Unique Cars' Australia's Greatest Muscle Car

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We've selected Australia's top ten bruisers - plus a wildcard - and, after some debate, nominate Australia's Greatest Muscle Car. Join us for stats, the history, the expert tips and the crowning of the champ...

UNIQUE CARS' Australia's Greatest Muscle Car

This is one of those times when the harder you look at a problem – which is Australia’s greatest muscle car? – the more complex it becomes. And emotional. And tiring.

We won’t say there were temper tantrums at the palatial headquarters of Unique Cars magazine, located in sunny Melbourne.

Young Glenn Torrens set the basic parameters for the contest. Let’s look back to the 1960s when local race regs demanded production cars be raced, which in itself encouraged makers to develop a long and wild string of race specials. And what’s the cut-off? Around 1992 with the introduction of the V8 Supercars formula, which effectively completed the disconnect between the development of showroom and track machinery. (Whether that was a good or bad thing is a whole other debate!)

So what did that leave us with? Well, the traditional view of a muscle car from the USA is something with a dirty great V8 engine in the front. But that really didn’t cover the bases when it came to the local product.

For example, would you exclude the Ford Cortina GT500 just because it half the number of cylinders? Maybe not. In its day it was a race winner and serious performance car.

Okay, so what about a good old straight six engine which folk like Morley, our workshop guru, will argue all day is a ‘proper’ sports engine – not like those big V8 lumps. Well, there are at least a few Chryslers in the running on that score.

Then of course we move on to the inevitable American influence, perhaps best represented by the first 327 Monaro and the 289 Ford GT, both products of the rapidly-changing sixties.

What makes this motley collection unique on a world scale is just how many souped-up four-door family cars make it onto the list. It seems that, as a nation, we like nothing better than the concept of owning a vehicle that will give a Ferrari a hard time on the way to taking the kids to school.

In amongst the sedans, we’ve also seen some very pretty and capable coupes, such as Holden’s A9X Torana, Chrysler’s Charger and the exotic Bolwell Nagari.

What about some criteria? We looked long and hard at that. Is it laps times, race track success, showroom success, the top speed divided by the average age? Maybe it’s their performance as an investment or, on the other hand, what sort of value for money they offer. Maybe it should just be a beauty contest.

In the end, it came down to being a mix of all those things, plus – perhaps most influential – that strength of that weird visceral feeling when you either see one, or better yet, get behind the wheel.

The folk we got involved included the usual suspects among our staffers, including Uncle Phil, plus race guru and car nut John Bowe, part-time drag racer and all-round adventurer Glenn Torrens, plus workshop monster and long-term road-tester Dave Morley. They own a weird and wonderful mix of machinery between them and, more importantly, would cheerfully buy several of the cars you see here – if the funds allowed.

Let’s not forget you lot. With the incentive of a Sidchrome toolkit on offer, we got bombarded with letters, emails, and competition posts. Thanks. Half of you are crazy, and the other half are under suspicion, which is a beautiful thing. We’re grateful.

So, here it is, our countdown to Australia’s greatest-ever muscle car – enjoy!

 


 

THE JUDGING PANEL

JOHN BOWE
V8 Supercar Legend and Unique Cars road tester

UNCLE PHIL
UC Project Manager and the world's fusiest man

GUY ALLEN
UC Editor

ANDY ENRIGHT
UC Associate Editor

ANGELO LOUPETIS
UC Art Director

SCOTT MURRAY
UC staffer

GLENN TORRENS
UC contributor

DAVID MORLEY
UC workshop guru

- See what the judges said here 

 

NUMBER 10:

Ford XD-XE ESP Falcon

Falcon -esp -658

The first ESP (European Sports Pack) Falcon was based on the basic XD GL model and early examples came with 5.8 litres of Geelong-made V8 or the iron-head 4.1-litre six-cylinder. The time looks ripe for a revival in the ESP Falcon's popularity.

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER NINE:

Chrysler Valiant VG Pacer

Pacer --658

For the VG Valiant, apart from the most obvious styling update, its most important change was a new 4.0-litre six - the Hemi 6 - which replaced the ageing Slant Six.

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER EIGHT:

Holden HT Monaro GTS 350

Gts -monaro

The HT GTS 350 needs no excuses to be in our top ten!

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER SEVEN:

Bolwell Nagari MKVIII

Bolwell -nagari

There's no doubt the Nagari qualifies as an exotic car. Initially fitted with a 302 Windsor (and later modified to accept Clevelands), a Nagari could be a quick bit of gear when set up properly and with the right driver at the wheel.

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER SIX:

Ford Falcon XC Cobra 5.8

Cobra -658

The Cobra was the ultimate XC. A limited edition of only 400 built, with the 4.9 and 5.8-litre V8s available. The rise in popularity of seventies muscle cars over recent years has no doubt revived its value.

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER FIVE:

LJ Torana GTR XU-1

Torana -xu 1658

The little GTR XU-1 Torana grabbed wins in three of the last four rounds of the 1972 touring car series, plus three of the first rounds in '74 before being superseded by the bigger LH SL/R5000. Big engine, small car is a formula that just never gets old.

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER FOUR:

VK Commodore SS Group A

Vk -commore -658 

The VK was the first of four generations of Group A cars and purists will argue it's the best.

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER THREE:

VH Valiant Charger R/T E49

Charger -658

Several of our panel thought this is the best-looking car of the group. If good looks and charisma were to carry the day, the E49 Charger might have clinched the top spot.

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER TWO:

Ford Falcon GT-HO Phase III

Phase -3

Brutish good looks, a sexy if brief race history, seriously good performance and an impressive recent sales record pretty much sums up Australia's best-recognised muscle car. We've put Ford's mighty Falcon Phase III on the second step of the podium.

Read the full story...

 

NUMBER ONE:

Torana LX A9X

Torana -a 9x -658

The Bathurst legend with classic styling and genuine rarity value takes our top spot. Where else would the A9X finish?

Read the full story... 

 

PLUS...

 

OUR WILDCARD:

Ford Falcon XR GT

USA-OZ-Falcon GT--TWielecki --11 

We all love an underdog and Ford's XR GT Falcon was in with a puncher's chance.

Read the full story... 

 

LOOKING FOR YOUR OWN MUSCLE CAR?

Read the judges' TOP FIVE BUYING TIPS for finding your own muscle car here...

 

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WHAT THE JUDGES SAID:

John Bowe

GT-HO The biggest bad-ass car ever produced in this country – just tough and fast.

XC COBRA The end of the line for the two-door coupe and the best one ever. Conceived to win Bathurst, like the Phase III, but more developed and less raw. I like the motorsport connection and can’t wait for some Cobras to turn up at the Touring Car Masters next year.

A9X Arguably the best-looking muscle car in Aussie history.

David Morley

A9X You only need to know two things. Six laps ahead, lap record on lap 161.

Charger: Should have one Bathurst. Best-looking Aussie car, ever.

XU-1 Proved that Harry Firth was a genius and that balance is under-rated.

Uncle Phil

A9X Great investment, drives well and looks great.

VK HDT This is the best drive of the group and still looks great.

GT-HO At the moment this is the best investment of the group. They’re a bit raw to drive but are a really involving car.

Glenn Torrens

A9X A true muscle car; factory developed to be the best of its breed on the racetrack – engine; chassis; brakes. How many races did this not win? Bathurst ’79 was incredible. In the hands of God: Pole, led the whole race, won by six laps and a lap record on the last lap. Astonishing.

GT-HO It’s hard to not be impressed by the dedication to success that Ford Australia (and Howard Marsden et al) put into the XW-XY Falcons and the Phase III
was the pinnacle. Imagine how


WHAT YOU SAID

A huge thanks to the many hundreds of you who took the trouble to vote and give us your thoughts via our website and via email.

Also, thanks to the good folk at Sidchrome for putting up a very tasty toolkit as a prize.

Here’s a brief snippet or two…

I have owned a HK Monaro and my current car for fun is a SL/R5000. Even though it’s a mock-up it’s probably better than original. Both cars are and were great fun, but the car that I can never forget was the XW GT-HO Phase I that I owned some 30-odd years ago. I can still remember the smell when you first got in, the noise it made when you started it up. I drove it from Adelaide to Newcastle to Cairns several times, never missed a beat, you could be a hoon when you wanted to be or you could cruise. It was so comfortable to drive and you didn’t have to go ridiculously fast to feel like you were in a race car.

Whenever I drove it, I felt good. It was diamond white and I lowered it about an inch at the front. For me the XW-XY GTs were Ford at its peak. They were the best overall cars of the time and my choice as the best muscle car ever made in/for Australia. (Don’t tell my Torana I said this!)
Nev Busch

GT-HO Read about it in Wheels mag early seventies - Last of the Supercars. I had to have one. Loved the look, handling, raw power, balance, and the glorious sound.
Lyndsay Paff

CHARGER It should be obvious!
Emma Gleeson


XU-1 Because it was my dad’s car, the car I learned to drive in and the car I got my first root in.
David P

AND THE WINNER OF THE TOOLKIT WAS THIS COMMENT…

The XU-1 is the greatest Australian muscle car because it won Bathurst, Australian Touring Car Championship and the Australian Rally Championship four times. No other muscle car was able to achieve that.
John Smallacombe
(Congratulations, Mr S - Ed.)

 

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