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The Supercar Scare


 
So what was this thing called the "Supercar Scare" of 1972?  Ok lets get to the beginning as some of the facts are clear and some were a little cloudy. In 1972 it happened so fast it was like wild fire. If it happened today you probably find it would take years to be acted upon.  Bathurst was what it was all about and the big race as to win this race was better than winning all the other  races combined. 

1960: When the original 500 mile event was held at Phillip Island the rules were for standard production cars with a clause stating "must comply with the spirit of the event". The Light Car Club of Australia took great effort in making it clear that they only wanted standard cars. There was not even any prize money for the winner and the cars were road registered and driven to the event. It moved to Bathurst a few years later and soon after specials started appearing in the race like the GT500 Cortina. As the race grew in popularity so did the use of ways to stretch the rules and the next progression was the factory team and the win at any cost. Slowly items such as belts, seats, struts, tyres etc. started to appear and although they sometimes caused arguments it was slowly but surely getting away from the standard production cars.  What was happening was if you could get away with it then it was ok. There were calls for a minimum of 1000 cars to be made to prove it was a standard production car but by the time GM-H entered into the ring with the new Monaro 327 the minimum was only 200. 
Indeed in 1972 the minimum was still 200 and manufacturers were using things like the + - 5% performance figures to allow a 10% increase in power from the standard road car.  So here we are in 1972 with the three main car manufacturers developing there new V8 weapons for the upcoming main event and a newspaper reporter decided to insert a spanner where it really hurt. And what about that photograph of the GTHO doing 140mph in a magazine I am sure this may have been a factor albeit a small one as this brought the realisation and proof that people were and could actually do these speeds on public roads. I myself have been on the Penrith freeway in my old 186 LC Torana pulling 6500 rpm and 138 mph but I only did this once just to see if it would do the actual speed it could do on the dyno. By the way it was very worked and was giving around 100 bhp more than a standard 202 XU-1, it could quarter in under 13 seconds and had the best equipment including worked suspension and full harness.

June 25th 1972: This was where it began as it was the day that a Sydney newspaper ran a story on the front page that put fear into many people which included some  high ranking politicians. "160 mph Supercars", it stated that the three main car companies were about to unleash 160 mph V8 Supercars onto the unwary buying public and at the forefront of these was the so-called XU-2 which was 308 cubic inch version of the XU-1! It was being developed and driven around the streets by none other than the grey fox, Harry Firth who had been to speeds of 145 mph (230 km/h) while testing its performance capability which was not it's top speed. Now compared to todays speeds it may not sound huge but if you remember that this was in 1972 and the 351 GTHO III was only capable of 140 mph. Fitted with Perfectune heads, webbers and flows the Bathurst model Torana would have been easily capable of doing sub 13 second quarter mile times and probably top speeds of around 175 -180 mph with the right gearing down Conrod.  The Street version would have been a little more then the 1973 street six cylinder XU-1 which was able to pull off a 15.2 second quarter where as the 1972 Bathurst car of Peter Brock could do a 13.5 second quarter. The standard 308 was about 10kg heavier but had 25% more power than the worked 202 XU-1 engine, 190 bhp verses 240 bhp so if it was tweaked, 300-330bhp would have been on the cards. The E49 was rated at an awesome 302 bhp from 265ci.

June 26th 1972: Chrylser announces it is producing the "the most powerful six cylinder car in the world". NSW Minister for Transportation, Milton Morris was concerned about these specially built cars being driven on the roads. After the Chrysler release things hotted up with people calling them "bullets on wheels" and "death on wheels supercars". The pressure on the car manufacturers was becoming overwhelming and from all directions. It seemed a matter of time and it was Holden that eventually bit the bullet so to speak. 

June 30th 1972: GM-H officially announced it was stopping development of the V8 Torana project. Politicians were the main reason for the dropping of the Holden Supercar as there was a bit political blackmail going on. Television, radio and newspapers went into a spin about what had happened and Ford dropped it's planned Phase Four about 2 weeks later and Chrysler dropped it's planned V8 race car as well. The reason this was done was the minimum build to allow the car to enter the Bathurst race was 200 units.  Bathurst was and still is the race that counts most for everyone concerned and it was even more important in the 70's as it was a symbol of who had the best car. Sales of the Bathurst winning car would soar for months after so it was important for the manufacturer to have his product in front when the checkered flag fell.  The cars then were a lot closer to the street cars than they are today and the public were less informed than the public today about what had been done to these cars to make them perform as well as they did. 

 Supercars
Bathurst 1968: Monaro 327 GTS wins on it's first attempt.
Bathurst 1969: Monaro 350 GTS wins what was the decider of best of 3 between Ford and Holden V8's.
Bathurst 1970: LC XU-1 wins Class C on it's first tentative outing to the big one.
Bathurst 1972: The XU-1 showed even without the 308 V8 it could win, many put the win down to the weather.
Bathurst 1973: The XU-1 again out in front easily until it ran out of fuel while a lap ahead when a fuel gauge malfunctioned.
Bathrust 1974: Ford won but the new L34 filled the next 3 spots with an XU-1 5th.
Bathurst 1975: Torana L34
Bathurst 1976: Torana L34
Bathurst 1978: Torana A9X
Bathurst 1979: Torana A9X the final victory for a great Supercar!
So here we see the Holden domination which saw between 1968 and 1990 Holden won outright 14 times from Ford 8 times which included 2 wins to Sierras and Jaguar 1 win.
All in all The Holden Torana and Commodore have had a decent amount of wins but it was always a team that won at Bathurst although it helped having a Holden!
 Pics