Funky motoring facts

Local manufacturers struggle in the 60s and 70s.

Local manufacturers struggle in the 60s and 70s.

Looking back on the balmy days that were the late 60s and the 70s, especially in the local motoring industry, it seems that our then local manufacturers were in a little bit of a spin to counter the tsunami that was confronting them from the new boy on the block, Japan.

The looming ‘oil crisis’ also sent many company boards into a spin, as they tried to anticipate the need for an economy version of their popular Aussie family favourites.

All this resulted in the ‘big three’, coming up with a few doozies most of which are best forgotten!

Holden set the pace with their early Vauxhall Viva’s.

These were very basic, boxy bodied family favourites in the United Kingdom, powered by a less than lusty 1,057 cc., four potter, that later morphed into the Holden Torana, which ultimately by 1974 had given us our local legendry 5.0 litre V8 versions.

This was a somewhat more attractive body than its earlier siblings... thanks Brockie!

Over at Ford, their impressive Cortina was popular with locals, at the expense of their bigger more powerful Falcons.

In what seemed like a good idea at the time, Ford gave us the best of both worlds in 1972 with the Cortina TC XL Six.

Available in both 3.3 and 4.1 litre versions straight from the Falcon parts bin it was best remembered, surprise surprise, as being a tad nose heavy!

Meanwhile, over at Chrysler’s Tonsley Park headquarters in Adelaide, in a ‘what were they thinking/drinking’ moment, the powers that be decided to join the transplant movement.

Their highly popular new ‘Hemi Sixes’ were the darling of the market, me included!

In their Valiant/Charger range, with a lusty family of new Aussie designed and built in line sixes, from 225 cu in. through to 265 cu.in. engines, with the most popular/numerous 245 cu.in wedged between them.

But with no small bodied local body in their inventory… what to do? And so the now much unloved Chrysler Centura was born.

At the time, the French Simca company was part of the Chrysler group, so it seemed like a no brainer at the time.

Let’s just import a few shiploads of Simca bodies and shoehorn in our local Aussie born ‘Hemi’.

Well it kinda fitted, but in what must have been a classic ‘whoops’ moment, it was a really tight fit, and to make it all work, the engineers lengthened the engine bay a little forward, putting the already lengthy engine further over the front axle line.

And it you thought the Falcon Six was a little nose heavy, the Centura was diabolical, with its lighter body making the ‘sensational’ little hybrid finding it hard to keep the tail end in contact with the bitumen, especially in the wet!

Lucky for all of us, after just two years, the Centura left us in 1978 with some 20,000 examples leaving the production line, being replaced by the Chrysler Sigma.

Very few survive today due to well documented rust problems, and as such surviving cars have become quite collectible amongst Mopar fans.

Luckily Chrysler decided against offering the public the option of its iconic 318 cu.in. lump of iron in the Simca bodied Centuras.

Now that could have proved even more disastrous than those nose heavy Hemi’s!

This story Japan sent big three manufacturers into a spin in the 60s-70s first appeared on Great Lakes Advocate.