V8 engines are at the heart of Australian touring cars, giving name to our premier motorsport category and this publication. With Supercars set to move away from the V8, we look back at how the engine configuration came to rule in Australia in V8X Supercar Magazine issue #100.
Issue #100 is on sale now in stores with the digital edition available in the official V8X app (in the App Store and Google Play), online at DigitalEdition.V8XMagazine.com.au and in the Magzter app store.
CLICK HERE for more information on issue #100.
Few people can claim to have been there when modern Australian motorsport was born, but Fred Gibson can. In 1967 he was half of the team, together with Harry Firth, that claimed the first Bathurst victory for a V8-powered car.
It was a controversial race because the result only became clear hours after the chequered flag fell, but it's one that has gone down in history. The mighty eight-cylinder had become the accepted standard of our sport.
Gibson has been there throughout, firstly as a factory driver with Ford, then with Nissan during the Group A period and finally working with TEGA as V8 Supercars appeared on the scene in the mid-1990s. There's not much he doesn't know or wasn't involved in first-hand.
"Jack Hinxman, knowing him as well as I did, he was very much for the family car running at Bathurst," says Gibson.
"Back in the day, the ARDC, which used to run Bathurst, I think they saw growth in the family car – not a British car. The Mini wasn't a family car at all, it was a little rocketship, but it wasn't a family car."
Indeed, the V8 engine already had a following at Bathurst. Local resident George Reed raced at Mount Panorama before and after World War II with some success, powered by a Ford 'flathead' V8 engine – the first V8 simple and affordable enough for mass production.
But in 1966 the top nine places at Bathurst had been claimed by Mini Coopers. Though blown away as they headed up and down the mountain, they made up their time by circulating for lap after lap where the bigger cars had to stop for service. Hinxman's genius was to mandate pitstops, thereby eliminating the advantage of the smaller capacity cars and opening the door for bigger, thirstier beasts like the Ford Falcon GT.
"You think about it, that's when the Ford and Holden battle started," Gibson argues.
"Even Chrysler were involved. It was production cars, a family production car, they wanted to see driving around, or racing. That's what Jack Hinxman was pushing. He was more thinking of what families were going to buy, what they were going to drive, and all of a sudden the manufacturers became involved because they were trying to sell family cars."
What followed in the 1960s was a silent revolution, with the manufacturers taking up the mantle from a scene that had been dominated by privateer constructors. It was a time when the sport was perhaps more pure more naïve and certainly less exploited. The link between racing and selling cars hadn't yet been made. That was until 1967, when Ford saw a gap in the market.
CLICK HERE to purchase issue #100 to read the full feature.