Foreign Power - 1975 Allan Moffat Racing Chevrolet Monza

 
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In 1967, Canadian-born Allan Moffat sought a replacement for the Ford Cortina he'd been in the Australian Touring Car Championship. With the introduction of V8 Holden Monaros, Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs, it wasn't going to cut it anymore.

Moffat travelled to Detroit, seeking a replacement and achieved the impossible. He was given one of only seven Mustang Boss 302 Trans racers, free of charge. Moffat's Trans-Am Mustang was the fastest car to compete in Group C improved production touring cars, although he never managed to win a championship with it.

In 1973, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport replaced both Group C and Group E with a single Group C touring car formula. The old Group C racers were no longer contest the ATCC but were still free to compete in sports sedan racing. Sports sedan racing had emerged in Australia in 1964, as an avenue for owners Appendix J touring cars to continue racing when the ATCC moved to the more structured Group C. Sports sedan racing was basically a free-for-all with little in the way of formal competition or technical regulations. As part of the 1973 rule changes, sports sedans had been given official CAMS recognition under Group B.

Moffat was one of the first professional racing drivers in Australia, earning all of his income from sponsorship. A lot of this came from Ford, but at the end of 1973, Ford had withdrawn from motorsport in Australia. In the early 1970s, there was a lot of money to be made in the sports sedans. Event organisers were offering serious prize money and appearance fees to lure the best drivers and cars to the series.

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Moffat’s Mustang joined a number of superseded ATCC cars in the newly formed category.  The Mustang had been one of the fastest cars in the ATCC, but under the much looser rules of sports sedan racing, it was rather less competitive. It had become common practice in sports sedans to move the engine back into the cabin to improve weight distribution. Use of fibreglass panels, spaceframe chassis and Formula 5000-style suspension was also becoming more widespread. Moffat was already running fibreglass panels on his Mustang to avoid damaging the originals but was unwilling to make significant and irreversible modifications necessary to move the engine back. The Mustang’s racing career was over.

A replacement was found in Europe in the form of the Ford Cologne Capri, a car that Moffat acquired through his connection to Bob Harper, the Ford dealer of Hong Kong. Harper, who was able to get anyone and any touring car he wanted from Ford, arranged for Moffat to race a Capri RS2600 in 1973. Representatives from Ford in Germany accompanied the car there to watch Moffat win.

It was his performance at Macau that gave Moffat access to an Ex-European Touring Car Championship Cologne RS3100 after Ford wound down its German-based competition department. The Capri, with its 450hp, 9000rpm Cosworth V6, won on debut at Sandown Raceway in 1975.

Despite its success, Moffat believed he could, and had to do better than the Capri. It was designed for endurance touring car racing on flowing, high-speed European circuits. It wasn’t particularly suited to tighter circuits found in Australia and was heavier than the V8 competition. Moffat needed a V8 for the 1976 season.

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He found one in the IMSA Chevrolet Monza. The Monza had been developed by GM’s unofficial motorsport manager, Vince Piggins. In response to Porsche’s dominance of US sports car racing, Piggins approached IMSA management offering to build an American contender if they produced a suitable set of rules. IMSA created the All-American GT class, and Piggins got to work on his Chevrolet. The sleek and compact Monza was chosen over the more bulky Camaro, and the GM styling department was enlisted to redesign the Monza’s body for racing using Lockheed’s wind tunnel.

Lee Dykstra and Horst Kwech’s DeKon Engineering was commissioned to build the IMSA Monzas in Libertyville, Illinois. Dykstra had been the senior development engineer at Kar Kraft when Moffat was working there as a development engineer from 1967-68. Moffat was very familiar with Dykstra’s talent. Dykstra had created the Trans Am Mustang Boss 302.  

There was nothing revolutionary about the IMSA Monza. It ran a front-mounted 5.7 or 6.0 litre Chevrolet Small Block, mated to a Borg Warner four-speed manual. Rear suspension was a NASCAR-style four-link live axle with a Ford 9 inch differential. Although not designed for it, the Monza was structurally very similar to the sports sedans already running in Australia. It consisted of a spaceframe and integrated roll cage welded to the road car’s body structure.    

Once again, Moffat demonstrated his ability to negotiate his way into whatever car he needed, and agreed to acquire the fifth IMSA Monza for just $10,000. His first race in a Monza was in August 1975, co-driving with Kwech in a 500 mile race at the Mid-Ohio sports car course. Although mechanical problems prevented them from finishing, Moffat was impressed with the Monza. After Sandown and Bathurst, he returned to America for the final IMSA race of 1975 at Daytona. Moffat drove the same car that he and Kwech had shared at Mid-Ohio. Moffat qualified third, but a fuel injection issue while running second prevented him from finishing, Al Unser, driving the sister car to Moffat’s, also failed to finish due to engine problems. Despite suffering two DNFs from two, Moffat was so impressed with the car’s performance that he bought it anyway. The Monza was then air freighted to New Zealand to compete in the New Zealand sports sedan summer series.

 Moffat in the #3 Monza alongside Al Unser in the #4 at Daytona, 1975

Moffat in the #3 Monza alongside Al Unser in the #4 at Daytona, 1975

The Monza made its Australian debut in early 1976 at Sydney’s Amaroo Park. The battle between Moffat and Pete Geoghegan’s Holden Monaro was supposed to be a major drawcard, but Geoghegan qualified at the back of the grid with Moffat on pole. The Australian Racing Drivers Club responded by organising two five lap one-on-one races between Moffat and Geoghegan. Geoghegan’s spark plugs fouled in race one, Moffat won both by default.

Following Amaroo Park was the Calder Park Marlboro Series. Calder Park was owned by tyre dealer and racing driver Bob Jane. After Moffat won the 70 lap race, Jane approached him and told him the car was illegal. $5,000 in prize money was offered to the race winner, so Moffat wasn’t going to just accept the solution lying down. He had been through scrutineering and was adamant the Monza was legal. After a seven week battle with CAMS, Jane relented and awarded Moffat the win.

In preparation for the 1976 championship, Moffat sought engines from Formula 5000 engine builder Peter Molloy. These engines were much better suited to the sprint format used in the Australian Sports Sedan Championship.    

The inaugural Australian Sports Sedan Championship began in May 1976. Prior to this, Group B cars raced in various one-off events.  It faced stiff competition from Colin Bond’s Holden Dealer Team Torana, Geoghegan’s Monaro and Jim Richards’ Mustang. Moffat got off to a great start, winning the first two rounds at Surfers Paradise and Sandown, and finishing fifth at Oran Park after suffering a clutch failure in the second heat.

 Moffat marked the US bicentennial on 4th July 1976 with a Happy Birthday USA livery 

Moffat marked the US bicentennial on 4th July 1976 with a Happy Birthday USA livery 

At this point, Ford had become rather displeased with their former poster-boy Moffat winning races in a Chevrolet. They called him and said that if he was prepared to sell the Monza, they would sponsor him through the Ford dealers. The Monza was sidelined at Wanneroo and Adelaide International Raceway. The Capri took its place and Moffat earned a win and a third to secure the championship with two rounds to spare. Moffat didn’t actually the Monza, rather he placed it in storage in an undisclosed location.

When Ford pulled their support for Moffat again in 1979, the Monza was pressed back into service. Things didn’t go so well the second time around. The sports sedan game had moved  on considerably during the Monza’s absence, and it faced much stiffer competition. Jim Richards’ Falcon, Tony Edmondson’s Chev-engined Alfa Romeo Alfetta, and John McCormack’s Jaguar XJS were all new additions to the series. Moffat’s Monza would also be joined by another DeKon Monza driven by Jane. Jane’s was running an F5000 derived transaxle and independent rear suspension setup. Moffat struggled through 1979, with a best result of just fifth until the final round, where he took a surprise win. For the 1980 season, Dykstra came to Australia to assist Moffat with the new XD Falcon touring car. He also leant a hand with the Monza to try and claw back some competitiveness. At the opening round at Oran Park, Moffat qualified on pole, but fell to sixth and fourth in the two races.

Moffat never raced the Monza again. It was brilliant while tt lasted, but he knew it was time to move on. All of his time and resources were poured into getting his Mazda RX-7 ATCC program up and running. After passing through a couple of owners in Australia, it wound up back in America, where ex-IMSA cars are highly sought after. But it was in Australia where this particular Monza did its best work.