Synthesised Exhaust Notes + 'Recycling' Older Cars - Morley 405

By: Dave Morley

Presented by

ls1 ls1

Dave Morley airs his displeasure at synthesised exhaust notes found in modern chariots and praises old cars for being kind to the planet



She Flies, Brother Orville

I had the pleasure of watching fellow UC contributor and serial VW-botherer Torrens in action spinning spanners recently. He’d done a deal to drag a mossy rock of a Commodore station-wagon out of a suburban backyard in Melbourne, and I organised to have it towed around to the Melbourne Bloke Centre so he could recommission it. Now this was a later Commo kid-hauler, so it was fitted – and this was the deal-maker for GT – with an LS1 V8. Only this one was more like an LS 0.75, because one cylinder head and all of the intake gear was sitting on the back seat.

Seems the previous owner had started to pull the thing to bits to fit an aftermarket cam, got part way through the strip down and then realised he had neither the knowledge nor the inspiration to keep going with it. So the VX got parked, spiders took up residence and then, a couple of years later, along came Torrens. Just as well, too, because this was an otherwise useful car that was slowly returning to the earth. I’d have given it one more Melbourne winter before it was beyond salvation.

Now, Matey, the previous keeper had done the right thing during the strip down and had labelled every electrical connector and bagged up and labelled every nut, bolt and washer. In fact, his attention to detail was brilliant and, on a project like this one, absolutely critical to it all going back together in the right order. Especially since neither GT nor I had ever been inside an LS1 Chev V8 before. But the one thing Old Mate hadn’t got around to was taping a bit of plastic over the exposed bores. So by the time GT arrived on the scene, there was a bit of corrosion in all four cylinders on the left-hand bank.

We consulted the experts and figured that a bit of Carby-Clean and some fine-grit sandpaper would clean the bores up okay and, providing there were no permanent bore-scars from the standing crud, we’d put it back together, cross our fingers and see what happened.

And it was this process that was such a delight to watch. Despite never seeing the nether bits of this engine before, GT ripped straight in and kind of instinctively knew what went where. Fair enough, but equally impressive was his confidence in his own work, right down to the point where, even though the engine didn’t fire immediately, his hunch was to keep cranking it, fill the fuel rail and then let it fire. Which is exactly what happened.

The V8 gave a couple of coughs, and then spluttered along without the aid of the starter motor. It initially ran on about three cylinders and then picked up the other five as it went. There was a small puff of Carby-Clean out the tailpipe and then it just settled into a smoke-free, rattle-free idle. And this from an engine that already had 250,000km showing. A quick rev confirmed that it had no rattles and a short drive around the car-park at the MBC confirmed that it had gears and brakes. A check of the workshop fridge confirmed we had celebratory beers on hand. Briefly.

So what did I learn? Well, obviously, when you pull something apart, label the hell out of it. We spent more time stripping masking-tape labels off the wiring loom than we did actually hooking it back up, but it was still way quicker than having to consult a wiring diagram or a workshop manual. Secondly, I learned that engines, on the whole, are engines. If they have spark, fuel and compression, they’re kind of obliged to run. And it was this knowledge that allowed GT to rip into a pretty big project without raising a sweat.

But there was detail stuff to observe, too. Things like knowing that car-makers can make running changes to cars and that can impact on what replacement parts you need to ask for. And that some modern engines like the LS1 V8 have disposable head bolts (they’re designed to stretch and are a one-use deal) so you can’t just reuse the old ones.

It took Torrens about a day and a half to take an anagram of a V8 and turn it back into a living, breathing small-block Chev. Maybe Old Mate he bought it from gave up too easily. Maybe we should all dust off the spanners and tear into that project we’ve been putting off. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

(Letters and postcards to the usual address to explain what it was that did actually go wrong.)


Getting' it Write

Before your car club commits to a new T-shirt or jacket design, get somebody (preferably the school-teacher partner of one of the members) to check the design for spelling and grammar. I recently ran into a bloke proudly wearing his club jacket which featured not one, but two grammatical errors. The only conclusion I could draw was that not a single person in that club was literate. So how do they fill out their club-permit log-books?



Just sayin’…

EngineSelected just for you, Anthony. Fingers crossed it's not a diesel truck motor

I don’t like to whinge but I have had enough.  When I get the mag I usually go to Morley’s Workshop section. It used to be great reading but now it’s just about some Commie’s Knockers.  I wouldn’t mind so much if it was Russian porn. I recently renewed my subscription and I had to check that I wasn’t getting Unique Trucks.  I understand that not every article will appeal to all but aren’t we starting to get a bit off topic?

Anthony Lane,


I can see what you’re saying, Anthony, and you’re right on one level: Commer Knockers probably aren’t the first topic you think about when reading a workshop column in a magazine called Unique Cars. And while I agree that elderly Pommy truck engines might well be a bit of an acquired taste, I’m sure you’d agree that two-stroke diesel technology is an interesting aside.

As for being off topic, well, I reckon that’s a bit harder to define. See, one of the things I like most about putting together these pages is that I don’t have to come up with the subjects. For a lazy bozo like me, that’s brilliant. The point is that the folks who write and email letters to this column are the ones who set the agenda and the topics. And if they want to talk about gasping old Pommy load-luggers, there’s not much point me trying to steer them on to how to spot the difference between a GT and a non-GT tie-rod end, is there?

Actually, the sheer diversity of subjects (and that includes the real left-field stuff) is the other thing that makes these pages such a joy to cobble together each month.

But I take your point and I’m happy to turn the topic to whatever it is you – and anybody else who wants to contribute – would like to discuss. This isn’t about me and what I’m interested in. The magazine world is full of opinionated crap like that. I’m interested to know what you lot are interested in, so don’t be shy: If it’s not Commer Knockers, what is on your mind?

And while it’s tempting to think that diesel-engine tech has nothing to do with cars, I just got a press release from Mazda announcing that it’s working on a new generation of petrol engines with compression ignition a la the diesel. Sounds pretty out there, but who knows. Mind you, I’ve owned plenty of cars with shaved heads and compression ignition. It’s just that back then, we called it pinging.


Teching the mickey


Your article is spot on (issue 401) regarding stop-start technology. My son has a VW Golf two-litre turbo-diesel with stop-start. Guess what? Five-hundred dollars-plus for a new battery after three years! Also, there is wear and tear on the starter motor and electrical componentry to consider. Such stupidity, and saving a "whisker" of fuel is false economy when you consider all the issues. People are duped into buying cars that have lower fuel use but do not consider all the parameters.

Bernd Hollander,

Ceres, Vic

Actually, Bernd, this is one of my main hobby-horses. I get pretty sick and tired of hearing that I’m ruining the planet because I haven’t yet switched to a hybrid car or some slug-life, low-powered contraption that runs on dolphin smiles or whatnot. Here’s the truth of it: Even pure electric cars have emissions. Not from a tailpipe (they don’t actually have one) but from the power-station that generates the power that recharges them every few minutes.

Even if an electric car is recharged from solar power exclusively, producing the batteries to store that power involves a filthy industry, mining and processing extremely finite materials. And if you look at the situation holistically (which is a word the enviro-Stasi seem to love) you’ll discover that even a pure-electric car still takes materials and energy to produce and still consumes things like tyres. They still contribute to traffic congestion, too.

The point I am (and you are) making is that if your son’s VW didn’t have stop-start technology, its battery might easily have lived an extra two or three years. And if that’s the case, would the extra few litres of fuel it used idling in those two or three years without stop-start have contributed more waste and pollution to the planet than producing and disposing of one more battery? Interesting equation at that point, isn’t it?

I’ve been saying for years that the greenest car is the one that has already been produced. The lobbyists are always talking about recycling, right? Well, I say, taking an older car, making it safe and reliable and giving it another few decades of life is pure recycling. That way, you’re not condemning the planet by using materials to produce a new car and energy to scrap an old one. In fact, when you think about it, that makes Unique Cars readers the greenest, most thoughtful, caring, responsible people on Planet Earth. Which was, of course, always my suspicion. Give yerselves a pat on the back. And now go out and hug your old car; your planet will thank you.


And now a plug from our sponsors


I’m a genuine Holden parts collector for over 30 years. When I read your article about the diff plug (in your VC Commodore hillclimber project) I knew I had a couple in my stuff. I’ve just found them this week. Would they help your VC? Will it be a shock to see a new one? Enjoy your column.

PS: The plug is common to the M20 gearbox and Banjo diff on my LH Torana and would be the same on your Commodore. The plug is Holden part number 7400181 and the gasket is 113897.

Stan Fitzgerald,

Dumbalk, VIC

I continue to be genuinely touched by you lot, I really do. Some of you will recall I was having trouble figuring out a few months ago why anybody (being the previous owner of my VC Commodore) would ever have re-used the totally mullered drain-plug in the diff of my hillclimb car. And then I tried to buy a replacement. Neither Repco nor any other parts supplier I tried has them. I even bit the bullet, braced myself for the dollar-shock and tried a Holden dealer for a genuine one. No dice. And then Mr Fitzgerald steps up and mails me an honest-to-goodness, Holden Genuine Parts one still in the plastic and with the part number attached. You couldn’t make it up.

So, Mr F, I thank you from the bottom of my diff gears. The plug from your obviously extensive stash will work extremely well in my Commodore. And although it might seem like a little thing to some people, it’s a big gesture. Because let me tell you, without a diff-plug, the whole VC Commodore is rendered pretty useless. And it’s been leaving a horrible snail-trail of diff oil every time I forget the plug is missing and move it around.




I was browsing the latest copy today and noted Morley’s query as to whether Graham Hoinville is related to Steve Hoinville from Ford. In fact, Graham is Steve’s father and has a rich history in Australian motorsport.

He was a good friend of Harry Firth and navigated for him on many rallies, starting in the 50s, mainly in Rootes products and continuing into the 60s when Harry hooked up with Ford. This was mainly in Cortinas but they also shared one of the three works GT Falcons in the 1968 London-Sydney rally. Later, in the 80s Graham won an early Duttons Grand Prix Rally, managing to knock off a bunch of 911s in his original Elfin Clubman, sharing the car with another son, Greg. Greg is a very good driver in his own right and used to do a lot of rallying in an Escort. I believe Graham still also owns an Elfin Mono open-wheeler. 

Graham also served for some time as a CAMS historic eligibility officer until passing the baton to the late Brian ‘Brique’ Reed.

Pete Minahan,


Thanks for filling in the gaps, Pete. The Hoinville clan is clearly inextricably linked with Australian motoring and motorsport. And I wouldn’t mind betting there are a lot of Aussie family dynasties in the same boat. The Seton family is now into its third generation of racing drivers (Bo, Glenn and Aaron) and so are the Brabhams with Sir Jack’s grandson, Matt, rising to the top and actually making his debut at the Indianapolis 500 back in 2015. And there would be plenty more.


Hitting the right note

Holden -ehEven a staid, grey-motor EJ could get up and boogie with a few engine mods on board

Ah Dave Morley, you struck a chord with your editorial "Aspirated? Naturally" in Issue 404. Yes, there are others out here who share your view! Whenever you give up pulling spanners, you’re already 99 per cent of the way to "smithing words". What an evocative piece you wrote!

It is said that scent is the main sense to bring back memories, but your piece on NA engines flooded me with memories from too many years ago, when I was the proud young owner of an EJ wagon, ivory over red. With a passion for cars reaching its adolescence, I invested many months’ wages into "hotting up" the old grey donk in the EJ. The build was done by a renowned engine reconditioner in Cairns, and consisted of boring out, better pistons (high dome), lightening and balancing the flywheel, 80 thou off the head, porting and polishing, heavy duty valve springs, a moderately large cam, twin Strommies and extractors. A set of wide rims and radials, a minimally muffled two-inch exhaust system and I was off! That engine was bulletproof, testament to the builder.

The sounds that emanated from the EJ are what has stayed with me, but have been sadly neglected until I read about your "offbeat, two step rhythm" idle…God, what that brought back! I can again clearly hear that "roomp, roomp, roomp" idle, the slight raspy catch in the note at about two and half thousand revs, and that glorious howl as it ran out of puff in top gear. I can attest to the fact that the speedo needle on an EJ has no stop, as it was often wound around past the point where it disappeared under the dash. I wasn’t just getting my fix on speed…the sound that engine made will stay with me to my grave. It was completely and absolutely addictive. Your words refreshed those aural memories.

Thank you for writing a piece that will be the vehicle for a great deal more reflection on the joy of a well worked engine sucking air of its own volition.

Paul Gregory,

Gordonvale North

Jaguar -etype -racingFinalists in the musical-exhaust comp seem to be the howling inline six up against the roaring V8's syncopated rhythm

Aw shucks. You flatter me, Paul. But I’m very pleased to know that it’s not just me that gets all warm and fuzzy when a cammy, naturally-aspirated engine burbles on by. I still reckon engine sound is one area that many manufacturers have neglected (to their, and our, detriment) over the years, although some car-makers definitely did get it right. Cop an earful of a Jaguar E-Type tearing its way up through the gearbox, or a Cosworth-powered Escort howling through a dark forest with only the clanging of the dog-box to punctuate the wail of those Webers.

And it’s not just old iron that can sound good. The current model Commodore SS with its 6.2-litre V8 also sounds the business whether you’re up in the red zone or just giving it some ankle between the traffic lights. Of course, what’s the one thing that all the above engines have in common? Yep, natural aspiration. It’s harder with forced-induction because a turbocharger tends to homogenise the exhaust pulses and a supercharger chops up the intake charge, ruining the noise in the process.

The trend these days is for car-makers to synthesise the noise they think we want to hear. Some do it by piping a bit of the natural intake growl though a plastic tube from somewhere near the airbox to the firewall which is probably fair enough. But others get really sneaky. The latest VW Golf GTi has an actual speaker bolted to the firewall that produces a buzz that sounds like intake roar. It’s matched to the revs and throttle position to give it some reality, of course, but once you know that it’s an electronic trick and not the actual engine, the spell is broken. For me, anyway. BMW goes even further in its M5 and, using the same set of parameters (throttle position, load, engine speed etc) electronically creates the soundtrack it wants you to hear and then plays it through the car’s stereo! I ask you… Soulless is the engineer who identifies a buyer desire and then creates it in a test-tube. They’d be better off hiring an exhaust-acoustics white-coat who knows what they’re doing. I guess modern noise emission laws are the real problem, but I still struggle with this sort of sensory manipulation. Not everybody agrees with me, and you can buy (online, of course) a wee widget that plugs into the cigarette-lighter of your car, listens to the frequency of the engine and reproduces that frequency in a voice to mimic stuff like a Ferrari, Formula 1 car or whatever, back through the stereo. The latest gadget is another electronic device that creates the fake whoosh of a turbocharger’s blow-off valve to make pedestrians think you’ve turbocharged your Hyundai Getz. And the gods alone know what the phone-app makers of the world have come up with in the same vein. Not my special subject, I’m afraid.

Bmw -m5Sensory manipulation or acoustic enhancement? You be the judge

Maybe it’s because of all that nonsense, but I think the real-ness of older cars is one more reason we love ‘em, right? I know everybody waxes lyrical about the rumble of a V8 engine, but I reckon my hearts lies with the straight six for aural pleasure. I’m not sure how it’s achieved, but back when I was a kid, a few Holden red motors were getting around with twin systems that somehow produced the most magnificent, wet-raspberry tune you’re ever heard. It was a sweet, randy noise that you could almost see issuing from the tailpipes as musical notes. I think it had something to do with either including or not including (I can’t remember which) a cross-over pipe between the two pairs of three cylinders. I remember hearing lots of Holdens with such a system fitted, and quite a few six-pot Valiants, but not so many – if any – Falcons. Firing order, perhaps?

Does anybody else out there know the noise I’m talking about, or am I just going mad with nostalgia?


Just in case

Holden -torana -ss -interior

Reading the Torana spread in the in issue 405, I noticed in one of the articles a pic and a mention of some damaged vinyl in Sharon’s SS hatch. You previously ran a reader resto on my own car (the Hotwheels Datsun 1600 station wagon) and I have a motor trimming business and actually have some old stock of this vinyl. It hasn’t been reproduced and isn’t too common.

I know in the story Sharon mentions about the car being honest, but maybe she would be interested in buying some of the vinyl. Just for a rainy day maybe.

Adam Burke,

AJ Trim, Seaford, VIC

Hey, thanks for getting in touch Adam. It’s always good to know that we’re watching each other’s backs when it comes to spare bits and pieces and replacement materials. Stuff like the correct grade and colour of vinyl can be incredibly difficult to get hold of, especially for low-volume cars as they get older and stocks dry up. In some cases, somebody will reproduce a piece of trim or material (the particular basket-weave vinyl on GT Falcons is a great example) but it isn’t always financially viable. Which is where businesses like your come in, Adam.

Sometimes, a club will get together to have a batch of a particular spare part made. I met a guy from the Bolwell club a few years ago, who was telling me that windscreens for the Bolwell Mark 7 were more or less impossible to get hold of. And to have a one-off screen made was absolutely cost-prohibitive. So the club members got together and approached a windscreen maker to reproduce a batch of 100, which it did. Then, anybody who needed a new screen right then and there got one, and the rest were stockpiled for, as you put it, a rainy day.



And Two for Luck

Holden -vk -commodore -group -a -ss

Back in the days of Group A racing, the rules demanded that 500 examples of a car were built to satisfy the homologation requirements. Which is why HDT set out to build 500 VK Group A SSs (aka the Blue Meanie). Except, word round the campfire is that 502 examples were actually built. How come? Again, it depends on who you talk to, but it seems at least one Blue Meanie was double ordered, meaning the same car was officially built twice. Mind you, that should only take the total to 501, so who knows…


Trannie Tales

Ford -van

We all know that the Jaguar Mk 2 was the motor of choice for London’s east-end villains on the 1960s, but figures from The Met (London’s police force) suggest the real blagger was the Ford Transit van. In fact, The Met estimated a couple of years ago that 95 per cent of armed robberies in the UK in the 1970s involved a Transit. And you suspect the figures for burglaries and other robberies would have been just as high. Bet you didn’t see those figures in the sales brochure, though.


Write to Morley c/o or Unique Cars magazine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166  



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