SEND YOUR EMAILS TO: or via snail mail at Unique Cars, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, 3166. Yep, he’s gonna fix you up in no time…


I’ve been driving quite a few tuned new cars lately.

Mostly the new Mustang. Seems that as Aussie car production bites the dust, people like you and me are already looking around for the next big thing.

And the Mustang would appear to be it.

The point of all this is that I’ve now been able to drive, back to back, variations of the same car which is not something you get to do too often. And in the case of the Mustang, I’ve been treated to cars with turbocharged engines, supercharged engines and modified normally aspirated engines. And I’ve come to a conclusion about which is my favourite.

The turbo versions have been fast, no doubt about that, but they can be pretty frenetic and hard to rein in when all you want to do is kick back and trundle down to the shops for bread and milk. And then there’s the compressed-air orchestra that might be fun for the first five minutes, but not for too long after that.

The supercharged Stangs I’ve sampled lately have been just as fast and with some boasting more than 700 horsepower and torque to match. But, again, they seem kind of overkill in some situations. That’s where the skill of the tuner comes into play, I guess, and it’s also true that some have been more civilised than others.

My pick of those blown Mustangs would probably be a supercharged one with a tune that makes it feel like a factory car with an eight-litre engine, rather than a souped up hot-rod.

So I’m getting old, then, am I? Hang on a minute.

Because the Mustangs that have impressed me most have been the ones with neither turbos nor superchargers but a big bumpstick, cold-air intake and headers instead. Yep, a good old cammy N/A engine. No, they won’t get down the quarter quite as fast as the same car with forced induction, but there’ll be less in it than you might think, because launching big heavy cars like this is always the secret to a fast time, not necessarily whether they have five, six or seven-hundred neddies. And for the sheer thrill of feeling an engine well up as it hits its sweet spot and then yowl all the way to redline is something that caught my attention as a kid and has never left me.

I love the way a big cam makes the engine hustle at idle and that offbeat, two-step rhythm still says ‘performance’ to an old-school bloke like me.

Meantime, I’m here to tell you that a cammy, modern-design five-litre V8 is not the tetchy, impatient thing that big-cam engines once were. There’s still oodles of bottom end torque and the current state of electronic control over the engine means that a tuner who knows what he or she is doing can zap a tune into the ECU that still allows for an acceptable idle speed as well as preserving other nice things about the modern world such as valet modes and even an idle-up function when you hit the A/C button on a summer’s day.

A cammed-up N/A motor is also more likely to survive the inevitable track-day (pure physics at this point) and if you talk to a race driver, they’ll probably tell you that an atmo engine is more predictable and progressive in its power delivery, making it a better bet on the Nurburgring. Or anywhere else. Not for nothing is the Porsche GT3 mill the only atmo engine that brand makes these days.

I guess this rationale is why I’m still a consumer of conventional manual gearboxes when the rest of the world has gone auto or double-clutch. It’s also probably why my 1980 Escort doesn’t have a turbocharger hanging off its little Pinto block. But you can bet your backside it has, headers, some extra compression and the world’s silliest camshaft. And an idle to match.

Question is; am I one out and one back? Or are there others out there who share my – possibly crazy – view?

A is for Aeroplane

As requested by Mr Morley in the latest Unique Cars magazine, here’s some more information on aeroplanes powered by a Model A Ford engine. The plane that I am building, powered by a Model A Ford engine, was designed in 1928 by Bernard Pietenpol (BHP), a practical genius who could be described as the father of homebuilt aircraft. In the early 1920s he built a number of planes of his own design using the Model T Ford engine. With the introduction of the Model A Ford in 1928, he designed a new craft to utilise the new engine. This became known as the Air Camper after the plans were serialised over four issues of the Modern Mechanics and Inventions magazine. How this came about makes for great reading.

In 1930, not long after he had built his airplane, the editor of the magazine wrote that he was not a fan of using automobile engines and specifically stated that the A Ford engine could not be used. Pietenpol took this as a challenge, and he and a friend, flying a second Pietenpol-built plane, flew up to where the editor was attending a fly-in. The upshot of this was that the editor was so impressed with the plane’s design, safety and flight characteristics that, in 1931, he serialised the plans over four issues of the magazine.

The design, named the Air Camper, was modified in the early 1930s, and a single seater, called the Sky Scout, was designed in 1933 (and again, the plans were published in the same magazine).

The Ford motor is reversed in the plane with the prop attached to the crankflange via a T Ford transmission shaft which, amazingly, matches up perfectly. Other modifications include replacing the distributer with a magneto and modifications to the oiling system necessary due to the repositioning of the engine.

Other changes are made to reduce the weight.

In the early 1960s Chevrolet introduced the Corvair, a rear-engined car with an air-cooled flat six, an engine more aviation than automobile. The Corvair is remembered by many for its inclusion in Ralph Nader’s book ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’. Pietenpol embraced this engine for his planes and it is used by many builders in the USA.

Unfortunately, Corvair engines in Australia are as scarce as rocking-horse


I got to wondering the other day about who had the first official driver’s license. Should have known it’d turn out to be the bloke who had the first proper car, Karl Benz. Apparently, Karl gained written permission from the German State of Baden to operate his motorwagen in 1888.

Seems the locals had been complaining about the noise and smell up until then. So, whiny neighbours are nothing new after all.


We now take car radios for absolute granted, but the whole idea nearly didn’t make it. The two Americans trying to make the car radio concept workable back in 1929, William Lear and Elmer Wavering, had built a prototype and installed it in a Studebaker. They visited the local bank to get a loan to go into production and decided to help things along by installing a spare radio in the bank manager’s Packard. Thirty minutes later, the Packard caught fire. No, they didn’t get the loan. But the brand they eventually established? Motorola.

manure. This is the main reason I have chosen the Ford; availability, and also for nostalgia.

The main reason the A Ford engine is so suitable is it produces high torque at low revs, and will spin a large propeller. So far, I believe, over 40 different engines have been used to power this craft. The design allows the wing to be moved to accommodate changes in weight and balance. VW engines do not provide enough torque at low revs to spin a big prop.

Plans for this plane, and the Sky Scout, are still available from Bernard’s grandson, Andrew. Check out the Pietenpol Aircraft Company website.

David Boarder, Email.

WELL, DAVID, I opened my big trap, and you’ve come up with the goods. At the time, I recall I questioned the sanity in using a Ford Model A engine in a flying machine of any sort, but you’ve now proved to me that it’s a real `thing’. In fact, I jumped on to the internerd after receiving your letter and found a stack of videos of Model A-powered Pietenpol-made planes that have been resurrected, restored and are now droning through the skies with that unmistakable Model A four-cylinder soundtrack blasting from the open pipes. This one was probably the best of them and shows the whole thing in incredible detail: And I suppose that, provided you can make the engine reliable, there’s no reason not to use a low-revving, big-torqueat- small-revs engine in a plane, is there? And since the rest of the deal is fabric, timber, string and optimism, maybe engine reliability is the least of your worries.

But it looks like you know what you’re doing, so good luck with it and I hope to come and watch it fly one of these days. Emphasis on `watching’; not joining you in the cockpit.

But seriously, thanks for getting back to me and sharing a truly remarkable, if somewhat tangential, view of the old Model A Ford.

Stop-start hater

Just got around to reading Issue 401 (and 402 arrived yesterday so that’s how far behind I am.) Anyway, apart from the usual stories about many of the cars I have owned, I came across Morley’s whinge about the stop-start function becoming ubiquitous in modern cars. It happens that my holiday looking after my brother’s cat – a terrific moggy named Kelly – also gave me the opportunity to drive his Subaru Forester with this feature.

Within minutes in Melbourne traffic it became apparent that he, my brother, hated it and

so did I. There is a button which allows you to disable stop-start, temporarily, but it means remembering to do it each time you re-start, and it means having a prominent warning light on the dashboard. Forget to do it and you get to your first stop and the engine stops.

Less impatient people than me might not swear loudly each time that happened.

So, Morley add me to your list of stop-start opponents, and if you find out how to disable it permanently, my bro will be interested since the manual doesn’t tell you. Can I add another whinge? Those door locks that activate 20 seconds after you start, trapping you inside whether you want to be or not.

Richard Creswick Virginia, NT

THAT’S A RELIEF; I was hoping it wasn’t just me that could gleefully stab a car engineer in the neck every time the damn car I’m driving cuts out at the lights. Partly it’s the element of surprise that gives me a rude shock.

The number of cars I’ve owned over the years that would cut out at the lights, though not fitted with stop-start, just poor tuning or worn out carbys, have conditioned me to get ready to panic when it happens, even now, many years later. But I also detest the noise and vibration that occurs when the stop-start does its thing, and how anybody ever thought it would be a good idea on a diesel is beyond me.

Funny thing is, in the last couple of years that I’ve been spouting my hatred of stop-starts, I’ve actually run into a few people who reckon it doesn’t bother them. After a while. Which just makes me wonder what sort of misery and contempt one can condition oneself to tolerate. Mind you, that would explain why nobody in the crowd has bitch-slapped Bernard Tomic yet.

Hating stop-start kind of makes me feel a little hypocritical, though, ‘cos I’m the first one to jump up and down when a dopey politician starts promoting “our friend, coal” or claiming that wind turbines offend his stupid, cigar-smoking, poorpeople- bullying sensibilities.

But I just reckon that


stop-start is a dolphin-hug too far. And besides, it’s stop-gap technology: Once we’re all driving plug-in electric cars (and if you’ve driven something like a Tesla, believe me, it aint all bad news) stop-start will be utterly redundant. And good riddance.

And I’m with you on the automatic door-locking thing. From what I can gather, it was a modification aimed at the USA market and designed to stop car-jackings. But it makes me wonder what happens when the cavalry arrives to rescue you from your crashed car, you’re taking a nap and the doors are locked. I reckon the solution Holden came up with a few years ago is a better one: Click the unlock button on the key once and only the driver’s door opens. Press it twice and all the doors unlock.

That’s a great way to make sure nobody hiding on the passenger’s side of the car in an underground car-park jumps in with you to help with the drive home. Which, sadly, is apparently a thing these days. Mind you, anybody trying that on me would want to be hoping I hadn’t just been to the baseball-bat store on my way home after work.

Cortina answers

Steve Martin, a local GT500 Cortina owner showed me your recent article in Unique Cars issue 402 on Cortina GT500 fuel tanks.

I have been maintaining the Cortina GT 500 and Fastback Register since 1992 after GT500 owners Graham Hoinville (VIC) Garry Saunderson (QLD) Steve Martin (TAS) and I met up in the inaugural Targa Tasmania. Since then I have compiled a huge amount of information on Cortina GT500s.

The high mounted fuel tank idea I believe came from the UK Ford Team rally cars. The locally built aluminium equivalent and its use for Bathurst by Harry Firth was a master stroke as it enabled just one stop in the old 500 mile race – its size wasn’t an accident.

Please find attached photos of the fuel tank layout in Steve’s car as well as a Ford Motor Company Bulletin on a warranty issue with the fuel tanks. The extra brace was to stop the roof of the bottom tank vibrating up and down under the weight of the fuel in the top tank. The accompanying factory diagram should be the definite reference on fuel tank layout. Note also the location of the other breather to the top tank.

Steve’s car has a length of copper pipe between the top and bottom tank (see picture). It was like that when purchased in 1992 and was left that way during its restoration.

I hope this information answers your questions and please contact me if


you need to know any other information about Cortina GT500s.

Randall Langdon, Launceston, TAS.

THANKS FOR helping solve this one, Randall. I reckon you’re on the right tram with the reference to the Ford UK rally cars, as Ford was heavily involved at a factory level in rallying in those days. So it would make sense that it had sunk plenty of development into the concept of making this little blue-collar car such a champion set of competition wheels.

And you’re right about one other thing: If Harry Firth did it, it was surely not by chance that the end result wound up the way it did. As a master tactician, they’d didn’t come much better – or craftier - than Harry. Thanks again for the info, I’m sure the rest of the UC crowd will lap it up.

And geez; the original Targa Tasmania is where you met your Cortina lovin’ cohort. That’s getting on for 26 years ago. And you’re still all talking to each other! But tell me something, is your mate Graham Hoinville any relation to Steve Hoinville who used to work for Ford Oz and had a big hand in building a certain V10 truck-engined Mustang drift-car concept I drove a few years back? Small world, eh?

Albion kitchen

I used to tour the south Island of New Zealand in the late 70s, with a bunch of crazy Kiwis in an old Albion Bus. We often used the engine compartment as a cooker, as it was easy to access from inside the cabin. One of the guys was a trained chef and he could do a full roast, without a trace of diesel fumes.

Though we’d only use it if we were in a hurry, which was rare and it mainly got used to flash cure our “herbal tobacco” as we trundled around the shaky isles. Ah, memories... I think I’m fortunate to still have them!

Gary G Smith Ravenshoe, QLD

I’VE HEARD lots of yarns of meals being prepared on a hot car or truck manifold over the years.

But I’ve never heard of a full-on Sunday roast being prepared on a bus diesel.

Maybe it wasn’t Sunday, but from the sounds of things, you and your Kiwi mates probably didn’t know what day it was for much of


Get youself to Sydney Motorsport Park to see over 1900 veteran and classic vehicles from over 150 clubs on dispaly and on parade.

It’s on rain, hail or shine and there’s plenty to do indoors.

Contact: sydneymotorsportpark.

the time. I’d be interested to know a bit more, as I reckon a fumy, oil-covered old diesel engine would be certain to impart a bit of its own – um – flavour to the finished product. Maybe a cheeky little 20W50 jus?

I tried it once, but only to heat up a can of baked beans for brekkie toast somewhere up in the high country. It was a Pajero diesel and I remember thinking the hot-running turbo was the automotive chef’s version of a microwave. I also remember I had to drive it around in circles a few times to get some heat into the turbo housing while trying not to create so much centrifugal force that the beans made a leap for freedom.

There’s bound to be a bit more to this. Anybody else got some tips? And let’s face it, if celebrity chefs can make big dollars screaming at hapless amateurs in iffy TV shows, there’s got to be a book in engine-bay gastronomy, yeah?

Got a light?

The Katoomba Commer in your June issue brought to mind this photo of my father pumping out his petrol tanker after the trailer axle came adrift in the centre of town in Hamilton, NZ. The traffic cop in front is making sure no one drops any cigarette butts.

Europa (the brand of Petrol) at the time did not publicise the fact that their fuel was imported from Russia. Its advertising slogan was “Clean burning Europa – the petrol with pep”. The inherent danger of the situation might be treated a bit differently today.

Jim Ward, Auckland NZ.

UM, YEAH, I reckon you’re right about the situation warranting a bit more attention these days. Just for starters, you’d have the EPA there in a heartbeat, making sure none of the petrol got into the local waterways, the road would be closed and anything with a pulse would have been evacuated and sent to a crisis assembly facility in the next parish. Oh, and there’d be half a dozen TV news crews there and a few helicopters in the sky.

Maybe somebody can correct me here, but I don’t think we ever got Europa petrol in Australia. And having just looked it up, I can see why: It was a New Zealand brand. Europa was the company started in 1931 and owned by the Todd


family of Dunedin. The stuff was apparently sold through a chain of servos part owned by none other than the New Zealand Farmer’s Union.

And you’re right, it was sourced from Russia because that country was a cheap place to get your petrol back in a time when supply would have been a real problem. BP took a 60 per cent stake in the Europa brand in the 70s and the BP shield finally replaced the Europa logo in about 1989.

By sheer coincidence, I’ve had a bit to do with Russian petrol over the years. Those encounters have involved riding motorbikes across Central Asia and rallying a Porsche Cayenne in a two-week, 7500km rally-raid known as the Transsyberia Rallye which, as the name suggests, took us across Siberia and into Mongolia.

So I’ve pumped my share of Ruski gasoline. And I’ve gotta tell you, it smells like no other petrol I’ve ever encountered. You really don’t want to be standing too close to the nozzle when filling up in Russia.

The closest description I can give you is that the stuff smells awfully like nail-polish remover (It removes Superglue, okay.) so I’m figuring it’s full of acetone or something similar. Any petro-chemical geniuses out there to help me with this one?

Given the things I’ve eaten at Russian cafes and bistros and the variable quality of domestic vodka, nothing would surprise me when it comes to what they put in their fuel. That said, every engine I’ve pumped it into seemed to run like a good `un, so who knows?


If like me, you’ve staggered into the emergency department, with a chunk of car sticking out of yer eyeball, you’ll hopefully have grasped the importance of safety goggles. If not, read on: Next time you’re at the bolt shop, or hardware shop or anywhere else that sells them, grab a few pairs of googles and leave them around the workshop so you’ll always have a pair handy – on top of the toolbox; on the drill-press; near the compressor; even a pair on the dash of your current project. No excuses then. I even found a style that fits over my reading glasses.

So, yes, I look like a doubleglazed dork, but hopefully, I won’t be meeting you in emergency. Not with an eye injury, anyway.