Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Maybe

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FPT
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by FPT » Wed 01 Jun 2011, 20:58

Thanks for insightfull stories!!! :D

Those days, although companies tried hard to supply good racing cars, it was still the skill of the driver and hard work from pit crews that made the win...
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993 Kadett
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by 993 Kadett » Mon 06 Jun 2011, 18:05

:D Hi guys pleased you like some the old stuff but think I short changed you a little on the Lotus Cortinas. I promised to talk about the smart stuff and neglected some info on these cars that is significant….well I think so anyway…… Having operated for 30odd years in a Corporate motor environment, I can tell you that people in such organisations who live on the edge of the innovative cusp….those people who are passionate about doing unique and individually brilliant things…… play a dangerous game with their careers. If they get it right, they can soar like an eagle….get it wrong…..and there will be plenty of those lacking in the spinal department (figuratively speaking) to feed on the carcass of other’ s creative endeavours….This is just a sad fact of corporate life…… :(
These great people come from all disciplines, so when Walter Hayes, the Ford Public Affairs boss contacted his pal Colin Chapman and brewed the Lotus version of the Cortina, he was taking a risk…a big one. One may argue that Leyland had done it with the Mini Cooper a year or so before, so what could the difficulty be? Truth is that the Lotus venture, unlike the Leyland route, would require Lotus to take on a large portion of the design responsibility ……also, time pressure dictated that some of the in-house Ford testing and confirmation programmes would be short circuited and left for Lotus to verify. As it turned out, there were a few close shaves giving both sides a scare….. :roll: but significantly, those issues became the building blocks for collaborations like this to work effectively in future years. :)
One of the scares and a serious one at that, was the less than durable ‘A’ bracket rear suspension which worked fine on the track (with some TLC) but had some serious on-road durability issues. :oops: It was not unusual to see a Lotus Cortina having shed its rear axle….. Loads on the central casing were very high and worked the central diff assembly loose causing oil leaks as well as bracket and bush failure. After a few attempts to fix the problem, Ford eventually switched back to an upgraded stock leaf spring arrangement in later Mk 1s.
A second issue was the gearbox ratios. This car was probably the first European Homologation special to have track type gear ratios in normal production. Borrowed from the Lotus Elan, the ratios were spot-on for the lightweight sports car & for quick motoring and the track…. but the tall 1st gear not at all good for Mr Plod. The inevitable happened and the ‘Box was switched for the uprated 2nd gear GT ‘Box. (This is not to be confused with the standard GT box which contained the dreaded “Dagenham Gap” : between 2nd & 3rd :? * see below)
The Last of the tricky issues was something that made its presence felt a few years after the first cars were built and that is the issue of rust. Now we all know that body corrosion was a problem anyway in those years but due to the body shell requiring reinforcing as well as bracket differences for the rear suspension, the bodies went through a different body prep & paint process at Lotus. This resulted in serious & early corrosion, something that was to affect the first cars quite badly, so if you have an original “A” bracket Lotus Cortina, count yourself very lucky & particularly ‘cos its worth a mint!
So what, you may think, has all this got to do with lap times at Kyalami? …… well everything….. these were pioneer years in the time of quick saloons and these are the sorts of things that happened because individuals were prepared to put their nuts on the line for the sake of an idea. Please do not think that cars like the original Mini Coopers and Lotus Cortinas happened because the company figured it would be a good idea to have them, they happened because enthusiasts in the respective operations built them and often got them through the system through the back door. Walter Hayes thankfully ended up being one of the Eagles and so did the Lotus Cortina…… Ford showed admirable restraint not to ‘can’ him or the car simply because cars could lose some of their more critical mechanicals!!
This is probably gratuitous but I could not resist the following brief tale to do with the terrible ratios in Ford’s 4 speed of the era :
(* When you’re not big, you must use some smarts….. so,.. during the traffic light GP’s in the safer time of the 60’s, we exploited the “Dagenham Gap” on the Fords for all we could. Most of the modded Fords would peak out in 2nd just over 50mph (some even less if they had short final drives), awaiting the ‘hole’ that presented itself to 3rd…. ;) . The Kadett on the other hand, had very tall gearing but good ratios and would run to 9000rpm if required and could hit at least 65 in 2nd. So the plan was always to pull the Fords whilst they were mildly ‘off the cam’ in 3rd.... 45 mph was ideal!... With 1000 or 1100cc we could nail heavily modded 1500’s and 1640’s….. the Ford guys used to have a fit. …..and had very little in the way of a sense of humour. :? ) P.

993 Kadett
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by 993 Kadett » Wed 08 Jun 2011, 09:40

Andre you are absolutely right, racing car prep is about the will to do it and we have seen some amazing things happen over the years. I will be covering more of the detailed tech stuff in vehicle prep in future posts, looking at some of the smart ideas techies have come up with to overcome sometimes insurmountable odds. The #1 prize I have for such work will surprise you and I will write about it when we get to the group two years after 1970. There have been many gifted people in this business, most of whom have been out of the limelight....we will get to them... don't worry.... & Greetings to all & many thanks for your kind words, there is lots to come.....just a little pixxed that i dont have more time to do this and have more coms. P.

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ZA Perana
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by ZA Perana » Fri 10 Jun 2011, 21:39

Lets also not forget how the late great Willie Meissner comprehensively re engineered the Lotus Cortina, suspension, motor and the 1965 Road Test made for some interesting reading, will dig it out and type up some highlights.

Thanks once again for the great posts!
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by 993 Kadett » Mon 13 Jun 2011, 11:10

ZA that would be fabulous. The road test you are talking of is still the benchmark for magazine road tests of a racing car - without any doubt. I have not laid eyes on the doc since then but I remember three things: that full frontal shot of the car taken at bumper level, the amazing 0-100 -0 (mph) time of, if I remember correctly, well under 20sec and the absolutlely mesmerising effect it had on all who read it. We must undestand that we are talking about a saloon car mentality that considered 100mph as unbelievably fast at that time, for a saloon car to hit 100mph from rest in under 15sec bordered on the spooky! please give us the highlights 'cos I rember some really quick 0-60 and 1/4 mile times & the fact that they were running short gearing on the car for the test which limited top speed. P

993 Kadett
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by 993 Kadett » Mon 13 Jun 2011, 12:44

So far we seem to be locked into Fords… and rightly so…. with the next one being the Mustang, the car that broke the 1:50 at Kyalami and lived below that mark for most of its time. But…. before we get there & by way of a change I would like to take a peek at the Renault R8 Gordinis, :) a car I consider not only to be ahead of its time in so many ways but a brilliant blip on the Renault radar screen that has not ever been emulated in the same way by them in a road going machine. Here was a car that arrived on the scene and proceeded to kick butt right away. We probably remember the Gordini as much for its dominance in endurance racing as we do for the sprint stuff :D . The nine hour at Kyalami saw these cars sometimes finishing inside the top five with a best of 4th overall :!: …..& when it rained……well…… they just moved up the leader board to ridiculous positions for a 1300cc saloon car. How did they do it??

I have mentioned in previous posts that these were probably the least ‘trick’ cars in the system and by way of comparison, we can look at Ford’s attempt to take the 1300 class with the 1300 Escort in the late 60’s. The Escort was a 1300 version of the 997 Broadspeed Anglia and in standard form as a 1300GT, it certainly was nothing to write home about. In Works racing form though, with the full Ford homologation sheet chucked at it, here was a car that was reported to be producing upward of 145bhp at 8500rpm (some say 150bhp @9000) and easily able to nail the opposition in the UK. In SA, however, it battled against the Gordinis :? .

The secret with the Renaults was of course the fact that in the basic design they had a couple of features that played directly into it’s ability to be converted into a racing car. Here I make no apologies for looking into the more tech side of the cars, because by doing so we can get an idea of just why they were so quick. You may feel that some of the stuff is trivial but believe me, having an almost ready made racing car off the shelf in 1966 was unheard of :o .
Firstly the standard 15” wheels were replaced with 13’’ wheels for racing and this helped immediately with two perennial issues in setting up a racing car:
1. Lowered the centre of gravity by about 20mm before touching (lowering) the actual suspension.
2. Brought the road gearing to something closer to ideal for the track (From 16.5mph/1000 to 15.3 mph 1000 in top using the 4.125 final drive)
In Addition, the one (trick) homologation item of moving the radiator to the front, did a few things as well:
3. Relieved the engine of having to drive a big cooling fan
4. Improved the weight distribution by taking the weight of the rad and water to the front of the car
5. The additional weight of the rad move… pipes etc.. was not added to the racing weight of the car and the underslung pipes further improved the centre of gravity….small I know but it all counts .
Take a peek at the pic taken at the 1969 9 hour attached……just how neat were these cars? 8) The water rad moved from its high mounting in the engine comp to low slung in front……..very smart
Add this lot to the fact that the car had 4 wheel disc brakes, a close ratio 5 speed box and a crossflow hemi head ….all as standard ……… the ingredients were in place to do the job & classic engineering for the times.
Ford men may not like this but in performance terms, the 1255 Gordini could give a stock Lotus Cortina a good smack. Both cars rated at 105 bhp….. pretty cool for a pushrod 1300 in 1966……..thats 83 bhp per litre, a specific power figure not attained even today by many 2v per cyl cars…… Official ¼ mile times:
Gordini: 16.9 Lotus Cortina: 17.5
An optional final drive of 4.57, available as a factory fit, allowed perfect track gearing at around 13.7mph/1000rpm with the 13” wheels that’s 110 mph at 8000rpm – dead right for short tracks and the 4.125 did the job on longer circuits moving that up to around 120mph @ 8000 rpm for EL and Kyalami.
Now that’s the basic vehicle spec….. we now have to add into the mix the Porters /Adler/Conchie and Mortimer all brilliantly competent tuners and drivers……this combination was outstanding and when Jody entered the fray with his driving, things became very interesting indeed. Engine power was reputed to be in the 135bhp range, so a bit down on the Ford but the rest of the package more than made up for it. Here I will stick my neck out and say that I believe the SA Gordini racers were among the fastest in the world, they simply had to be with that team behind them.

There is a lot of hype about rear engined cars being better handlers than front engined cars……well I must beg to differ, I don’t think there is much difference when set up right…..I feel the whole thing was just smartly done but will concede that traction and braking was probably an issue and the cars were just plain fast in a straight line. This was mainly due to the frontal area being some 9-10% down compared to the Escort. Weight, strangely enough, was similar to the Ford with Homologated weights around the 750kg mark, certainly not a featherweight. We hear, of course, the story about Jody’s car being hacked to bits to lose weight and we cannot be sure that there was not some underweight racing going on but….. my guess, knowing that the Scheckter car had been severely trimmed, is that it also ran ballast at axle level to improve the c of g. There were a lot of smart people involved and I doubt that the guys would risk a scrutineering weight check…….but…… removing weight and replacing it at axle level is something I think was done by some in those days, there were after all no corner weight stipulations.

So how quick were these machines…..well in 1966, the year we are looking at now & also being the first year of the 1300 Gordini, we were looking at times around the 1:55 mark…… that’s about 3 seconds a lap slower than the Lotus Cortina’s…. but what was really impressive was that these cars.. :o ‘out of the box’… in 1966, clobbered the 1293cc Mini’s and stamped their dominance not only on the class but on endurance racing. What was significant about this, was that the Mini’s had been run and developed by equally sharp tuners like George Armstrong over the previous three years and were almost considered as being unbeatable at the time…..no more…..and apart from Onynx class racing which was classified by retail selling price, they were effectively kept out of the 1300 top order until the Renaults left the scene in the 70’s. The 1966 nine hour saw a Gordini finish 5th overall…….Man oh Man….. was that something that got people talking….. P :)

Next the Mustangs and we will cover the 1000 Gordini under the 1969 leg.
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Ridgeback
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by Ridgeback » Mon 13 Jun 2011, 18:35

Ron Lupson was the Rhodesian saloon car champion around 1971/72 and had a white Gordini - NO 155. It never missed a beat.In the 3 hour endurance race in Salisbury only Reg Murray in a 1956 Chev with a 327 motor could stay with him. I remember Ron saying when in the corners it was great but down the straight at 9000rpm Reg would pass him with the Chev purring.This battle carried on the whole race until Reg's disc brake pads gave in a few laps from the end.It was changed but Ron went onto win.The spectators were really treated that day. Reg now lives in Hillside/Waterfalls at the ripe old age of 77.He will be dragging at Talton on Thursday in a Class D dragster.I am holding thumbs for him.

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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by CraigJ » Tue 14 Jun 2011, 14:37

Spellbound. As usual.
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993 Kadett
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by 993 Kadett » Sat 18 Jun 2011, 17:17

Again, before we get onto the Mustangs I was thinking that we should perhaps look at the issue of excitement and what there was in those days that made things fun. :D The other night we happened to be talking about the old times in TV and the single channel in 1976…..and of course the test pattern!!!. Simply having the TV on was entertainment…. and this kind of gives us an analogy of the racing times as well. Most of us only read about the exploits of the cars on the circuits and seldom had the opportunity to actually see the whole thing live. One waited eagerly for the next issue of CAR, or as it was for me being a PE boy, the racing once a year in East London over Christmas…… and that did not happen for me every year either. :(
Much of it was shrouded in mystery and I guess the biggest difference between those early years and today, in real racing, is that the technology gap between manufacturers has closed right down, organisation and regulations are very smart, again equalising the competition….. and…… the whole show is right in your living room 24/7. So things now are not so much about what cars are new, dominant, clever or cool but about the drivers and the excitement of what actually happens on track…..not so much mystery anymore. A lot of it today is door handle stuff which is fantastic in its own way :) but seldom seen in the old days the way it happens today (except of course if you saw the huge tyre marks left on the bodywork of the Briggs/Mortimer duels in the late 60’s). In a nutshell…… it was more exciting for me to rush down to Willard’s bookshop in King on the 25th of the month with my weekly pocket money, to buy the latest issue of CAR, than it is today for me to switch on the TV to watch a recent Wesbank race or even go to a tin top race at the track……something is missing...... In the 60’s it was about the wonder of what was going to happen next….. and the pain of not knowing, was sometimes unbearable…so …with this as background, just how fascinating do you think it was, to see in this order, Lotus Cortinas then a Galaxie, then Mustangs pop out of nowhere in 1964/65/66 and not only rewrite the record books but create a sort of “new law of the jungle” right before your eyes. I was, and still am, a GM guy but that was not what it was about, every time you opened a CAR magazine it was like somebody had adjusted the laws of physics, you felt this spine tingling feel of the …extraordinary! 8)
To illustrate the point a little, I attach a pic taken at the races in EL in ’66 with my ‘box brownie (zoom lens full on!!), this is a national championship race and the traffic density in the shot was in the thick of the action ……but it was exciting……just waiting for the Mustang and the Cortinas to appear once per lap. I guess it can be equated (loosely) to that weekly wait to see JR! Things were different in those days and we were privileged to be excited ….often.
So that is what was happening on the track, but to truly understand the times, one had to take a peep at what was happening simultaneously on the road….in real life……..
Defining moments don’t come in greater numbers…… :!: . it’s the mid 60’s - the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Stereo, Drive-in movies and Roadhouses, the (very hot) Cold War and JFK, Boeing 707,s, Men going to the moon, H.O. de Villiers the school rugby captain and JC trial exams. It was a hugely busy time, particularly for a 15 year old at boarding school. There were many ‘moments’….. but absolutely nothing prepared me for that one day……. and the barrage of side draught Webers firing from a low slung Cortina tearing away from a stop street towards me at 7000rpm. 8) As a car fan you pay attention to things like this, you pay special attention when you know that saloon cars don’t look…. Go….. or sound….. like that, come to think of it, nothing you have ever heard sounds like that!
My graduation from car enthusiast to confirmed petrolhead happened that cold afternoon in King Williamstown in 1965. I guess similar ‘moments’ have happened to us all over the years but what I didn’t know at that time, was that we were all in the midst of a revolution of a different kind - the Hot Production Saloon Car.

The mid 60’s onwards were fantastic times for petrolheads, wherever you were during those days, saloon cars were taking on Jekyll and Hyde personalities and money wasn’t safe at traffic light GP’s anymore. Sure, the art of ‘souping up’ mom’s taxi was nothing new, brilliant go-faster boffins and enthusiasts had been working on everything with an engine since the turn of the century, but in the 60’s, as we have mentioned in these scribblings before….. something changed …..

In the UK it was a succession of Mini Coopers, the Cortina GT and Lotus Cortina, in Italy the Fiat Abarth 1000TC, in France the 1108/1300 Renault Gordinis and the Simca Abarth 1000, in Germany the BMW 1800 Ti, in the ‘States it was the Pontiac GTO , Ford Mustang 289 Hi-Po and Chrysler Hemi.
Overnight, quick cars with everyday brand names were legit, enthusiasts were in heaven and brand name battle lines were being drawn as never before.

Unwritten rules holding sports cars and a few selected saloon car brands as the icons of rapid transport, were in the process of being shattered in the most irreverant of ways. :oops: By 1965 the established heierarchy in the whos who of fast production cars had been turned on its head.
How about a 1108cc Renault saloon, complete with four very comfortable seats and looking every bit a domestic runabout, matching the 1800 MGB in straight line?....This was funny little saloon car taking on the pride of the British Motor Industry…….. A 1558cc Ford Cortina taking huge bites out of a Jag 3.8 in everything except absolute top speed and outperforming the equivalent Alfas of the day. A Pontiac Tempest running a 14sec ¼ mile straight out of the box!

Not only were these cars quick, but handling was uprated and thankfully radial tyres and disc brakes were coming to the rescue…… No matter what your brand affiliation, the status quo was very much under fire and the hot saloon car roller coaster ride was well and truly on a roll.


For those of us in the midst of this, it was just unbelievable.......... new issues of CAR were an adventure in rewriting a 0-60 time or seeing some icon of performance past being assaulted by a new kid on the block. In an era where big was considered fast, accepted thinking had been turned upside down.
The Muscle Car era in the ‘States was on a roll, started by that all time classic the Pontiac GTO…. Pony cars were not much more than motorised shopping trolleys at the time, but, with the right options and lead by the Mustang, they were soon to weave the same kind of magic amongst enthusiasts. Anybody take a ride in a top option ’67 Z28 Camaro? even today a 13.5 sec ¼ is fast…. in the late 60’s….. it was akin to a religious experience! The howl of the Four barrel Holley at 6500 r/min and a close ratio ‘box with a short final drive was mind numbing and had you grabbing at the shift lever again and again just to experience the symphony.

Yes Sir those were special times indeed and very exciting for sure!! P
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ZA Perana
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by ZA Perana » Sat 18 Jun 2011, 20:30

993 Kadett wrote:ZA that would be fabulous. The road test you are talking of is still the benchmark for magazine road tests of a racing car - without any doubt. I have not laid eyes on the doc since then but I remember three things: that full frontal shot of the car taken at bumper level, the amazing 0-100 -0 (mph) time of, if I remember correctly, well under 20sec and the absolutlely mesmerising effect it had on all who read it. We must undestand that we are talking about a saloon car mentality that considered 100mph as unbelievably fast at that time, for a saloon car to hit 100mph from rest in under 15sec bordered on the spooky! please give us the highlights 'cos I rember some really quick 0-60 and 1/4 mile times & the fact that they were running short gearing on the car for the test which limited top speed. P
Will go and haul it out now....if you ever find yourself down Cape Town I would be more tha happy to open my archive to you! I enjoy your posts a great deal you, you manage to bring the era to life in a very special way!
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