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Australian Speedway sedans of the 1970s.


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Most of you know that hot rods are my first love but when it comes to motorsport' speedway is my drug of choice.  Speedway in Australia is what Americans refer to as dirt track or short track. It is closely associated with American dirt track racing but has its own idiosyncrasies.

One thing that is different is that for the most part Aussie speedways run a mixed card - it is perfectly normal to see sprintcars, midgets, street stocks and late models on the same programme.  Back in the sixties, seventies and eighties you could add solo bikes and sidecars and supermods to the mix.  It makes for a very entertaining evening of racing.

This year the local classic speedway club is running a big exhibition in October and we have been invited to put on a display of classic speedway models. Along with several friends we will probably be displaying about 200 models between us.  

Now in the seventies, the most popular class by a landslide was sedans, or stockies!  These were hardcore racing machines with high revving small blocks, fuel injection, quick change diffs, disc brakes and the like but for the most part were built from unibody sedans and did not run a separate chassis.  They were heavily barred out to compensate for the lack of strength of a monocoque car. Not always pretty, they employed the fabricatio0n technology of your average car trailer but they did haul!

Nearly every make and model of Australian muscle cars and a few American cars as well, fronted up to these races.  It was  glorious time and as a teenager I loved every minute of it.  I have about ten sedans already built but have at least another ten under construction and decided that this year's display would be the incentive to get 'em done.

This will be an ongoing post as I tackle my projects and I won't promise any sort of chronological progression.  I am not a highly disciplined model builder. But if you have an interest in Australian racing, you might find something of interest here.

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So tonight I started on a new project, as distinct from the long list of W.I.P.s waiting there turn. I figure if I don't get the basic fabrication under way they wont be ready in time.

The Holden Torana hatchback was the successor to the wildly successful LC and LJ Torana GTR-X-U1 of previous years. Unlike the earlier models, the LH and LX of the mid seventies did not take to dirt like a duck to water but every track around the country would have had at least one of them so I needed to add one to my collection.

Now the easiest way to do this would be to purchase a high quality Cavalier curbside resin model of the Torana.  Problem is, they were very low production when they were originally on the market, so even rarer now,  and were kinda spendy - $60 each when a typical AMT kit was probably round $40. 

It's O.K., I've got one.

But. 

I can't bring myself to cut it up.  By the time a stockie had done a few seasons it only bore a passing resemblance to the original car.  The Cavalier kit is far too nice for that.

I do however, have a Citation. One of those models that only Faust could love.  I bought it dirt cheap to get the V6.  holding it at arm's length I could see that it had a passing resemblance to an LH Hatchback, as long as I wasn't scared of a little cutting.

So here is the Cavalier Torana body and the Monogram Citation body to compare.

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The first good news is that the overall length width and height are very similar between the two cars, as is the wheelbase.  There will be need for quite a bit of re-configuring, however, because the Holden is a rear wheel drive inline V8 while the citation is a front wheel drive transverse V6.  This means that the entire green house is in the wrong place and the Citation has more front overhang and less rear overhang than the Torana.  This will need to be rectified.

The Citation had a heavy character line down the length of the side that needed to be scraped and sanded smooth prior to making any cuts.  This only took a few minutes and produces sides that are very similar in contour to the Torana.

To extend the rear quarter panels, I made a vertical cut just behind the rear wheel opening. I then cut down from the window opening to the vertical cut to allow the removal of the entire trunk as well as the rest of the quarter panels in one unit.

Next, I used a wide jawed pair of pliers to gently bend the trunk lid upwards to suit the slope of the Torana hatch.

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Glad you're on board AFX but don't expect daily updates - they will just happen when they happen!  I am on a bit of a roll right now and was pleasantly surprised with how little time was spent getting to this stage.

The next step however, is to shorten the roof.  The Citation roof was seven mm longer than the Torana which conveniently included the C pillars. I marked out the cut line and then removed the rear section of the roof. I wanted to leave the entire trunk intact as this would help in fabrication the Torana's hatch later on.

Some more measuring showed that the Citation was about 5-6mm taller the through the sides than the Torana.  Sawing off the sills with a razor saw took care of that little issue.

Next, I glued scrap pieces of flat styrene to the rear section and then glued them onto the body with a seven mm gap.  It is now all clamped up and drying and that will be where I leave it for tonight.

Cheers

Alan

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Alan, this is great stuff. Seeing different styles of race cars is so much fun so I will follow this one with great interest.

I love what you are doing with the Citation body. I started at GM in 1980 and my first car was a Chevy Citation X11. It was a very short honeymoon...

😢

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Thank you Pierre and Trevor. I made a fair bit of progress today although sometimes there was more error than trial.  However we are heading in the right direction.

First order of business was to get the flairs on. I am trying to do as much bodywork as possible below the waistline before I tackle removing and relocating the roof.

First, a word on Aussie flares.  Until about 1982, The Australian Saloon Car Federation, the governing body of speedway sedan racing, insisted that tyres not protrude from the bodywork. As wheels grew ever wider, so did the flares.  In most forms of racing, the flare is made from either fibreglass or sheetmetal. In speedway, the flare is produced by shaping pipe to the suit the wheel opening, welding that securely back to the pipework already reinforcing the body and then filling in the resulting gap with sheetmetal.  In Australia, we didn't "rub", we slammed!  Therefore, any model of a car from the era will feature prominent flares.

In the past I have created flares authentically by first rolling some K&S plastic coated wire to suit the shape and then filling in with sheet plastic and bog.  But many years ago I found a very dead diecast Bburago 1/24th scale Fait rally car that had a set of plastic flares as you can see in the photo below.  These flares were very similar in shape to those on the A9X and L34 versions of the Torana, but larger and that was exactly what I required.  They took very little work to fit to the Torana body and then the fillet was filled in with bog.

Finally for this evening I began to fit the Torana nose.  Some years ago I had a small quantity of Pinkysil and casting resin and I produced a slush cast copy of the Cavalier Torana nose cone.  It took quite a bit of trimming but the shape is good.  In the photo below it is just mocked up to see how we are going.  The car still looks a bit dorky at this stage because the roof is still way too forward on the body. In the very last photo you can see that I have also begun flattening out the lower window line on the rear quarter.

Cheers

Alan

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I love your work Alan. I own a real LX hatch back and this is just the inspiration I need to make a replica. Now if I can just find a citation kit !

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  • 2 weeks later...

I probably would have taken molds off the Fiat fender flares myself. Because I'm OCD that way.

That's an interesting source. In the early 1980s, I worked at Mattel Toys as a Product Safety Engineer. The Hot Wheels line was my responsibility. Mattel released a series of 1/24 scale diecasts made by Bburago. That Fiat 131 was one of them. The red and yellow version. I still have some of the pre-production samples, including that Fiat and several of the F1 cars. I approved that Fiat for Production from a Safety standpoint. None of those were sold in the US market by Mattel though.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Great to see some Aussies following along! And a Canadian - we are really going international here!

Of course, being a speedway car, "near enough" accuracy is more than good enough but from the way I have progressed so far, it wouldn't be impossible to do a showroom stock conversion, it would just take a lot more time.

Thanks Richard, it is always interesting to hear about the inside of the toy and model industry.

I have been very distracted by other modelling projects lately but got some work done on the Torana last week. To join the copy of the resin Torana front clip onto the Citation fenders I had to remove the cowl /plenum chamber area first to allow the front fenders to be pulled inwards as the Torana is about 3mm narrower. This meant that the roof had to be removed as well. Always scary when only a bit of plastic at the rear is holding it all together. I added some hidden pins to strengthen up the joint. Anyhow, it all worked fine and I added some more bog to blend in the front clip to the front flares.

Of course, having narrowed the front I now needed to narrow the rear as the car would be tapered otherwise.  I cheated by simply cutting down the already partly cut trunk line on the right hand side and removing 3mm,  A fussy modeller would have removed 1.5mm from each side but for this car it really didn't matter and one cut is stronger to re-join that two!

Next we needed a hood.  I found a grey plastic AMT hood of unknown origin in the parts box that was close enough.  I took a masking tape pattern off the Cavalier Torana hood and cut it out before applying it to the AMT hood. I then cut and filed the hood until it was a neat fit.

While I was at it, I cut a strip of flat styrene for the new cowl section.  This is purely structural at this stage - I will shape it later. I also glued another parts box refugee firewall in place to stiffen things up.

The Citation roof has a lot of similarities to the Torana design but annoyingly just enough differences that I couldn't use it as is. The grooved B pillars had to be slanted forward slightly more and the rake on the A pillars had to be adjusted as well.  I used cardboard templates taken off the Cavalier Torana to check I was travelling in the right direction! I also filed off the windshield mouldings at the front and will replace this with a glass flange later.

The next step will be to construct the rear hatchback section.  Once that is done we are ready for final bog and primer!

Thanks for watching

Cheers

Alan

 

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Thanks Trevor!  Got a lot of work done last night and tonight so have some more photos of the hatch area coming together.

I started off by making a tape pattern off the original kit and transferring it to a piece of flat styrene.  I then glued strips of Evergreen to bridge the gap between the roof and the trunk.  I used my previous cardboard templates and this ensured that I was achieving the correct proportions before I committed to gluing the hatch in place.

I then drilled five holes in the window area of the hatch and used scissors and a sharp X -acto to cut out the window opening. I filed the trailing edge to a taper to assist with blending it in with the Citation trunk lid.  Two small taps of plastic were glued under the top of the hatch opening to give the top edge of the hatch something to glue to.  I carved away a heap of excess plastic from the old trunk lid as well - just in case!

I glued the new hatch in place and left it to dry overnight.  In the morning I realised that the profile was too high so I sliced around the edge of the white plastic and dropped the whole sandwich down flush - worked a treat. I then cut and glued strips of plastic either side of the hatch to start forming up this area of the body.  One big advantage doing to this way is that I automatically create deep panel lines.  I am rubbish when it comes to scribing panel lines so this was a bonus!

This was all superglued up convincingly and allowed to dry.  Following some sanding to get the C pillars and quarter panels blended in, I used a cardboard template to duplicate the A9X rear spoiler in styrene and glued it to the body.  It will need a lot more work tomorrow but for now, I am very happy with what I see - I got me a Torana!

Cheers

Alan

 

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Had a busy weekend but made some more progress on the Torana.  Thanks to everyone who has viewed and commented so far - it is greatly appreciated.

It turned out that the Citation hood scoop was a little larger but a little flatter than the A9X scoop but otherwise the same shape.  I cut it out of the hood instead of off the hood and then glued it to the grey plastic hood from earlier.  When it had dried solid I carved out the plastic underneath to allow clearance for the eventual stack injection.

I found what I think is a Camaro chassis (Copyright Revell 1990) which was near perfect fit into the revised Citation body.  I trimmed a little front he front and from the wheel arches and then added a pair of styrene strips to the side of the floor. Easy peasy.  The Torana has a four link coil sprung rear axle so I grafted in one from a  Monogram Chevelle. I also removed the stock fuel tank as per the regulations of the time.

I found some front and rear bumpers in my parts box, both Japanese I suspect, and with less than a half hour's work they fitted up fine.

Here she is ready for primer and then finally the first mockup in one colour.  I am REALLY happy with how it looks but there is still a fair bit of finessing to do before she gets her  first coat of white.  One thing that is very obvious now is that the front flares in particular are too wide.  Luckily, if I take a few mm off the outside edges, it will also open up the arches and give me better clearance on the tyres - win, win!

Cheers

Alan

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's been a while but time for an update.  I got the white and red paint on the Torrie, plus the black sill panels.  A friend in our model club is very talented in creating decals so he is doing them for me - I will explain the significance of those decals when I get them applied to the car.  For the Aussies viewing now, -think MDHT!

Narrowing the flares made a huge difference and another friend has just 3D printed a set of wide and wider rims for me.  These are an Australian wheel known as an Aunger Hot Wire.  Similar yet different to an Appliance wire mag or a European BBS wheel, they were very popular on street machines as well as racecars and up until now, there was only one rare source for them and they needed a lot of work, especially in regards to width. They are the ones you can see in this photo but it will have the #D printed ones next time I post a picture.  These will be the finishing touch on the model.

Cheers

Alan

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So while I wait to receive the decals, I have started on several other cars.  I will continue to show multiple cars on this one thread but will give them separate posts Under Glass when they are completed.

In the eighties, Corvette bodied Super Sedans were very popular right across Australia.  I am stating with a glue bombed AMT Corvette - about a 71 I think, maybe earlier. Windscreen pillars have been removed along with the front bumper and roll pan.  These cars were among the first to use a fully fabricated tube chassis in Oz but some lo-bucks teams would use the GM style perimeter frame from an HQ-HZ Holden one ton utility.  These frames have a passing resemblance to, of all things, a Corvette frame so in the interests of simplicity I completely removed the floor and IRS mounting points of the AMT Corvette frame and began building my roll cage on top of that platform. Initially I also lowered the front edge of the roof down a smidge but on reflection it looked odd so I lifted it back to stock.

I also made some wide flares for this car although if I was modelling a car from a few years later these would not have been present - it would have just had radiused wheel arches instead.  Aussie speedway cars starting losing their flares around 1981 if I recall correctly but I like them so included them in this build. I wrapped some aluminium craft wire around a wooden dowel - this gives a smooth curve.  I then cut off appropriate lengths of the curve and bent the ends in at 90 degrees - these were then inserted though holes drilled in the body and superglue was applied. I adjust the angle of the flares to suit the tyres and then glue small strips of plastic between the wire and the body to establish this distance.  Finally,  I cut and fit small strips of thin styrene sheet to fill the gaps.  Eventually a skim coat of bog blends everything in.  In the photo you can see the rear flare filled in while I am still establishing the front one.  You can also see the beginning of the frame in the background.

In the second mockup photo the frame has dropped away from the body - that fabricated bumper will be snug to the body eventually.

Cheers

Alan

 

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Next up is one I am really excited about.  I had never owned one of the MPC Super Stocker series of models so was pleased to hear that the GTO had been re-issued.  I had good intentions of buying one but decided to wait as a friend of mine along with our wives were planning to attend the Adelaide Toy Fair in South Australia last June.  You can imagine my surprise when the second table I walked up to had not one but two Dick Trickle Mustang kits, complete but bagged, not boxed, on his stall for $50 a piece.  If you are thinking that is a bit spendy, consider that the GTO currently on the local hobby shop shelves would have set me back upwards of $65Aus so in any language the Mustangs were a bargain.  I love dirt trackers and Dave loves Mustangs so they both came home with us.

Every state in Australia had a two or three competitors in Mustangs in the seventies and when you consider how rare ( then ) they were on our streets, they were a big deal to see on a speedway. I have been very impressed with this kit although I did find the rear end assembly a bit fiddly.  The weird bit is the fact that the Mustang body has had its sills removed and as a result the bottom of the rollcage hangs out in the breeze - probably something to do with the fact that these were essentially a GM style frame. Two strips of styrene sheet rectified that problem. I also cut the top bars of the cage for now - this lets the rollcage sit higher in the body and will save a lot of work later.  As it was the top bar that should have aligned with the window opening ( where you would normally rest your elbow) was a good 3mm lower than it should be.

The other problem, if you can call it that, is that the car has a big block Chevy engine.  I have no qualms about swapping out the engine for a Ford but I love those over the top headers so I have elected to paint the Chevy engine blue, add some Ford rocker covers and front mounted distributor, and fake it!

The neat thing is, apart from the flares and a change of rolling stock, this will nearly be a box stock kit.

Once again I used aluminium wire and thin plastic to create the flairs.  Like the Torana, this one is going to have a little twist in tis final livery but I will reveal all as it nears completion.

Cheers

Alan

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Next up will be a Monza, and this model will be a replica of the "Super Chook" Kentucky Fired Chicken car.  For the Americans in the audience, Aussies call a chicken, a chook. If you are going to KFC, you are going to get some chook for dinner.  Thus, the name of the car.  It was driven quite successfully by Leo Gommers at Claremont Speedway and later by Colin Knox.  The original version had very protruding cylindrical flares but later received an IMSA style body kit - this is the version I am going to build.

Like the Corvette above, the Monzas were popular at speedways across the country, especially after Gene Welch brought a four car team out from the USA for a summer tour down under. We never saw Monzas in our showrooms and I doubt whether very many ever made their way to the country as road cars - I cant recall ever seeing one in the wild.

Many years ago after following Tim Boyd's advice in Street Rodder Magazine , I bought the MPC Monza to get what he believed to be the best detailed small block available at the time in 1/25th scale.  It is still waiting in a box with a special project! As I researched cars for the display in October, I realised that the Monza body was languishing untouched in another box, and it came with IMSA flares so it was time to start another project.  It might seem a little crazy but I am keen to get all bodywork and paint completed on these projects as early as possible so that I can use the remaining time to complete the somewhat easier chassis work.

As with all such projects it is never as easy as it first looks.  The fibreglass Monza bodies for the speedway had fairly vertical sides while the kit had a lot of roll-under to the rocker panels.  Plus, the body kit did not quite match the contours visible in my one reference photo so there was a fair bit of trimming to do to get things close ( plus just a smidge of putty!)

I tack glued the body kit in place and then worked out what bits needed to be removed to get things right.  I then used a woodworking tool called a marking gauge to scribe part way through the inside of the body at the waste line so that I could gently bend the lower body panels outwards to get things looking correct. I have since applied a responsible amount of body filler and we have some serious sanding ahead of us!

Cheers

Alan

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