’72 Supercar Scare
The Falcon GTHO Phase IV, Torana XU-1 V8, and two Valiant Charger projects were all happening in early/mid 1972 with Bathurst’s Hardie-Ferodo 500 in mind. Chrysler was working on two ideas, a six cylinder update of the E38 and a separate V8 car. Ultimately, of all these projects, only Chrysler’s six cylinder E49 eventuated.
Most of the bad publicity surrounding these cars came about through public comment to a newpaper article which made the front page of Sydney’s “Sun Herald” on June 25th 1972; the story talked of 160mph race cars being registered for the suburban streets.
The article was written by the well regarded Evan Green, himself a respected motorsport driver and enthusiast and, ironically a Channel Seven contracted Bathurst commentator. Although Evan is no longer with us, it is doubtful his intention in writing the article was to rid the world of performance cars. It seems that he unintentionally lit a fuse that led to political interference which led to car manufacturer backpedalling.
Most of the negative arguments centred on the V8 XU-1, as the Ford and Chrysler project cars were more acceptably identified as ongoing developments of existing drivetrains.
Coincidentally, CAMS had already announced changes to the rules which were to apply to the 1973 season, such changes effectively removing the onus on manufacturers to make race cars for road use.
As things unfolded in mid-1972, the media pumped the story, which was fueled by Chrysler’s untimely publicity release that decreed it was now producing ” the most powerful six cylinder car in the world”. Within a week or so, the NSW state government was suggesting it would withold fleet contracts from any manufacturer producing so-called supercars.
On June 30 1972, GM-H officially aborted the XU-1 V8 and following the publishing of a GM public statement, Ford announced two weeks later termination of the Phase IV GTHO. Chrysler escaped in part by dropping the V8 Charger project, but it had already built and committed to sale at least 200 E49 six cylinder variants of the R/T Charger. This was enough to allow entry of the E49 to the 1972 Bathurst race.
In part, the GM statement read:
“Because of concern expressed by Government leaders …we have decided that no Torana XU-1 model will be built.” “…we also hope that other manufacturers will see fit to modify any vehicles built recently purely to conform with motor sport regulations.”
Ford defended the Phase IV on the grounds that it was a logical and final development of a long established theme. With the change in rules for 1973, Ford were going onto a different plan of development for the two-door Hardtop.
Nevertheless, the NSW Minister for Transport advised intention to amend design rules relating to the performance capabilities of road cars, and any manufacturer who released an “excessively powerful car” in the meantime would receive a “firm line” from the government. It is understood that the so-called “firm line” included action along the lines of refusal to road register such cars.
Steve McQueen’s Lola T70
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