Centura plus Hemi equals good times

“A CENTURA WITH A HEMI SIX WAS CERTAINLY A PIECE OF WORK”

Jamie Collins Lane Cove, NSW

Responding to your call out about the Chrysler Centura and, yes, it was certainly much faster than any six-cylinder Ford Cortina or Holden Torana of the mid to late 70s.

My 1976 Centura GL was fitted with the 245 cubicinch high-compression motor coupled with the four-speed Borg Warner manual transmission and the combination was strong and reliable. I attribute this purchase to a review by Steve Cropley in Wheels in 1977.

Another benefit of the Centura was that it had the front calipers/rotors from the heavier Valiant of the day with finned rear drums and the addition of a rear-axle actuated brake proportioning valve, which could be adjusted to eliminate rear wheel lockup, at least in the dry. I never had any brake fade and you could wipe off good speed when required, so much better than Mum’s HQ 253 V8 Premier wagon that had both brake fade and rear lock-up; well at least when I drove it, but Mum never knew that!

When I bought it in 1978 with 25,000km on board, it appeared to have had an easy life and didn’t feel that it was run-in. In fact, it didn’t like to rev past 4000 rpm let alone kiss the redline at 5000. With 40 km/h per 1,000 rpm in fourth gear the car was quick up to 4000rpm and 160 km/h.

As the head had the ‘big valves’ common to the E49 I sought to liberate that last 1000rpm and fitted a freeflow two-and-a-half inch exhaust system and it was a successful enhancement for both performance and sound inside and out. With another 1000 rpm the car would now sprint to 180 km/h, but it then hit an

“A CENTURA WITH A HEMI SIX WAS CERTAINLY A PIECE OF WORK”

aerodynamic wall and you needed a lot of road to squeeze it out to 200 km/h and redline. The biggest improvement however was not from that last 1000 rpm but from the lift in torque from idle to 4000rpm which with a weight of only 1,145 kg provided very competitive acceleration in third and fourth with first and second spoilt by lack of traction from the 2.72:1 open differential and 195/70R14 tyres of the day.

Today my garage has a 2013 VF Holden Commodore SS-V Redline and a 2002 Mazda MX-5 SP and it is the latter that reminds me most of the Centura. In a straight line at least, as I reckon that the SP’s 158 kW and 289 Nm would be close to what the Centura produced with the better exhaust. And the Redline reminds me of what we all lose in 2017 with the demise of our Australian car manufacturing industry.

Morley says...

YEP, A Centura with a Hemi six was certainly a piece of work both in the day and even now, I’d venture.Yes, a modern hot-hatch these days would see it off in a straight line (and everywhere else) but the bottom-end torque of those big, dinosaur sixes was what made them special. Forget about a five-speed gearbox, you really didn’t need it. Hell, even the four-speed was borderline overkill.

Makes you wonder why the world and his dog is crazy for Toranas when the Chrysler alternative was so much faster than a 202-powered Trarna. And as for the Cortina… Even with (actually, especially with) the 250 cubic-inch six fitted, a TC Cortina had no sidestep to speak of, and while it was quick enough (or too quick, depending on how you look at it) it lacked the polish to make it a proper fast car.

By the way, I mentioned last issue a story I heard where the TC Cortina XL/E was fitted with the mandatory option of a vinyl roof to hide the fact that the imported turret needed to be hacked up and welded back together to fit the local bodies. Things is, fellow UC contributor Rob Blackbourn used to work for the blue oval back in the day and reckons he can’t recall that happening. But what he could remember was the P5 LTDs of the early 1970s which were fitted with stretched Falcon roofs that were sliced in two about where the B-pillars ran, then had a section of metal welded in to make them fit the longer wheelbase LTD. And those cars, says Blackbourn, were definitely fitted with a mandatory vinyl roof as a neat, cost-effective way to cover up the hatchet job on the turret. No wonder the buggers rusted.