holidays, Canberra’s Auto Italia show and the prospect of fine weather all coinciding, the opportunity was there to be taken. SPYDUH, my 1976 Fiat 124 Spider was prepped and polished before departing the day prior to Auto Italia, she easily covered the 700 odd kms to Canberra via Cann River and the Monaro High Plains in time to find a car wash and rid herself of accumulated road grime from 2 hours of drizzle and wet roads near the south coast towns of Lakes Entrance and Orbost. Although the weather was a little damp, the soft-top had remained stowed away.
Sunday’s weather in Canberra was absolutely magnificent – a perfect autumn day. SPYDUH hit the usual tourist spots prior to locating the Auto Italia venue which was on the lawns facing the ‘Old Parliament House’. Auto Italia is the largest Italian car show/gathering inAustralia and it’s held annually in the Nation’s capital. To say that it was enormous is an understatement. There were cars, bikes and scooters for all over Oz. Invitees included exotic marques (Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, De Tomaso etc.) as well as a wide range of Lancias, Alfas and Fiats. Canberra is so picturesque at this time of year and the weather was perfect. Huge crowds took advantage of the autumnal sunshine to visit the exhibition, so there were heaps of people wanting to have a chat about our particular passion. The car show finished with an awards ceremony at about 3pm, so there was time for a pleasant drive back into the high country that evening with an overnight stay in Cooma.
The following morning brought frost and fog, but also promises of a clear, sunny day. SPYDUH, still with the top down, headed for the Alpine Way and the ski resort towns of Jindabyne and Thredbo. At Thredbo the car was parked for a few hours whilst I took a chairlift and a 13km stroll through patches of snow to the summit of MountKosciuszko and back in perfect alpine weather. Then there was time for a quick bite of lunch before continuing along the glorious Alpine Way to Khancoban, blasting through massive perpendicular rock cuttings that amplified SPYDUH’s exhaust note beautifully. From Khancoban it was a downhill run out of the mountains and forests on to Corryong and Tallangatta along the edge of Lake Hume that was spreading well outside its normal perimeter. Time was getting a bit tight so I opted for the freeway south from Wodonga to Seymour, then back through the Toolangi State Forest and the Dandenong Ranges into West Gippsland. I arrived home in Warragul around 8pm that evening after an epic weekend covering 1700km of trouble-free, top-down motoring over some of this country’s most scenic roads. Apart from a bad case of sunburn on yours truly, and the leading surfaces of SPYDUH caked in bug splatter the trip was fantastic. …. and if you’ve never been to Australia’s roof top, make it a priority, it’s absolutely awesome. Steve Schmidt TIME FOR ANOTHER TILT AT SPEED CAMERAS (November 2010) On a recent trip to South Australia, it was annoying to discover that the digital radar Speed Check facilities on the Western Highway near Ballarat weren’t operating. The State Government is very keen to accept our money through the quaintly named Civil Compliance Dept when we supposedly transgress outside the speed limit; but they fail to provide and maintain a facility where we can check our speedometer accuracy. To make matters worse, on the return trip via the Calder Highway, the same blank readouts were there to reinforce a vote of no confidence in the system. Yet according to the Premier’s lap dog, Deputy Commissioner Ken Lay, we are assured beyond any doubt that, unlike the speed Check cameras, the revenue raising cameras are all scrupulously maintained and regularly tested for accuracy. The Premier, John Brumby recites the same tired old spin about road safety and the road toll while public cynicism soars and confidence in the system plummets to an all-time low. Just recently, we the public, found that the average speed detection system on the Hume north of Melbourne had slipped out of sync, resulting in an unknown number of motorists being wrongly fined. Private speed camera operator Redflex has reached six-figure settlement with the State Government over this Hume Freeway debacle, whilst the poor motorist cries out for some form of open investigation into the whole speed camera issue. Now even the Police Association is supporting an appeal by one of its members against a Speed Camera offence caught on one of the much maligned cameras along Eastlink. In a Victorian first, the Police Association has backed the officer’s claim and will pay for her to fight the fine in court. “It’s alleged that the reading that was shown on the camera was much higher than the vehicle at the time,” Police Association Secretary Greg Davies said. “We don’t trust this one on this occasion.” If the Police don’t trust the system, where does that leave the motorist? Steve S You may wonder what prompted me to write such a vitriolic passage, and no, I haven’t been booked. It sprang from a simple ‘thumbs-up’ given to me by a copper in an unmarked Police Car that had been following me and my trailer combination all the way from Tailem Bend to Murray Bridge in SA. We had been sitting on or about the speed limit, overtaking slower vehicles when necessary, but not constantly checking the speedo in case we were 2 or 3 km/h over the limit. When was the last time you received anything but a ticket from a Victorian copper? . Austin Healey Sprite Weight Distribution The recent Australian Hill-climb Championship was held at the excellent track at Bryant Park in the Haunted Hills. While I was officiating there, I decided to put my Mark 111 Sprite on the 4 wheel weighing pads just out of curiosity. These pads were being used in the Scrutineering Bay to check the weights of specific class cars on each wheel and overall. I was amazed with the results. My Mk111 is a standard road car as many will know, and had a quarter tank of fuel, spare wheel, small tool kit, and soft top and frame, in the boot. The weights without driver were: Front Left Hand – 190 kg, Front Right Hand – 194 kg, Total Front – 384 Kg Rear Left Hand – 184 kg, Rear Right Hand – 185 kg, Total Rear – 369 kg. A total of 753kg. So there was a Total Front of 51%, and Rear of 49%. The weights with a driver (my son Lachlan) were: Front Left Hand – 186 kg, Front Right Hand – 223 kg, Total Front – 409 kg. Rear Left Hand – 202 kg, Rear Right Hand – 219 kg, Total Rear – 421 kg. A total of 830 kg. (Driver 77 Kgs.) So there was then a total Front of 49,3%, and Rear of 50.7% Not bad for a 44 year old car! How many of our ‘modern’ cars have this sort of weight distribution? Perhaps this is a major reason why Spridgets handle so well, and therefore are so much fun to drive on the road and on the track! John Fowler. … and as a contrast to how weight distribution should be, have a look at the corner weights on Steve Schmidt’s 1964 Cooper S. Obviously Alec Issigonis was more concerned about making the door pockets fit his favourite bottles of Johnny Walker than trying to get the Mini’s weight distribution optimised. The weights in race trim with Steve on board were: Front Left Hand – 196 kg, Front Right Hand – 244 kg, Total Front – 440 kg. Rear Left Hand – 136 kg, Rear Right Hand – 133 kg, Total Rear – 269 kg. A total of 709 kg. (Driver 85 Kgs.) So that works out as: Front 62%, and Rear 38% Left to right is also a way off optimal with 46.8% and 53.2% respectively. I guess it would help if the driver lost 40 kg ! ALPINE RALLY November 14th & 15th I wasn’t going to report the Alpine Rally, just went to have look at the cars at the official start at Lakes on Saturday 14th November and take a few pictures. But running into a fit a healthy looking Allan Humphrey and Marg, after Allan’s triple bypass op, and also seeing one of our GCC members Rob Wilson, I changed my mind. Rob was navigating for one of the Snooks Bros team cars, a Mk2 Escort the other being a Datsun 1600. Rob normally is a Nissan man having a Fair Lady/2000, which we should have along to the Daisy Patch sometime, how about it Rob??? Bring the Fairlady along one night! (Bring the car too!) Robs Escort was one of 16 Mk1&2s along with 17 Datsuns 1600, one of which rolled three times in the Colquhoun Forest, behind the Forest Tech School head quarters for the rally, however, they managed to patch it up and it was ready for the official start at 9:00am Saturday. The first two stages on Friday night were to determine the official starting order, and was won, unfortunately for Escort lovers, by the Porsche, one of two VW in the rally, one being a Beetle, and the Golf doesn’t count. One other Nissan of note was a replica of the Nissan Violet GT that Shekhar Mehta won the East Africa Safari. On the subject of WRC Cars there was a replica Fiat 131 Mirafori; no doubt Steve knows the details of this one. Another Fiat of note was an immaculate 1500, it seamed a pity to thrash such a rare car around the forest. Another was a Lancia 037 WRC & the Fiat Abarth driven by ex-rally star Wayne Bell. Three Falcon GT’s and a few VH Commodores, some Volvo’s about 5 or 6 Peugeot 504s (also winners of the East Africa Safari). “Bitsamishi” Lancer’s and a Gallant plus some Celica’s, a couple of 240Z’s, 2 Mazda RX7’s an MX5 and a small rotary (121 I think) and many more. Photos will be on the Web via Steve, I hope. The route from Lakes took them into the Colquhoun Forrest over fast smooth tracks to Nowa Nowa and onto Orbost area, then back to the Forest Tech Head Quarters at Kalimua West on Saturday night at about midnight. Sunday 15th start was from Lakes and back into the forest again before finishing at the Lakes Golf Club at 4pm. The cars could be seen in action at various points around the course. Spectator maps were available at the start line. John Weymouth . TARGA TASMANIA – Italian Style This year was my year to do Targa Tasmania. As many of you know I have been competing in Rally Tasmania for the past 10 years, but have never had the time or money to embark on the ‘Ultimate Tarmac Rally’, but this year it was going to happen – World Financial Crisis or not ! As my holiday times are fixed by the school year and never coincide with the Targa, I opted to take the first half of the year off work using my accumulated Long Service Leave, this also created the time available for preparing the car as well as a 3-day trip to Tassie with my co-driver Tony Young, to recce the course and write our own pace notes. The financial commitment to the event was substantial and I won’t embarrass myself by adding up all the costs, but it was like saving up for that once-in-a-lifetime-trip-to-Europe. Tony also contributed to the $6000 entry fee and looked after our accommodation for the 8 days that we were away. It is impossible to embark on a project like this without undertaking some preparation of the chosen vehicle. It would be a calamity if a mechanical issue put you out of the rally during Day One of the six-day event, but it has happened ! With that in mind our 1968 Fiat 124AC Coupe was given new brakes, new clutch, new tyres, a rebuilt diff and steering box, even new un-scratched side windows as well as some additional wiring and new 6-point harnesses to meet the latest safety requirements. It was then taken to Wakefield Park near Goulburn, NSW for a shakedown at the Fiat Nationals in January where it performed well. It was also at about this stage that Phil Buggee (Bits of Italy) offered to share the support crew that looks after his Fiat Punto and Jack Waldron’s Fiat 750 Abarth during Targa, with us. This was a tremendous load off our shoulders as it meant that we would have spares available if they were required. Phil also arranged for pre-event scrutineering of the cars and gave the coupe a thorough going over in his workshop, replacing a problematic axle seal, a well-used tie rod end and giving me sets of nylothane bushes to replace all the rear end rubber joints. In the mean time Tony was translating our dictated and hastily written pace notes into something that he and I could follow on the Special Stages. Over the years that we’ve been rallying together we have developed a very simple form of pace noting that grades corners into ‘Hard’. ‘Medium’ or ‘Fast’ with variations on those to create in between grades such as ‘Very Hard’, ‘Fast-Medium’ etc. Corner characteristics also include ‘Opens’ or ‘Tightens’ and we have ‘Dog Leg’ as well which is a series of short, fast right – lefts that can be taken straight through. Perhaps more important than the corners are the crests, and Tasmanian roads must have more blind crests than the rest of the country put together. As a driver you need to know what’s going to happen on or over the next blind crest, so the co-driver’s call is vital if you are to maintain speed and stay on the road. With preparations completed we set sail on ANZAC day and met up with the rest of Team Fiat at the Silverdome in Launceston. Jack’s 750 and my Coupe were running in the Early Classic category, while Phil’s Punto was entered in the Showroom Category. We would be based in Launceston until Day 5 of the event which ends up in Strahan, then it would be on to Hobart to finish at Wrest Point on Day 6. The roads chosen for the event’s 40 Special Stages are absolutely magnificent and range from 5km to 48 km in length. The event covers over 2100km of which 460km are made up of these closed-road Special Stages where cars are sent off – slowest to fastest – at 30 second intervals. We had a great time running and dicing with the same group of cars each day. They included a couple of 944 Porsches, an early E-type, Alfa GTVs, a couple of Cooper S’s and a later model Fiat 124 coupe. We endured almost 4 fine sunny days, then two wet days on the west coast where the roads were very fast and very slippery – the recovery teams busied themselves each evening dragging exotica out of the shrubbery. The coupe performed faultlessly, we saw 120mph on the speedo quite frequently (obviously optimistic), but when it’s in the rain and low cloud mist along a mountain ridge with blind crests taken flat out – it certainly feels a lot faster. The only spanners we laid on her was during a precautionary brake bleed half way through the event. The brakes really take a caning with lots of long downhill sections and it’s nice to have the security of knowing there’s fresh fluid under the pedal. Our support crew refueled us once on Day Six, but they, like us, were happy to leave the crates of spares unopened. We were very pleased with our result, finishing with a Targa Plate for completing each stage within the ‘Trophy time’ specified for our category, and placing 18th out of the 42 entries in the Early Classic category. The Punto and 750 Abarth also completed the event without any mechanical maladies and well up in their respective classes. A fantastic event, a great result for the Fiats and well worth the effort to get there. HOLIDAY SNAPS If you did any interesting motoring over the holiday period send in some shots and comments and I’ll add them to this page. New Zealand by MX5 Fiat Nationals at Wakefield Park (Goulburn NSW) Motorkhana, Concours, Sprints IF THE SHOE FITS ….. Twelve months ago after competing in the Australian Motorkhana Championship, I publicly commented on the fact that a number of competitors in this event let the sport and especially the National Championship down, through the shoddy presentation and the lack of preparation evident in some very shabby vehicles. I copped a fair bit of flack over that with the ‘bleeding hearts’ claiming that it is a grass roots sport and that we should embrace all and sundry who make the effort to throw together anything with an engine and 4 wheels. Agreed to a point, perhaps that’s fair enough for your regular club level event, but a showcase like the National Championship with sponsorship, promotion and media coverage should I believe, have the standards tightened up a notch or two to help showcase the sport in the best possible light. But now let’s have a look at Hillclimbing ! With the new Bryant Park venue attracting accolades from competitors all over the State as well as from further a field, it is not uncommon to see capacity fields and more spectators at a hillclimb than ever before. Hillclimbing is going through a renaissance period in Victoria and the Gippsland Car Club is at the forefront. Leading the charge and drawing the crowds are your ‘hero’ cars like Andrew Howell’s MacLaren-engined Gould, Kevin Mackrell’s 7-litre, all-wheel-drive 260Z and Brett Haywood’s home-made, giant killing motorcycle-engined Formula Libre. The pits are packed with competition cars of all categories and classes and Joe Public likes nothing more than to wander around looking and chatting with those involved. In most cases I’m sure Joe would come away impressed, because generally, the level of preparation and the presentation of the cars are a credit to the sport. Yet, just as in the Motorkhana Championship, there are a number of entries that are frankly a disgraceful embarrassment, and doing the sport’s image no favours whatsoever. I always believed that it was a requirement of the competitor to present a clean and tidy car to Scrutineering. The scrutineers have an important, but often thankless task to perform, one that can be made easier and more enjoyable if the car doesn’t appear as if it’s been dragged out of the nearest wrecking yard. A look in the CAMS manual can also be enlightening – some vehicle categories specifically state that: “a high standard of presentation will be insisted upon at all times and that any vehicle considered to be of an inappropriate standard will be rejected.” We aren’t talking concours condition here, just the type of presentation that reflects the effort, commitment and pride of ownership that’s evident in the vast majority of hillclimb cars. In 2009 the GCC is hosting the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Bryant Park. The club will no doubt, be trying to attract sponsorship for this event and there will be an increased interest in and focus upon hillclimbing in Victoria, especially at our venue in the lead up to the event. I would urge all competitors to help promote the GCC and our sport by taking as much pride in the presentation of their vehicle as they do in its performance. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the winning cars are often also the best presented. Steve ( pics by Elgee Words and Pictures) Click on the coloured link below to open a link. REAL SPORTS CARS – A continuation of the debate on What is a Sports Car with a report on Jim McNiven’s Lotus 7. THE LOWDOWN ON SPORTSCARS – or The Grumpy Old Woman’s View When you cruise by in a sports car with the top down, heads turn and envious glances come your way. It looks like such fun! . With the wind in your hair, a nifty note to the engine, you have the image of being fun loving, and adventurous ! I hate to be a wet blanket (had my share of those !) but I am now going to share with you the details of the dark side of traveling in a sports car. The side only known to the dedicated passenger – usually the long suffering wife or girlfriend. First of all, let’s get rid of the notion that “wind in your hair” is fun. It isn’t. There is nothing more painful than being whipped about the face by hair long enough to actually blow in the wind and you will arrive with the hair doing a pretty good impersonation of a wire brush. The alternative – wearing headgear of some kind – inevitably leads to the dreaded “hat hair” effect. And don’t forget the aching arms from holding the damn thing on in the hurricane force gale generated by the car in motion.In the right circumstances, open car travel can create for passengers the undesirable but necessary need to pick bugs off their face. It also causes varying degrees of sunburn, windburn and a condition I refer to as “Travel Deafness” – no, this isn’t what husbands get while their wives are talking- it’s that strange effect that occurs when the car stops after an hour or so of travel. The cessation of the wind buffeting your eardrums actually causes a mild kind of deafness, or is it that everything else seems so quiet in comparison?Sports cars put you at an awkward height (- or is it depth?) Truck exhausts are at passenger face level. So are standing people’s crotches, sprinklers and large dogs. It does, however give the girls at the Macdonald’s drive through a bit of a giggle as they lower your order via rope and basket.The distance you have to go down, to actually reach the car’s seat, is surprising and I defy anyone to gracefully reverse the procedure upon arrival. The older one gets the more ungainly the heaving and clambering out becomes.When traveling long distances, the passenger, unlike the driver, has little to do and can become isolated in a boring little world where they can’t hear the radio, reading is out of the question, and extended conversation (unless shouted), impossible.So far we have assumed fine weather for car trips. This is silly, as sooner or later the sun won’t shine and it will become cold or wet or both. If one was the sensible type, the arrival of unpleasant weather should naturally be followed by the top going up on the car. However, if, like me, you travel with a dedicated, dyed in the wool sports car enthusiast the top will remain down until pneumonia, hypothermia or drenched clothing occur (and it may take a combination of all three).One quickly develops the wardrobe of an Antarctic explorer. Beanies, scarves (another, let’s whip your face to a pulp situation) thick jackets, knee rugs, thermal underwear etc etc are all vital, basic survival items of gear for the determined cold weather passenger. I have traveled, topless (the car, not me!) in temperatures so cold the driver was literally scraping ice out of his beard and we had to stop so we could defrost our hands on the engine.Rain is another joy – NOT. As you may know, it is possible to travel open topped in the rain, and, provided you hit the right speed, stay there and don’t stop, you will not get wet. Consequently you pray for green lights and no caravans.If the miracle occurs and the top does go on due to wet weather, you will discover that ’water-tight’ was not in the vocabulary of sports car designers. At least having to bail gives the passenger something to do and takes their mind off the slowly spreading coldness down their (back, leg, arm- insert whichever is relevant) where an unseen, impossible to avoid drip is having its evil way.Let’s get over the gloomy bits. Open topped sports car travel is not all bad – shock!!! There are those trips when the weather is perfect, the day or evening is balmy, the breeze really does just ruffle your hair, you enjoy waving regally at those peasants who stare enviously after you and it nearly makes up for all the other uncomfortable trips. Nearly. Jenny Schmidt