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Early Holden racing


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#1 David Shaw

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 00:32

As suggested by Ray Bell, this is a thread to discuss further the racing of early Holdens. As the parts and knowledge for building these up were both cheap and accessible, they became a staple in sedan racing in Australia, the first entry for one at Bathurst being Easter 1951, although it did not start.

These early Holdens provided the first one-make series' with, as mentioned in the Catalina Park thread, the Neptune Series there exclusively for them, along with other races elsewhere.

Early on in their racing lives up until 1960, they were much modified with crossflow and even DOHC heads fitted, 4-speed gearboxes from Jags and MGs, LSDs, disc brakes, rudimentary aerodynamics even, before all of these shenanigans were reigned in by the introduction by CAMS of Appendix J regulations for Touring Cars (as they then became known) at the start of 1960.

They continued to flourish and their performance under these new restrictions improved to the point where they ended up quicker than the unrestricted generation prior.

So for all that wish to contribute with discussion, reminiscing and photos there is now this dedicated thread.

I for one would like to learn more of the pre-1960 versions, such as the Waggott Engineering DOHC car usually driven by Bill Thompson, Jack Myers car, those of Ray Long and John French etc. as these were well gone or running as Appendix K GTs by the time of my birth.

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 01:36

They certainly were a 'staple' in the diet of Australian racing enthusiasts...

Often a Touring Car race of the early sixties would comprise 50% or more of these cars, with the quickest of them somewhere near the slower Jags, often beating them, while the slowest would be back with the Morris Majors. There would always be brawling going on between them and their drivers became household names.

One of the biggest things to happen to their drivers was their 'graduation' to Bathurst, with Bruce McPhee, Barry Seton, Ian Geoghegan, Bob Jane, Midge Bosworth, Bob Holden, Dick Johnson and John French having carved out some of their racing 'name' in these cars and then went on to win the big one.

The fields in these races showed even more so how our Touring Car drivers of the day had been born of the old Holdens, while Brian Muir went on to International success and Spencer Martin won the Gold Star after such humble upbringings.

It helped, also, to build the local industry that supports racing. Nothing for a Holden could be sourced overseas, no simple matter of phoning Lofty England and ordering a new manifold or camshafts. Repco played their part in this, but even more came from Waggott and others, with both going on to ultimately build all out racing engines.

#3 seldo

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 02:20

I recall marvelling at this spectacle of FJ Holden racing on my first visit to Catalina Park as a 16/17 yo, so it must have been in 1963/4. A friend was competing (Gary Milner) in his FJ and as I wandered around the pit area I was checking-out the cars ready on the dummy-grid for the next event and was shocked to see one of the FJs had substantial canvas showing on one the rear tyres' tread. I rushed up to the window and advised the driver (Bruce Stewart) of this fact, certain he'd be as concerned as I was, and he just grinned and said "Oh - is it? They are getting down a bit but it's the last race of the day and it should be ok. I have to re-groove them to get past the scrutineers and to get max life out of the tyres..."
I also recall chuckling one time when I heard the great John Cummins prattling away on the PA as he called a Holden race at Hume Weir. "This a wonderful, exciting spectacle - the wonder and excitement that comes from 150 horsepower .......and no brakes...." :lol:

#4 wagons46

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 02:36

Encouraged by Ray to start a new thread on 'early holdens' I thought I would browse through all his threads to see if there was a forgotten similar theme. I got stuck (5hrs) on the Warwick Farm entries as this was my real entry into the motor racing world.
Not old enough to have a licence ,I relied on older mates with cars to give me a lift and of course 'creek' was the place to be. For some reason they usually had the touring cars as the last event, and I can still hear the sounds of Kieth Regan and Paul(?) Samuels calling the start and then the wait....as the roar grew and grew until Bruce? Redhouse or Adrian Ryan took over.........and then they appeared ,flat out then on the brakes, usually headed by Jano and possibly another Jag or two and the Holdens ,mostly FX215's and FJ's with the richer guys in FE's. Round the hairpin for most of them, up to the esses and roughly a 1.45 minute wait to see it all again, for all of only 5 laps.

The sound of all this PLUS the 'bugler' is as clear to me 46 or 47 years later as it was then. By 63 I had organised myself into the pits for all meetings,where-ever,from then on, but it was never the same sort of excitement.

Further encouraged by all this I was about to start the thread when I see that David Shaw has saved me the trouble and I'm looking forward to seeing some posts and photos of a great era in my life.

#5 David Shaw

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 03:42

An article was posted on a previous thread on Leo's 48-215 from Wheels October 1961 when it was up for sale. It appears that it was in full battle dress when sold, complete with the aerodynamic nose on it. Amongst other things listed:

*Two big double choke downdraught Weber carburettors.
*Disc brake conversion on the front with rotors and hubs made especially for this car. Leo claims 200 man hours spent on the conversion.
*Repco Hy-Power crossflow head.
*It was on its fifth engine when sold, each one had been to a higher stage of tune.
*This engine was 2595cc and produced 168bhp @ 5800rpm as per Waggott's dyno.
*Waggott camshaft.
*BMC 4-speed gearbox from a twin-cam MG.
*Borg and Beck clutch as used on the Cooper Bristols (apart from Jack's lightweight Harley Davidson version)
*PowerLock LSD.
*Oversize radiator.
*Suspension was well modified but uses many stock components with trailing arms and anti-roll bar.
*Body lightened considerably by removing all hardware from rear doors and bootlid which are permanently closed.

#6 wagons46

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 04:34

I don't know if I ever saw the Geoghegan FX as I only went to Mt Druitt once and was very young, possibly before it raced. All I can remember was we parked right up to a 5 strand wire fence and I saw things like 38 Dodges and Buicks doing things they weren't allowed to on our open roads.

It is interesting to note that at Bathurst in 1958 the Geoghegan FX in full "battle dress"clocked a fastest lap of 3:25.5 and top speed of 113.21mph compared with the last official Appendix J race at Easter in 1965 Bo Setons FX 3:02.8 and 127.11 mph.

#7 David Shaw

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:08

That time for Geoghegan was at the October meeting, at Easter he ran a 3:24 without body mods.
Interesting that French was 'well beaten' by Geoghegan at the October meeting, but he ran a 3:21.4.

Medley mentions as the first paragraph on the Sunday racing:

Heavy mist and occasional showers marred the morning.........................Even in the greasy slippery early laps, Geoghegan looked to be well in control, as McKay admitted later, the Holden lapping in 3:25.5 in the adverse conditions.

I expect French's time was run later in the race when Geoghegan had it in the bag.

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:34

1964 had seen the end of Appendix J... so the class within the Improved Production race at Bathurst in 1965 was not an 'official' Appendix J race...

That takes nothing away from the achievement of Seton in that car, of course.

David... the 'without body mods' episode, might that have been their Appendix J car?

Wagons... I know nothing about any Buicks racing at Mt Druitt, it's not impossible of course, but I'd like to know more. Don Gibson's Dodge was, of course, quite famous... and there were Citroens and Peugeots and Renaults and Morris Minors and even a Riley that spat its driver out through the sunroof. I never got there, unfortunately.

At the Farm, a 1:45 was well into Mustang era times... I can look it up, but I'd think about 1967. Best tintop time as at the end of Appendix J was 1:51.7 from memory, Muir and Jane sharing a 1:52.0 IIRC, humpies would have been lapping around 1:58. I'll look that up later.

#9 David Shaw

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:52

The aerodynamic 'Darth Vader' look on the Geoghegan Holden first made an appearance at Bathurst at the October '58 meeting. A photo of Leo with the original grille (sans emblem) leading French down towards The Dipper during Easter '58 can be seen on page 209 of John's book.

#10 wagons46

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:53

The 1965 Easter meeting was for Improved Production Touring Cars AND Appendix J by invitation, so they still ran the specs of 64 Appendix J

As far as Buicks at Mt Druitt, maybe I'm wrong ,as I was very young, but a straight 8 OHV would make sense
as a likely contender.

The 1:45 minutes was the elapsed time from when they disappeared to when the came back into sight on the next lap. The record for pre EH Holdens at the Farm set in Dec 62 was 2:02.9 held jointly by McPhee and Seton.

#11 kevinbartlett

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 06:20

Posted Image
By kevbart


One of my early pics from MtDruitt. The fJ I think of Shaw's. Can't remember his 1st name

#12 2Bob

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 07:10

Catalina (early 1960s):

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Bathurst (late 50s early 60s?):

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The Jags are the go by now:

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Warwick Farm (early 1960s)

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Cortinas are now proving a bit of a hurdle for Holdens (Warwick Farm)

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Mallala - 1969(?) FJs still having fun but not so competitive any more, slightly modified Cooper S a match for them. (Photographer unknown - by then I had gone from taking photos of cars to driving them - a bit like KB (previous post) only not QUITE as succesfully, I'm in the Mini).

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#13 kevinbartlett

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 07:20

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By kevbart

LG Bathurst '57 at dipper

#14 fredeuce

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 07:42

Originally posted by 2Bob


Mallala - 1969(?) FJs still having fun but not so competitive any more, slightly modified Cooper S a match for them. (Photographer unknown - by then I had gone from taking photos of cars to driving them - a bit like KB (previous post) only not QUITE as succesfully, I'm in the Mini).

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That would make you Bob Collison , the bearded one in the MotorLab sponsored brick!

My guess is that the humpy is Aunger Speed shop car driven by Peter Finch.

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 08:06

Originally posted by 2Bob
.....Cortinas are now proving a bit of a hurdle for Holdens (Warwick Farm)

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That would have to be the day Geoff Russell threw a clutch finger at me in the crowd at Creek Corner, right?

KB... the Mt Druitt pic would be Dick Shaw.

Wagons... I appreciate that they ran under Appendix J rules, but those rules were no longer 'official'. And the Humpies got under 2min at the Farm. Warren Weldon did 1:59.7 at the December 1964 meeting. And my apologies, I was a second low with the other times. Jane and Muir were on 1:53.0, Foley's Mini did 1:52.6 and McKeown did 1:52.7. I'm sure that Seton's record didn't last through 1963, though. I'll check it out when I get time.

1964 was just the best year for tintops!

Do you still have your RCNs?

#16 David Shaw

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 08:25

Just to hijack my own thread, which was to prevent a hijacking of the Catalina Park thread :drunk: , how many Customlines did Len Lukey race? There is a photo of a pancaked '55 model at Phillip Island in Ford The racing history by Wilson/Stahl, a two-tone 56-57 model with Vic. rego. GJL432 appeared at both the Coonabarabran National Speed Record runs in 1957 and Fisherman's Bend sprints the same year, and at the AGP Meeting later in the year at Caversham he appeared in an all white 56-57 model with Vic. rego. GPN057.

I wonder if they were the only three?

#17 David McKinney

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 08:54

Originally posted by Ray Bell
I know nothing about any Buicks racing at Mt Druitt, it's not impossible of course, but I'd like to know more. Don Gibson's Dodge was, of course, quite famous

American cars at Mt Druitt before the Gibson Dodge included a Pontiac and a Hudson, both raced by John Nind in 1952, and a Ford V8 raced by Kevin Clements the same year. But I can't find any Buicks either

#18 David Shaw

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 09:30

2Bob, your 3 photos from Bathurst appear to be from the NSW Touring Car Championship race (or one of the two heats) in October 1960.

27J Holden 48-215 was Des West.
2J Holden 48-215 was Brian Muir, finished 4th in the ex-Geoghegan Appendix J car.
8J Holden FJ was Ray Long, finished 3rd, half a length ahead of Muir.
34J Jaguar was Bill Burns who hit the safety(???) fence and a tree after the last hump, destroying itself.
81 Holden 48-215 was Kingsley Hibbard (ex Des West), blackflagged lap 6 for spilling fuel.
Can't make out the number of the FJ at the back.

#19 kevinbartlett

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 09:48

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Ray Bell
[B]


"KB... the Mt Druitt pic would be Dick Shaw."

Thanks Ray I knew I could count on you. Here's another one from MtDruitt hairpin 1955 or six. The Kingsley Benz may give an indication of year. A Simca on the outside.

Posted Image
By kevbart

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#20 kevinbartlett

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 09:53

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By kevbart

Poor shot I know, but what do you expect from a race driver let loose with a box Brownie?
May help with the Benz year.

#21 wagons46

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 10:00

Ray, my Warwick Farm programmes of Feb 64 and Dec 64 have Seto holding the record all year at 1:57.2 set on 16.2.64.

I have a few RCN's from this period ,although I used to buy them monthly, many more from later years.

#22 275 GTB-4

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 10:05

Originally posted by 2Bob

Mallala - 1969(?) FJs still having fun but not so competitive any more, slightly modified Cooper S a match for them. (Photographer unknown - by then I had gone from taking photos of cars to driving them - a bit like KB (previous post) only not QUITE as succesfully, I'm in the Mini).

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Did my hero Allan Barrow ever get over to South Oz...the car looks very similar to his sports sedan (cept for the FX grill) and the fella looks like Allan.

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#23 John Ellacott

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 10:05

The Geoghegan Holden, here driven by Pete passes Reid Park gates, Bathurst October 1960.
As described above by David at its ultimate stage of development.

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#24 David Shaw

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 10:36

Awesome shot of an awesome beast, John. :up:
Ian came 3rd here in the Australian GT Championship behind Leo's Elite and Gavin Youl's Porsche.

KB, Kingsley ran the Benz at Bathurst in both 55 and 6, so that won't help with a date.

#25 Ray Bell

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 12:24

Originally posted by wagons46
Ray, my Warwick Farm programmes of Feb 64 and Dec 64 have Seto holding the record all year at 1:57.2 set on 16.2.64.

I have a few RCNs from this period ,although I used to buy them monthly, many more from later years.


Shame you don't have them, mate... they're invaluable...

Just as your programmes are for things like this. My programmes are all gone, unfortunately, otherwise I'd have had that info at hand. I had an idea the humpies got down into 57s, but I wasn't going to hunt through the mags to find it until later tonight. You've saved me the trouble!

By the way, that engine Seton used didn't actually have a roller cam. They just had an extreme radius grind to the followers so that they were almost as round as a roller. A very tricky car, that Boomerang Holden.

As far as the suggestion that the Peter Finch Holden might be Alan Barrow, well... everyone knows it's not a simple job to put a 48/215 grille on an FJ and vice versa.

There are some other names that should be brought into all this discussion. The Victorians, Norm Gown and Bruce Hindhaugh, and Norm Beechey, Bob and Bill Jane, Dave Price a bit later on, and many others.

Tasmania grew its own crop too, and Queensland, they were everywhere.

From that October Bathurst entry list there's one Stan De Teliga. I remember meeting Stan at some time, when I was flagging if I recall correctly. He had his shirt off for some reason and had some bad scars, the result of a racing accident. Anyone know more about that?

Also, in my listing of successful drivers I baulked at adding John Goss. I'm just not sure now if he raced an early Holden or not. Anyone know? It would have to be before his Customline, of course.

Let's not forget, too, that a crashing humpy was the cause of 'Round the Houses' racing ending in WA.

#26 wagons46

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 23:51

During this period (up to 1964) the visits of interstate entrants was very limited. This could have been due to the expense verses the small compensation from prize and appearance money, as well as conflicting meetings about the same date. This worked in reverse for NSW entrants and only the prestiege of major touring events would lure those with half a chance out of their own domain. Hence we did not see enough of the likes of Norm Beechey in PK752. When he obtained the EH we saw a bit more of him ,but by then he was part(a BIG part) of the Neptune Team and exposure was primary. I wish in this regard, they had the disposable income of todays teams, then we could have seen some even greater clashes.

I recall the comradeship of these days, where drivers shared open ground next to their trailers and would readily swap bits and pieces and smalltalk in a genuine friendly manor, and then go out onto the track and try and annihilate each other. This was particularly obvious at Bathurst and Catalina as most stayed overnight either on site or one of the notorious pubs. Sometimes the entertainment there was better than at the circuit.

The demise of my early RCN's was due mainly to me lending them. At only 2/6d a borrower would not think much about returning them and certainly had no foresight as to their future sentimental and factual value.

Still no photos that can be definitely linked to the Neptune Series ??? Didn't anybody like Wally Weldon? What about Bruce McPhee and Spencer Martin, Bruce Stewart, John Hall, Ken Lindsay ?

#27 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 00:20

Nahh... I was a Bo Seton follower...

You're right, interstate participation was limited. Maybe not so at Hume Weir, which could become a 'meeting of two worlds' at times because of its central location.

But don't forget that humpies were generally a low level, low cost 'man in the street' class. The top boys went to those Sandown 'Holdens Only' races at Sandown (Des West breaking his 93rd crankshaft or something) and a couple of Melbourne drivers making it to Warwick Farm. Bathurst should have been a draw, but seemingly didn't make the grade.

I have no Neptune Series photos at all. I do have a pic of the Creek Corner bugler, however.

I need time to find my pics... in the meantime I'm sure others will get some more on here.

#28 wagons46

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 00:46

Did grey motors break crankshafts? I knew they blew headgaskets. Everybody said they ONLY blew a head gasket, but why did they have to take the sump off to fix a headgasket, and why were many a workshop door held open by 6" of crankshaft.

#29 Leo D

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 01:14

Still plenty of them around at Calder in 1968...

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#30 Wilyman

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 02:35

[QUOTE]Originally posted by kevinbartlett
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Ray Bell
[B]


"KB... the Mt Druitt pic would be Dick Shaw."

Thanks Ray I knew I could count on you. Here's another one from MtDruitt hairpin 1955 or six. The Kingsley Benz may give an indication of year. A Simca on the outside.

Posted Image
By kevbart
[/QUOTE]


KB,
There is a b/w photo of the Kingsley Benz and Simca on opposite page 153 of David McKay's book "Behind The Wheel".
Taken during the Albert Park Olympic meeting 1956.
The Simca, BBE 300 driven successfully by David McKay on the day.

#31 David Shaw

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 06:05

At one stage McKay was running around Bathurst in a supercharged Aronde. :eek:

#32 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 06:37

I wonder how he kept head gaskets in it!

Yeah, that's right, I know those cars well...

#33 2Bob

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 07:22

That would make you Bob Collison , the bearded one in the MotorLab sponsored brick!

My guess is that the humpy is Aunger Speed shop car driven by Peter Finch.


You are right on the first bit and probably right on the second.

I was chatting to Graham Boulter at the Sporting Car Club of SA a few weeks ago and it would seem that we both started racing (him in a humpy) at the same meeting in August/September 1968 (as did Jim Doig who is STILL sponsored by Motorlab!). Mr Boulter is still, or is that once again (he may have had a few years layoff somettime) peddling Holdens; although the slightly more modern HQs now!

#34 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 08:00

Originally posted by 2Bob
.....although the slightly more modern HQs now!


Yeah, right...

Have you figured it out? The newest HQ would now be 15 years older than the oldest possible 48/215 back in 1968... and that 15 years is the same as the oldest FJ would have been then!

#35 rx-guru

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 08:14

Help concerning Holden Commodore from Aussies needed, please!

http://img.photobuck...uesFranssen.jpg

The pictured Holden Commodore was used by different Belgian drivers in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Group A 2WD category of the FIA European Championship for Rallycross Drivers. We used to call it Holden Commodore VK V8 by then, but somebody told me recently that it would be a VL type and not a VK. Is that correct and was the VL model also homologated for FIAs Group A?

#36 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 08:48

Yes, this is the homologated Group A VL...

It's carrying all the body kit as it had for homologation. Larry Perkins was, I think, the last one in Australia to run this model. Did it have the Holden V8 in it still, or did someone put a Chev into it?

#37 rx-guru

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 09:04

Thanx! AFAIR for RX it always had a Holden V8. Was a Chev engine also covered by its Group A homologation? If not it would have been illegal to use it for this RX category by then.

#38 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 09:25

We abandoned the International Group A rules before these cars stopped running, IIRC...

Some, I think, were running with the Chev engine, but I'm sure the International homologation wouldn't have covered it. The Chev engine was in the next model.

Larry Perkins, in fact, kept on running this one so he could keep on using the Holden V8. That would have been about 1992 or '93.

#39 275 GTB-4

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 09:35

Originally posted by wagons46
Did grey motors break crankshafts? I knew they blew headgaskets. Everybody said they ONLY blew a head gasket, but why did they have to take the sump off to fix a headgasket, and why were many a workshop door held open by 6" of crankshaft.


I can't see any of the racing versions retaining the fibre timing gear either....these engines go very quite when you strip one :blush: You can bet they did something about the valve springs as well...very easy to get valve bounce with the standard springs.

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#40 Catalina Park

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 10:12

Originally posted by rx-guru
Help concerning Holden Commodore from Aussies needed, please!

http://img.photobuck...uesFranssen.jpg

The pictured Holden Commodore was used by different Belgian drivers in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Group A 2WD category of the FIA European Championship for Rallycross Drivers. We used to call it Holden Commodore VK V8 by then, but somebody told me recently that it would be a VL type and not a VK. Is that correct and was the VL model also homologated for FIAs Group A?

Yes it is a VL.
Whey only raced the VL with the Holden motor and they only used the VL in Group A. It was much later on that they switched to the Chev motor (a couple of years into the V8 class) with the VP Commodore.

#41 wagons46

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 10:18

Seems like we are back on track. I'm sure they all ran steel timing gears and Chev dual valve springs. 35/70 I think the cam grind, 5.5 inch rims ,Dunlop green spots, no fan of course, All sorts of ducting into vented and drilled brake backing plates and O/S wheel cylinders still gave no confidence after one initial big stop.

#42 Wilyman

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 10:57

Did anyone running a "grey" modify the tappet adjusting screws by fitting early Falcon 'jam' thread screws thus lightening the valve gear by the weight of 12 locknuts.?

I would like to think our little crew may have pioneered something. :clap:

#43 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 11:43

For the benefit of those who want to know what the engine development process might have involved...

Not all of it applies to Touring Car racing. The issue of the timing gears Mick's so worried about is addressed... just as it was by just about anyone who had a 'hottie' on the road.

The Grey Holden Motor - racing giant of the fifties and sixties


It was built from 1948 to 1962, with over a million of these engines built in that time. They were used in rallies, road racing, speedway, drag racing, boat racing - all forms of motorised sport. Special heads were built for them, special races were run for the cars that carried them. They were an icon unsurpassed in their time.



During 1963 and 1964, the number of special races held for Holdens fitted with 'grey' motors only reached an all-time high. Their popularity waned after that as the 179 took over their mantle, though not in the same numbers for several years. But at the speedways the Midgets fitted with them wailed on, their unique scream echoing from the boards surrounding the dirt ovals.

Yet back in 1950, Bob Chamberlain had told John Cummins, "It's a terrible engine, you'll never get any decent horsepower out of it!"

By the end of the reign of Appendix J in 1964, at which point the grey motor reached its zenith with original heads, 156bhp was cited as the top horsepower seen. In Repco Holden form they were to give 190bhp, and Merv Waggott's twin-cam engine gave 220bhp.

Between those years, the humble 2160cc Holden engine had powered no fewer than 25 entries in the Australian Grand Prix, with some of the most interesting engines among them. Jack Myers' car with the twin-cam Waggott; several with Repco Hi-Power heads and the unique Dud Dansie car using the Dunstan rotary valve engine. Only two AGPs from 1952 to 1962 didn't have grey motors in the entry list.

Essentially, the Holden engine was a miniaturised Chevrolet inline six. But it had a few refinements compared to that engine, especially in the lubrication system. Where the Chev had splash feed to the big-end bearings, the Holden had a fully pressurised system feeding all points.

It had nothing special to attract the hot-up set, however. Simple bathtub combustion chambers, siamesed inlet and exhaust ports, just four main bearings for the cast iron crankshaft, it was a very basic production engine. What it did have going for it, though, was availability in spades. Within just a few years of production commencing, Holdens were everywhere!

One of the first to start race-preparing the engine was Peter Lowe, who fitted one to his Bugatti type 35. John Cummins recalls that he had an oil cooler, adapted an MG TC gearbox and fitted three SU carburettors. At the same time Jack Myers started work on his for touring car racing, which saw him frequently confront the regular star of this class at Mt Druitt - Don Gibson with his '38 Dodge.

Cummins then bought his own engineless Bugatti with the intention of fitting a Holden. Len Sidney built his engine in Moorabbin and paid special attention to the cooling system. First he hand-scraped the block so that the tops of the cylinder walls stood a little proud of the rest, then he made a gasket of copper sheet that blanked off the water jacket holes between the block and the head on the manifold side.

The purpose here was to force the water, which entered the block on the manifold side under pressure from the pump, to travel across the block between the cylinders. Then it rose to the head and travelled across the top of the combustion chambers and around the ports before exiting via six pipes tapped into the head adjacent to each cylinder.

"We used a Citroen water pump from a Big 6," remembers Cummins, "and it was a matter of trial and error to get it to run at the right speed. It took us two years of slowing it more and more before we got it to cool properly."

In Addition to this, Sidney put braces on the main bearing caps to help contain the power. "General Motors wasn't interested in racing, of course," Cummins told us, "but it always seemed that they were watching what we did and changes in production followed our development." Later engines had main bearing caps that were easier to brace.

Another modification was to tap into the oil supply to the cam bearings and direct a copper 'squirter' at the distributor drive gear - an area where lubrication was scant. "When Holden brought out their next engine revisions they had a nice little change in the casting that did the same thing!" Another difference in this engine was the marrying of the front single exhaust port with the rear siamesed port, and vice versa, to form the extractors.

This engine is the earliest we have figures on, as it was put on the dyno by Albert Ludgate in Adelaide. "It gave about 65 or 70 horsepower at 3,500rpm," John recalls, "and it wasn't worth two bob at 4,500! We fiddled with needles in the triple 1¼" SU carbies and got 116 horsepower at 4,500." This was almost double the original Holden power output.

During this early time, Repco saw prospects for the engine and started developing their own cylinder head. They bought a Raymond Mays head made for Ford's Zephyr engine and studied it, then Phil Irving and his team designed and built the Hi-Power head. Immediately it went into hands just waiting for an economical race engine.

Paul England built his Ausca around one and many went into Midgets and boats. Touring car racing was stepped up by several hitting the track in 'humpies' fitted with Repco Heads and MG TC gearboxes and a revolution took place. Repco kept on developing these and had an FE Holden fitted with one for experimentation. On the odd weekend it would be despatched to various circuits for Stan Jones to drive.

Repco management weren't aux fait with the weekend activities, however, and put a stop to it when they found out. Charlie Dean, in charge of the project, gave all the racing parts - including the engine - to Bob Holden and told him to buy a car to put it in. Thereafter Bob got a lot of help from the backroom boys at Repco as they used his engine to learn more.

"But they warned me to only do one meeting on a crankshaft," Bob recalls. "Friday we'd pull the crankshaft out and replace it ready for Saturday, which really wasn't as hard as it sounds. We'd use the same bearings and the boys would have bets amongst themselves about what oil pressure we'd get with the different crank as the journals were never exactly the same diameter."

The first Repco-Holdens put out about 140hp, Paul England's may have been a little better. The 4-bearing bottom end was starting to take a beating. Some time late in the fifties one that took an extraordinary beating was the engine in Holt Binnie's sports car - it blew up.

Renting the workshop at Binnie's garage in Mosman was a young and enthusiastic Ray Eldershaw. Binnie told him to rebuild the motor, but Ray decided that he'd only rebuild it if he could do it his own way. Ray wanted to give Binnie more power and show his own engine building skills, but Binnie just wanted a replacement for what he had.

The stalemate ended two weeks before Bathurst, when Binnie walked into Eldershaw's workshop and said, "Okay, have it your way! Build the thing!"

With precious little time available, Ray bored the block to 3.1875" and fitted Weslite pistons, a new cam and three 1¼" SU carburettors. "It already had a good head," Ray recalls, but he gave it better lubricant flow and drilled and tapped the block to fit an oil filter.

Standing inside Hell Corner at Bathurst, Ray watched as Holt practised. "He's not going to get around another lap with clutch slip like that!" he said to himself. But it did come around, again and again, and when practice was over Ray asked about it.

"That wasn't clutch slip," said a beaming Holt Binnie, "that was wheelspin!" It was then that Merv Waggott arranged for the engine to be put onto his dyno, where it showed 126bhp - over ten horsepower more than any previous grey motor had shown on that dyno. Not so impressed was a Mr Bartlett from GM-H, who reckoned they should never get that sort of power.

By this time the fire-breathing Repco-headed touring cars had been reeled in and Appendix J put regulations down that led to more structured development, and that development rushed on as the more adventurous Holden racers strived to chase the few Jaguars that were in front of them.
In the meantime the Waggott twin-cam head had been in production for some time. Jack Myers had the best-known of these in his replica of a front engined Cooper and raced and hillclimbed it all over the country. Many more of them went into boats, but one would eventually find its way into a pretty little Queensland-built Centaur GT car that was driven by John French.

The Waggott twin-cam played only a very small part in the story of the grey motor, but it was the ultimate development form. With a magneto out the front of the crank, a dry-sump system, neat castings that took the chain drive to the camshafts and the neat cam covers each side of the spark plug valley. It also had a finned alloy sideplate cover.

Almost an aside in this company was the Dunstan rotary valve head from South Australia. It was shortlived and participation in racing was limited to a brief period in Dud Dansie's BBM. Its AGP entry was in 1961, three years after Myers last ran the Waggott in the race and just a year before three Repco-headed engines would signal the end of AGP participation for the grey motor.

From that point on there were basically just two lines of progress. Speedway had a mixture of original heads and Repco Hi-Power heads, road racing had hordes of touring cars with original heads and a few oddball cars with Repco heads.

In speedway there was a leaning towards fuel injection, something not obvious at all in road racing. Mostly the local McGee injection, it was fitted to both original heads and Repco heads. Of course the fuel restrictions in road racing didn't apply at the dirt tracks and so it was a different ball game altogether.

One of those who did a lot at the speedway was Gordon Benny, originally from Adelaide. Like others he remembers milling a flat on the main bearing caps and using head bolts to put a 1" square brace over them. "We used to make up spacers that would sit between the stiffener and the cap to fill the gap, but we'd leave about 3 thou clearance," he told us. This would put a preload on the cap to hold it in place.

Other 'tricks' he used were to select cranks that had come out of engines that had done about 60,000 miles without any rebulding, polish the journals, but leave the balancing alone. "We'd pick a block and a crank, then assemble it with just the bare crank, no seals, and then spin them by hand. Some were a little tight so we didn't use them." Like Len Sidney, he drilled a very small hole in the oil gallery to feed the magneto drive.

They bored their engines to the familiar 3.1875 and used cast Wise pistons with lumps on the crown that pushed the compression up. They had lots of gasket problems, usually resorting to painting them with Silvafros and fit them wet. "Solid copper was too expensive!"

Valves were "as big as we could get in there," while Triumph Tiger 100 valve springs were used. "Holden spring caps were no good, we used ones off Austin A40 valves as well as their colletts." He built his own cam grinder and copied the MG TC camp profile but added an extra 1/16" lift.

Bronze and alloy timing gears were used. Gordon had an interesting way of adjusting the cam timing with these. "We had spacers and we'd move the gear backwards or forwards on the cam to advance or retard the timing," he told us. "Advancing the cam 3° to 4° would make the car come off turns better."

Ultimately the Repco Hi-Power heads delivered 180 to 190bhp, while competition was intense to see what could be had out of the original heads in the touring cars.

One of those working to this end was Bo Seton. Like many he was racing a car used on the road, but with the vigour of youth the engine was in and out many times as changes were made. "We had a 35/70 cam and Kenny Waggott made followers with a small radius for them," he says. "We ported the heads and put in valves about a sixteenth bigger than standard."

One day Bo went to Warneford's at Woolloomolloo to get a new set of 1¾" SUs, but on leaving there he crashed into a taxi. "We had it towed out to Ingleburn and a couple of days later we were racing at Warwick Farm."

Like Benny, Bo found that the pistons he used, in this case CME castings, "were like Anthony Horderns, they kept on growing!" Bore clearances had to be large. He made his own manifolds and exhausts and fitted a harmonic balancer off a Jaguar XK engine and had steel timing gears.
"We used ex-taxi cranks," he says, "they lasted longer. Midge Bosworth bought a new crank for a Catalina meeting and broke it in practice." In time most learned that 6,200rpm was a critical speed for the crankshaft.

Seton's car was just one of the quick ones in Sydney. There were quick ones all over the country, of course. Norm Beechey in Melbourne, followed by Dave Price, Norm Gown and others, all had their tricks. In Adelaide Peter Finch was among those racing them, but claimed that you were lucky if they held together.

A whole industry built up around these engines and the desire to make them fly. Jimmy Wilkinson's Scientific Gas Flow business did the head for Brian Muir's engine. This was a follow-on from a Merv Waggott build for Ian Geoghegan, the original blowing itself apart in 1960. Waggott, impressed by Ray Eldershaw's abilities, told Muir to go to the Mosman mechanic for his replacement.

Fitted with two downdraught twin choke Webers on a plenum-type manifold, it had cast Wise pistons, was bored to the limit at 3¼" plus 0.030". This would have required either a very early block, cast in Canada, or an FB or later casting to get sufficient cylinder wall thickness.

The engine had a Dodge harmonic balancer on the front of the crank as fitted by Waggott. When Muir came to him, Eldershaw guaranteed him 140hp and 120mph down Conrod Straight or he didn't have to pay. The dyno showed 142 and the fastest speed in the flying eight was 122mph.

Fastest of all as the era drew to a close was the Bob Grey-prepared Boomerang Service Station car. This was owned by Joel Wakeley and raced by Spencer Martin and Bo Seton, reputedly giving 156bhp on the dyno.

When we think today what basic road engines approach these figures it seems ludicrous. But when the Holden came out originally it sported only 61bhp (up to 72bhp by 1956), and such gains have to be seen in the light of the times.

The old grey engine was never designed to be anything other than a useful and economical workhorse. Bob Chamberlain might not have been proved right in the finish, but it took the combined efforts of hundreds - if not thousands - over ten years to make the progress that was necessary to get the development up to those levels.

The people doing this got to know all the tricks. Peter Waggott remembers cleaning the flashing off rods and shot peening them. John Cummins reckons it was necessary to use the later rods that didn't have the oilway drilling the length of the rod.

All of these things became lore in the time of the grey motor. Today people are starting to forget the old grey motor that helped build the industry and the sport we enjoy.

Ray Bell


With credit to Motor Racing Australia and Chevron Publications.

#44 bradbury west

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 11:50

Excellent explanatory post, Ray. Many thanks from this side of the world.
Roger Lund

#45 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 11:56

Originally posted by wagons46
Seems like we are back on track. I'm sure they all ran steel timing gears and Chev dual valve springs. 35/70 I think the cam grind, 5.5 inch rims, Dunlop green spots, no fan of course. All sorts of ducting into vented and drilled brake backing plates and oversize wheel cylinders still gave no confidence after one initial big stop.


Customline rims welded onto the Holden centres was a common way to go...

I don't know that Chevs had double valve springs. Check the story on this detail. And here's another Holden racing pic I took 'in the day'... again, it wasn't a Holden-only race, sorry.

Posted Image

And this one I didn't take... at Southport, 1954 AGP meeting, which makes this a pretty new car at the time!

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This is from a Box Brownie collection I scanned when it was given to the HRCC of Qld.

#46 GeoffR

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 12:52

Early Holdens were also very popular in Tasmania back in the day (courtesy Tasmanian Auto News Nov. 1968)

Posted Image

Posted Image

The only thing is, was he "cheating" by using a 186S engine?

Got a few others to scan & post if anyone is interested - like a 48/215 WAY up on 2 wheels at Symmons Plains - late 1967.

#47 Gordon Graham

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 13:46

Jaime Gard's FJ (or maybe FX) heading into KLG corner at Caversham. Possibly the 1964 Christmas Cup meeting



Posted Image
Posted Image

#48 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 14:02

Originally posted by Gordon Graham
Jaime Gard's FJ (or maybe FX) heading into KLG corner at Caversham. Possibly the 1964 Christmas Cup meeting

Posted Image


Let me see now...

Jaime Gard wouldn't have spent a lot on the unnecessaries... like the shell... I reckon that's an ex-cab...

Clues are the multi-colour finish and the fact that it's a Business model FJ. Only the Special had the factory two-toning, this doesn't have the extra trim of the Special, including the strip that divides the roof and body to give a border to the two-tone colours.

#49 Dale Harvey

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 23:43

Here's a couple of shots that have been posted before on a different thread.

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Alan Barrows FJ in the pit area at Catalina Park.

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John Hicks two wheels his FJ through the last corner at King Edward Park Hillclimb Newcastle.

#50 Wilyman

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:49

Originally posted by Ray Bell


Let me see now...

Jaime Gard wouldn't have spent a lot on the unnecessaries... like the shell... I reckon that's an ex-cab...

Clues are the multi-colour finish and the fact that it's a Business model FJ. Only the Special had the factory two-toning, this doesn't have the extra trim of the Special, including the strip that divides the roof and body to give a border to the two-tone colours.


Ray,
Even down to the chrome grab rail behind the drivers seat.
Very handy item. As a back seat passenger during a 'tank slapping' induced roll-over I took a good hold of this!