BUYER GUIDE

CHRYSLER CENTURA

THE FRENCH SOURCED CENTURA WAS NO MATCH FOR ITS MID-SIZE RIVALS

Poor old Chrysler spent its entire Australian existence playing catch-up with Holden and Ford. Even its French-sourced Centura was no match for their mid-sized contenders.

It started life as a challenger to models like the Peugeot and Renault 20 and while the 2.0-litre version did sell briefly in Australia it served principally as the platform for a six-cylinder hybrid that was unique to this country.

Launched at the time buyers were looking for smaller, more economical models, the six-cylinder Centura appeared in 1975 and was in trouble immediately. Initially it came with 3.5 or 4.0-litre engine in XL or GL trim. Two years later when the updated KC model was introduced, the offerings were designated GL or GLX and only the 4.0-litre engine remained available.

Most Centuras were automatic, some came with a three-speed floor-shift manual transmission and a few were built with the Borg-Warner four-speed used in Chargers. Disc front brakes and radial-ply tyres were standard as was a rear brake pressure proportioning valve that minimised lock-up and helped the Centura Six stop several metres sooner than a Torana or six-cylinder Cortina.

Centuras could be specified with a Sports Package that included Charger-spec sports wheels, body stripes, ‘Boca Raton’ cloth seat inserts and a revised dash that accommodated a tachometer.

Fleet buyers were prime targets for the automatic 3.5-litre GL which at $5270 was $35 cheaper than the smaller-engined, Trimatic Torana SL. However, as was the case with its larger cars as well, Chrysler couldn’t overcome Holden’s entrenched brand loyalty.

Jumping up the model range to a GLX cost 20 per cent extra and these cars were sold mainly to private buyers. The front bucket seats reclined and were well-padded, with plenty of travel and decent legroom providing you ignored the complaints from those further rearward.

Cars that combined the 245 engine and three-speed manual transmission would reach 75km/h before first gear ran out of puff, ensuring your Centura would be first away from the lights unless confronted by a V8. Top speed from the automatic was 170km/h and it was said that a 4.0-litre four-speed would manage 184km/h.

The Centura shared its nose-heavy handling issues with the six-cylinder Cortinas and to a lesser extent the LH Torana. Wider wheels, stiffer springs and extreme camber settings all worked to a degree but the Centura did and still does carry the mantle of ‘lead-tipped arrow’.

MARKET REVIEW

The Centura was for so long derided or ignored that by the time anyone decided to preserve one, any really good examples were hard to find.

Some though must have been hidden away by visionary owners and they have been reappearing during the past 10 or so years. How the owners reacted to barely recouping what the cars had cost 40 years ago isn’t known.

A lot of surviving Centuras have gone to younger buyers who seem determined to keep them alive if not especially original. The engines respond well to injections of money and some owners have gone a lot further with interior mods, big wheels and wild paint to create fairly potent street-machines or serious drag cars.

Centuras that have been out of commission for many years will be a challenge to revive. Some may require so much spent on bodywork that they are only viable for people who can do their own welding and panel forming.

Excellent unmodified cars do occasionally appear in the market and sell well if their pricing is right. One seen recently at $17,000 may have taken a while to find a home but $10-12,000 is feasible for an automatic, with genuine four-speeds perhaps $3000 more.

1975 - 1978 CHRYSLER CENTURA

BODY & CHASSIS

Parts shortages and lack of interest from local suppliers could have killed off surviving Centuras. However the private market is holding stocks of decent parts including panels and brightwork. A complete body in reportedly rust-free condition seemed expensive at $4000 but sourcing all of the hanging and hinged panels would cost $2000+ before even considering the price of a sound body shell. Reproduction door mirrors produced in Thailand were recently being offered at $60 per pair. When checking a car look at the chassis rails for rust or damage, lower sections of the firewall, plenum ahead of the windscreen, the turret and window surrounds.

VALUE RANGE

CHRYSLER CENTURA

FAIR $2000

GOOD $6500

EXCELLENT $12,500

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Not many problems here with durability or parts supply. Some owners might ‘enhance’ their engines for extra performance but nothing can rob the straight-six ‘hemi’ of its ability to travel big distances before needing major surgery. Top-end rattles are common but a set of solid valve lifters and high-performance valve springs cost less than $500 and are easily installed. Smoke and bearing rumbles indicate an engine past its prime. Most cars use Chrysler’s very durable automatic transmission and a genuine four-speed is a real find. Clutch shudder, especially in the three-speed manual with its high first gear, is a known problem.

NUMBER BUILT: 19,770 BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis, four-door sedan

ENGINE: 3521cc or 4018cc six-cylinder engine with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 103kW @ 4400rpm, 273Nm @ 1200rpm

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 9.4 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.7 seconds (4.0 auto)

TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers(r)

BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) power assisted

TYRES: 175SR-14 radial

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Suspension deficiencies were the Centura’s point of greatest weakness and the place where an owner with the right information can improve upon the factory’s flawed set-up. Unlike the big Valiants with their torsion bars, Centuras have coil springs which in conjunction with quality shock absorbers and bushings can reduce the nose-diving and wallowing that compromised original cars. Going too far destroys ride quality and induces bumpsteer. Disc rotors and pads (including upgrade kits), ball joints, uprated springs and shock absorbers are available. Check, especially in a car that wants to lock its front brakes, that the rears aren’t stone cold after a decent test drive.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

The trim fitted to these cars combined local and imported components and the durability wasn’t always flash. Seat frames can twist and adjusters jam. Make sure the column stalks aren’t taped up and the heater controls actually allow some heat into the car. Replacement seat-trim materials and carpets are available and the on-line parts market turns up all manner of useful spares including tail-lights and a very decent dash for $100. New starter motors and alternators are available at prices ranging from $300$900 – depending on how powerful and/ or authentic you want your replacement electrics to be.

FORD FAIRLANE ZF-ZG

THE ZF FAIRLANE REPRESENTED AN ASPIRATIONAL STEP

With a brand-new Falcon set to bring plenty of lookers into dealer showrooms, Ford wanted its ZF Fairlane to represent an aspirational step for those needing more space than was available in the XA range.

The ZF sat on the same 2946mm wheelbase as a wagon and the ZD Fairlane but had a wider track and was 50mm lower than the ZD it replaced. There was some criticism of the styling which was seen in some quarters as a little too close to the shape of the XA-XB Falcon.

A six-cylinder engine was standard on Custom versions with a 4.9-litre 302 V8 in the 500. Ford’s 5.8-litre, 351 cubic-inch engine was optional and commonly specified but it was only the 2V version – 194kW pitted against the weight a Fairlane wasn’t going to deliver GT-style performance.

The Fairlane dash design echoed the Falcon’s revamp, including a bigger version of the XA’s central ‘beak’ that angled minor switches and an air outlet towards the driver. Headlamp and wiper knobs were replaced by rocker switches but the under-dash handbrake remained impossible to reach comfortably in a seat belt.

The ZG was released in October 1973 and survived until early 1976. It had a more imposing front with a new plastic grille.

The ZG’s only major external change was the new chunky grille but beneath the metal, uprated shock absorbers and springs increased ground clearance without compromising the handling or ride quality. Or so Ford claimed.

Flashy colours and a multitude of options ensured that that no one needed to own a Fairlane that looked exactly like their neighbour’s. Big-ticket options included air-conditioning and the $184 wind-back sunroof but a remote-control door mirror added just $13.

Power steering was standard in the 500 or when the V8 engine was specified. Power disc brakes were fitted to all Fairlanes and higher seat backs provided driver and passenger with some whiplash protection if struck from behind.

The variable-ratio steering worked well at low speeds, allowing ZF-ZGs to be whirled through tight city streets and parked with minimal effort. Where the steering felt less comforting was in fast sweeping bends where the car could be thrown off line by mid-corner bumps. On loose or wet surfaces you could never be sure just where the front wheels were pointing.

MARKET REVIEW

ZF-ZG Fairlane production totalled 37,000 and you’d think that surviving cars might be easy to find. Not so. Preceding ZC-ZD models have over many years sparked greater collector interest and it is those cars that more often have been preserved.

With ZD 351 prices at or above $30,000, that situation is changing. Although more ZGs than ZFs were produced, the earlier cars are more commonly seen. They also seem to generate sightly more money than a ZG of similar quality.

ZF and ZGs appear regularly in Unique Cars classifieds but seem not to hang around for very long. Good examples are available at less than $12,000 and exceptional 351-engined cars can get beyond $22,000.

Once it was possible for switched-on enthusiasts to trawl the car yards and carparks of regional towns in search of Fairlanes that had avoided the rust that was common in coastal areas. Today, such enterprise has been negated by advances in communication and your best chance of getting hold of a car before someone else is to have alerts logged with several on-line sales sites.

1972 - 1976 FORD FAIRLANE ZF-ZG

BODY & CHASSIS

A ZF or ZG that 25 years ago went seriously rusty was very likely headed for the crusher. Even those cars that have been restored or preserved need to be closely checked for lurking rust and sub-standard repairs. Cars with a vinyl roof can be totally rotted under the covering and virtually worthless. Look for staining, especially around seams, bubbling at the base of rear pillars and around the rear window. Floors, especially the boot, lower door skins, front mudguards and suspension attachment points must also be carefully inspected. Damaged bumpers and trim can be difficult to replace. Rear light clusters are scarce and replacements have been seen at $500 each.

VALUE RANGE

FAIRLANE ZF-ZG

FAIR $5000

GOOD $13,500

EXCELLENT $22,500

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Any ZF-ZG engine will be inherently durable and very simple to recondition or replace once it does wear out. Tired engines clatter on start-up, trail exhaust smoke and frequently overheat. Only those that have been scrupulously maintained won’t leak oil from somewhere, but avoid cars with engine blocks liberally coated in ancient lubricant. Carburettor wear can cause fires so check for staining or a smell of petrol. Overheating is usually due to a clogged cooling system. Fairlanes encourage modification to extract additional power, but ensure that the changes have been professionally made.

The transmission should shift smoothly and engage without thumps or shuddering.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: ZF 17,306 ZG 19,556

BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis four-door sedan

ENGINE: 4089cc in-line six cylinder, 4942cc or 5766cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 194kW @ 4600 rpm, 479Nm @ 2600rpm (ZF 351)

PERFORMANCE: 0-97km/h – 10.2 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.8 seconds (ZF 351)

TRANSMISSION: three-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, control arms & anti-roll bar (f) live axle with semi-elliptic springs, locating links and telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) power assisted

TYRES: 7.35S14 cross-ply or ER70H14 radial

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Creaking ball joints and imprecise power steering are symptoms of a Fairlane frontend in need of urgent work. The good news is that parts needed to repair or replace all of the worn bits are available and generally cheap. New ball joints are less than $50 each, with complete control arms costing around $200. The under-dash handbrake can demand some muscle to activate, so check it will hold the car on an incline. New brake master cylinders are still available and reconditioned boosters cost around $300.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Finding a good Fairlane means tracking down a car with the interior largely intact and all the electrics working as they should. Electric windows were optional and costs will approach $2000 if all of them need work. The same applies to elderly air-conditioning systems that can swallow $1500$2000 in repairs and upgrading. Carpets, seat vinyl, knobs and other fiddly parts can all be found new. Cars with a factory sunroof are valuable property, so ensure the mechanism isn’t binding and there are no signs of water entry.

FORD FALCON ED-EL XR6

AFTER WATCHING HOLDEN RUN AWAY WITH THE SPORTY SEDAN MARKET FORD COUNTERED WITH THE SURPRISING XR6

Ford Australia in the early 1980s had been absolutely blindsided by a world market that predicted the imminent death of V8 engines and performance cars in general.

A decade later and after having to watch Holden run away with the sporty sedan market, Ford finally countered a predictably sporty XR8 and the surprising XR6. It didn’t have the growl but delivered pretty much the same power as the V8, sharper handling and had the edge in practicality.

First word of a sporty Falcon six came with the addition of a 161kW S Pack to the EBII range. The first stand-alone XR6 was the ED version, released in 1993.

Lifting the standard engine’s output to 161kW involved revised cylinder head porting, stronger valve springs and an increase in compression ratio. The exhaust changed as well but a lot of people weren’t happy with Ford’s approach. If you could stand some extra noise at highway speeds, after-market systems were more efficient and cheaper than Ford’s single to dual then back to single mess.

The differential ratio was lowered a little to trigger improved mid-range acceleration yet top speed was an achievable 215km/h.

Differentiating the XR6 from other EDs was a distinctive four-light nose and unobtrusive boot spoiler. Trim was bland, with durable cloth on the seats and cabin plastics that lasted longer than most when exposed to constant sunlight.

Loads of seat adjustment and a steering column that moved vertically would allow almost anyone to be comfortably seated in an XR6 for hours on end. That was particularly useful for those who ran frequently between major cities such as SydneyBrisbane. With a 68-litre tank capacity and Highway Cycle consumption of 9L/100km, the trip could be completed with a single fuel stop and mid-point driver swap.

The EF update in 1994 brought an elongated nose, bonnet flutes and a 3kW power increase. There was an expanded range of colours too, but this would be the last appearance of the XR6 station wagon that had debuted with the ED range.

Ford claimed that EL versions sold from 1996-98 were quieter than any previous Falcon, due to additional sound deadening and improved construction procedures. Certainly the customers seemed impressed and EL XR6 sales topped 3600 units. Cars sold after October 1997 included previously optional 16 inch alloys and air-conditioning as standard.

Although at least 20 years old, these Falcons still recommend themselves as enjoyable and practical everyday transport. They were the first Falcons with a driver-side air-bag standard and one for the passenger optional, although whether the actuators still work after 20 years is something that can’t be checked. They all had ABS as standard but XR6 brakes are a weak point.

MARKET REVIEW

XR6s should today rank as iconic Aussie performance cars yet they are virtually ignored and the best rarely sell for more than $6000. If you want a runabout with a bit of style and grunt, $3000 buys a decent car. Five-speed manuals command a small price premium and the scarce ED-EF wagons are $1500 dearer than sedans.

Sad fact is that XR6s were for too long regarded as cheap performance fodder to be thrashed or crashed and replaced. Any major mechanical failure would see the car scrapped without a second thought.

Cars to look with the future in mind will be low-km manuals in colours other than white or red. If a car looks the goods, get it checked by a body expert for previous repairs. Poor-quality work causes vibration and handling woes and in years ahead will let water in everywhere. Cars with upgraded, after-market brakes are worth having as well but don’t pay ridiculous money.

1993 - 1998 FORD FALCON ED-EL XR6

BODY & CHASSIS

1990s Fords seem less prone than other cars of their era to rust so one with bubbling around the wheel arch edges, sills and doors or showing evidence of body filler will likely be neglected in other ways as well. Check the battery tray for corrosion. Broken locating clips on the one-piece bumper/ air-dam result in rattles and uneven gaps. Boot seals can leak so check for dampness which can promote rust and affect operation of the rear lights. Replacement headlights come as high/low beam pairs at around $400 each. Higher wattage bulbs will improve night vision but generate more heat and blow more often.

VALUE RANGE

FALCON ED-EL XR6

FAIR $2000

GOOD $4800

EXCELLENT $7000

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Ford overhead cam engines are known oil leakers. Head gaskets also fail and only lucky owners will manage 200,000 kilometres without a problem. Most common cure involves replacing the original head with an AU unit. EFs were the only XRs with coil packs and misfiring will likely be down to a failed pack. Ford specialists recommend replacing all of the packs at once but that costs plenty. The five-speed manual transmission is clunky in its action but durable. Four-speed autos last seemingly forever, just getting rougher and noisier as they age. Replacing a worn auto is cheaper than fixing it.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: 12,700 (approx) ED-EL

BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis, four-door sedan & station wagon

ENGINE: 4089cc six-cylinder with overhead camshaft and fuel injection

POWER & TORQUE: 161kW @ 5000rpm, 366kW @ 3150rpm (ED)

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 7.6 seconds, 15.5 seconds (ED manual)

TRANSMISSION: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, struts, wishbones anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs, locating links and telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: disc (f) disc (r) power assisted with ABS

TYRES: 205/65 R15 radial

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Original discs will almost certainly be gone; hopefully replaced by better quality rotors that are less prone to warping and premature wear. Check that the handbrake holds the car on a moderate slope and doesn’t require brute force to release it. Also find a stretch of quiet road to test the ABS. Look carefully at the alloy wheels for cracks, especially to the inner edges. Cars that have been retro-fitted with bigger diameter wheels and lower-profile tyres will deliver a harsh ride unless the springs and suspension bushes have also been replaced.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Fords of this age feature the frustratingly unreliable Smartlock central locking system. Doors might not lock at all, stay locked when they should be open or even unlock themselves as you are walking away from the car. Some cars had complete system replacements under warranty and the problems recurred. Seat frames can bend or crack under the weight of hefty occupants and original seat belts will by now be needing replacement. Airconditioners need to be tested and can swallow $1500 in the case of a major repair. Lucky buyers may find a car with the trip computer and cruise control still functioning.

FORD CAPRI 1989-94

BUILT IN OZ, THE CAPRI'S PRIMARY MARKET WAS YOUNG TRENDY BUYERS IN NORTH AMERICA

Australia during its many years as a car-building nation produced a lot of sports cars. However it wasn’t until Ford announced its Laser-based Capri that any had come from a major manufacturer.

The decision to build a soft-top was taken against a background of export cooperation with Lincoln-Mercury in the USA. While Ford hoped for decent sales here, the Capri’s primary target was young, trendy buyers in North America.

The shape chosen for the Capri dated back six years to a design exercise called the Barchetta. That name would be rekindled in 1993 when Ford had a stab at getting a much improved Capri into the market.

First up in the SA Capri range was the stock 1.6-litre car with 61kW. Above it sat the Turbo with 100kW and hugely entertaining levels of wheel-spin and torque steer. Even in later cars with power steering the wheel would jiggle under full acceleration.

Quality was the real issue. The Capri had come to market sooner than was probably advisable and while Ford’s Sydney assembly plant did a pretty good job on Lasers it fell down badly with the Capri. Lots of rattles and poor panel fit were exacerbated by an appalling convertible top design that let water in everywhere. It was said that even the hardtops leaked.

Cars for the USA were built in LHD but delayed reaching their destination due to the need to engineer them for air-bags. Eventually more than 55,000 cars would be exported but even that number was insufficient to save the project.

Ford worked constantly to improve the Capri and in 1992 an upgraded XR2 joined the range. It offered a revised twin-cam engine that in non-turbo form sent power from 61kW to 77kW. The package included alloy wheels, power windows and mirrors and a cute little boot spoiler that had no practical purpose at all.

The SE version released a year later added an expanded range of colours, cruise control and central locking. Although engineered to include air-bags in its US models, Ford never offered this feature on local Capris.

Once Ford’s Tickford performance division took over chassis development, improvements came rapidly. However the Clubsprint and its Turbo stablemate arrived too late and sold in numbers too limited to save the model from oblivion.

The last and best Capris had their suspension lowered 25mm, with new spring and damper rates that really helped the handling. Performance from the turbocharged Clubsprint was fun rather than neck snapping, with 0-100km/h taking 8.9 seconds.

MARKET REVIEW

The Capri is without doubt the cheapest proper ‘classic’ convertible in our market and world-wide as well. Cars in OK condition can cost less than $2500 and if you’ve got $5000 to spend, an early Turbo is right in the frame. If you can, budget an extra $500 to fund a hardtop for your early Capri.

Total production of more than 66,000 cars suggests there should be plenty of available, however only 9800 of those cars remained in Australia.

XR2s without the turbocharger offer probably the best mix of low cost, performance and features. They also have the edge in practicality with a proper luggage platform behind the seats. They can also be found with air-conditioning for very little difference in price to a non-a/c car.

For longer-term ownership and collectability, consider a Clubsprint. They are scarce (only 400 made), distinctive in appearance and prices typically below $12,000 are low for any kind of usable, low-volume convertible.

1989 - 1994 FORD CAPRI

BODY & CHASSIS

Leaks were the major enemy of early-model Capris and even adding a hardtop didn’t entirely stop water getting inside. Checking the fabric for leaks might be difficult, but if you can grab the vendor’s hose and give it a burst that could save some money later on. Look for rusty floors, listen for door hinges that crunch and crackle and doors that can be moved vertically due to rusted hinge mountings. Next check the front substructure for kinks, rust or rough repairs and look at panel shut lines for inconsistencies. Make sure the lights lift and retract quickly and in unison.

VALUE RANGE

FORD CAPRI (XR2 SE)

FAIR $2400

GOOD $5000

EXCELLENT $8000

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Single and twin-cam Mazda engines are durable but also easily replaced with a good used unit should something major detonate. Turbo versions are known quantities as well and durable providing proper maintenance is undertaken. Changing oil and the filter every 5000km (or less if the car is seldom used) is essential so ask for service history or invoices. Professional inspection is a must to ensure problems in the crowded engine bay aren’t overlooked. An experienced turbo fettler will know the drill. Transmission shudder might not be the fault of the clutch alone. Engine and transmission mounts that have cracked or weakened with age need to be replaced before they cause problems.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: 66,640 (10,400 RHD) BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis two-door convertible

ENGINE: 1597cc four-cylinder with overhead camshaft(s), fuel injection and optional turbocharger

POWER & TORQUE: 100kW @ 6000rpm, 184Nm @ 3000rpm (SC Turbo)

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 8.9 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.4 seconds (Clubsprint Turbo)

TRANSMISSION: five-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, struts and anti-roll bar (f) independent with coil springs, struts & anti-roll bar (r)

BRAKES: disc (f) disc (r) power assisted TYRES: 205/45ZR16 radial (Clubsprint)

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Edge-worn tyres are a big clue that a Capri’s suspension is overdue for some remedial work. Even at the rear, worn components will allow the wheels to splay and chew the inner edges of the rubber. During the test drive, perform a u-turn and accelerate hard, listening for clattering from front constantvelocity joints. Complete replacement drive-shafts cost $120-200 each and avoid the labour cost of dismantling the shafts just to fit new joints. Shuddering brakes indicate warped rotors but uprated replacements are cheap and easy to locate.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

This is the place where big problems and expense are likely to manifest. Look for wet or musty carpets, surface rust on metal components and electrical items that aren’t working. This caution relates especially to gauges which can suffer from corroded terminals behind the dash. Seats need to move easily on the runners. Some cars had speciallypatterned trim and this will be hard to replace or even match to maintain authenticity. Insist the vendor raises and lowers the convertible top and if possible spray it with water to check for leaks.

FORD CORTINA TC-TF

ADAPTING OVERSEAS DESIGNS TO SUIT LOCAL CONDITIONS SAW SOME WORK A TREAT WHILE OTHERS MISSED THE MARK

Ford Australia built a lasting and successful business from adapting overseas designs to suit local conditions. Some worked a treat, others didn’t quite hit their mark and the six-cylinder Cortina ranks in the latter category.

Since 1969 Holden’s six-cylinder Torana dominated medium-car sales. Ford’s response didn’t come until 1972 and was to modify its recently released TC Series Cortina so it could accept a six-cylinder engine lifted straight from the larger Falcon.

Six-cylinder Cortinas came in three levels of trim (L, XL and luxurious XLE spec) with 3.3-litre engines for base models and 4.1 litres further up the pricing structure. Most TC and the revised TD Cortinas sold with automatic transmission but three and four-speed manual gearboxes available. The 4.1 with a four-speed was a gutsy performer.

Top speed when given sufficient road to cope with a monster 2.76:1 final drive ratio was 183km/h. That put the Cortina 6 within striking distance of the 302 cubic inch, four-speed Falcon. It also offered similar mid-range acceleration but delivered fuel consumption at least 25 percent better than the V8’s.

What it didn’t do was handle. Well not sufficiently to satisfy the needs of people who were buying GTR Toranas. Ford did the best it could; redesigning the firewall so the engine sat well back in the bay, beefing up strut towers and suspension components. However that extra 60kg ahead of the passenger area made for heavier steering and lower levels of grip, especially on wet roads.

1977 brought the TE version with a more angular shape and a new model descriptions. Volume buyers went for the GL, usually with the less powerful 3.3-litre engine, while those wanting luxury, performance or both went for the top-spec Ghia. Velour seats, an uprated dash, alloy wheels and a standard radio (but no cassette player) helped separate the higher-priced Ghia from the vinyl-trimmed GL.

MARKET REVIEW

Six-cylinder Cortinas have crept up on other models in the market while their backs were turned and the money being sought for outstanding cars is now quite significant.

1972-1982 FORD CORTINA TC-TF

BODY & CHASSIS

Avoiding a rusty Cortina is the best strategy however help is available provided a car doesn’t have serious structural problems. New panels are available from suppliers in the UK but at $500 and upwards plus freight they might not represent value against local ‘refurbished’ items starting at $200. Check window surrounds, the floors and inner sills for seriously costly rust then the rest. Spare lights, indicator lenses, the correct grille for your model and even body embellishments appear almost everywhere and prices seem very reasonable. Replacing bumpers could mean delving in to the used market or spending $350 plus freight (each) to source new ones from the UK.

VALUE RANGE

FORD CORTINA

FAIR $3500

GOOD $10,000

EXCELLENT $17,500

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Six-cylinder, ‘iron head’ Falcon motors are simple and generally reliable. They can of course be modified and tuned to deliver considerably improved performance and lend themselves to turbocharging. Even a worn motor can be repaired cheaply or replaced if too much is needed. If it’s good and some extra performance is your aim, a set of extractors, replacement carburettor and cylinder head modification can all be accomplished for $3000 or so. Make your normal checks for exhaust smoke, oil in the water or vice versa, lubricant and coolant leaks, but if you find any don’t be put off. The BorgWarner gearboxes and auto tranny are durable as well.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: 630,000 (approx)

BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis four door sedan & wagon

ENGINE: 3280cc or 4089cc six-cylinder with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 110kW @ 4000rpm, 325kW @ 1600rpm

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 10.1 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.4 seconds (TE 4.1 auto)

TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, wishbones & anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs & telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) power assisted

TYRES: 185/70H14 radial

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Plenty has been written about how hard life was for the front end of six-cylinder Cortinas. Some have been deliberately lowered, others are just suffering from sagging springs and struts in need of renewal. If it thumps, rattles or bounces there will be money to be spent, however anything that needs to be replaced will be available and not particularly costly. Brakes can be an issue with wheels quite randomly locking under only moderate pedal pressure. Nosedive under braking and wandering on uneven surfaces are traits of these cars and you can spend a lot trying to eradicate problems that were there in the design phase.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

If a Ghia is suffering with worn, torn or shabby trim the rest needs to be exceptional – and usually won’t be – in order to justify any kind of significant money. Correct seat trim seems in short supply but perhaps if you need it, a roll of Falcon material from the same period would do the job. UK suppliers have new door trims, hood lining and carpets but shop around because one set of door cards was $900 before considering freight, GST or Customs costs. Electrical items including instruments crop up frequently in on-line sales sites and a new starter motor can cost anywhere from $170-400.

HOLDEN FB-EK

ACCLAIMED AS THE MOST EXCITING NEW CAR IN YEARS IT DREW HEAVILY FROM A FIVE YEAR OLD CHEVROLET

With almost 50 per cent of the Australian car market in its keeping, Holden as the 1960s dawned, didn’t have to do much at all to maintain its dominance. Or so it seemed.

Although the brochure proclaimed Holden’s FB as ‘The Most Exciting New Car In Years’, the design drew on the shape of a Chevrolet that was launched five years earlier. Adding to the cynicism of it all, the mechanicals and suspension in the FB were pretty much the same as they had been since 1948.

The FB came in Standard and Special trim with four separate body designs including a panel van that finally offered a taller and vastly more practical load area.

Without lengthening the wheelbase, Holden added 140mm to FB’s overall length; most of it devoted to fins and attentionseeking headlamp shrouds. Inside was a welcome addition to shoulder room and the promise that its front and rear bench seats could each comfortably accommodate three beefy Aussies.

The design of the ‘grey’ six-cylinder engine was unchanged as well, but capacity increased from 2.17 to 2.26 litres. When combined with a slight increase to the compression, peak power rose from 52 to 55kW.

The Special came with a cigarette lighter, two-tone seats and extra stainless-steel trim. Across the range was a shorter steering column and dished wheel but other ‘safety-related’ items like the heater/demister and power-assisted brakes remained optional.

Initial FB sales were astounding and exceeded even the numbers set a few years later by the much-admired EH. Initial demand saw early cars roll out of showrooms at a rate of 20,000 units a month and within just 17 months, 147,747 had been made.

On 2 May 1961 and despite a ‘credit squeeze’ that savaged new vehicle sales, the EK Holden was launched. Most obvious among its external changes were the new grille and single rubbing strip to replace the big sweep of stainless steel that characterized FB

Specials. An extensive accessories list allowed buyers to upgrade and personalize their Holden, with extras including a radio, weather-shield and mudflaps. The ‘camping body’ was a boon to interstate travellers, allowing the seats to recline into a full-sized bed and save a fortune on motel bills.

Holden had come late to the automatic transmission party but was determined to respond to the challenge thrown out by Ford’s new Falcon. Three-speed Hydramatic Holdens were heavily promoted to female drivers and business users including cab drivers who spent hours in city traffic.

Improvements to the EK design included new vinyl for the seats and electric windscreen wipers replacing the frustrating vacuum system that went slower when needed most. A larger intake helped improve ventilation but that heater/demister would still cost extra.

MARKET REVIEW

All-up, more than 320,000 of the big-fin Holdens were built and the numbers that survive come as no surprise. What does shock is the $40,000+ being asked and occasionally realised by exceptional cars.

Looking back 20 years, the average value of an FB/EK was $4200 and the best cars cost no more than $8000. Today, anything selling for less than $10,000 will need lots of work and one that can be put into immediate service as a weekend cruiser is unlikely to be found below $20,000.

Joining a club that caters to early-modern Holdens or visiting one of these clubs’ display days is the best way to get close to good quality FB/EKs and perhaps purchase one. Cars with a good selection of genuine ‘Nasco’ accessories bring better money – often significantly better – than those without.

Modified cars are reasonable common and a later ‘red’ motor, four-speed gearbox and front discs isn’t going to seriously damage long-term value.

1960 - 1962 HOLDEN FB-EK

BODY & CHASSIS

It’s safe to say that any FB-EK that survives in decent condition will have been subject to some rust repair work. Cars renovated some decades ago may be rusting again so start with inspecting the wheel arches, lower mudguards, sills, door skins, the fire-wall, sub-frame, floors and turret. Tailgate rust is common in wagons and commercial models so listen for creaks and crackling from the hinge boxes. Check the spare wheel compartment as well. Rust repair panels are available from several suppliers and are not too expensive. New lenses are available, but good brightwork is scarce and expensive.

VALUE RANGE

HOLDEN FB-EK

FAIR $6000

GOOD $18,000

EXCELLENT $27,000

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Although discontinued 50 years ago, ‘grey’ Holden engines and parts needed to rebuild them can still be found and are usually not expensive. Converting the FB-EK to a later Holden engine isn’t hard either so there’s no reason that many of these cars won’t remain running for decades to come. Typical problems include piston and crankshaft knocks, oil leaks from the main bearing seal, fuel leaks and cracked exhaust manifolds. The manual gearbox suffers bearing noise, synchro and selector problems but replacements can be located. HydraMatics can still be rebuilt. Check the differential for pinion noise (especially in reverse) and oil leaks.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: 174,747 (FB), 150,214 (EK)

BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis, four-door sedan or station wagon, utility & panel van

ENGINE: 2262cc in-line six-cylinder with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 55kW @ 4000rpm, 162Nm @ 1400rpm

PERFORMANCE: 0-97km/h 20.4 seconds, 0-400 metres 22.0 seconds (FB manual)

TRANSMISSION: three-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, control arms and anti-roll bar (f) live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers(r)

BRAKES: drum (f) drum (r)

TYRES: 6.40x13 cross ply

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

FB-EK steering response is indifferent on the best of days and any serious wear will heighten the sensation of disconnection. Look for uneven tyre wear and listen for creaking when the wheel is turned at low speed. Rear leaves flatten and crack with age. U-bolts should be checked for correct alignment and thread damage. Some cars have been converted using a later disc-brake front end, but the original drums in good condition are satisfactory. Use gentle pressure on the pedal while driving to feel for misshapen drums. Constant pressure on the pedal for 30 seconds when stationary should reveal hydraulic leaks.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Obtaining trim to match the original has become very difficult and some owners are sourcing ‘fleck’ pattern vinyl from US suppliers. Complete sets of locally-made seat coverings are quoted at $2000 or more. Replacement door trims, mats and hood-lining are available but a full kit of body rubber kits can exceed $2000. New handles and switches are available too. Patience and a quick trigger-finger are required if you’re trying to track down rare accessories but they do appear periodically via the on-line auction market. If an FB is to be used semi-regularly, upgrading to electric wipers is worthwhile.

HOLDEN HQ-HZ STATESMAN

HOLDEN NEEDED TO COUNTER WITH SOMETHING PRETTY SPECIAL IT WAS HANDSOME IN THE MOULD OF A MINI CADILLAC

With its big Chevrolets and Pontiacs gone and Ford’s Fairlane ruling the market for local prestige models, Holden needed to counter with something pretty special.

The Statesman was announced along with the rest of the HQ range in July 1971. It was handsome in the mould ‘mini-Cadillac’, with lots of interior space and a big boot. Fleet buyers could order the base model with six cylinders and a bench front seat but most preferred the De Ville with five litres of V8, power steering and Trimatic transmission.

Despite looking nothing like a basic HQ, the Statesman shared many components with the rest of the range. Clever styling tricks including quasi-fins, a slotted rear bumper and split grille gave the illusion of a completely separate model.

De Villes were exclusively V8s with an auto ‘box. Most used the Holden-made 5.0-litre engine but some came with 5.7-litre Chevrolet motors.

After three years and around 18,000 sales, the HQ Statesman was replaced by an HJ version. Physical changes were limited to a single-section grille and reshaped rear mudguards to accommodate wrap-around tail-lights. The low-cost Custom hadn’t sold well and its spot was taken by a lavish Caprice version.

With leather trim, more than a dozen interior lights, integrated air-conditioning and special badging, the Caprice offered plenty to attract private and business buyers.

Less appealing was the HX that came in 1976 and was the first Statesman to suffer from Holden’s botched attempts at meeting new emission standards. Output from the 5.0-litre engine slipped 18kW to 161kW accompanied by a noticeable decline in performance.

Improvements included a reshaped (round) steering wheel and multi-function stalk that finally brought Holden’s cabin controls into the 1970s.

A further advance came in 1977 when GM-H introduced Radial Tuned Suspension. In addition to brilliant handling for a car of its size, the HZ Statesman also stopped better than most thanks to the addition of rear wheel disc brakes.

With the introduction of the Commodore SL/E imminent, 1978 saw the HZ Statesman range expanded to include an SL/E version.

These sat between the De Ville and Caprice and offered no extra performance. What did get included was a timber-effect dash, climate-control air-conditioning, alloy wheels and distinctive grille. Deletion of the vinyl roof may have helped survival rates.

MARKET REVIEW

HQ-HZ models in excellent and authentic condition are now difficult to find and relatively expensive.

Plenty have been modified with swaps to 5.7 litre Chevrolet motors or even big-block ‘454’ V8s. Bigger wheels, uprated transmissions and fancy paint go with that territory as well but only trophy-winning show cars will be worth more than an outstanding original.

The majority in the market suffer various degrees of neglect and need to be priced accordingly. De Villes with faded metallic paint, heat-stressed vinyl tops (often with rust bubbles beneath) and tired chrome begin at less than $6000. Caprice versions in similar condition can make $2000 more.

A while back there was a push on to enhance demand for SL/ Es but to little avail. They still typically cost less than a Caprice of similar age and quality. Cars with an LPG tank aren’t as popular as once they were however if you are going to drive 10,000km a year the saving on fuel could justify the bit extra for an LPG car.

Rarest of these cars are genuine 350-engined HQs. Around 600 were built and it’s likely that less than half that number remain. Recent sales have seen a good, documented car reach $60,000 and likely to climb higher.

1971 - 1979 HOLDEN STATESMAN HQ-HZ

BODY & CHASSIS

Most De Villes came with vinyl roof covering which makes a great incubator for rust. Initially, look around the window apertures, rear pillars and in the turret itself. If the vinyl is gone and the roof repainted, check for filler and bubbling. Cabin and boot floors, lower doors and the sills are also at risk. The rear stone tray and fuel tank are vulnerable to impact damage and while you’re there look at the boot floor for rust and whether the spare wheel has disappeared. Scarce panels include rear quarters, the boot-lid and the nose-section. Rear bumpers which are unique to the HQ have been seen in good condition at $250-400. Kits of body rubbers cost $850-1200.

VALUE RANGE

HOLDEN STATESMAN (HJ Caprice)

FAIR $7500

GOOD $16,000

EXCELLENT $24,500

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Holden V8s are simple units to work on and can be professionally rebuilt for less than $5000. If the car you want is mechanically tired and matching numbers aren’t an issue, then used engines in decent order cost $1000 upwards. Overheating is a common problem but be concerned if there is oil contaminating the coolant. Oil leaks are common but only a major concern if gushing from a seriously leaky rear main bearing seal. Manifolds can leak and exhaust systems are prone to rust and crush injuries. Trimatic and later T350 transmissions rarely give trouble but a unit that slurs changes or takes more than a second to engage gears is due for a rebuild.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: 40,000 (approx)

BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis four-door sedan

ENGINE: 3313cc in-line six cylinder, 4142cc, 5048cc or 5740cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 179kW @ 4800rpm, 427Nm @ 3000rpm (HQ 5.0 litre)

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h – 9.4 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.4 seconds (HQ 5.0 litre)

TRANSMISSION: three-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with wishbones, coil springs anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs, locating links and telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: drum or disc (f) drum or disc (r) power assisted

TYRES: FR70H14 radial

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

These were among the first all-coil Holdens and put ride quality well ahead of handling. Saggy springs with bushes to match and bouncy shock absorbers can make the car very hard to drive yet in total including labour cost less than $2000 to replace. Check the steering box mountings for rust and the power unit for leaks and binding. Brake rotors last up to 100,000 kilometres, with new ones at $150-350 per pair. Correct, colour-keyed hubcaps on HJ-HX cars are prone to damage and can be difficult to replace.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

These areas are crucial when considering any Statesman. Leather trim in Caprice versions is very expensive to replace so must be in decent condition or the car very cheap. New carpet sets cost around $200. Dash ‘veneer’ is prone to peeling but good replacement dash sections are available for $150-200. Interior door handles break but replacements are available from $60 each. Make sure the electric windows move freely and without excessive noise and reclining seat backs stay locked in position. Working air-con adds value because the bill for a basic a/c overhaul and regas will top $1500.

VL COMMODORE/CALAIS

THE INTRODUCTION OF UNLEADED FUEL SAW A NISSAN ENGINE UNDER THE BONNET

It is a sad irony that the model that most embarrassed Holden and had it slapping journos with injunctions is today regarded among the brand’s best-ever products.

With unleaded fuel due to be introduced in 1986, Holden’s own six-cylinder engine couldn’t be effectively modified to handle ULP and the V6 which would power the VN was three years away. For the first time in its corporate life, Holden needed to ‘buy in’ an engine for the final adaptation of its original Commodore.

The VL appeared in 1986 and under the bonnet was the same engine (almost) that could be found powering Nissan’s new, Aussie-built Skyline.

Punters didn’t need to stress too much about the VL restyle. A slight reshaping of the nose with improved headlights and a very subtle ‘ducktail’ boot-lid lip were it for basic models, with a quite substantial change to frontal aspect of the Calais.

The reshaped headlights weren’t just for show either. New ‘homofocal’ technology was claimed to improved high-beam intensity by 35 percent.

Most VLs were SL or Executive models and came with the six-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed manual was available as well, but not to buyers of the V8-engined cars that joined the range in October 1986, who had to make do with the old-style Trimatic.

Executive models which were pitched into the fleet and rental markets were fairly basic in their specification with power steering and central locking included but air-conditioning and rear wheel disc brakes optional.

The VL Calais had undergone a simple but radical styling transformation to channel the appearance of a down-sized Cadillac. Half-hidden headlamps and a cross-hatched acrylic grille were unique to the Calais and certainly helped justify a $5000 price increase on the 3.3-litre VK model it replaced.

Equipment list included new 15-inch alloy wheels, air- conditioning, cruise control, power windows and optional leather trim.

In conjunction with its new power train, Holden had done plenty of work on noise abatement with new and more extensive sound deadening making the VL a noticeably quieter car than the VK and, more importantly, than the XF Falcon that was its fleet-market rival.

The suspension changed as well, with modifications including softer springs to improve ride comfort and faster-ratio power steering for better feel. Non-turbo versions with all-disc brakes aren’t common but worth having should one pop into the market.

MARKET REVIEW

Ten years ago it was possible to find ‘budget’ car yards brimming with high-kilometre VLs all priced at $5000 or less. Where did they all go?

Generalised apathy compounded by careless younger owners accounted for many of them. Some of the survivors come with fancy paint, huge wheels and transplanted V8s attempting to justify silly asking prices. Turbo cars, especially the ‘sleepy-eye’ Calais, have been registering extraordinary money. Their escalating fortunes were detailed in the 2018 Muscle Car Guide.

Family-spec SLs and Executives in excellent condition are becoming harder to find and prices for low-kilometre, reasonably original cars start at $12,000. Those that rank as ‘exceptional’ may exceed $20,000.

Jump into a V8-equipped Berlina and the asking price can climb past $30,000. Ex-Police cars with turbo or V8 motors can climb even higher.

The six-cylinder VL Calais seems to be an endangered species. They weren’t all that common when new but used to appear regularly in the used market. Now they are very scarce, although not ridiculously expensive.

1986-1988 HOLDEN VL COMMODORE

BODY & CHASSIS

Crash damage is the major risk when buying these cars. Check the front rails from above and below for kinks, twisting or non-original repainting. Inconsistent door gaps can indicate a car that’s been twisted and may handle poorly. Rust attacks in several areas including mudguards, lower doors, boot floors and window surrounds. Replacement floors, guards and outer sills are inexpensive but the cost of rectifying and repainting a rusty car will outweigh the cost of a good one. Headlight covers cost $40 and complete units around $90. Metallic finishes from this era are prone to fading, so look for areas of mismatched paint to detect repairs.

VALUE RANGE

HOLDEN VL (Executive 3.0)

FAIR $2500

GOOD $7000

EXCELLENT $14,000

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Overheating can generate a variety of costly problems, so avoid cars that hiss or moan from under the bonnet once the engine is warm. Cylinder heads are prone to cracks and warping so look at the coolant and oil for signs of contamination. These were the most computerised of all the First-Gen. Commodores and the various sensors and actuators will by now be feeling their age, Lack of performance or stuttering under acceleration can be symptoms of expensive system failures. Automatic transmission should engage gears when stationary in less than two seconds and accelerate without surging or vibration. Clutch shudder due to high-rpm take-offs and synchromesh failure are common issues in manual cars but repairs are also easy and relatively cheap.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: 151,801 (all VL)

BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis, four-door sedan or station wagon

ENGINE: 2962cc six-cylinder overhead camshaft with fuel injection or 4987cc V8 with overhead valves and fuel injection

POWER & TORQUE: 114kW @ 5200rpm, 247kW @ 3600rpm (3.0-litre)

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 9.5 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.7 seconds (SL auto)

TRANSMISSION: five-speed manual, three or four-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with struts and anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs, trailing arms and telescopic shock absorbers(r)

BRAKES: disc (f) drum or disc (r) power assisted

TYRES: 185/75R14 radial

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Finding a car with its original components and suspension settings is difficult and changes to spring rates, ride height and wheel diameters will have varying effects on driveability. Extreme lowering allied to ultra lowprofile tyres will deliver shock loadings that can affect suspension components. Look for uneven tyre wear and rubbed innermudguard areas. Float over bumps indicates the gas shock absorbers are past their prime. Disc/disc brakes will be found on the vast majority of Turbos and when new were rated as an excellent system. Mushy pedals, pulsing from the pedal and instability are likely symptoms of worn rotors or pads. Quality replacement rotors are relatively cheap, as is conversion to all-discs.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Cars with sundamaged plastics are best avoided as tracking down viable replacements is a challenge. Commodore seats weren’t enticing when new and once the foam has fallen to bits and the straps break the only solution is a costly trip to the trimmer or finding some better-quality replacements. The hood-lining will sag with age but new trim is available, along with carpet sets for $250300 each. Ensure that the electric windows (which can bind and shudder), cruise control and air-conditioning all work immediately and effectively. New switch pads for the fast-glass are available but the door internals which fall to bits are not.

HOLDEN GEMINI TX-TG

THE GEMINI TOOK SMALL CAR DESIGN TO NEW LEVELS AND IT LOOKED SMART AND ALSO HANDLED

With due respect to all who love or loved their four-cylinder Toranas, the Vauxhall-inspired HB-TA cars were pretty dull and lifeless devices.

By 1975 and with Japanese brands taking huge chunks out of the local car market, there were no prizes predicting that GM-H would source its next compact model from Japan. Well, Europe via Japan actually.

Isuzu borrowed its basic design for the Gemini from GM’s Opel Kadett. However we would avoid that car’s undernourished 1.2-litre engine and go straight to the optional 1.6 litre.

It still wasn’t overly powerful for an engine of its size, with a single overhead-camshaft and 61kW. Transmission choices were four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. There was also a 1.9-litre fuel injected option available to some overseas markets that we weren’t allowed to access. Didn’t matter.

The TX Gemini sold here from 1975-77 took small-car design to new levels. It looked smart and while it was plain inside it was roomy and also handled. Response from the market was instantaneous with the Gemini hounding the similarly-priced Corolla SL and Ford Escort for sales superiority.

The Gemini sedan weighed just 935kg, came with responsive rack and pinion steering, front disc brakes and all-coil suspension. With the right tyres, springs and shock absorbers they could be turned with minimal outlay into an entertaining road or competition car.

Hundreds of Geminis did race in the hugely popular Queensland Gemini Series. This began as a one-make race supporting the Australian Grand Prix in 1975 and became a regular feature of the motor sporting calendar from 1980 until the present day.

Minimal change accompanied the March 1977 release of a TC version. Then a few months later there emerged a two-tone, limited production Sandpiper with automatic transmission and alloy wheels as standard inclusions.

The Gemini range remained as sedan and coupe until the arrival of TD models in mid-1978. Nothing even then changed in terms of styling or performance but the range did expand to include a panel van and station wagon (two door) plus an SL/E version of the sedan.

It lasted only until early 1979 when an emission-controlled version of the 1.6 engine was introduced and the model re-designated SL/X.

Engine output continued to fall, with buyers of the TE version that arrived in October 1979 expected to make do with 50kW.

Worse was to come in 1981 with the appearance of a 40kW Gemini diesel.

MARKET REVIEW

Gone are the days (for most people anyway) when a Gemini was the logical choice for anyone hunting down a cheap and cheerful first car.

Geminis, with the odd exception, are still not expensive but don’t rely on them remaining that way forever. Two-door Coupes are the least common mainstream models and can in some cases already achieve $20,000.

Others with the potential to grow in value include the scarce Gypsy panel van and the heavily-embellished Z/ZZ and CDT sedans. If you’re hanging onto one of those, be prepared to attract plenty of interest from Gemini enthusiasts.

The easiest and generally cheapest Gemini to own is a TE or TF and $5000 will buy a decent car. Earlier models can cost double the price of a TE.

Vans and wagons remain practical for daily and even business use. They cost slightly more than sedans but if they earn their keep the initial cost can be easily justified.

1975-1985 HOLDEN GEMINI TX-TG

BODY & CHASSIS

Rust and poorly repaired crash damage are the factors that will separate an immediately usable Gemini from a ‘project’. Some cars will be carrying the legacy of rough repairs performed in years gone by. Before checking in more detail, get the car off the ground and look at the chassis rails behind the front wheels. Rust in this area may spell the end for a cheap car. Next look at the reinforcements between the bulkhead and inner guard, low down on the front mudguards, inner and outer sills, van and wagon tailgates and C Pillars on sedans and coupes. Early headlights are difficult to find, so are good bumpers. We did see a pair needing some work at a specialist wrecker for $100 each.

VALUE RANGE

HOLDEN GEMINI (TC-TD Sedan)

FAIR $2700

GOOD $6000

EXCELLENT $9500

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

These engines seem to have a boundless capacity for high revs and hard-work. Even if one fails, replacements are easy to find and prices for stock engines range from $1200-2000. Obviously you can spend considerably more extracting extra power. With the right advice regarding components and setup turbocharging is also viable. Changing engine mounts before one breaks is sensible and new mounts cost less than $50 each. Upgrading from four to five-speed manual transmission is easy and worthwhile if the car is to be used for long-distance running.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: 226,319

BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis, two-door coupe, station wagon, panel van, four-door sedan

ENGINE: 1584cc four-cylinder with overhead camshaft and single downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 64kW @ 5000rpm, 135Nm @ 4000rpm

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 13.2 seconds, 0-400 metres 18.6 seconds (TX sedan)

TRANSMISSION: four-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with wishbones, coil springs telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs, locating links and telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) power assisted

TYRES: V78L/13 radial

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Plenty of smart people have fiddled over many years with Gemini suspension and braking systems so tapping into the knowledge network is sensible. Parts including springs and shocks, suspension joints and good-quality bushings are available and parts for when a full rebuild is due will cost $700-1200. Once completed and unless you’re using your Gemini as a commuter car, the new components are likely to last 10-15 years. Disc front/drum rear brakes are adequate, parts to upgrade not expensive. Squealing discs that take a lot of pressure before the car stops might have their problems remedied via a quick skim however a new pair of rotors costs less than $200.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

If you can find a Gemini with a crackfree dash then buy it and worry about the rest later. Australian sun did bad things to European-spec plastics and finding a car without a cracked and crumbling interior is good news. Seats were flimsy and thinly padded so perhaps budget for a retrim and some new foam padding. New vinyl headlining for sedans costs less than $150, material to suit the coupe just $40 more. Also sighted some replacement door trims for under $100 each but check quality.

CHRYSLER VALIANT VC

THE VC VALIANT WAS IN PRODUCTION FOR JUST 18 MONTHS BY THEN 65,000 HAD BEEN BUILT

The VC Valiant that hit Australian showrooms in 1966 offered a new and more angular shape but sat on a platform unchanged from the previous AP6.

Big news in addition to the restyle was confirmation that the V8 engine previously available only to buyers of sedans would also be fitted to Regal wagons in addition to the VC V8 sedan.

In basic form the VC Valiant offered a 3.7-litre, 108kW engine and three-speed manual transmission with synchromesh on every forward gear. Upgrades in line with new safety regulations included windscreen washers and two-speed wipers, front seat-belt mounts and reversing lights.

The Regal added 25 per cent to the price of a basic VC and the extra money included Chrysler’s three-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission that was standard. Also in the mix was a heater/demister with blower fan, satin-trimmed dash and courtesy lights including one in the boot.

The VC V8 was a natural progression from the previous AP6 version. Like the AP6 V8 it wasn’t badged as a Regal and sold as a separate and quite exclusive model. These cars came with a mandatory vinyl-covered roof, separate non-reclining seats, centre console and massive, chromed shift lever for the automatic.

The big black and white steering wheel was an AP6 carry-over but the dash layout and control knobs were new. The V8 Wagon swapped its bucket seats for a bench with armrest and included remote operation of the tail-gate window.

Anyone needing a lot of load-space and some class to accompany it could hop aboard a Wayfarer utility. The name dated back to Chrysler’s Royal-based utes of the 1950s and while not quite that large, the Valiant was roomy and more powerful than a six-cylinder Holden or Ford ute.

The VC Valiant was in production for just on 18 months before the line switched to building up stocks of the VE model. By then, more than 65,000 VCs had been made and it’s likely that less than five per cent of those cars had V8 engines.

Even with the six-cylinder engine these 1960s Valiants were no slug. Manual cars could get very close to 10 seconds for the 0-60mph (0-97km/h) sprint and top speed was more than 160km/h. These were and are a good tow-car too, with lots of torque from very low engine speeds and superior engine braking in low gear than was available from the Holden’s two-speed Powerglide transmission.

MARKET REVIEW

Some years back the VC V8 seemed set for a lunge towards $50,000 but that trend has lost its momentum. A couple of cars sold recently were unremarkable and didn’t reach $30,000. There are some very good examples still in existence though and it’s fair to predict that one of those when sold would reach close to if not better $40,000.

Today’s market is accordingly biased towards the six-cylinder cars and there remains a decent supply in most price segments. Excellent basic cars cost $15-18,000, with six-cylinder Regals at around $25,000. VC wagons are more difficult to find than sedans and utilities very scarce but no dearer than passenger versions.

For parts support and perhaps assistance in locating a good car, join your nearest Chrysler club. These organisations are very active with numerous events and display days in various parts of the nation. They also stock or know sources of spare parts that will keep cars running and contribute to their survival.

1966-1967 CHRYSLER VALIANT VC

BODY & CHASSIS

Rust attacks these unitary construction cars in various places but is most critical when it affects the front suspension and sub-frame mounting points. Any VC must undergo close inspection on a hoist, looking for corrosion or recent welding. Inner and outer sills are important as well and less expensive to replace than sub-frame mounts. Repair panels are available to replace the lower front mudguards and rear quarter panels. Station wagon tailgates rust internally and can jam the window winder mechanism, so ensure it works properly. Bumpers are shared with the VE and can be found in the used market for around $250 each or rechromed for $800.

VALUE RANGE

CHRYSLER VALIANT VC

FAIR $4500

GOOD $16,000

EXCELLENT $25,000

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

‘Slant Six’ engines and Torqueflite transmissions have a wonderful reputation for durability and it is common for these units to exceed 200,000 kilometres without major problems. Timing chain noise is common and not concerning unless it persists once the engine is warm. The motor is meant to lie at an angle but it still pays to check old engine mounts for cracks and rusty mountings. Changing them is very easy. Take off the air-cleaner and look around the carburettor for fuel leaks – your insurer will thank you. Replacing a cracked exhaust manifold with extractors is common, cost effective and will improve fuel economy. Make sure the automatic engages reverse within a couple of seconds and doesn’t shudder when down-shifting.

Vital stats

NUMBER BUILT: 65,634

BODY: steel, integrated body/ chassis, four-door sedan or station wagon, utility

ENGINE: in-line 3686cc six-cylinder or 4474cc V8 with overhead valves and downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 134kW @ 4200rpm, 352Nm @ 1600rpm (V8)

PERFORMANCE: 0 -97km/h 10.5 seconds 0-400 metres 17.5 seconds (V8)

TRANSMISSION: three-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: independent with torsion bars and anti-roll bar (f) live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers(r)

BRAKES: drum or disc (f) drum (r) power assisted

TYRES: 6.95 x 14 cross-ply

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Free play at the steering wheel is common in Valiants but more than 50mm needs investigation. Bouncing and ‘chattering’ from the front end points to worn shock absorbers and tired torsion bars. Original-spec bars are being made and current costs (parts only) are around $750 per pair. Kits of front-end service components are available in Australia for less than $600. Test the drums for binding and assume a soft pedal is due to a faulty master or wheel cylinder. The hand brake should not need excessive force to activate or release.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Seat coverings, door trims and vinyl flooring remain available but avoid cars with a trashed interior as repairs are expensive. Sets of seat vinyl are around $2000 – plus installation of course – with new door cards an additional $900 per set. Steering wheels crack with age and will need to be replaced second-hand or with a US-sourced wheel. Dash hardware including gauges, a radio blanking plate and reconditioned Regal steering wheel were all found on-line at reasonable prices. Replacements for tired and noisy starter motors and alternators are being made.