Saluting a legend - What Do You Reckon 436

By: Glenn Torrens

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mitsubishi lancer rally car mitsubishi lancer rally car

The passing of a legend has Glenn Torrens thinking about yet another project car

I’ve just discovered that 1970s rally ace, the ‘flying Scotsman’ Andrew Cowan, died recently. While researching bits and pieces about Mitsubishi’s 1970s-era Lancer, I went down a couple of wombat holes on the internet and discovered the news of his passing on Rallysportmag.com.

Jeez, did Cowan carve his name in rallying – here and overseas! The Southern Cross rallies of the 1970s, held in NSW’s coastal tall timbers bush, were dominated by Cowan. He won the Southern Cross six times: Once in an Austin and five times in Mitsubishis: a Galant in 1972 (with Aussie rallying legend John Bryson as navigator) and then the next four in Mitsubishi Lancers. Oh, he won both London to Sydney rallies, too…

I’m too young to have been aware of those Southern Cross events at the time but my first car was a 1974 LA series Lancer sedan – what Cowan’s Southern Cross winning rally cars were built from – so I learned later of that mighty Mitsi’s formidable rallying heritage. In fact, my Uncle Barry was a member of Cowan’s Southern Cross support team. A few YouTube vids show the highlights of those rallies with those Mitsubishis – plus plenty of Mazdas, Volvos, Datsuns, Peugeots and Toranas – spraying gum leaves and gravel at mini-mulleted and moustachioed, Camel-smoking, Stubbies-wearing spectators.

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(In fact, many chrome bumper snobs don’t realise that, with international-grade rallying happening in our bush, there was so much more to Aussie motorsport during the 1970s than just the Ford/Holden Bathurst battles between the Hardtops and the Hatches.)

Driving a first-shape butter-box Mitsubishi Pajero, Cowan was on the podium in the Paris-Dakar rally in 1985. He competed and won the ’85 and ’86 Australian Wynns Safaris, too, also in a Pajero. Obviously, Mitsubishi was a brand with which he had strong links as his Andrew Cowan Motorsports company flourished to become Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe; a force in world rallying in the 1990s and 2000s.

Anyhow, all this has prodded me into thinking about how Mitsubishi seems to have faded since the 1980s. From the 70s Lancer and Galants; the later AWD Lancer-based EVO line; the 3000GT and of course the Pajero, Mitsubishi, like Toyota, seems to have lost all its sporting flair, becoming a purveyor of silver and white-goods on wheels.

It’s also spurred me into thinking about my first car; that LA-series two-door Chrysler-badged Lancer. Maybe I should find another one (heck knows where – maybe in a shed somewhere!) and restore/rebuild it to the way I dreamed when I was a teenager delivering pizzas: two carbies on a comp-and-cammed two-litre Astron, a five-speed, Scorpion or Montego wheels and fish-net Recaros.

Who likes that idea?

 

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