Toyota Celica joins the MBC + Playboy Bunny-theme XC Coupe - Morley's Workshop 421

By: Dave Morley

Presented by

toyota celica toyota celica

A new addition to the MBC, tow pig debates and aviation antics on buckboards



Naturally I leapt on it

After all these years of swimming against the tide, I am completely comfortable with the idea that most people think I’m a rat-bag. Fact is, I couldn’t really give a monkey’s these days. So much so, that I can now reveal that the newest car at the Melbourne Bloke Centre is the unloved Toyota Celica RA40. As old Celicas go, the RA40 was the difficult second album.

But I love `em. In fact, I’ve been looking for one for the last couple of years and the scarcity of the Coupe version had almost convinced me that the even less desirable Liftback would do. As it turned out, though, a Coupe cropped up in the small ads. Even better, it was the steel-bumpered Series A version. Naturally I leapt on it.

The car in question fulfilled my most important must-haves: Mainly that the body was straight and the paint was good. I just can’t see the point in spending ten-grand on a five-grand car to get it looking right. Okay, so it’s not a stock colour (I was imagining some 70-s-era beige or that gorgeous pale yellow) but if you’ve got to have a non-stock colour, then Ford Blood Orange is about as good as it gets. Actually, Peter Williamson’s last Bathurst Celica was a very similar colour… Hmmmm.

The other thing I was sweating on was that the car was mostly all there. Finding some of the jewellery for these things is tough these days and even though the interior on mine is pretty trashed, it can all be redone on a budget. I already have a set of period-correct front seats (which will be getting the Blood Orange tartan treatment) and since I’m not going for any concourse trophies, I can afford to be a bit creative with the rest.

But why an RA40? Okay, I had an RA23 as a kid that I plonked an 18RG Twin Cam into. Loved it… never should have sold it (sound familiar?). Fact is I still have dreams where I’ve found it and bought it back (Sad, I know).   Despite having a bigger footprint an RA40 is no heavier than an RA23, a fact that helped it to be a class-winning Bathurst car and the quickest thing across the top of Mount Panorama in the late 70s, early 80s. Bar none.

Sadly, mine is still fitted with the dunger old 18RC single-cam engine, but it’s a pretty healthy one with no oil leaks, no smoke from the zorst and no fumes from the crankcase. Maybe I’ll stick with it for now. Beyond that the plan is to lower it and make it a kind of mutant cross between a Peter Williamson tribute car and an outlaw/canyon-racer style of thing. Yeah, I know, that’s a pretty loose brief, but these things have a habit of developing as you go, and I’m okay with that process. Wheels? I kind of like the idea of widened steelies in keeping with that outlaw thing. Oh, and I’ve gotta find one of those four-spoke SAAS steering wheels Williamson used.

First job, though, will be to get her roadworthy and legally on the road. The suspension is sloppy and the front rotors want replacing. But the underneath bits are all dry (as in, not covered in oil) and there’s zero rust. Even so, I’m expecting a fair old list of things to be done before the number plates are on. But hey, that’s old cars, right?

I actually drove it home the 130km from where I bought it in the bush to the MBC, an experience not without its challenges. First up, the left-front caliper was sticking (it freed up after a quick cool-down) but the bugger stopped twice on me as the fuel filter gradually clogged up with all the old fuel and gunk in the tank. I’d taken the precaution of adding about 15 litres of fresh ULP before I left the seller’s place, but it wasn’t enough. Made it home after giving the filter a shake each time it stopped, though.

I’ve already flushed the tank, replaced the filter and rubber lines and re-set the idle. But I also discovered that the electric choke is toast (it’s broken away from the carb body) so maybe I’ll plonk a 32/36 Weber on it. I’ve already removed the choke butterfly (`cos the shaft was lolling about, messing with the mixture on the primary throat) so maybe I’ll just live without a choke. We’ll see.

Meantime, if anybody has one of these rotting away in a paddock, I’d love to come and scrounge a few trim bits and – inevitably – talk crap about old Toyotas. And for those who reckon I’ve finally lost the plot: Like I said earlier, I couldn’t care less. How about you show me your chrome-bumper Bathurst hero?

Now you’ve heard my wild plans for the old dear, what do you reckon? Am I heading down the right path, or is there another direction I should steer this latest project-I-didn’t-need?


What's with the questions


If my mother taught me anything, it was that you should always question everything. This got me into more trouble during my school years than any of my other aberrant behaviours, but it has actually served me pretty well when it comes to messing about with cars. The classic example is when you replace a part and the bastard still won’t go. We’re usually happy to assume that the brand-new part must be working, but I can recall times when that hasn’t been the case. Questioning whether that new part could, indeed, be faulty is a valid approach.



Fuel’s paradise  

fuel-2.jpgI read with interest Mick McCrudden’s take on fuels in issue 418, specifically fuel and older vehicles. It was very well put together, but I have a specific question on the makeup between old standard petrol and the current unleaded fuel, apart, of course, from the non-use of tetra-ethyl lead. The vehicle I do a lot of kilometres in is a 1956 International AR-130, which was designed to run on standard petrol of the era. It now runs on E-10 with the required amount of upper cylinder lubricant. The big issue I have in summer is vaporisation. Do the new unleaded fuels promote vaporisation? If so what is your suggestion for a fix? The fuel lines have been lagged and an electric fuel pump fitted, with no results.

Ian Heferen,
Moree, NSW.

G’day Ian. I’ve spent a bit of time up around Moree in my time, so I know for sure that it gets mighty warm up that way.

Anyway, I got in touch with Mick who reckons the solution to your problem is not rocket science, but good old fashioned science just the same. He reckons your problem has its root in the fact that modern fuels like the E-10 you’re using have a smaller molecule than conventional old-school fuels. Throw in the fact that E-10 has a percentage of alcohol (ethanol) in it, and suddenly, you’ve got a fuel that is quicker to boil, or vaporise, at which point your engine develops a bad case of the staggers.

So what do you do about it? Mick tells me there are a couple of weekend projects you need to carry out. The first is to change the fuel line from its current 5/16ths of an inch diameter to a 3/8ths line. That’s not a huge jump up, but it will mean there’s more fuel in the line and that means it’ll take longer to boil. Remember old fashioned electric kettles? Fill them right up and they took forever to boil, but switch them on with just a cupful of water in them, and they’d be whistling in seconds. Same science.

The other thing to do is have the inlet manifold ceramic coated which helps keep the heat out of that component. It’s all about managing heat and keeping the fuel in the line and in suspension in the manifold from vaporising. If you can’t find somebody up your way who can do ceramic coating, hit the phone book for the big smoke; you’ll find there are plenty of mobs who can help you out. Just probably not on an exchange basis when it comes to a 1956 Inter.


Weird choice

holden-ute.jpgNot everyone agrees with Morley’s tow pig choice

Hey Morley: Your choice of "tow pig" leaves me bemused. The Dunnydore hasn’t been able to tow more than 1200kg braked since the VT came along. A BA/BF can at least pull 2300kg. Just saying…

Steve Bowdery,

You’re right, Steve. A BA/BF automatic (my preference for towing) can indeed tug along a 2300kg braked trailer. Thing is, I don’t need that much capacity and the 1600kg braked load the VY SS can haul should be more than enough for my needs.

Beyond that, having owned one years ago, I was tempted by the Falcon XR6 Turbo but I just reckon the normally-aspirated, big capacity V8 is a better bet for towing in a hot climate. And at that point, all roads led to Holden because the LS1 is a simpler engine and makes its torque in a better spot than the DOHC Ford that arrived with the BA. And, to be honest, I just couldn’t go back to the plain-Jane Falcon interior and the driving position that never, ever felt completely `right’ to me.

Also, wrecking yards are full of shunted VX and VY Commodores with perfectly good engines in them for not much money (should the unthinkable happen) and there’s a whole parts and tuning industry that’s sprung up around the LS1. Either way, though, I’d still have an Aussie car-based ute over pretty much any of the current crop of dual-cab four-wheel-drive utes, none of which, in my humble opinion, rides properly.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total LS1 fanboy. Fact is, I still reckon the old Iron Lion in my VN SS has way more character than the LS. But you can’t argue with horsepower numbers and efficiency.


He’s no bunny, this bloke

ford-cobra.jpgThe Cobra, just 400 were made - sans Playboy bunnies

I was recommended to contact you via a member of the Australian Ford Forums. They said you might be able to assist in tracking down some information on a particular car I own.

The car in question is a March 1977 XC Falcon coupe. It was black with a Playboy theme: Playboy bunnies on the front guards, silver bonnet and accents like an XB GT, and also a black vinyl roof.

The story goes that this was a prototype idea Ford toyed with for the final 400 hardtop shells which we all know, of course, became the XC Cobra. This car was a one off and still exists to this day. It went through the Ford Special Vehicles department in Ferntree Gully. It is also said that this car did the rounds at a few cars show in 1977 or 78. Melbourne international motorshow and Sydney International motorshow seem to be what people say. It also featured in a motoring magazine of the time.

Many people have told me that they remember seeing photos of the car but no-one can recall what magazine it came from. But the magazine did show black and white photos of it on a carousel at a show.

I’m hoping you guys might be able to assist in any information or maybe you guys have heard of the car. I attached a well known sketch of the car made by the late Ford designer Herb Grasse who did indeed design the car. I am also hoping to perhaps get in contact with Peter Arcadipane who is believed to have worked on this or close to this car.

John De Lisio,

motorshow-special.jpgThe idea for a 70s motorshow special takes shape

John, my suspicion would be that the car was a specially-made model (probably a one-off) just for car shows which, back in the day, were a pretty big deal. Ford has a rich tradition of making wow-factor cars to send around the country to all the shows and, if I’m right, then this one was probably sold (maybe through a dealership) once its carousel days were over.


I reckon that’s more likely than it being a serious proposal to help shift the last few hundred XC Falcon Hardtop bodies. I mean, it’s one thing to have a Playboy themed car on a show stand, but it’s another altogether for a fine, family company like Ford to have 400 of the buggers lined up in dealerships. The illustration you’ve provided shows that Herb Grasse was a major player in things, but something like this also has Peter Arcadipane’s fingerprints all over it for mine. Don’t forget that Arcadipane was heavily involved with Ford’s show cars, designing and building the Concorde van concept for the 1977 Melbourne Motor Show, the front end styling of which went on to become the face of the last of the Interceptors in the original Mad Max film. Last I heard, Arcadipane, after a stint with Mercedes-Benz where he worked on the original SLK, was working for Kia out of its European design studio.


Plane crazy

engine.jpgNow that you’ve seen the drawing, there’s nothing too complicated about  radial motors. Right?

I have been considering sending you this story for a few months so, finally, here it is. It is in regard to unusual uses for engines.

Back in the 90s I worked as a farm machinery salesman in South Australia and so, after selling a machine, I would deliver it and install it on farm. One day I delivered a machine about 100km from the dealership behind the old inter AB180 tow-truck. As you could imagine, towing a wide machine 100km can be a bit slow so after an early start I arrived about 10am and started fitting the machine to the owner’s tractor. I was invited to the house for lunch and on the walk to the house we past several old stone sheds. One had the sliding door open a couple of feet and as I glanced in I thought I saw an aeroplane prop. Obviously, there was going to be a story attached to this.

The story went that back in the 40s after the war, steel and bolts etc were hard to buy. So this bloke’s father and his brother travelled about 250km in the old farm truck to an air field at Port Pirie and purchased an old Avro twin-engine plane. They cut the wings off with an axe and strapped them to the fuselage, put the tail up onto the back of the truck and towed it home. When they got home they stripped it out and took one engine each and life went on. Come the early 60s and this customer of mine is into his early teens and had some mates over for some fun. They thought they would sit the old Avro Anson radial engine up on a 44 gallon drum to get a better look at it. They found that it turned freely and, really, the only things stopping it from running were fuel and the lack of a magneto. Some weeks later on a trip to Adelaide and this mob happened to walk past an army disposal store, went in and found that they stocked Avro Anson magnetos. Of course they bought one and took it home and fitted it and, along with a tin of fuel and a swing on the prop, the old girl fired up.

But it wasn’t too stable on the 44 gallon drum so in another shed was an old 32 Ford B model buckboard. It was decided to bolt it to the tray with the prop out the back. They drove the old Ford out into the paddock and fired up the old 7-cylinder radial and away they went. Backwards at a fast rate of knots. The end of the prop was quite close to the ground so it was throwing up lots of grass and dirt and rocks which meant they had to hide behind the seat and take a quick glance every now and then. After a couple of near misses with fences and trees it was decided to park it in the shed. For good. So, after 35 years, there it was as parked with the big burn hole in the tray from the straight out exhaust and some old bags draped over it. I reckon it would have still run and I wouldn’t mind betting it’s still there. It is one of those memories that will stay with me for ever.

Andrew Schmidt,

buckboard.jpgYou won’t find the instructions at Bunnings, or IKEA

Mad farmers, eh? It amazes me that more of them don’t die in bizarre, ridiculous accidents more of the time. But bless ‘em for having the imagination to wonder what would happen. And what luck to find an army disposal store selling precisely the correct magneto for such a daring mission.

I’m wondering though if it was a surprise that the old Ford truck took off under the power of the prop at all, or whether it was just that the thing galloped off backwards. Thinking about it, can see that an engine with a prop designed to pull a plane forward would, when attached to something the wrong way round, pull that something backwards. Also, it seems a bit obvious that an engine designed to lift a huge plane loaded with bombs into the air might just have the grunt to haul an old truck across a grassy paddock…whether the hand-brake was on or not. Then again, it’s debatable that any of this would have occurred to a bunch of people who had previously though that balancing a radial engine on an oil drum for its first start-up was a grand idea. Never mind.

I’m with you, Andrew, on the theory that the contraption is still sitting in that shed on that farm out there. I mean, if anybody had got hold of it and tried to do anything with it, we’d have heard about it on the news, right? Does anybody out there know about this thing? I’d love to see a photo of it.


Concrete warranty

engine-bay.jpgTreat them with care and they’ll treat you to engine starts

I love these long spring/summer nights. My brother came round on the weekend to have a beer or two after work while we messed about with my latest project (an MGA). The plan is to do a rolling restoration on the old girl, and one of the first jobs is to tidy up the engine bay. I’d removed the battery before my brother turned up, but when he did, he threatened that if I didn’t move the battery off the concrete it was sitting on, he was going straight back home. And taking the beer (Great Northern) with him.

I had no idea what he was talking about, but he was adamant that a battery left sitting on concrete will not only go flat quick smart, but will also then refuse to be recharged. I reckon he’s lost his mind. How on earth can it matter where you sit a battery inside its sealed, insulated casing? He reckons the cold of the concrete has something to do with it, but then how does a single battery survive a Scandinavian winter? Last time I looked, concrete isn’t a great conductor of electricity, so what’s the deal. I reckon you’ve probably heard every hair-brained motoring theory ever invented Morley, so what’s your take?

Ray Wildman,
Logan, QLD.


Ray, I’ve heard this one plenty of times. In fact, my own brother, a BMW factory-trained tech, enlightened me about this many moons ago. Like your brother, he’s positive that this really is a thing. Then again, also like your brother, he’s very fond of beer. (He’s also a wild man…Wildman, geddit? Never mind.)

Anyhoo, while he’s 100 per cent positive that leaving a battery on a concrete floor is signing its death warrant, he can’t tell me why. He reckons even sitting the battery on a lump of timber a few millimetres thick is enough to prevent the concrete floor from doing its evil work. Thing is, he now has me so spooked about it, that I never leave batteries sitting around on concrete. Which is another way of saying I have no idea whether the theory is right or not. If I was pushed for an opinion, though, I’d say it was a load of bollocks. But I’ve been wrong before. Just ask Mrs M.

So I’ll throw it open to you lot: Anybody else ever heard of this? And, if you have, has anybody tested the theory? Finally, if it turns out to be kosher, what weird, hippy brand of science is at work? Come on, somebody out there is going to know the answer to this one. Share. Letters and post-cards to the usual address, please.


Do yourself a favour


I took part in a podcast recently, and, as a guest, I was asked to nominate my favourite driving song beginning with R. The podcast does a new letter each time, and they happened to be up to R. I went with Rock the Casbah by The Clash. Now, I like to think I’m an original thinker, but this was just too much fun not to pinch as an idea. So, starting with the letter A, what’s your all-time fave driving or road-trip song. I’ll go first: I was going to say Another Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin, but it turns out the song’s real name is "Piece of My Heart". So I’ll go with "Ant Music" by Adam and the Ants. Your turn.

Pretty in pink


Speaking of Playboy bunnies (see John De Lisio’s latter about his Falcon Hardtop), did you know that Blondie lead singer, Deborah Harry, was a bunny at the New York City Playboy Club way back in the late 60s and early 70s? ’Tis true, I tell ya (it makes me love her just that little bit more). Other notable ex-bunnies include Kimba Wood who was a bunny trainee in the old days, eventually rising through legal ranks, ultimately nominated for the job of USA Attorney General by Bill Clinton. And let’s not forget Magenta from the original Rocky Horror Show movie (real name, Patricia Quinn). That’s one hell of an alumni (and remember where you read it first). Thank you for everything, Heff.


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


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