The event was cool not just because it was a full-tilt thrash on a public highway, but because it attracted drivers from an amazing mix of backgrounds – everyone from top-flight NASCAR drivers and Formula One champions such as Juan Fangio to hot rodders like Mickey Thompson and Clay Smith. It was a high point for balls-to-the-wall, run-what-ya-brung motorsport.
The event was canned in ’54 due to safety concerns, but was resurrected in 1988 as a 7-day, 3200km high-speed blat across Mexico, these days running from south to north. Most of the entries are 50s and 60s American metal concealing NASCAR underpinnings, with a healthy dash of European exotica thrown in. It is serious stuff, too, more akin to Targa Tasmania than a nice Sunday drive.
Now, if you were thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if someone entered an Australian car in this insane race?” Dave Ryan of Rare Spares fame is way ahead of you and is constructing one hell of an FJ Holden for this year’s event. Dave’s dad ran FX Holdens in the Redex Round Australia Trials, and Rare Spares was built on the restoration and modification of these early girls, making the humpy a natural choice.
To survive the Panamericana, the FJ is going to have to be built tough and Dave took much of the inspiration for the car’s engineering from Paul Freestone’s Targa Tasmania FX racer. In fact, large portions of the FJ have been constructed directly from the CAD drawings for that car. For starters, there’s a stout rollcage, with new inner sills formed from 38x76mm RHS to give the ’cage something solid to tie into.
At the front, Wes Griffiths from Acott Race Craft fabricated a completely new crossmember and suspension set up, with BMW power steering and VE discs. Out back is a four link with a trick Watts link set up developed by Paris Acott, plus a Truetrac diff.
Race rules state that all cars run an engine from the OE manufacturer, with the same number of cylinders and basic configuration as the original donk, which meant Dave was able to upgrade from the grey motor to a red. It should be a tough little mill, too, putting out 270hp and capable of lasting 3200km at speed. Backing it up will be a Super T-10 ’box.
Dave’s co-driver will be Greg Stevenson, who rode shotgun with Dave in the 1993 London to Sydney rally in a HK Monaro! Overall, Dave says he’s amazed and thankful at how much people have been willing to help with the build and that he’s learned a lot from all of them. The race is run 25-31 October, stay tuned!