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

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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, 20:47

Ok I dont want to upset the order of this post too much but going on from the 997 Anglia's mentioned there was one very quick Anglia down in the Cape, in 1963 some thought it to be the quickest one in SA. It was owned and prepared by one Koos Swanepoel, some figures from back in the day were 0-60mph in 8 odd seconds and a top speed of around 180 km/h....1963 remember.

The engine itself was a bored out 105E engine, hardly cutting edge at that stage it having first seen the light of day if I am not correct in the late 50's. During this time the car to beat belonged to another rather forgotten tuner Emmont Barwell who was a bit of a guru at tuning Alfa's and later went on to actually make a unique to SA engine but thats another story.

Engine capacity was raised to 1500cc and power was around about 115bhp at nearly 7000 rpm....

The entire motor was developed by Koos, however the cam came from another tuning legend in the making a certain Willie Meissner, this just before the dust settled on the Dart operation, then being run out of Pardien Eiland.

What was amazing about those days was the sheer ability to combine and mix and match, for example this Anglia was running Triumph TR3 front brakes and being driving on the road every day as a means of transport!

Its lap time around Killarney.....1,47....
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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, 21:24

As 993 Mentioned 1969 saw the all powerful Renualts coming to the party but they had quietly been on the rise for a while as already from the mid 60's there had according to records been quite a few of the 1100cc cars competing, the normal R8's and its amusing reading the letter page of a popular magazine back in those days as people were somewhat intrigued by this strange rear engined, familly car, but how can it be a familly car!

Big news for 1968 and 1969 though was the the famous Y151 Meissner Escort. Perhaps today this is overlooked as people focus on Basil van Rooyen and Basil Green but there was a third tuning king, Willie Meissner, a few years ago I attempted to write about about racing in SA and did some research into the period and its really astonishing what Willie achieved, first with GSM and the Dart, later with Dart Service Station and then with Meissner. To understand the scale of his brilliance, Ford sold all his tuning kits through every dealer in SA and the provided a warranty....could you see that happening today! I think not!

Perhaps though what people today foget was that Willie was seemingly about efficient power, even in the layte 60's he moved towards economy, perhaps he foresaw the energy crisis of the early 70s perhaps not.

The sheer number of modifications Meissner offerred was amazing, there were so many in fact that at the time a catalouge was availible! I recall a few years ago driving a 1600 Capri with a few Meissner bits and to this day I havent driven a more responsive 1600, it was a real joy throwing the car down a quite cape backroad, the engine just wanted to rev and rev and I called it quits at 6500 rpm but it seemed to say "cmon man", was a really enjoyable drive and I do think the great man was looking down with a wry smile on his face.

Perhaps less well known and less successfuly was the Meissner Mustang, for whatever reason this car just wasnt competitive, Koos drove it for a while before Peter Gough took over but the car generally couldnt compete with the much faster Superformance model, though to be fair the Superformance one had a one monster of a motor which was reputed to be putting 400 ponies onto the ground.

As for the heading of this topic, even for those of us that didnt see this racing live this era has to be the golden years of motorsport and tuning in SA and it so great to hear these first person accounts of the times and of the interesting things that never did get into print back in the day.

I think having looked at this era what really shines through is regardless of manufacturer there were real pioneers, guys experts in their field, right from the point man to the guys preparing the cars, there seems to have been "we can do anything mentallity", this will to move things forward and experiment. Of course we has amazing drivers, virtually every one a legend today.
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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 » Sun 19 Jun 2011, 17:26

Hey ZA, we had an expression in the old days "right-on man" which loosely translated to todays lingo means 'cool'. Willie was a God in our times and like it or not he was a mentor to all of us. He was known as the slide rule man and one of those guys that had both the solid gut feel and technical 'nowse', he was the sort of person that would sit down, work out what needed to be done, do the calcs and say typically " that will give us two seconds" and it did.
I do remember Koos's Anglia and the time you give for Killarney looks to be spot on. Having always worked on +12 secs for the average lap time compared to Kyalami for those years, that would equate to a 1:59 which compares very favourably with Basils 1:59 in his Cortina GT in 1963.....nice to be able to piece these together. Having lived through the era, my assessment of the two geniuses of the time, Basil and Willie was this: Basil is an instinctive engineer, one of those people that just knows what will work without going through the mathematical detail (he can do that too if he has to, but it does waste time!!). I can vouch for that because I have worked with him and having been in the Auto engineering field for 40 yrs....... there are three others that fall into this bracket..... He also has two other special characteristics: 1) he is a brilliant suspension engineer and understands the fundamentals of vehicle dynamics almost as if the stuff lives in the pores of his skin. and 2) when unable to achieve his target for a given development, will elicit the right help to get it it done.
Willie on the other hand, was a boffin and would work on a problem scientifically....call him a conventional engineer in that sense and he had the great good fortune to have someone like Koos Swanepoel and others providing the practical support. Basil more of a 'loner', Willie more of team man. Who was better.....neither.....take a look at the results and things come out roughly 50/50 between 1963 and 1969...just a pleasure to have been around at the time.

Who were the other gifted engineers I refer to:

Geoff Mortimer - this man has got unbelievable practatical engineering capability. To watch him work is to watch practical engineering genius in real time - absolutely incredible, he is the man to build a space shuttle if you want to get back! Geoff and Basil together on the Can Ams - the best.....pity they did not stay together longer.
Hennie van der Linde - A man of very few words, a product of BVR's Superformance and his hands do the talking....gifted is an understatement - few people know it but he built the very first Firenza V8 prototype for Basil.
Roger Taylor - instinctive engineers do not come more determined to overcome an obsticle than this man. Throw him a near impossible situation and he will give you a solution. The list of cars he has got to pole position is endless......

There are obviously many others, but those are my top 5 for the period up to the end of the 70's. 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 » Sun 19 Jun 2011, 19:13

Slightly off topic but you are right Hennie vd Linde is another real tuning great, the Nissan Skyline GTX of the 80's was an example of this, 56 wins on the trot and 3 champioships, an astonishing record for what was basically a one ma operation. The sound of the road going Nissan Skyline Zee edition still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.

As for the Basil Cortina.....I found something quite special yesterday, the 1963 road test of the car in question. Will type some highlights up in due course.
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Sonic
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by Sonic » Thu 03 Nov 2011, 12:26

Hello guys!!

Was reading the story and how interesting it is, especially for me who was only born in 85. It is wonderful to think what the guys did during that era to cars and engines!! So, I would appreciate it if you could share some more information and memories to us all so that we could also get nostalgic...

Thank you for taking the time to write this stuff!!!

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