PEOPLE's CHOICE - Brabham BT62
You are a patriotic lot, aren’t you? We’re not saying that’s a bad thing by any means, but when we posted a poll on our Facebook page to discover which of this year’s best and fastest would draw the most admiration from you all, we shouldn’t have been surprised to see the only car on the list built in Australia come out on top.
Brabham Automotive is technically a British company, but its roots are firmly planted in Oz – and so is its manufacturing plant. Out of a facility in Adelaide, the company is building 70 units of its track-focused BT62 (for 70 years since Jack Brabham’s racing career kicked off). It’s the first car in what Brabham hopes will be a revival of the family name, not only on circuit but also on the road.
Brabham says it can make the beast road-legal, and will do so for a princely sum of £150,000 ($285,000) in addition to the price of the car ($1.8 million). It doesn’t seem that keen, but if there’s demand...
Hopefully this means there’s a chance we will one day see a 522kW/667Nm V8-engined, Aussie-built supercar making its way down Punt Road, or across the Harbour Bridge, or even blasting across a poorly maintained outback highway.
The first half of the production run will be finished in liveries tributing the Brabham F1 team’s 35 wins. The launch car was in the green and gold livery of Brabham’s 1966 French Grand Prix winner, which began the series of wins that saw Jack Brabham become the only person to ever win an F1 championship in a car carrying his own name.
For the nostalgic, the BT62 now takes a place on the list of cars driven to victory by its ‘builder’. This year, company head David Brabham took the top step of the podium after driving a BT62 to win the Britcar Endurance race at Brands Hatch in the UK.
The BT62 is also the current official outright lap record holder at Mount Panorama, Supercars driver Luke Youlden having cut a 1:58.69 lap time in the launch car. David Brabham said at the time: “The response we’ve had here – because it looks great, sounds great and is Aussie-made – people just go nuts down there for us.”
It seems he was right, as the BT62 topped some rather impressive machinery to take the People’s Choice title. The Porsche Cayman GT4 looked like it might have a shot early on, but came in just behind the BT62, while the Lotus Exige Sport 410 was a surprise third-placegetter.
It’s not hard to see why the BT62 is a favourite, even ignoring its Aussie origins. The Ford-derived 5.4-litre V8 is a stunning feat of engineering.
The engine makes ‘only’ 433kW/603Nm off the shelf, giving Brabham plenty of reason to call their modified version a ‘Brabham V8’. Individual throttle bodies, dry sump, a Holinger sequential six-speed gearbox, plus endless other tweaking that Brabham is keeping hush has resulted in a naturally aspirated engine approaching 100kW-per-litre.
There’s no doubt that when Brabham heads to Le Mans in 2021 for the GTE class, it will be the team to watch, and all because of a car built here in Australia.
Best Newcomer - Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
BMW M, Mercedes-AMG and Audi RS make for tough company in any category but that hasn’t stopped the ZL1 finding its deserved place among them. The ridiculously powerful blown V8 coupe, rebuilt by HSV in Clayton, has hit all the right notes. It looks tough, the acceleration is explosive and the blower whine laid over its LT4’s roar is addictive.
The adaptive-damped chassis deals with 477kW/881Nm brilliantly, with heavily weighted steering and adjustable stance giving it a confidence-inspiring attitude that also demands respect. Live with one for a day and the $159,990 ask (for a manual) seems more than reasonable. - Chris Thompson
Solemnest Farewell - BMW M140i
In the current golden age for hot hatches, diversity in terms of price and style is key. But part of that diversity has gone with the departure of the only rear-drive hot hatch on the market. The M140i was also one of few small cars with six cylinders, perhaps further narrowing its appeal to ‘real world’ buyers and sealing its fate in the age of efficiency.
Sure, it wasn’t without its faults – the manual shift was divisive, as was the styling – but a sub-$60K hatch capable of 0-100km/h in 4.6sec, or of doing a proper rear-drive slide at the track with some Ikea flat-packs in the back, isn’t likely to come along again. Vale, baby Bimmer. - Louis Cordony
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