From the start, the effect all this had on the street was electric, the same ‘go faster’ boffins were out there working with the new hardware and we soon began to find out that there was nothing that could not be improved, transplanted or modified by a committed tuning specialist . Speedshops and dedicated Tuners popped up everywhere, enthusiast keen to make a buck from their passion for making cars go faster. The bar had been lifted and whether you were in Europe, the USA, Australia, South Africa, or anywhere in the world on the receiving end of these magical creations, quick production saloon cars were embedded in car culture and happily for us, reignited saloon car racing and the ‘Go faster’ tuning business spectacularly.
It took a while but GM eventually got going outside the USA and in the UK Bill Blydenstein gave hope to the General’s troops who were to that point not participating in the art of burning rubber… In the Orient there was a ‘sleeper’ and Prince Motor Company were soon to be taken over by Nissan…the result of that union was to create a performance car dynasty that would eventually rewrite all the rule books.
On the race track, the names Sir John Whitmore, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Koos Swanepoel, Basil vanRooyen, Bob Olthoff and Scamp Porter, to name a few synonymous with the period flexed their muscles. The greater involvement of factories in the business of quick production sedans provided a new lifeline for these men and fresh links to available quick technology. ‘Trick’ part homologation resulted in racing saloon lap times taking a pounding. In late 1963 the top tin top racers in their Jags were running the show….. along came that modified 1500cc pushrod Cortina GT at Kyalami putting paid to that lot. Jack Sears in a Lotus Cortina in the UK ending the tenure of the Jags with help from big brother Galaxies. Lightweight monocoque body construction had arrived, along with engine designs bringing unheard of reliability and power from four cylinder production based race engines.
By the end of some truly great contests during the sixties, those last seven years had produced a winner …. without doubt Ford was it. The difference, I guess, was that their ‘suites’ were the most involved in this new adventure and in truth, were rewarded for their contribution …. Enzo telling Uncle Henry to take a hike resulted in the Blue Oval’s boss-man getting his team involved. With the Ford ‘brass’ now supporting the tuning busines and the declaration of Ford’s “Total Performance Programme” everything else fell into place pretty well for the men from the double ‘D’ ranch*.
The saloon car racing world had been a given giant shove from the start in 1963 and to make the point, it was at the end of our ten year picture that that man van Rooyen ran within a whisker the first 100 mph saloon car lap at Kyalami in his Firenza Can Am… a 1 min 31.93 sec….. 28 seconds off the lap record …..stunning. The German invasion of Cologne Capris and Batmobile BMWs was in full swing and by the end of 1973 saloon car lap records were all but matching Formula one times of just 6 years before……
As noted in the opening paragraph, I can say with hand on heart that for those of us gearheads, petrolheads, hot rodders or enthusiasts (call us what you will) involved in these times…it was special… and never to be repeated.
* Dearbourn and Dagenham