Get a problem?
firstname.lastname@example.org or via snail mail at Unique Cars, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, 3166. Yep, heís gonna fix you up in no timeÖ
Iím feeling kind of smug just at the minute. From the moment I mentioned that I wouldnít mind building myself an RA40 Celica, Iíve kind of been branded a maniac. Oh sure, a handful of people have Ďgotí it, but I reckon even those folks have maybe privately had their doubts about being able to turn an ugly duckling like the RA40 into something youíd actually want to be seen in.
The problem, I suppose, is that the RA40 has just always got a bad press. At the time of its launch, it was accused of being big, fat and heavy. Well, itís definitely wider and longer than the RA23/RA28s that went before it, but according to most spec sheets I can find, itís not really any heavier at all. Which simply means it has a bigger footprint for the same weighbridge ticket and thatís got to be a useful improvement.
The other major criticism is that the RA40 was always pig ugly. Well, I canít speak for everybody, but take a look at the pics on this page and then tell me an RA40 coupe canít look at least slightly tough. Okay, Iíll admit the Liftback isnít for everybody, but if you squint at this here orange jigger, I reckon you can still see some of the original Celica coupe (the 1971 TA22) in its profile. And beyond that, by the time youíve taken a few millimetres out of the ride height and screwed on some decent wheels, well, I donít reckon itís any ugly duckling any longer. In fact, I reckon it looks beaut. (But I would say that, wouldnít I?)
So exactly what have I done? Well, the wheels and tyres (Editor Guido reckons the tyre lettering is too subtle) I found on a buy-swap-sell website. The previous owner had them bolted to a Mitsu Galant but since a lot of Japanese tin from that era uses the same four-stud pattern and bolt spacing, thereís a lot of interchangeability. And they sure as hell look better than the rattle-canned horrors that were on it when I bought the car.
The other thing that needed to change pronto was the ride height. At first, I thought the car must have once lived up a rough farm track or something. That was the only explanation I could come up with for the jacked-up ride. But that theory got blown to hell the first time I got the car on a hoist and discovered that thereís absolutely no damage or signs of rough-road use on the underbits. So I still donít know what the hell was going on. Was it, at some time in the distant past, a Ďthingí to raise a car beyond its standard ride height? I canít remember itÖ if it ever was.
Anyway, I did the smart thing and went to my go-to suppliers for all things boingy and shocky. A set of 30mm lower King Springs and Monroe gas dampers were soon filling my mailbox and they all bolted in with zero hassle. The only surprise was when I pulled the front struts apart to fit the Monroe damper insert. Instead of an old insert falling out, the whole thing came apart as a collection of bits and oil. Mainly oil.
Seems the original Toyota strut used the strut body as the outer tube of the damper with the other bits neatly contained, rather than a sealed insert. And the former is exactly what fell out and oozed all over my workbench. Which means, of course, that the front struts were the 40-year-old originals. No wonder she felt a bit wandery on the way home. And the rears were no better.
With it all back on the deck, you can see that itís much prettier with just about the right amount of rake and the bigger wheels (15 X 7) filling the guards but not overstepping the mark. And it drives so much tighter. Tighter, even, than I remember even my old RA23 (about a hundred years ago) feeling, and that was a relatively new car back in the day.
Iím still feeling my way around style-wise here, but the urge to turn the RA40 into some kind of an Outlaw-style thing is still strong. Iím not sure how I go about that, but I reckon a set of genuine Cibie Oscars that were gifted to me recently will be a natch for the front of the old girl.
The biggest job remaining, however, is the interior. Itís a goddam mess, to be honest. Iíve ordered some new door cards that Iíll trim and thereís a set of period-correct SAAS front seats waiting to go in, too, although the standard Celica seat rail is a quirky bugger of a thing. More head scratching must occur in this department. Iím thinking orange tartan for the interior, maybe some harnesses and Iím chasing the same SAAS, four-spoke steering wheel (I think it was called a Euro X4) that Peter Williamson used in his Bathurst RA40s. So if anybody out there has one theyíre finished with, letís talk.
Morley, you are an idiot, I saw your comments to Kev in issue no 413.
Reversing the blade does nothing! it will still blow in the same direction. To reverse the fan you change the polarity. Thatís it. Nothing else is needed.
Stealing from the townsfolk was a hangable offence in the Napoleonic Wars. The Duke of Wellington came by a soldier with a noisy piglet in his satchel and asked the foot soldier what was he doing. The lowly foot soldier replied, ďSir I was just looking after it for its mother.Ē
The Duke made him up to a sergeant for defending the indefensible.
Well done Sergeant Morley
Andrew Smith BSc (Physics) BE MIE(Aust), Email.
HMMM. LETíS go back a few issues. A bloke called Kev and I were having a discussion on whether you needed to reverse the polarity of a thermatic fan to turn it from a puller to a pusher of air. Kev pulled me up on this, because he reckoned it was also necessary to not just flip the fan blades over, but to reverse the wiring polarity (and make the fan motor run backwards) as well.
Now, Andrew, youíre telling me that Iím an idiot for agreeing with him and that simply reversing the direction of the motor will do the trick. Well, it wouldnít be the first time (no disrespect to Kev). So I went back and I checked again. Now, youíd reckon the nice people at Davies Craig would know a thing or two about setting up a thermatic fan, right?
Exactly, so I consulted the official fitting instructions. Now get this: ďChanging AirFlow Direction Remove the clip or undo the hex nut, depending on model, from the centre of the fan blade.
Remove the fan blade from the motor shaft, turn it over and replace. In every case the instruction, printed on the blade ĎThis side must face front of vehicleí and Ďthis side must face rear of vehicleí must be followed.
Resecure the fan blade. Before mounting the fan to the face of the radiator/condenser, note the direction of the arrow on the fan blade. The fan must rotate in the indicated direction.Ē
Shall I go on? Andrew, I reckon youíre right inasmuch as reversing the polarity will reverse the thrust of the fan, but in Kevís original missive, he reckons that the fan is designed to be more efficient in one direction than the other. Looking at the desk fan in my office a few minutes ago, itís pretty obvious that the backs of the blades are not mirror-images of the fronts. Thereís a distinct concave profile on the working faces of the blades that isnít there on the backs. So then I went and checked a spare thermo fan I have at the MBC. Guess what? Its blades are concave/convex rather than just flat, so it looks like itíd be more efficient in one direction, too.
So I think Kevís on to something there. And if thatís the case, then I can see why youíd reverse the blades and the polarity. That way youíd get max airflow as well as pushing the air in the right direction. If nothing else, can somebody tell me why Davies Craig, the company that makes the things, is wrong on this? Anybody else want to weigh in?
Meantime, thanks for promoting me to the level of my incompetence.
Morley DFK (Distinguished Fly Killer)
Gíday Dave. After opening Morleyís Workshop last issue and seeing your latest MBC purchase, I realised I suffer from the same problem in that, for some strange reason, I kind of like the old RA40 Celica. And that you donít see them anymore. So I promptly put down the mag and jumped online.
Look what popped up; an 81 model coupe in amazingly good condition inside and out. Itís now been added to my Blokeís World and doesnít look out of place with my existing stock of historic Holdens.
Some frequently visiting associate members of Blokeís World have stated that if I see them when Iím out driving the Celica, not to bother waving as they will pretend they donít know me. Ha, but I donít care.
I DUNNO JOHN, it seems like the RA40 is the Trevor of Chappells, the Andy of Gibb brothers, the brown Wiggle. But I donít know why. I reckon theyíre a great looking jigger (especially in coupe form) and theyíre dead easy to work on, cheap to run and can be modified till the cows come home. And where else are you going to find a chrome-bumper car with a proper Bathurstwinning history?
Speaking of which, I did a bit of digging around recently in some old books. And hereís what I found out about the RA40ís Bathurst career:
Peter Williamson/Mike Quinn
1st Class C/9th outright
Wally Scott/Peter Walton
5th Class C/15th outright
Graham Bailey/Doug Clark
1st Class C/12th outright
Peter Williamson/John Smith
1st Class C/12th outright
Iíve left out the DNFs, but first in class three years running aint a bad record at a torture test like the Bathurst 1000. So enjoy your car, John, and when you see your Ďmatesí forget about Ďem. Let them walk home. And maybe Iíll see you on the road sometime.
Having a daily driver Val Charger with a pumped 360 with six-pack carbs and living in Kununurra, Derby and now Alice Springs, fuel vapourisation was a constant issue. Mopar guru Rick Ehrenberg put me on to the idea of a return fuel line to the petrol tank.
I rigged up a tee-piece from the last carb with the return part soldered solid then drilled about a .050Ē hole in it to keep the whole circuit at around five to eight psi (checked with gauge). I went a bit flash with a stainless-steel braided Teflon hose back to near the filler cap so I can see itís working. This set-up gives constant cold fuel feeding all three fuel bowls and worked a treat even with the stock 5/16Ē fuel line.
Alice Springs, NT
HMM, SOUNDS like weíre all on to something here with the fuel return concept to keep a constant flow of cool fuel to the carbs. I mean, if the idea can stop a six-pack-fed V8 from vapourising in central Australia on a daily basis, itís got to have something going for it.
Got a photo of the Charger, Jim? Sounds like itíd be gangs of fun out in the wide open spaces. Mind you, Iím glad itís you and not me filling the tank at outback prices.
Here are some pictures of my Renault 8 rally car that Iíve owned for years. It hasnít been driven for ages, as one of the things I had to promise my wife-to-be was that Iíd stop driving the Renault (it scared everybody who went near it). Anyway, Iíve now been married for about 40 years, so itís been a while between drinks for the Renault.
Anyway, Iíd like to get rid of it, but I reckon the bloke I bought it off should get first right of refusal. So Iím trying to track him down. Hereís what I know/remember: I purchased the car in Ė I think - 1978. I donít remember the name of the person I brought it from, but he was a salesman at Applebone Motors, on Military road, Mosman in Sydney. The car was his personal car. I later brought the twin 45mm Weber carbs from him, that are on the car now. There was also some connection with E and A Motors in Crows Nest, which was a Renault dealer, but Iím not sure of the details there.
Like I said, it would be interesting to track down the previous owner, as I would like to give him first offer if he would like it back. I know I will never do anything with it, so it should go to a good home.
Peter Hickey, Molong, NSW
Hereís my tip
GOOD STORY, Pete.
These little Renaults were dead-set weapons in their day, so I can understand the future Mrs Hickey requiring a truce between you and the Ren before sheíd commit. And man, twin 45s on a little Renault engineÖI bet it gets going once the revs are up.
As for tracking down the previous owner, letís see if we canít find him (or a next of kin). Somehow, I reckon that with photos of the dude (presumably theyíre of the fella in question) and an obvious competition history for the car, the identity shouldnít be too hard to track down.
So letís throw it open to UC readers: Anybody out there recognise the car, the blokes in the photos or anything else that might give us a clue? The one bloke I reckon who would know would be Aussie motorsport fixture and all-round legend, Bob Watson. I know Bob reads UC (see his letter in Mailbag) so if youíre reading this Bob, who are we looking for and where do we find him?
As for the car itself, it looks a bit weathered, but itís obviously been stored under cover. Old rally cars were never treated with much love and were often considered a consumable, so itís kind of a miracle that this one has survived at all. And with the recent interest in classic rallying, even if we donít find the original owner, there must be somebody out there with the hots for one of these.
Recently received issue No 421 of Unique Cars, always very entertaining and informative.
I read with much interest the segment with respect to placing batteries on concrete, the fact that doing so will effectively destroy the battery, and any attempt to recharge or recondition the battery will prove unsuccessful.
During my career which exceeds 25 years as a practicing automotive electrician and airconditioning technician, I have observed this condition many times. The battery WILL go dead flat, in a matter of hours, and if you were able to observe them, the plates deform and buckle and turn a weird brown colour. The battery will NOT charge. Any factory warranty will be void.
After questioning senior battery industry executives and engineers, no firm answers were forthcoming with respect to this phenomenon. However, these individuals being smarter than you and I combined, the following, but not limited to, was advanced as theories:
The chemical composition of the concrete as opposed to the chemical composition of the internal contents of the battery. EG, opposing PH levels.
The mass of the concrete has the ability to absorb the charge through the battery case into the concrete, which results in the battery being discharged so completely it will not recharge.
With a weekendís work the Gordini will be up for a midnight blast through a forest near you.
The temperature difference of concrete has the effect as described in No 2.
In my opinion, I believe all of the above contribute to the phenomenon. In cases where a customer would choose to install their own batteries, upon delivery to their premises, I would insist that batteries be placed on timber, or rubber mats until installation. My preference is to utilize two pieces of timber, about 50 x75 mm lengths, one under each end of the battery.
Should a customer not wish to comply, they were advised, in no uncertain terms, to obtain their supply of batteries elsewhere.
It should be noted that installing batteries into a battery box which has a bare metal floor will have a similar effect on the batteries as placing them on concrete, however the effect will be over a much longer timeframe. Should the original factory insulating material be missing from battery box floors, I would always advise the customer of the two available options:
Option 1. Batteries must be installed on a rubber mat.
Option 2. Obtain batteries elsewhere.
Wise customers would always select option 1 and measure, mark out, cut to size and install a section of 6mm rubber to the battery box floor. The rubber mat effectively insulates the batteries from the bare metal battery box floor as well as providing some protection from vibration and, in some designs, limited protection from heat. Heat and vibration will effectively kill batteries just as quickly as any other cause, as will overcharging, overcycling or discharging too deeply.
Townsville Truck Electrics, QLD.
HMM, THIS one is becoming a real can of worms. I hear what youíre saying, Mac, and Iíve no reason to doubt your decades of experience and expertise here. But it just doesnít add up to a simpleton like me. Of course, being wrong is hardly a new sensation for me, but it still ties my brain in knots to think that concrete would be a good enough conductor to suck the charge out of a battery through its plastic case.
And on that basis, why would a metal battery tray, which is surely a better conductor than concrete, take longer to leach the life out of a battery? Again, Iím not saying youíre wrong, but it surely doesnít make sense to me. Iím also puzzled by the fact that the battery experts youíve spoken to over the years canít put their collective finger on the cause, either. Surely, there canít be much that these engineers and specialists canít explain when it comes to battery behaviour. Then again, as a wise bloke once said: We donít know what we donít know. Which, I guess, is at the root of all scientific exploration.
I tell you what though, even though I have no idea whatís going on here, you can bet your bottom dollar the spare battery at the Melbourne Bloke Centre is stored on the bottom shelf of a wooden storage unit, and not on the cold, bare concrete floor.
Somebody out there must know whatís going on here. Some come on, put us out of our misery.
Against the odds, the Starfire four has its fans. Well one...
I really enjoy your column and the recent mention of the Starfire engine reminded me of my experience with them. The first was that I got a great job in late 1981 At Suttons Holden Arncliffe as a gofer who got to drive the whole fleet. The VH Commodore had just come out so I got to compare it with the VC. I was lucky that I got to drive just about every configuration of Holden then including taking the MDís Caprice to Strathfield for new tyres and mags. Well you can imagine my glee at thrashing the thing all the way there as there would be no signs of tyre wear to worry about.
Anyway they often got me to take a blue car to one of their other showrooms to get a red one, or something, so it was a fun job. As such, I had to go to their Chullora branch to pick up a blue VH Starfire wagon. Now, I never used to get speeding fines but guess which one I got fined in? Yep, the Starfire!
The second story involved a UC Sunbird SL/E hatch Trimatic that I bought from Dodgey Brothers on Parramatta Road. It was that awful metallic poo brown colour and being about 15 years old had no shine left on it. But it was a delight to drive and was otherwise in great condition. The only problem I had was breaking the adjuster for the alternator, which was common as they werenít a smooth engine. The parts shop said it had a thicker part to cure the problem.
I towed a box trailer that was very full of my worldly possessions from Sydney to Brisbane and was surprised at how easily the car did it. I remember particularly how great it would corner, which was probably to do with the lighter weight over the front end.
My point is that a Starfire in good condition can actually be a fun engine; quite torquey. I swapped it in Brisbane for a Gemini wagon as I didnít realise how easy it was to register a car up here. Wish I still had it.
Andrew Willis, Brisbane.
ANDREW, YOU are truly an individual. And a man of at least three distinct Ďfirstsí that I can think of. For one, you actually rate the old Starfire Four engine. Secondly, you wish youíd never sold your Starfire Torana. And third Ė and most impressive Ė you actually got booked for speeding at the wheel of a Starfire (under)powered Holden. Thatís a never-tobe-seen-again trifecta, right there.
I take your point about the four-cylinder engine being lighter (by about a third, logically) than the six-cylinder on which it was based, and I remember thinking exactly the same thing the first time I drove an Ecoboost FG Falcon. The two-litre four-banger was a lot lighter than the Falc six and it really showed in the steering response and general feeling of responsiveness in the front end. And letís not forget, the UC Torana was blessed with Holdenís then-new Radial Tuned Suspension which was a huge step forward in local-car handling technology.
But the fact that the old Starfire was so rough running that it destroyed its alternator bracket (probably due to harmonics and the resultant metal fatigue) also reminds me just what a joke the whole Backfire Four thing seemed at the time.
But, I truly do wish I had a UC Torana Hatch in the shed, even if it was poo brown. Iíll tell you one thing for free, though, the Starfire engine would only last until the first weekend of my ownership. I donít even know whether Iíd go V8 or a stink-hot blue 202; all I know is that wretched little four-potter would be in the nearest skip by tea-time on day one.