Home Cars Performance From Down Under – 15 Crazy Australian Muscle Cars

Performance From Down Under – 15 Crazy Australian Muscle Cars

Vukasin Herbez February 19, 2018

Most people think muscle cars are an American thing. Over the years, muscle cars have become a symbol of the American urban landscape, like Coca-Cola or M&Ms. The unique combination of a powerful V8 engine, aggressive design, wide stance and glorious rumble from the exhaust made muscle cars legendary beyond U.S. shores. But, the U.S. is not the only country that has produced true muscle cars.

In fact, there are several places on the globe that have developed their own muscle car class by borrowing heavily from American manufacturers. Foreign muscle car cultures are like America, yet distinctive and interesting. When the muscle car craze started in America, it also influenced the Australian market and soon, a new class of cars emerged. The Australian car culture is like it is in America. Like the U.S., Australia has vast stretches of empty roads and the need for powerful cars.

That is why Ford, Chrysler, GM and Studebaker produced cars for the Australian and New Zealand market – all with right-hand drive. Here is a list of the most interesting classic Australian muscle cars that all deserve respect and recognition by mainstream American enthusiasts. So read on to learn all about the crazy world of Australian muscle cars.

1. 1967 Ford Falcon GT XR

The Falcon GT XR was arguably the first Australian muscle car Ford introduced in 1967. That year, the Falcon was a new model, but it was visually like the American version. On the Australian market, the Falcon was a popular family sedan with straight-six engines and one V8 – the 289 V8 from the Ford Mustang. Although most Falcons Ford sold were modest six-cylinder sedans, they offered a special “Police Interceptor” version. It featured a 225 HP 289 V8 engine, four-speed transmission, bigger brakes and a stiffer suspension.

Equipped with this hardware, the Falcon was a capable car. So Ford thought it would be a great idea to enter the Falcon GT into the famous Australian Bathurst race. The new Falcon GT demolished the competition with a 1-2 win and the legend was born. Ford made less than 600 of these homologation specials. Today, the Falcon GT XR is a valuable and rare car.

2. 1968 Holden Monaro GTS 327

Ford’s Bathurst victory in 1967 started a muscle car war between Ford and its archrival Holden. Understanding the Falcon GT XR concept, Holden engineers presented their muscle car with a bigger engine and better components. So, in 1968, the first Australian two-door muscle car was born – the Holden Monaro GTS 327. This car looked and sounded like a proper muscle car coupe. It featured a two-door Monaro body with bigger wheels, a graphics package, a sportier interior and Chevrolet’s 327 V8 engine under the hood.

The V8 produced 250 HP which was more than enough for an exciting performance. Immediately, Holden pitted the new Monaro muscle car against the Falcon GT in Australian touring car races. The GTS 327 won the 1968 Bathurst race, which was the first Holden victory on that track. The appearance of Holden’s muscle competitor showed that major Australian manufacturers were taking the muscle car class seriously and the best was yet to come.

3. 1969 Ford Falcon GT XT

The next generation of the Ford Falcon arrived in 1969 only to add fuel to the muscle car fire. Aussie muscle car wars were famous on the streets, as well as on the racing circuits in the highly competitive Australian Touring Car championship. The new Falcon with the XF chassis code came prepared. And in the GT version, it featured a bigger and more powerful 5.0-liter V8 engine.

The 5.0-liter V8 was available in standard trim with 210 HP, but with the GT package, the engine delivered 230 HP and vivid performance. Also, the GT package came with better brakes, a close-ratio transmission and a host of other upgrades. This generation of Falcon GT came in the four-door sedan version only. However, it managed to prove itself on the race tracks.

4. 1969 Holden Monaro GTS 350

Holden’s answer to the more powerful Falcon GT was to develop the Monaro GTS model. After adding a powerful 327 V8 engine, Holden installed the famous 350 small-block Chevrolet with 300 HP on tap. Officially, the 1969 Monaro GTS 350 was the most powerful Australian car at the time of its introduction.

The design was much the same, but Holden introduced a different dashboard and a slightly different front grille. With less weight and more power than the Falcon GT, the Monaro GTS 350 was the winner on the race track. It went on to prove its worth on the famous Bathurst circuit in 1969.

5. 1971 Ford Falcon GT HO 351

The most famous of all Australian muscle cars was probably the mighty Ford Falcon GT HO 351 Ford introduced in 1971. Despite its performance portfolio, it was still a four-door sedan, but with proper muscle car equipment. Under the hood was Ford’s 351 V8 with a shaker hood, and a beefed-up suspension and brakes. The power output was 300 HP for the standard version, but Ford offered the Phase II and Phase III options.

The car looked the same, but they upgraded the mechanicals, so in the ultimate Phase III version, the Falcon GT HO had over 350 HP. The performance was astonishing with 0 to 60 mph acceleration times in the six seconds range. It hit top speeds of over 140 mph. As expected, the Falcon GT HO was successful at racing, dethroning its arch-enemy, the Monaro GTS 350.

6. 1972 Holden Torana LC GTR XU-1

The introduction of the Torana GTR was a controversial move by General Motors Australia since this car broke the muscle car mold. It was somewhat smaller and lighter than the Monaro and it featured a six-cylinder engine instead of a V8. Under the hood was the tuned version of a common 3.3-liter inline six, paired with triple Stromberg carburetors. The combo was good for 200 HP.

Along with its small weight, the Torana GTR delivered a good performance. The car was also successful in racing, but mostly on the rally stages and events. Holden’s racing team experimented with the V8-powered Torana but this model never went out of the prototype stage. That is a shame since a V8 engine in a small car would be interesting.

7. 1972 Chrysler Valiant Charger VH

The Chrysler Motor Company also wanted to participate in the Australian muscle car class. So, in 1971, they introduced the Valiant Charger. They based it on the regular Valiant platform, but they gave it a sporty new two-door body. The Chrysler Valiant Charger got its name from its American cousin, the Dodge Charger. To be able to keep up with the mighty Falcon GTs, Monaros and Toranas, the Valiant Charger came with several performance engines.

The first was a hot version of Chrysler’s six-cylinder engine that featured new cylinder heads and better intake systems. In the R/T version, the 4.3-liter six delivered over 240 HP, but the most powerful version was the Charger 770 SE E55. Under the hood was Mopar’s well-known 340 V8 with 285 HP and a three-speed automatic. This engine was commonly installed in the Dodge Challenger and the Plymouth Barracuda in America.

8. 1975 Holden Sandman

One of the famous Australian car classes is the Ute. Half car, half truck, the Ute is a practical pickup built on a passenger car chassis. The best way to describe it to American audiences is to compare it with the Chevrolet El Camino or Ford Ranchero. In America, that class is dead, but in Australia, it is as popular as ever.

It was only a matter of time when will the first Ute receive the muscle car treatment and in mid-70’s, Holden came up with a model called the Sandman. It was a surf-style pickup or panel van with a graphics package, vivid colors and an option of a powerful 5.0-liter V8. The Sandman was a nod to Australia’s surf community, which used Ute vehicles and muscle cars.

9. 1976 Leyland Force 7V

Even though the Force 7 was a stillborn project that never made it to the market, it was a true Australian muscle car. Australian Leyland, a subsidiary of British Leyland, built the Force 7. They designed it as a coupe version in the Leyland P76 model range. They presented the P76 saloon model in 1973. It received a good initial reception by the Australian buyers, so Leyland started thinking about a coupe version that could battle the Ford and Holden muscle models.

They called it the Force 7 and it was a coupe version that included a number of interesting features. They gave it an all-alloy 4.4-liter V8 engine based on the Rover 3.5-liter unit. Unfortunately, the styling and quality weren’t exactly good, so after less than 60 pre-production examples, Leyland canceled the project, scrapping most of the cars. Today, only 10 Force 7s exists, making it one of the rarest Australian muscle cars.

10. 1977 Holden Torana A9X

After the muscle car boom in the Australian market, the conservative part of the government put a ban on the production of high-performance cars. They called this ban the “Supercar Scare.” It was a publicly announced action following several dangerous incidents involving fast driving in urban areas. It prompted many car manufacturers to stop producing muscle cars for the public. They started to concentrate on the safer, regular models.

However; in 1977, Holden produced a high-powered version of the compact two-door Torana they called the A9X. It featured a 5.0-liter V8 engine and a host of other upgrades and performance components. The car was also a homologation special for participating in the famous Bathurst race. Although the Torana A9X lost the 1977 Bathurst, it reignited the muscle car battle with Ford.

11. 1978 Ford Falcon Cobra

In 1978, Ford was getting ready to introduce a new body style for its popular Falcon. The new model was going to be a sedan or station wagon, and the two-door coupe was out of production. After closing their assembly lines for the old model, Ford was left with 400 coupe body shells that they were supposed to scrap. However, Ford decided to turn the leftover bodies into a special version they called the Falcon Cobra.

The 1978 Falcon Cobra came with a 5.8 or 5.0 V8 engine, an automatic or manual transmission and two colors – white or blue. Each car had racing stripes as an homage to the Shelby Mustangs that were popular in Australia. Today, the Falcon Cobra is a valuable and much sought-after car in Oceania.

12. 1985 Holden Commodore HDK VK SS Group A

The 1980s marked the absence of proper muscle cars in America, but in Australia, the trend lived on in a different form. Those cool-looking coupes were gone, so car manufacturers turned to performance versions of regular sedans. The muscle cars they produced in this period were all homologation models for Australian racing championships. The 1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A was the perfect example of such a car.

Holden built the SS Group A to comply with a new set of FIA rules. This made it eligible to race in Europe, as well. Under the hood was a high-performance version of the 5.0-liter V8. It delivered 260 HP, which was a high number if you consider that the 1985 Corvette had only 245 HP on tap.

13. 1988 Holden HSV VL Group A Walkinshaw

The 1988 HSV was an interesting car that was a major step for Holden and their performance department. It was the first car to feature a fuel-injection engine. It was also the first car Holden developed in a wind tunnel by Tom Walkinshaw Racing as an outside contractor.

The car featured a 240 HP V8 engine, a five-speed gearbox and an aerodynamic body kit, which was important for homologating reasons. Interestingly, some dealers removed the unique body kit and sold the car without it. Since Holden only made 750 of them, Group A Walkinshaws are scarce on the classic car market. However, cars without the body kit are less valuable.

14. 2000 HSV GTS 300

The late 1990s brought a rise in power levels, and new technologies and materials. This created a bump in performance and a new lease in life for Australian and American muscle cars. One of the best Aussie performance machines from that period was the HSV GTS 300. Despite being limited to only 100 copies, the HSV GTS 300 was a big milestone for the Australian muscle car scene.

The engine was a Callaway with an LS1 5.7-liter V8 producing 400 HP. They packed this engine in a sedan body with a beefed-up suspension and brakes. The GTS 300 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, making it one of the fastest sedans in the world.

15. 2001 Ford Falcon Tickford TE50

The appearance of the mighty HSV GTS 300 was alarming for Ford since the Blue Oval boys didn’t have anything to put against this crazy fast black Holden. But a year later, in cooperation with Tickford, Ford introduced the TE50 Falcon in sedan form.

The 5.6-liter V8 engine was responsible for moving this sleek sedan with a special body kit and host of other performance upgrades. Even though the 5.6-V8 delivered 335 HP, which was less than the 5.7-liter V8 in the GTS 300, the Falcon Tickford TE50 delivered a similar performance.

This list featured the best of muscle car performance from down under – crazy world of Australian muscle cars. All of these cars delivered unexpected results, making their mark in global car history.

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