Greg Gray, Email

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The latest episode to make me wonder about mankind all started a few days ago when I jumped in the Melbourne Bloke Centre tow-pig, ran the fuel pump for a second or two and then hit the key on 304 cubic inches of fury. Okay, fury is taking the piss, but with a big engine in a light car, a short first gear and a slippery diff, this thing would pull a pit-bull off a poodle.

The next thing to do Ė because the air-con hasnít worked since John Howard was PM Ė is hit the window switch. The glass rattles down its runners (the rubber guides are living with Little Johnny these days) until it gets to about 200mm from the bottom of its travel, at which point thereís a creak, a whump and a giant bang as the glass jumps ship and falls into the bottom of the door. I try to wind the thing up, but all I can hear is the electric motor straining with a nnng nnng nnng noise like a fat bloke trying to pass a cheese grater. Bugger.

Down at the MBC, instead of writing this column (which would have been impossible, I know, because none of this had happened yet, but you get my drift) I rip into the door, removing the trim and taking a squiz. Itís a mess in there. I could buy all the bits to rebuild the doorís innards but, frankly, since the value of this vehicle doubles when a good song comes on the AirChief push-button, thatís not really an option.

A much cheaper solution would be to buy a complete second-hand door and just bolt it on, complete with working window. So I hit the internerd and found a buy-sell site, upon which some random bloke six suburbs over was selling a few doors of the right make and model. I collared the phone and gave him a quick pop quiz on what he had. Yes, he says, I have two doors that will fit your car. Oneís red and oneís black, he says. (My carís white. Of course.) The red one has a bit of damage, he tells me, but they both have electric windows and theyíre complete bar the door trim. Twenty-bucks apiece. Iíll see you in 20 minutes, I tell him.

When I get there, Old Mate takes me into the backyard where, along the back fence, are lined up probably two dozen doors. Now, exactly how a person winds up with enough doors for six cars, but no actual cars, is anybodyís guess. But I would have thought there were better things to collect. Like dead birds or navel lint or whatever.

Matey allows me a moment to admire his cache and then drags out the red and black doors in question. The red one does, indeed, have a bit of damage. Quite a bit. In fact itís a damage with a bit of door. And itís also a manual-window job. No good. But the black one? Um, it has an electric window, but itís also damaged, including a screwdriver sized hole near the exterior handle (maybe thatís how he managed to curate this remarkable collection). Itís damaged too, I point out. Ah, says the bloke, so it is.

No good to me, mate, I break the news to him. Okay, he says, what about ten bucks and you can swap out the guts of this one into your car. Heís missing the point: I want a simple, quick fix to keep a shitbox on the road till the next calamity, not a project. So I turn down his offer of 50 per cent off.

Then he tells me that if the doors arenít gone by the end of the week, theyíre going to the scrappies. Now, If Iíd lured a bloke across six suburbs to look at a product Iíve misrepresented (inadvertently, but anywayÖ) over the phone, Iíd be inclined to give him the better of the two doors for nix. Just for his trouble. Especially if Iím probably going to junk it anyway. Not this bloke, he lets me walk. Which, if I canít fix the tow-pig is looking like my immediate future anyway.

The Blue Ovalís finest?

Wondering if you could tell me where I can find information on which Ford to buy from a collectability point of view. Iím thinking either Tickford TE50, TS50, Pursuit Ute, EL XR8 sedan, XR8 Ute or Tickford NL Fairlane. I want to buy something, but Iím not sure which one and I donít want to throw money away.

Greg Gray, Email

Merley Says

WELL GREG, thereís a million ways to get an idea of whatís what in the Ford world, starting with car clubs and the various websites that deal with classic and collectible cars. Even sitting down for a beer with a few mates who own old cars is a great way of getting an idea of whatís out there and whatís worth owning.

But since youíve asked, hereís my two bobís worth:

I reckon all the cars youíve listed will one day be collectible to an extent. Thatís just how the world works as the planet keeps turning, clocks keep ticking and new cars become more like appliances. For my money, the EL XR8 is probably the one Iíd go for from that lot, based on a couple of things. The first is that theyíre great value right now and thereís a heap of them out there from which to choose. Plus, they look great and they go like the blazes.

The Tickford AU-based stuff never really gelled with a lot of Aussies, mainly because they were marketed as luxury performance cars rather than blood-and-guts muscle cars. That probably had a bit to do with the fact that they couldnít match the HSV stuff for straight-line pace, so Tickford played the sophisticate card. Relatively unsuccessfully, it should be pointed out. The exception would be a Tickford with the optional 5.6-litre stroker V8. These will eventually be worth real money, purely because theyíre a factory-built oddity. But they go hard and theyíre good to drive, even if theyíre a bit harsh when you rev them and they drink like a sailor on his first night of shore leave.

Itís kind of set in stone that a sedan will always be worth more than the ute version of the same car, so keep that in mind, too. But the one youíve missed here is probably the late-model Ford that Iíd be most inclined to make space for at the MBC. And that would be a Series 3 AU Falcon XR8. Early ones had alloy cylinder heads, the later ones got a locallydeveloped (Yella Terra, I think it was) head with bigger ports, but either version made 220kW and represented the Windsor five-litreís finest hour. The engines were all more or less hand-made and they just sing. And with the improved graphics of the Series 3 AU and the quad-headlight stuff, they even look good. Throw in the fact that I reckon the AU was the best steering Aussie car ever to bear a Falcon badge, and you can see my point.

Trivial pursuit


You kind of know youíve made it in motorsport when you get banned. Thatís what happened in NASCAR to the glorious Dodge Charger Daytona back in 1970 after it blew the opposition out of the water and broke the 200mph barrier for the first time on a track. NASCAR moved to ban all aero cars as a result. The Daytonaís close relation, the Plymouth Super Bird, suffered the same fate.

Another victim

After reading Jason Rickereyís letter (Unique Cars December 2017) my own nightmare resurfaced. I had the misfortune of entrusting my pristine 1967 Mustang Coupe to a business that had slick advertising, a great looking showroom and that could talk the talk. The work, that should only have taken a couple of weeks, took 11 whole months. The oncesmooth paintwork now felt like sandpaper, sitting out in the weather for ten and a half months of that period.


The original quote had doubled to almost the cost of a new Falcon/Commodore. As a parting gift the left window mechanism was broken, even though I had it replaced prior to sending the car to this hellhole.

Even though the Mustang passed rego it was dangerous to drive and I almost had a couple of serious accidents. After finding an honest and competent mechanic, I had to redo most of the previous work. I have receipts from the second mechanic that mirrors the original work. Iím lucky to have a wife to let me pay money for the same work twice. There must be other poor souls out there who are unable to finish their classic cars after being ripped off.

My mistake was that I didnít ask other car enthusiasts first. Before you trust your pride and joy to anyone do a lot of background checks first.

Tom Byrnes, Brisbane, QLD

Merley Says

JEEZ, THIS is starting to scare me. Iíve had the odd dealing with a business that hasnít been entirely above board, but never anything like the horror stories Iím hearing after reading Jasonís letter a couple of issues ago.

Iím staggered, Tom, that a business could leave an otherwise pristine car out in the weather even overnight, let along more than 10 months. I wouldnít do it to my own precious metal, so I canít see how a business can justify doing it to a car thatís been entrusted to them. Makes you think that some businesses are out there to make our automotive dreams come true, and others are out there to make money.

My advice to anybody to whom this sort of thing happens is to get in contact with their State or Territory motoring club and have an independent inspection carried out. That way, any safety issues (such as you discovered on the first drive after the work was `doneí) will be found and logged. And believe me, if thereís one organisation the dodgy operators out there are terrified of, itís the motoring clubs. That said, attempting legal action will often just see the shifty bastards close the doors on the shop and declare themselves bankrupt. Hangingís too good for Ďem.

The shiftiest treatment I ever got was as a young kid buying my first car (And, yes, it was my own money. If you knew my old man, you wouldnít need to have asked that one.) Anyway, it was a HQ Holden that I bought from a used-car dealer in my home town and, even though it was only a decade old (not an old car by modern standards) it was pretty well used and abused. But, as mandated by the law at the time, the car yard sold it to me with a roadworthy certificate. Three weeks later when the rego ran out, I figured Iíd take it back to the same car-yard for the roadworthyÖit was only three weeks ago, right? Yeah, well, it seemed in those three weeks the indicator lenses had faded from roadworthy to unroadworthy and a lower ball-joint had also worn. Not in the last 10 years, mind; just in the last three weeks.

But just to prove that there are some good guys out there, after Jason Rickersyís letter laying his soul bare over the mistreatment of his HZ Holden, I was contacted by a bloke name of Paul Ford who offered Jason first dibs on a potential replacement for his lost HZ Holden. Paul knew the car he was selling would never be the family heirloom that Jasonís original HZ was, but it was a gesture typical of the calibre of gentlemen (and ladies) who read this column.

Unique Cars got involved to broker whatever deal came out of it, but by then, Jason had already bought another car. The last time we swapped emails, Jasonís dad was actually driving the new Holden across the Nullarbor to their home town of Balcatta. Which means Paulís bright orange, survivor V8 HZ Holden is still up for grabs. In fact, weíve featured it elsewhere in this magazine. DO myself and editor Guido a huge favour and buy it before one of us does. Please.

Pinless grenade?

To Gary Black (Issue 410, and his question about which BMW 3-Series to buy); go for the 330ci, you wonít be disappointed. Iím biased having owned one for the past four years Ė a 2004 E46 330ci M Sport Individual. Love it. Those sixes are such a sweet motor and sound awesome at 6000 rpm.

Personally I prefer the M Sport, the subtle body kit and 18-inch wheels give it a bit more pizzazz, if thatís your thing. Mineís a five-speed auto but donít let that put you off; it is quite happy to be used as a manual along your favourite bit of road. As with all cars, especially BMWs, look for a complete service history.

One thing Morley forgot to mention however, is something I wrote in about a couple of years ago and itís called the DISA valve. A small pin in this valve has a tendency to fall out into the inlet manifold with potentially dire consequences. BMW is aware of it but doesnít want to know about it, but Iíll wager that your local dealer has experienced the problem on the 2.5 and three-litre motors in the E46s and X5s. Google it, thereís plenty of info out there.

There are kits available for around $120 to 150 online to replace the pin and flap and it is a DIY job if youíre handy. In my case the pin was found in the bottom of the inlet manifold! Iím currently running without the pin and flap with no appreciable difference in performance. Iíll eventually get around to modifying the second hand DISA I bought online and fitting it. Good hunting.

Laurie Floys Waranga Shores, Vic

Merley Says

AH, LAURIE, so it was you that wrote to me some time back on the subject of pins and valves in BMW sixes. When I got Garyís letter, I went back through my emails to try to find your letter, because somewhere in the dim, dark recesses of what passes for my mind, I recalled that somebody had mentioned a pin that could fall into the inlet manifold and, if you were unlucky, into the engine proper where it could do untold damage to those lovely little straight-six innards.

Typically (and if you could see my desk, youíd understand) I couldnít find your email, but here you are: Popping up all on your own. So thanks for educating me again. Iím not familiar with the wee pin youíre talking about, but if thereís a design flaw that allows anything to drop into the inlet manifold, then it needs to be sorted out before all hell breaks loose.

Anyways, armed with your info that itís called a DISA valve, I managed to find out a bit more about it. It seems the unit is a control valve to alter the effective length of the intake runner. At low engine speeds, the valve forces air through a more circuitous route and allows for a shorter, straighter shot at the intake valves at higher engine speeds. The idea is not exclusive to BMW, but it helps make a smaller capacity engine behave like a bigger one with a broader spread of grunt.

When used in conjunction with variable valve timing (VANOS, in BMW-speak) the end result can be a 2.5-litre six that performs and feels like a three-litre. Some BMW engines actually have two DISA valves, Iím told.

You can tell that your DISA valve is heading for the end of the road if the engine starts rattling from somewhere in the intake tract. Apparently, replacement is no big deal, but while you, Laurie, have elected to run without the valve, Iím told that the engine will, indeed, run better with the valve in place. Apparently, rough running is a symptom off a dud (or missing) DISA valve, and without it, you wonít have the benefit of that variable intake-tract length thing working for you.

Iím not sure what the default tract length is without the valve fitted, but Iíd say that youíre currently running with either the long tract or the short tract exclusively. And if you canít feel any difference, thatís probably because you either never rev the engine beyond 2500rpm (so, never need the shorter tract) or you redline it in every gear (and never need the longer tract). Itíll be interesting to see if you notice a difference when you fit your new DISA valve. Let us know.


Imperfect history

I can believe that Peter Brock once raced a BMW and a Ford. I can even cope with the news that he also built a limited edition Ford Falcon. But please, please tell me that he never tried to flog Lada cars. My mates reckon he did, but I say itís the beer talking. Tell me it aint so.

Mark Everett, Geelong, VIC.

Merley Says

BAD NEWS, Mark, on two levels. First bit of bad news is that P Brock did, indeed, sell Lada road cars to unsuspecting Australians. Second bit of bad news: Youíre mates were right.

Yep, the Peter Brock story post the Holden divorce of 1987 makes for some remarkable reading. With Holden giving PB the flick over the Energy Polariser (and, arguably, other stuff, but the Polariser was the last straw) Brock sank to some serious retail depths as he tried to keep his business alive and his racing on track.

The first sin (for the purists) was to race a BMW M3 and then a Ford Sierra, as alternatives to the Holdens with which he had made his name. Most of us could deal with that, but what came next was truly surreal. See, before, where the HDT road-car business had funded the racing, Brock suddenly found himself without a means of keeping the race team alive and active. So Brocky dusted off the slide-rule and designed a Brock-mobile version of the then-new Ford Falcon EA.

Called the B8, the Falcon got a body kit, some wheels and a performance exhaust to lift power to a claimed 164kW from the 3.9-litre six. The Ford badge was bad enough, but in 1989, The Brock Organisation (as it was then known) became a partner to the importer of Lada cars in Australia. As well as developing a Brock version of the Lada Samara (with retuned suspension no less) the Brock team did a lot of rectification work to the cars, necessary to make them a saleable commodity outside of Russia (which was still the USSR, remember). But the idea was half-arsed and the end result not even that good, and the venture was done and dusted after just a few months.

How many Brock Ladas were sold? Not sure, but you do see the odd one come up for sale every now and then. And itíd have to be a genuine Brock Samara because, letís face it, who the hell would bother faking one? Actually, donít answer that.

My favourite Brock Lada story happened at the press launch of the Brock-modified version, held in Melbourne. The editor of the magazine I was working for at the time attended and was in a Brock Samara with PB in the jump seat, telling my editor what a great transformation had been wrought on the little Lada. Which might have washed had my editor not straight-lined a roundabout and torn the giblets out of the thing mid-sentence. Laugh? We nearlyÖ

Hereís my tip


The big hardware chain store wanted $2 for six flat washers. Now, a washer is worth, letís say 10 cents. So youíre paying more for warehousing, packaging and bar-coding than for the damn washers. Then at a swap meet, I found a box of 120 mixed size washers for 10 bucks, and the Valiant bumper bar Iíve been hunting for years. Bought both. So, donít underestimate swap meets. Theyíre a fun* day out as well. (*Your significant other may not agree. Best take a mate** instead. He can help you carry your bumper bar.) (**So thatís why I was there... Guido.)

Trivial pursuit


Not sure if this is the absolute worldís first, but the earliest reference I can find to a person being charged for drink driving happened way back in 1897. George Smith, a pommy cabbie, was fined 20 shillings in September of that year after crashing his electric cab into the front of a building in New Bond Street in London, while under the affluence of incohol.

Will it fit?

Will an LS1 V8 fit in a Torana LH? My mates all reckon itís possible and Iím inclined to agree since the LH and LX both had V8 options (not the LS1, though). But how would you go with rego?

Will McVeigh, Syoney, NSW

Merley Says

MATE, GRAB a copy of Street Machine magazine and have a flip through. Chances are youíll find everything from an old Volvo to an MX-5 with an LS1 Chevy bolted up. Anything can be made to fit anything, it would seem, and youíre right, with an engine bay already designed to take an Aussie Holden V8, the LS1 should be a relatively simple swap. (Note the use of the word `relativelyí.) I reckon thereís probably even an off-the-shelf kit to do it thatís already been engineered.

Which brings me to the second part of your question: legality. Look, Iím no expert here, and the best advice is to talk to the rego authorities in your State or Territory before you even light the gas-axe. The rules will vary from state to state and what might be perfectly acceptable down here in Victoria, might not wash in NSW. Or vice-versa.


And aside from that, thereís a lot to consider. Stuff like power-steering, exhaust systems and the wiring and computer to make the new engine talk to the old car. But as LS1 swaps go, Iíd say the Torana shouldnít impose any new problems of its own. Also, when it comes to having the thing signed off by an engineer, youíve probably got to prove that the pollution gear and such is all fitted and working. Itís no small job, by any means, and I can see why some folks stick with old-school stuff like Chev small-blocks and carburettors.

Set up right, thereís absolutely nothing wrong with a 350 Chev stroked to 383 cubes and a big Holley carb feeding it. Yes, the LS1 will be more economical and will idle better, but if you want a smooth idle and 40 milesper-gallon, the Toyota