Cool Australian Muscle Cars of the 60s and 70s
Take a look at these Australian muscle cars people forgot aboutby Nicholas Waithaka, on
Muscle cars have often been related to the American market owing to the hot rod culture that sprung up during the 1920s. Australia followed suit after automakers like Ford released the GT in the late 60s for the local market. The popularity of the touring car series also encouraged manufacturers to develop muscle cars that specifically targeted the Australian market. The fact the population is geographically isolated and relatively smaller has lent to the uniqueness of muscle car models over the next few decades.
Ford Falcon GT
Introduced in 1967, it was the first muscle car brought to Australia as a high-speed road car. It was supposed to be a two-door, but Ford opted to make it a four-door model. Incidentally, it was based on the XR Falcon, which was developed for law enforcement use during the mid-1960s. The new GT was also the first Australian car to offer a total performance and body kit. Its grille was blacked out and adorned with GT badges for added effect. There were black GT stripes down each seal and across the boot lit as well. The Falcon GT had a [Mustang 289 V-8 engine, rated at 225 horsepower, and it had a top speed of 121 mph. Its interior was about as Spartan as one would expect from the late 60s muscle cars other than the wood-rim steering wheel and additional dials. Unfortunately, its production stopped in 1976.
1972 Chrysler Valiant Charger E49 R/T
The E49 has been described as the greatest Charger built by Chrysler Australia. Also termed as the Big Tank, the Valiant had a 4.3-liter straight-six engine that produced 302 horsepower. The E49 Road and Track models had a production run of only nine months, probably because they were meant for track purposes. The muscle car raced the quarter-mile in 14.4 seconds and 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds. Exterior-wise, the Charger had a blacked-out grille, vertical stripes on the guards sporting the number 4, and quartz halogen headlights. The optimal numbers and comprehensive testing from Chrysler prepared it for its excellent performances at the Bathurst Enduro. It never actually won, but it was one of the fastest cars to participate.
1968 Holden Monaro GTS 327
The Holden Monaro GTS was introduced as a two-door coupe with a rear-wheel-drive system. It is the first Holden model to win at Bathurst and was also the first Holden muscle car to have a Chevy 327 V-8. The engine was a 5.4-liter naturally aspirated V-8 that produced 250 horsepower at 4800-rpm. The HK 327 needed a robust transmission with that horsepower, so the automaker gave the model a Saginaw four-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential. That allowed the 327 to finish the quarter-mile in 16.2 seconds and achieve a top speed of 200 kilometers per hour. The Monaros also came with the GTS cosmetic package, which had offset stripes and cabin attributes such as the console-mounted tachometer. The number of Monaro 327s produced between 1968 and 1971 is not clear, but there are estimates that it is not more than 1200.
1972 Holden Torana LC GTR XU-1
The second Holden on the list was similarly introduced to the market as a smaller and cheap performance car that could compete with the Falcon GT. Holden introduced the precursor GTR, which was part of the six-cylinder Torana range, and Holden Team lead, Harry Firth, saw its potential as a race winner. A competition version was developed, which became the XU-1. It featured a 3.0-litre 186 engine that produced 160 horsepower. To improve stability and separate the model from the single carburettor options, the automaker included a front air dam and rear ducktail type spoiler. Following defeat at Bathurst, there were some significant improvements made, including an increase in capacity. It now had a 3.3-litre six-cylinder engine which provided an extra 29 horsepower. It also featured faster ratio steering and improved seating for the cabin. Following these updates, racing driver Peter Brock beat Ford’s Phase III GT-HO Falcons and claimed victory at the Bathurst 500. These were part of the models that became known as the Bathurst Specials, and production only extended to 1973. During these three years, an estimated 3300 were built, half of them being LC versions.
1976 Leyland Force 7V
The Australian subsidiary of British Leyland designed the Force 7V as a coupe iteration within the P76 model range. After successful reception from the market, Leyland shelled out the Force 7V to compete with the Ford and Holden options. It had a 4.4-liter naturally aspirated V-8 engine rated at 192 horsepower and linked to a 4-speed manual transmission. The coupe dispatched the quarter-mile in 16.9 seconds, allowing it to keep up with competitors. It was indeed fast and handled well, managing to take the 1974 Wheels Car of The Year. Unfortunately, Leyland was facing quality control issues with the P76, so they decided to scrap the Force 7V as well.
1978 Ford Falcon Cobra
In 1978, Ford opted to introduce a new body style for the Falcon. When they closed their assembly lines for the old Falcon model, they were left with hundreds of body shells that were, in turn, converted for the Falcon Cobra. The automaker then marketed these as a limited performance edition for the Falcon, which was bold considering the sales had been dismal for the original. There was an option of either a 5.0-liter V-8 or 5.8-liter V-8 engine producing 204 and 217 horsepower, respectively. Linked to a four-speed manual transmission, the Cobra could accelerate to 60 miles per hour in 8.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in 16.2 seconds. Like Holden, Ford also made some ‘Bathurst Special’ units with race enhancements for Group C racing. These had bonnet air scoops, special front spoilers, and racing seats.