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

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

Post by 993 Kadett » Sat 16 Apr 2011, 15:42

1963..... and the arrival of a new type of car. Lightweight monocoque bodies and shortstroke 5 main bearing four cylinder engines. Probably the most significant of the era, the Cortina, throughflow ventlation & the first time a GT badge is used on a common or garden saloon car..... my, my,.... what a fuss that caused.
That car put a marker down that would change motorsport forever. The fastest track saloons at the time were the Jags and on one bright highveld day along came Basil with a pushrod 1500cc Ford... buzzing to 7500rpm he buried the Jags forever and racked up the very first sub 2 minute saloon car lap at Kyalami..... That marker set in 1963.
10 years later....... Basil again..... and the first 160 km/h saloon lap.....in a Firenza Can Am...Just missing the first 100mph marker by 0.04sec!!..a 1:31.93....thats 28seconds in ten years.....absolutely fantastic!!!
Using 1963 as the start of it all really, there has never been a shift in on-track saloon car performance quite like it in a similar period and whilst we cannot say that this was the most exciting ever, it was certainly up there, but one thing it was for sure..... it was a technology shift of note on many fronts.
In the same year of 1963, the fastest F1 lap of Kyalami was a 1:34.1 by John Surtees, his pole time for the Rand Grand Prix...Just 10 years later, saloon cars were going quicker. I think we should take a look at how this all happened.....P

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

Post by CraigJ » Sun 17 Apr 2011, 11:56

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

Post by First V8 » Sun 17 Apr 2011, 14:19

Kadett , Your stories are wonderful to read with so much fact and technical detail . I was a youngster in those years and spend many a Saturday at Kyalami enjoying those races you so well describe . Keep them coming and thanks for the entertainment .
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by zahistorics » Sat 23 Apr 2011, 18:30

Paul, I think you have nailed the dates perfectly, especially for ZA.

In fact it was a pretty good era for sports cars, WSP and F1 too, if you think about it.

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

Post by 993 Kadett » Sat 30 Apr 2011, 10:09

Been busy again guys so my apologies for the delay in posting some more. Will get down to it sometime today and we'll take a peek at the technical side of some of the really clever stuff the lads got up to in those days. P

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

Post by 993 Kadett » Mon 02 May 2011, 15:16

Hello guys and hope everyone has had a safe Easter and after today we can get back to some real work.

28 seconds in 10 yrs 8)

We should at the outset perhaps, just make mention of tyres. Without question, the advent of slick tyres and more than just the slicks, the ability to learn how to get the best out of them, was a big contributor to the drop in lap times, post 1970. That said, the real magic was in the way the technical guys got down to tackling both the tech stuff as well as the rule book.

The ‘28 seconds’ between 1963 and 1973 at Kyalami is a fascinating tale of the technical wizards in our midst. You will note in my scribblings that the people I have the greatest respect for are the techies, whether they be the front line guys doing the business on the cars or, at the other end of the scale, those engineers working in the factories coming up with all manner of good stuff.
As with other posts we need to give some background to the period…. we start with the rulebook and you will all appreciate, if we did not have a rulebook in motorsport things could get messy. The purpose of having rules is to try and create something of a level playing field for all participants playing homologation games……well that is supposed to be the idea…..but in the 60’s, rulebooks were written by those who thought they were smarter than the techies. They may have been smart techies at some time themselves, or just people involved who thought they knew a bit about the mechanicals of racing… The bottom line?.... during the late 60’s the techies proved to be so much sharper than the guys writing the rules that you could drive a London bus towing the Hindenburg through them …..provided of course, you were smart enough to make sure the right paperwork was in place.
By the end of the 60’s and early 70’s the loonies were definitely running the asylum and the techies were in charge. Lets have a look at some of the “homologated” production cars racing in 1969/70:

Y151 the Escort – A block welded up so that the 1558cc engine could be enlarged to a 2 litre….. Strange….. no welding allowed at the time on cylinder heads.. BUT.. quite ok to increase the engine capacity by some 440cc more than the production car by modifying the block……No question that something fancy had to be done to get that right....

The Broadspeed Anglia. A downport F2 racing cylinder head and a five speed close ratio box. Homologated you know….Yeah right!! If you can find a production roadgoing version of that car anywhere in the world today be my guest, you could sell it for a fortune and probably buy a small island somewhere??

The 1000cc R8 Renault Gordini. There were none, built only at 1108cc or 1255cc…. 1000cc R8 Gordinis did not exist, but some smart paperwork allowed ONE to exist here in SA…Geoff’s.

The Supercharged Scheckter Gordini able to produce around 200+Bhp, some 65% up on a normal racing Gordini, it was allowed to race in the 2Litre class at its original 1300 “Scheckter” weight. What crazyness was this???

(Scheckter weight = brake hard at Hoals Hoek in first practice after losing some body weight and the doors open …., it happened.)

From the above, it may seem to you that I have a problem with these cars….. absolutely not…. I just marveled at the ingenuity, my point being that homologation did not mean much except that it excluded anyone who was not playing the game. In 1970/71 the rulebook guys had stoked up their pipes, tuned up their MG TC’s and come up with yes you guessed it….Group 2. This was I guess to curtail some of this mahem but like most rules not understanding of the real problem it was an overkill. It is over 40 years since this catastrophe and I still cannot find any redeeming feature in the engine rules.
In one year we went from being able to create a no name brand engine block for an Escort to THOU SHALT NOT: .…. The list was endless……and shall I just say it…..Really Silly. Now I have no problem with a decent set of rules and must admit it all looked quite simple to me in those days, there were only three basic engine/vehicle/weight rules required….. around which to create some sort of equilibrium for all:

1. Set Engine Capacity Classes with equal vehicle weight limits for each class.
2. Free carburetion and manifolding on all cars. Still the cheapest BHP per $!
3. Use production block and cylinder head castings. No welding allowed.
Please tell me just what is so difficult about that…..

This would allow most cars to be competitive instantly….. but with so much self interest at stake in many quarters, the single most stupid rule in the history of our saloon car racing was created:

“Cars must run the production inlet manifold (porting & mods allowed as per note XYZ....) and the same number of choke tubes run as on the production car” … GREAT….. Exit stage left 50% of any cars able to compete…… This is exactly the same as asking a marathon runner to breath through a straw because he had asthma when he was born!!
Really good lateral thinking! The purpose of saloon racing I would think is to get a healthy power increase from the engine and at the same time make racing competitive by involving as many brands as possible. Zero out of ten on both counts for the rulemakers, This is what happened as a consequence of that rule:

1. All cars built in production with Multiple carburetors --- Front row of the grid - things like Alfas, Gordinis and Minis.
2. All cars with Twin choke carbs and large bore Manifolds – Second row of the grid (Typically European Fords)
3. All cars with twin choke carburetors and small bore Manifolds – back of the grid (Typically the Japanese)
4. Cars with single choke carbs – in the car park

Whilst this crazyness destroyed the racing potential of a great number of cars (remember the 38/4100), it also hugely raised the stakes for any brand wanting to be competitive…. that accelerated the need to build specials. Datsun Z’s, the Can Am and others happened & Ford Peranas fell with their bums in the butter when the rules became effective.

This is just some of the background and I would like to start by taking some examples of the cars from 1963 to 1973 and a look at some of the really clever stuff: P

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

Post by 993 Kadett » Mon 30 May 2011, 21:20

:o :D OK So lets get into some of this, I will post whenever I get the chance but things are a bit busy at the moment so please bear with me. Also please try not to get too wound up on the more controversial stuff, as I write it the way I see it, fully understanding that there are always different views on things, so happy for any input if you think I’ve got anything wrong . I say this because most of what I read in the mags and stuff is so peripheral that it must be aimed at a specific audience or to keep people focused for only short periods…… :?

Lets look at the years 1964 and 1965 and as a car nut in my teens, I remember the simple fact that as far as fast saloon cars went, there were two makes that were the icons of quick road cars, Alfas and Jaguars. Aside from those, the rest were pretenders to the throne. In fact the first Jag E Type I ever saw was outside the King ‘bioscope’ in 1963, a bright red beauty…this my first close-up of a 150mph sports car.. and… it had three ‘wipers nogal…as they say today…awesome! :)
Both these brands had the recipe of the day…. Twin Cams…. and the hotter versions had …’Sidedraughts’ ….proper Weber ones not the SU’s.
What could be better, as even as a youngster I was immersed in the tech stuff…. what, with hemi cross flow heads and fancy rear suspensions, just how was anybody else going to come along and upset the applecart….yeh right!!
Mini’s were around and creating their own sort of ‘buzz’ but I never took to the things seriously and that is probably wrong but I just saw them as matchboxes with an engine designed by Robert Louis Stevenson being worked on by 100’s of smart people getting them to go… and not mash the scenery with hot metal bits in the process. :|
So, when Basil did his little trick with the Cortina GT in1963, nailing the Jags and Alfas….. Everybody…. and I mean, everybody involved in any way with quick cars…. sat up and took notice. This was no Twin Cam, nor Cross Flow, nor De Dion rear end but a pushrod Ford for heaven’s sake, running leaf springs and that newfangled cheap and nasty strut type front suspension!! Weren’t Ford supposed to make slow family cars??…. remember that the 997cc Anglia of the day could accelerate (not sure if that’s the right word) to 60mph in around 23 or 24 seconds???
The mindshift created by this happening was enormous but.. what was coming in 1964 was to really shake the tree, big time :o ……..when the two Lotus Cortinas hit the local tracks that year, lap records were simply obliterated. From the point of just cracking 2 mins at Kyalami the previous year, these cars were soon down to 1:55’s…… now these Cortinas did have Twin Cams (in fact three), Hemi Cross flow heads, rear coils and an A frame holding the rear axle in place (sort of!!). An additional master stroke was Ford grabbing the two top local tuners to go head to head, this very simple decision was to prove to be the flash of brilliance providing race fans with on track drama between BVR and Willie/Koos for the next few years and…..it did wonders for Ford’s PR. Think about it, Ford arrived on the scene from nowhere and simply turned everything upside down……I remember well the Alfa guys being very quiet indeed. :oops: Nothing came close.

In 1965 there returned to SA one Bob Olthoff, carrying with him two Cobras and the Monstrous Ford Galaxie. Everywhere else in the saloon car racing world, the Galaxies had just about shot their bolt by that time, with the Lotus Cortinas touching 160bhp, plus Fords magical homologation papers reducing their racing weight from 800 to 760Kg…. the things were Faasst…but not fast enough in SA, Bobs Galaxie did the business and kept the Cortinas at bay. Some say that the two long-straight tracks of Kyalami and EL helped him to the ’65 title, maybe so, but he still gave a good account of himself on the shorter tracks. :o

A bit about the Galaxie. To some, this was just a huge, heavy tank and just who in his right mind would take a FuuuLLL size sedan to go track racing – madness. :roll: The story, however, goes back to 1962 where the Fords, strangely enough, were getting a pasting at both Nascar and Drag racing from the Chev Impalas and Super Duty Pontiacs (the GM racing police were out fishing in those days) It was the early years of Ford’s “Total performance” programme and the Ford Special vehicle operation were requested to do the business on the Galaxie Coupe. Now what many people don’t know is that Ford eventually built a good number of 500 Coupes with Fibreglass body panels, aluminium bumpers, had the interiors gutted and incredibly, got the cars down to a Homologated (that word again) racing weight of 1380Kg yes….that’s only 280Kgs heavier than a Can Am. Compare that to a modern Lumina V8 at 1800Kg and you realize that the Galaxies may have been big and clumsy looking but not necessarily that heavy. Add one 427 Dual four barrel mill and the cars were ready to rumble. Problem was that they were still not nailing the Chevs and Pontiacs in Domestic leagues so the cars were put to use on racetracks outside of the USA instead. Homologation docs had to be redone and Holman Moody prepared the cars and supplied Disc Brakes, something very foreign to Qmilers and Nascar. 1963 saw the Galaxies competing in Europe, UK and Australasia and a few races in SA. Prior to the Lotus Cortinas of 1964, the Galaxies kind of took on the Jags and did a bit of ass kicking there. There is much conjecture as to what weights the cars actually ran at but it is safe to say that the Europen (Le mans homologated) cars ran at around 1500 to 1600Kg …..surprisingly, almost the same weights as the Jags. :o The Works Galaxie competition parts list was spectacular for its time, listing all manner of bits from the lightweight fiberglass body parts (amazingly including doors), close ratio transmission, LSDiffs, special alloy components, super light radiators etc etc….. Lets face it, as much as I am not a Ford man, they did do a better job of this sort of thing than anybody else and as a result reaped the benefits. 8)
At this point It is probably worth noting, on my favourite subject of Homologation, that the motor Co’s could basically do anything they wanted to. Specs were adjusted left right and centre…..but…..one good thing providing some sort of sanity was that all homologated parts had to be made available to the public. So that is why the proliferation of certain makes on race tracks became so apparent, those companies that were keen, made the parts available, those not involved ensured their cars remained in the car parks.
We know of course that Bob Olthoff was a gifted tuner, preparer and driver and I have no doubt that his Galaxie in 1965 was fitted with the best bits he could lay his hands on and along with his talent, probably resulted in the fastest specimen of its type in the world. It must have been close to that to beat the two local Lotus Cortinas to the SA title (about the only place in the world that that happened that year). His quickest lap at Kyalami saw the times around the 1:52 mark by end 1965. That’s eight seconds in two years…….
The real story of those two years, apart from all the mechanical stuff, was a very simple lesson in physics….. cars with good power to weight ratios were fast…. you may think that that is common sense…. but not many did it well…. and certainly none did it better than Colin Chapman… A Lotus Cortina at 751Kg (the lowest approved weight the cars ran at) was going to thrash an Alfa Guilia at nearly 200kg’s heavier than that, despite its fancy 5speed gearbox….simple. Alfa were forced to start work on the GTA along with a serious calorie count in quick time…..the following round was going to be Escort vs Alfa GTA…a lovely scrap.

Next up, though, the Mustangs…and my favourites the Gordinis. For me, smart engineering from the factory beats the alternative of average engineering + heaps of special parts to do the job. Whilst both ended up doing the businees on race day, the Gordinis were just clean… and in my opinion the least “trick” of the cars running in those years, beautifully engineered, the regulations seemed to be built around them.
More next time & we’ll keep the Minis to the end cos that is a story that defies logic………? :?

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

Post by CraigJ » Wed 01 Jun 2011, 09:17

I really enjoy reading your stories.
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by CanAm17 » Wed 01 Jun 2011, 11:07

Love your work Sir! Truly fascinating insights into an era we ares till trying to emulate. More strength to your typing fingers.
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Re: Was it the most exciting 10yrs of saloon car racing?..Ma

Post by First V8 » Wed 01 Jun 2011, 20:40

The recall of that era of racing is wonderful as i was always at the races and promised myself a Gordini when i came out of National Service . The only one for sale at the time was Mike Whites car which was a bit rough but quick . I then opted for 2nd place and bought a Alfa Guilieta 1600 which was also quick and could kick all 1600,s asses in those days ( I will now admit it i put a 1300,s fly wheel and clutch in so it revved to about 7500rpm ) A bit of nostalgia is great keep those fingers tapping on the key board , love your work .
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