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Author Topic: New Zealand/Australian Camaros And Firebirds  (Read 26694 times)
nick_tassie
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« Reply #45 on: March 30, 2012, 06:05:43 PM »

Good question Jon, I would loved to have asked him more about his racing while he was still with us but regretfully we lost contact for a long time while he travelled the world.

My best guess is that he just enjoyed the buzz the car must have brought trying to tame it, it certainly was popular with the Aussie racing crowds from what I can tell, plenty of people have got in touch to say they can still clearly remember it roaring around the tracks and it was an awesome sight and sound. It was arguably one of the first big banger race cars in Australia and could be said to have started the push for big cubes and power by the other teams, there were small block Mustangs, Sprints and Monaro's competing against it. Big block cars were popular in drag racing but the small blocks dominated circuit racing at the time.

One other reason might have been that Terry just thought it was his best chance to compete against the big players of the day, Allan Moffat, Ian Geoghegan, Norm Beechey and Bob Jane were absolute guns and hard to beat on driving talent alone. With the 396 he certainly had the bhp to keep up if not stay ahead in the early stages of the sprit races. There were days that he beat some of these legends of Australian motorsport in the Camaro. It wasn't until Beechey, Jane and Moffat started to run high HP machinery that the Camaro just got left behind.

I do also find it strange that I can't find reference to the 302 Trans Am engine being at least tried in the car. One reason could be that Aussie Touring Car rules did not permit stripped out light weight race cars like in Trans Am so maybe the thought was the cars weight would not suit the high revving 302. I have read reference to Terry saying he was getting 545bhp from the 396, I imagine it would be had to let that go in what was a heavy car. Aussie Touring cars of the time were basically a production car with very limited modifications allowed, heavy and hard to drive, certainly not as pure bred as the light weight Sunoco Trans Am Camaro's that raced with the 302 in the US. Just a theory..!?!

What is interesting as I mentioned is that Terry's race mechanic Wayne Mahnken had never heard about the 302 Trans Am engine, he was there in 67 and setup the 396's quad webber setup so for him to not know about the 302 suggests it was maybe sold off as soon as the Camaro landed in Australia. One thought is that he actually brought it over for another competitor but thats just speculation.

Steve Holmes did reference Terry saying he was considering going to the US in early 71 to purchase a small block for the Camaro, he had just started to have mechanical issues with the 396 in New Zealand (piston failure I recall). This also suggests that the Trans Am 302 had long gone somewhere else. He ran the car with the 396 at the Symmons Plains Australian Touring Car Championship event for the last time in early 71, again having engine dramas, the car was sold off later that year. I did find an article that said he sold a light weight 350 chev to another Camaro competitor after he had sold his car so maybe he did start to go down that track but never got to try it.

Interestingly he left Australia after selling the Camaro and went racing in the US, where and what in we just don't know? My parents call recall he had a huge accident over there somewhere and almost lost his arm, his mother Lucy travelled to the US to help with his rehabilitation. What he racing he did I haven't been able find out, my thoughts are Pro Am as he did try for that with Allan Moffat in 66 before returning to Australia with the Camaro for 67. Just a best guess.
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #46 on: March 31, 2012, 01:25:04 AM »

Learning more about Terry and his car all the time. Thanks for filling us in on all the details, Nick. I'm not sure what you're talking about with regard to Pro Am, however. When I hear that, it makes me think of golf. Could it be some sort of open-wheel racing you're thinking about or was it something else?
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Jon Mello
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nick_tassie
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« Reply #47 on: March 31, 2012, 03:10:07 AM »

Not sure about the Pro-Am thing Jon to be honest, I found this following paragraph from a story by a friend of Terry who was describing his early racing career. I presumed Pro-Am was a US racing series that had professionals and amateurs drivers racing together!?!  Maybe he had Pro-Am confused with Trans-Am, when did Trans-Am start by the way and would Lotus Cortina's been in the mix in 65-66? Come to think of it maybe thats why nothing ever came up when I tried to researched Terry and Pro-Am racing on the Web........

After Terry bought Brian Muir's S4 (and repainted it Scuderia Veloce orange/red instead of the mid green Brian had it), he then bought a Lotus Cortina from Allan Moffat, and I had the pleasure of a hot lap at Calder in it. The plan was to join Moff in USA in the Pro-Am series. Unfortunately, Moffat cabled soon after to say not to come as there was not enough money to make it viable".
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nick_tassie
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« Reply #48 on: March 31, 2012, 03:38:56 AM »

Here is something that members of CRG might like to watch.

This is a youtube video of 8mm film from the 1967 Symmons Plains Touring Car race, it shows Terry and the Camaro running through the back straight sweeper. Symmons Plains which is in my home State of Tasmania would have suited the big blocks hp, but it is also very hard on brakes so after 5 laps it would have been exciting to stop.

The footage also shows Ian "Pete" Geoghegan in his No.1 Mustang. The blue 2 door coupe is a Holden Monaro for those wondering, a popular Aussie muscle car of the day, most running 327 chev power. The Monaro was later made famous by winning the Australian Touring Car championship in the hands of Norm Beechey.

Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZhOb3BmOAU

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Jon Mello
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« Reply #49 on: April 01, 2012, 12:21:19 AM »

Nick,

Yes, I suspect whoever said Pro-Am was meaning Trans-Am. Allan Moffat was racing a Lotus Cortina in '65 and '66 and even the first half of '67. In '66 and '67, this would have been in the Trans-Am. It seems to me that your uncle Terry got a Cortina from Moffat prior to getting the Bill Thomas Camaro, hence that would be 1966.

Thanks for the link to the video. It's neat to have a chance to see the red car in action.
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Jon Mello
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #50 on: April 09, 2012, 11:46:10 AM »

Nick,

I know that Bill Thomas was one of the early experts on the 396 big block. While I suspect we all think his Camaro would have been a more balanced machine for road racing if he had run a small block, do you know why he went with a 396? If you're going to go with a big block, why not up the cubic inches to at least a 427? There would be no further weight penalty. Did the Australian/NZ rules back then not allow going up to a full 7 liters or beyond?
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nick_tassie
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« Reply #51 on: April 11, 2012, 06:59:50 AM »

Good question Jon and I'm not sure of the answer just yet so I will ask the more seasoned and experienced on the Roaring Season forum. Although I suspect you are right in that for 67 there may have been a capacity limit that restricted the car to the 396. Thinking about it Australian Touring Cars are a production based series which means cars must be homologated by the national racing body CAMS, production based rules usually specified the the engines must be based on a production block sold to to the public. Now I now the 396 was a Chevrolet production engine in 67 and I'm sure it was available in Australia through GM Holden. Am I correct that the 427 was a special option through just a limited number of dealerships (Yenko, Dana, Nickey etc), if so that might have ruled it out in 67 as a production engine option in the Australian market, hence Terry would not have been able to run it in the ATCC. Only a theory, and interestingly a fellow competitor of Terry's, Brian Thompson, did complete in a 68 Camaro with a L88 in 69-71. This car was an ex drag car, I think from memory Steve Holmes posted some photos of the car at the start of this thread.

I know the rules had started to change by the time Thompson started running his 68 L88, Terry was running the 10" minilite wheels, rear disc brakes and fully floating locker diff. The bg boy, Jane, Moffat and Beechey were also running big capacity rocket ships as well. Jane with the 69 ZL1 Camaro and Moffat with the famous Coke Mustang. Off track a little I was talking to a guy just last night who told me all about Bob Jane's 2 ZL1 Camaro's (he had two, 1 manual and 1 auto) and how he came about buying them, interesting story. 

Anyway I will ask so questions and get back with an answer and not a best guess. Oh it would also be interesting to hear from Ron Ogilvie on this, his memory on Terry's time at Bill Thomas Race Cars is amazing, maybe he can recall what Terry's thoughts were on the 396.

To answer your suggestion about us running a 427 instead of a 396 in the tribute car, honestly Jon I would be guided by people like yourself who are far more experienced in big block engines than I admit to being at the moment. My engine building experience is currently limited to ford and GM Holden small blocks V8's so its all new ground. I really like the idea of a stinking hot TRACO spec 302, they sound like one hell of a nice engine and ideal for our Australian race tracks but to be a true tribute car I think it just has to be a big block. I would be interested in your member thoughts on the pros and cons of 396 against 427. What I would do no matter what is run alloy heads and manifold to keep the weight down. Terry's car had a dry sump system towards the end of its racing so we would also go with that to balance the weight at the rear and to ensure it will be bullet proof.

So my thoughts at this stage are 4 bolt block, alloy heads, roller cam and as much compression ratio as possible but still be a reliable race motor - bet that's never been thought of before......). No point in reinventing the wheel so if you have been there before I would love to hear your advice about what to run. Don't hesitate to have a say......
 
 
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nick_tassie
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« Reply #52 on: April 11, 2012, 07:16:40 AM »

He's an interesting question that I was asked yesterday in conversation about the history of Terry's Camaro.  As it was purchased directly from Nickey Chevrolet as a 327 small block car and then sent to Bill Thomas Race cars and converted to a big block with Z28 options, does this make it a "Nickey Car".

I don't know the answer and would be interested in peoples thoughts, I hadn't considered it before until I was asked the question.

I understand Bill Thomas was in partnership with Nickey Chevrolet in 67 and completed some of the big block "Nickey Car" conversions at his workshop. Are race specials like this classed as "Nickey Cars"

I certainly don't want to suggest Uncle Terry's Camaro was something that it is not, it certainly didn't have Nickey identification on it from what I have found.

An interesting question indeed.
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #53 on: April 13, 2012, 08:05:20 AM »

Nick, I have not run a big block before. Never owned one, actually. I'm sure you can get better input from Ron Ogilvie or others. If you're going to run aluminum heads, it sure would be nice to at least acquire some original GM pieces rather than tossing some new Edelbrock pieces on there. Just nice to have a more period authentic look than what the newer pieces offer but I don't know what your budget constraints are.

Interesting question about whether it would be considered a "Nickey Car". You're sure it was bought from Nickey in Chicago and then shipped to Bill Thomas in Anaheim for conversion?
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Jon Mello
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nick_tassie
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« Reply #54 on: April 13, 2012, 09:30:10 AM »

Hey Jon

I'm partial to originality as well, I saw a nice set of L89 heads on Ebay the other day, but boy they were not cheap for bare heads without valves and springs. Interestingly I've found a guy who has 2 yes 2 427 ZL1 engines just lying around over here in Australia, but I don't think I could touch what he would want for one of those.

I only know about the Nickey Chevrolet link from Terry's mechanic Wayne Mahnken who told me that Terry brought the car from them in Chicago. There's just no existing documents that I know of that can confirm it, just the advice from Wayne. If we can one day track down the tag numbers we might be able to trace it back to the dealership? It seems make sense that he could have got onto Bill Thomas Race Cars to competition prepare the Camaro via their partnership link with Nickey. Its just hard to prove as there is not many left to ask other than Wayne, being there from the start as Terry's first mechanic on the Camaro his information should be accurate.

I did send a PM to the administrator of the Nickey Cars website asking if he could help trace the car Terry purchased in 67, can't recall his name at the moment but he never did bother responding. Probably thought I was from that european country Austria.....
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #55 on: April 13, 2012, 04:38:17 PM »

Nick, the VIN might help if you could ever find out what it was. If you learned it was a VIN from the Van Nuys (Los Angeles area)
assembly plant, that would seem to make it unlikely it was a car from the Nickey dealership.
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Jon Mello
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nick_tassie
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« Reply #56 on: April 13, 2012, 08:02:47 PM »

That's good info Jon.

The VIN is a real Catch 22 as I don't think we will learn what it is until we find the car, I've exhausted all possible ways I can think of to find it out; including trying to access the records from the Department of Imports (records don't exist for 67), and looking for the cars official racing log book. That was a challenge as again I faced a Catch 22, The Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) only issue replacement log books to the owners of the car, new Privacy Laws are making searches for lost race cars bloody difficult. Unless I could prove I currently owned the car they were not going to provide me with the info, even when I explained that the car had been missing for nearly 40 years.

But there are ways, I hounded this poor CAMS guy until he gave up and did a check for me. Unfortunately he confirmed there was no record of the Terry Allan Camaro Log Book in their files, it was 1967-72 and record keeping was a bit hit and miss. I hoped with the VIN info I could check to see it the car had ever been road registered after its racing life which would confirm it had been restored back to a road car.

The Tags are such an important clue but how to find out what they were is a frustrating secret to unearth.
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #57 on: April 14, 2012, 09:01:25 PM »

Nick, I'm sure it's frustrating to put in all the work that you have so done far and still come up empty but I'm glad you're sticking with it. Sometimes information comes when you least expect it. Keep looking and you are eventually going to find the car or find out what happened to it.
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Jon Mello
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #58 on: April 25, 2012, 03:25:59 AM »

Hello Jon, this forum is really coming along great, I'm so impressed by what you've achieved here. Keep up the good work.

With regards to the Terry Allan Camaro, and your questions about his choice of big block power, well, I can only guess. But another Australian sedan racer called Bryan Thomson, who also raced a big block Camaro in the late 1960s, had an interesting theory for choosing big block power. I put together a brief article on the Thomson Camaro on The Roaring Season a few months back, and here is what I wrote about his reasoning behind the big block motivation based on an article supplied to me by Chris Bowden, who at the time was selling the Camaro for owner Peter Sportelli:

"Thomson was from Shepparton, Victoria. His local race track was Calder Park, a 1.61km circuit with a fairly simple layout, containing four corners, linked by two long straights, and a couple of squiggles. The front straight doubled as a drag strip. So when Thomson found a 396ci big block powered '68 Camaro drag car being sold by local drag racer Neville Thompson, he pounced.

Norm Beechey held the Touring Car lap record at Calder, at 49.2sec. Thomson figured that as his Camaro could do 11sec mile times, and that as Calder was made up of two long straights, his Camaro, converted to road race trim, would be competitive. Not a particularly scientific approach, but a pretty good guess none the less".

The Thomson Camaro began life as a 396 car, but Thomson later had it fitted with a 427, which gave him 620hp, which, in 1969/70, was impressive for a road race car. Most small block cars in Australia at the time had around 450 - 500hp. Of course, as you've rightly pointed out Jon, a small block car will handle better than a big block car, but Thomson felt the extra power and straight line speed he gained could off-set the loss in braking and handling, and I can only assume Terry Allan was working on a similar theory. Of course, as history showed, both were wrong, the small blocks were better, barring Bob Janes alloy big block Camaro.

If interested, here is the article I put together on the Bryan Thomson Camaro: http://www.theroaringseason.com/showthread.php?324-Bryan-Thomsons-L88-Camaro
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #59 on: April 25, 2012, 12:40:55 PM »

Thanks, Steve. I appreciate your compliments. You have done an outstanding job with The Roaring Season as well.

Thank you for taking the time to detail some of the thoughts behind Thomson and Allan running the big blocks. The thread showing the progression of Thomson's car (and Allan's as well) is nicely done. Great job and really nice to have that knowledge brought together so that people can read about it and enjoy that great period of racing history. Thanks again.
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