WILD VIOLET - IT’S THE COLOUR THAT SCREAMS SEVENTIES AND THESE DAYS IS IN BIG DEMAND AMONG COLLECTORS
While every man, woman and their dog (with some reason) seems to go weak at the knees when they spot examples of the assorted Ford GT-HO Phase I, II and III hero cars, it’s actually refreshing to trip over something that’s a factory puzzle and a little different to the usually-accepted spec.
Take this XY Falcon 500 GS owned by Peter Chronakis. Built late in the series – in the twelfth month of 1971 – it’s had a host of GT parts thrown in ex-factory, according to its most recent owners. Why? Well there are a couple of possible explanations: one is it was a special order (most things could be done if you had ‘pull’ with the factory), and the other possible scenario is, since this was a late build, the plant was in the mood to use up some of the upmarket components sitting on the shelves. Maybe it was a combo of both, particularly if it was for a favoured customer.
When XYs were new, not everyone necessarily wanted a GT with a 351 and ‘shaker’ air cleaner. For some, the whole idea was much too lairy and they certainly weren’t going to pay extra for it. As a result, you often got to see up-specced 500s, Futuras and Fairmonts getting around with what seemed like a limitless range of variations in the final vehicle.
Whatever the explanation, this car apparently started life with a 302 (4.9lt) V8 running a top-loader four-speed manual transmission and nine-inch diff – much of the drivetrain expected in the upper echelon cars.
Incredibly, the majority of what you see here rolled off the assembly line: original spec, paint and interior trim, according to the owner. However Peter has indulged in a warm-up of the powerplant. While keeping it looking original, the 302ci internals have been stroked for 347ci (5.7lt). Ned Sassine from Hercules Competition Engines in Sydney did the honours, with Chris Baker in Orange refreshing the heads.
The plot was to go for plenty of torque rather than max power, so they ended up with a very healthy 620Nm reading on the dyno (up 50 per cent on stock) and horsepower somewhere over 400. Peter is delighted with the result, saying it’s a super-strong thing to drive.
His relationship with Wild Violet Fords goes back a long way. “My dad bought me, back in 1971, a Wild Violet XY. And that got stolen when we went to Melbourne, in Moorabbin.”
IF YOU ARE old enough to have ventured into an early-1970s Ford showroom – even on the end of a firm parental hand – you can’t escape the memory of being up close to a GS Pack Falcon. Most dealers didn’t get a chance to display GTs, so a GS 351 in Vermillion Fire or Wild Violet was near enough. Many have been turned into XY GT ‘replicas’ but that just makes intact survivors more valuable. It also ensures that authentic and untouched XYs with the GS Pack will offer more secure investment opportunities for buyers than any ‘replica’.
In XY guise, the GS V8 was available in any body style and the temptation to ignore obvious issues with wet-weather traction was too much for some owners who just had to specify their utes with a ‘351’ motor and manual transmission. GS V8 wagons and panel vans are exceptionally rare and documented cars sell for more than sedans in similar condition. Bright colours are a bonus, as are originalequipment accessories such as power windows and the nifty wind-back sunroof. Standard steel wheels were often replaced from new with alloys by ROH or Aunger. A basic Falcon with the 302 motor and GS Pack is also a rarity, so be prepared to pay the better part of $60,000. Falcons of this age with 351 engines are rarer again and spectacular examples might manage six figures. Originality is vital, as is verified history and these factors contribute significantly to the exceptional values generated by some cars. Good-quality restorations are OK too and should still appreciate fast enough to outrun inflation.
“Then I bought an XA GT, Wild Violet again, with black trim. So my association with the cars and the fashion has been since the seventies, when they first came out.” Peter happens to be a near neighbor of the Monaro owner you see on these pages, John Bertuzzi. The pair seem to have their own mini muscle car club going on in the neighborhood and can often be found with the shed doors open and a barbecue going full tilt.
As for Peter and his GS, he decided he had to renew his association with chrome bumper Fords, well before the current price boom, which means it’s probably turned out to be a good investment. “When it came to buying one again, the GTs were out of my range. This is a unique car, being a GS Wild Violet with white trim. I bought it quite a few years ago and it came down from Queensland.
“This car has been with me for 15 years. A friend of mine owned it and I always wanted the car. When I saw it in Wild Violet and white trim, it reminded me of my old cars, so I said I’ve got to have it.
“It gets a lot of elbow grease to keep it looking this way, but I drive it every Sunday. It’s not there to be looked at – it’s driven.”
XYs that were restored back when values were low could well be suffering recurrent rust in places that aren’t obvious. Typical problem areas are wheel arches. lower door skins, floor-pans, behind the rear window on sedans, boot gutters and station wagon tailgates. More serious and possibly structural is rust to the firewall and sub-frame mounts, in the turret (especially if the car has a vinyl roof), the inner sills and spring hangers. Reproduction panels are easily found but they aren’t all a ‘first time fit’ so join a Falcon club and find out which suppliers to avoid. Brightwork including bumpers is still being remanufactured but top-quality chrome costs big money.
Given the value of these and the premium for V8 versions, the most important underbonnet check is close inspection of the Build Plate to confirm that the engine and chassis number are a match or at least the correct type of engine is fitted. A ‘Y’ stamped in the ‘Engine’segment of the ID plate denotes a 302 cubic inch (4.9-litre) V8, a ‘K’ says the original engine was a 351 (5.8-litre). Bearing rumble with smoke at start-up, a ticking sound signifying worn cam lobes and oil leaks indicate an engine that needs work. If it’s the original V8, budget to have it properly stripped, cleaned and rebuilt using quality parts because whatever you spend will be generously repaid.
NUMBER MADE: 118,666 (all XY)
BODY STYLES: steel integrated body/chassis four-door sedan, station wagon, panel van & utility
ENGINE: 4942cc or 5750cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE:164 kW @ 4600rpm, 405Nm @ 2600rpm (302) PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 9.2 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.6 seconds (302 auto)
TRANSMISSION: four-speed manual or three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, anti-roll bar and telescopic shock absorbers (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc front/drum rear with power assistance
TYRES: ER70H14 radial
XY suspension is very basic and easily brought back to new condition or better. Rear spring leaves crush and crack but new springs and shocks are easily acquired. Fords of this age don’t have especially accurate or sensitive steering but be cautious of more than 50mm of freeplay when stationary. Likewise a brake pedal that feels mushy or excessively hard before the brakes have even been used then sinks to the floor after moderate use. None of this is impossible to fix but factor the $1500 needed for a full brake job or $1000 to replace worn power steering into the amount you pay for the car.
The trim fitted to older Falcons was incredibly tough, but almost 50 years of use might turn the seats in an otherwisesound car shabby. Ready-to-fit trim kits cost around $2000, new sets of door-trim panels $1500 and hood-lining around $200 plus installation. If the seat belts look ancient or aren’t there at all, a complete set of new belts will cost $1000-1200, Window mechanisms that bind can be repaired at home but be cautious of non-functioning electric windows if a car has these. Check the floor-mounted dip-switch to make sure you have highbeam lights.
BIG, BOLD AND BRAWNY, YOU’D HAVE TO SAY THE GTS 350 MONARO IS THE EPITOME OF A MUSCLE CAR
It seems owner John Bertuzzi got this 1969 HT GTS 350 after a long search, much frustration, and thanks to a mate who relented and helped him out. “At the time I just wanted a muscle car and everybody I’d see wouldn’t sell me their XU-1 or SL/R,” he explains. “I came across this beauty 20 years ago and she’s been in the family ever since.”
If it looks a little familiar, well-spotted. It has appeared in the mag before, most notably in the USA vs Australia feature we did six years ago, where it was pitted against a Chev Camaro.
For this second-gen Monaro, Holden pulled in a GM-sourcecd 350 as the premium powerplant, in this case matched to a four-speed Saginaw manual transmission. In this trim it claimed 300 horses, while a reworked engine cradle and front end was promoted as giving much-improved steering feel and control.
In the time we’ve known it, the Monaro has always stood out as a straight and honest car. “It is what it is,” says John, “a 50-year-old 350 Monaro that still gets looked after really well, it’s a bit of a pride and joy for the family. I try to put back the proper parts. Like if it’s a battery it’s gotta be an AC Delco as per the original.”
Has he had to do much to it? “Over the years, nothing. I actually bought it off a friend of mine who had had it sitting for 16 years before we even looked at it.
“He sent me to see a few other cars he had for sale. One of the reasons no one would sell me their car was because they thought I was going to hotrod it.
“But I appreciated it even back then for what it was and to see it still in its original form, I love it.” Of course top-of-the-range muscle cars like this have seen their prices soar in recent years. Is he surprised?
John is understandably ambivalent. “It’s a lot of money. I can’t understand that sort of money, but I can understand somebody wanting one. But you know what? People work very hard and want something like this, then that’s the price you pay.” He bought in a very different market, though it would have still hurt the hip pocket.
“At the time I paid a little bit more but then again I wanted the genuine thing, I wanted the log books, I wanted the car to be right,” he said.
“People at the time said to me, ‘Oh it’s a lot of money,’ but I said, ‘Look go and find another one’.
“Pay the right money for the right car. I was lucky that friend of mine sold me the car (and hopefully he will sell me another one day) and these days I think he looks at me and the car and grinds his teeth a little! He’s still not happy. But at the time he did it as a favour because he knew how much I loved Australian muscle cars – for me it’s part of growing up in that time.
IT WAS THE win that hardly anyone expected but when Holden’s HT GTS350 delivered two podium places at Bathurst in 1969 the feat ignited a legend that has kept the Chev-engined two-doors bubbling in the collector market for half a century. Pretty much any GTS350 sold during the 1980s would reward its vendor with a decent profit. However it was during the 2005-08 Muscle Car ‘boom’ that ridiculous money began being sought and was sometimes paid.
The market since 2008 then contracted into a more conservative place where outstanding cars were hard-pressed to better $180,000. Then came 2016 with a couple of spectacular auction results and all of a sudden $300,000 was back in the sights of hopeful vendors.
Once again as seems to be the case in this boomor-bust market, demand is matching supply and the money being paid has slipped again below $250,000. That’s still a great result if you bought your car during the GFC for $150K but not as much as it might realise if the bells start ringing again.
Manual cars cost $1530,000 more than automatics, however the two-speed Powerglide is an excellent choice for owners who just want to cruise rather than rush about in their GTS.
Scarce colours can add value as well but condition is the factor that will ensure a 350-engined GTS generates maximum money. Documents that track a car’s history right back to its original selling dealer can make a significant difference too.
What’s it like to drive? “Like a big old bus. Clunky gearbox, skinny steering wheel, you know it’s done its years. But it’s great – it’s fun. And the thumbs-up when you drive it, particularly from people of that generation, it’s good.
“As a kid, watching the older kids – my cousin had an HK 327 when I was about eight years old – I said to him one day I’m going to have one. He still drives a GTS today, but the current model. And now his son wants this!”
You’re never lonely with one of these. “There’s always someone wanting to go around the block in it a couple of times. I don’t use it as much as I’d like to, but it’s the nature of the beast – you can’t drive it every day.
“You do have to drive them. There’s nothing better than getting on the highway and heading out and just cruising. It’s got plenty of power, plenty of torque, plenty of comfort – plenty of everything. It’s actually a really good highway car.”
GTS350s in the market today should not be suffering any degree of body deterioration at all. A bit of paint fading and crazing might be evident and due to poor preparation back when these cars were not $250,000 collectors’ items. That said and when spending such significant amounts of money, an on-hoist professional inspection is essential. Initially look for bulges and bubbles in the rear quarter panels, turret edges and sills. Make sure when the doors close they sit squarely in the apertures and certainly don’t need to be lifted to shut properly. Reproduction bumpers can be found but it may be preferable to have original brightwork repaired and rechromed.
A GTS350’s value lies in its authenticity so documents confirming correct and preferably original mechanical items is essential to high prices. Cars with a non-genuine power unit, that have had cylinder head or transmission changes need to be returned to stock or suffer a price reduction. Cars claimed mechanically sound and roadworthy need to be just that, with no oil leaks, exhaust smoke (a puff at start up is OK) or reluctant oil pressure. Cars fitted from new with a fourspeed manual are more valuable than autos and harder to drive. Gear whine and vibrations through the gear-lever are common, clunks or clicking aren’t. Don’t be surprised if clutches in seldom driven cars slip or feel heavy.
NUMBER BUILT: 14,437 (all HT Monaro)
BODY: integrated body/chassis two-door coupe
ENGINE: 5735cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 224kW @ 4800rpm, 515Nm @ 3200rpm (GTS350 manual)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h: 8.1 seconds, 0-400 metres 15.6 seconds (GTS350 manual)
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual, 2-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, wishbones, telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f); live axle with semi-elliptic springs, radius rods & telescopic shock absorbers (r) BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) with power assistance
TYRES: DR70-14 cross-ply, ER70-H14 radial
Monaros with leaf springs worked better as competition cars than later models with all-coil suspension. Owners can use these attributes to their advantage, changing springs and shock absorbers to manage the amount of bodyroll that occurs during fast cornering and whether the ride is rock-hard or featherbed. New springs, bushings, ball joints and steering arms are available and not expensive so there is no reason why a car being sold in six-figure territory should be tottering about on ancient springs. The brakes even when new were absolutely inadequate for a car of this weight and performance and the one departure from original that is almost essential involves upgrading the entire braking system.
Interior condition is what sets an exceptional GTS apart from one that is average. Seat frames crack and twist so ensure they move easily on the runners and the backs lock into place. Correct trim kits in vinyl and ‘houndstooth’ are still being made and cost around $2000 plus fitting. Be prepared for old, flat seats to need new foam cushioning and perhaps a few springs as well. Windows including the rear quarter glasses need to be checked for ease of operation. Jammed mechanisms can be due to infrequent use but also a symptom of water entry and rust.
CHRYSLER’S E48 SOMETIMES GETS OVERLOOKED BUT IT’S ONE OF THE TRUE GREATS
For the Charger nut, an E48 stands very high on the list of desirable cars. The ultimate is arguably the E49 race-inspired six (though some of us lean towards the V8 E55), with the E48 running a very close second.
What’s an E48? “An E48 is the road-going version of the E49 intended for Bathurst,” explains owner Brian Boschetti. The spec is in fact very similar to the homologation car: 4.3litre (265ci) straight six hemi engine (pushrod, of course), triple Weber dual-throat carburettors (famously set up for the factory with a test mule sent to Italy), extractors, four-speed Borg Warner transmission and a heavy-duty limited slip diff.
Where this and the E49 diverge is in the tuning. The E49 ran a different cam and ran an extra 600 revs at peak power – 210kW @ 5000rpm versus 225kW @ 5600rpm. Torque figures were almost identical, though the E48 was tuned to produce its best at lower revs: 431Nm @3700versus 433 @4100. And the result in the real world? A good Charger six was more than competitive with the equivalent V8 from Ford or Holden in a straight line drag.
The 1973 variant is particularly thin on the ground for two reasons: they only sold in tiny numbers and, if people go to build a replica, they head straight for the E49. The best info we can get suggests there were just 122 VJ Chargers optioned as E48s, plus 16 each for the XL and 770 variants. So the chances of you tripping over another parked beside you, anywhere outside a Mopar show, are slim. That’s particularly the case with this colour. “Chrysler called the colour Super Blue and in E48s this is one of nine in those colours,” says Brian.
He and partner Evie bought the car from Adelaide in 2005. “We brought it home here (rural Victoria) and have done very little to it. It’s been a magic car.
“When we bought the car it had a good strong engine in there, but it wasn’t the matching numbers engine. He had the right one in the shed and it came with the car. Originally I was going to bring it home and whip the engine out – but this is such a good strong engine that I haven’t got around to it.” They’ve kept the original block.
“It’s awesome to drive,” says Brian, “it’s the brute force they had back in the day and it sounds like a decent car. The 265 was quicker than a GT in a straight line but it didn’t have the legs on the big race tracks.”
THE E48 IS an enigma that has endured for decades. Despite being a significant car in 1970s Chrysler history, little has been written about E48s and the model is rarely mentioned when talking E Series Chargers.
Series Production racing was a distant memory by the time the VJ Valiant range debuted in 1973. Nobody acknowledged the E55 V8 racing development and left-over parts from the E49 programme that were shoveled out the door by any means available. Demand still existed for the legendary ‘Six Pack’ and sets of triple Webers would still be fitted to Chargers, although the cars in question would be the antithesis of the extroverted E49.
The E48 was therefore as bland as any model in the VJ range. No blacked-out bonnet or air-scoops, just a subdued ‘hockey stick’ stripe on each side and tiny badge set low on the front mudguards giving some hint of what sat beneath the bonnet. Just how much power do you get if you buy a factory-spec E48? Who knows. Some Chrysler documents show 248hp (185kW) but other sources within the company claim 270hp (202kW).
The numbers of E48 Chargers sent to market are more certain, however other kinds of Chrysler were also built to special order with surplus E48 engines installed. Of the E48s built as Chargers, 122 reportedly were base models with 16 in XL and 770 trim levels.
E48 prices have moved steadily in recent years, but given the cars’ scarcity and fascinating history, $70-100,000 spent on documented decent cars seems low indeed.
Why buy a Charger? “Well it’s a muscle car of the era when I grew up as a mechanic working on these cars. I started my apprenticeship in the very early seventies, worked on Chargers, Falcons, Toranas – all those sorts of cars that I developed a soft spot for. That was when you could go to Bathurst and identify which car was coming down the straight!” This example has had a few minor alt0erations over time, such as the Superlite wheels and the blacked-out engine bay. The foxtail and fluffy dice aren’t actually compulsory, but they fit! Look closely, and you’ll also notice the original buyer (in Perth) also went nuts and ordered the Sports Pack, which included the distinctive steering wheel and engine-turned dash panel.
What’s his advice for someone in the market for a Charger? “Take your time and look around and find something that’s been restored well. If you can, buy something that’s a little rare and unique as there are lots of them out there.” (As luck would have it, this car is for sale at TradeUniqueCars.com.au)
Chargers demand close inspection by a panel-repair specialist before committing to buy. For many years these cars were worth very little and repairs performed just to prevent a rare model being written off have left some in shoddy condition. Floor pans, door skins and rust repair sections are being manufactured but good genuine panels are difficult to source. Rectifying a shoddy older restoration may involve the costly process of having panels hand-made so don’t spend too much on an imperfect car. Doors that must be lifted so they close properly will very likely need repairs to the hinge mounts.
The Hemi engine used in these Chargers has been long-regarded as Australia’s best sixcylinder power unit. Provided they haven’t been overheated so seriously that rings crack and the cylinder head warps, 300,000 kilometres is possible between rebuilds. Replacement heads are still available, with high-performance pistons and rings priced from around $1000 to several thousand dollars per set. Replacing the triple Webers and manifold will be near-impossible but the carburettors can be reconditioned. The Borg-Warner ‘single rail’ manual transmission was used in various local cars during the 1970s and replacements are available.
NUMBER MADE: 154
BODY STYLES: steel integrated body/chassis two-door coupe
ENGINE: 4342cc with overhead valves and triple side-draft carburettors
POWER & TORQUE: 185kW @ 5500rpm, 320Nm @ 3800rpm (est)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 7.2 seconds, 0-400 metres 15.4 seconds (est)
TRANSMISSION: four-speed manual
SUSPENSION: Independent with torsion bars, anti-roll bar and telescopic shock absorbers (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc front/drum rear with power assistance
TYRES: ER70H14 radial
Charger suspension is basic but as CM versions would demonstrate it responds well to tweaking. Charger steering was more direct than in other Valiant models but at the price of some weird camber angles and being heavy at low speeds. Wear in the steering linkages or suspension can allow the car to squirm alarmingly when braking. Be cautious when testdriving a Charger as they are known for locking wheels without a lot of pedal pressure being applied. If the pedal feels hard or spongy start looking at the master cylinder and/or power booster. Neither are particularly expensive to replace.
Charger seat frames were a weak point and there won’t be many in existence that haven’t needed welding at some time in their lives. Make sure the seats can be easily moved on their runners and the backs aren’t sitting at odd angles. The trim and fittings unless you find one of the megascarce 770s will be basic and not difficult for an automotive trimmer to rectify. Replacement dashboards and instruments appear sometimes on internet trading sites but are getting expensive. Replacing the distinctive R/T steering wheel if you can find one costs over $500.