1976 Year In Review

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Aston Martin Lagonda
So complex were the electronics that the release of the Lagonda was set back 3 years.

Holden HX Wagon
The HX was released, but little was changed over the HJ.

Holden HX LE Monaro
600 Limited Edition Monaro Coupes would be manufactured to run out the remaining 2 door body shells.

Datsun 180B
The new Datsun 180B was released in 1976, and quickly became a best seller.

The engine bay of the Diesel powered CIII
The engine bay of the Diesel powered CIII - it's reliability and speed trial would pave the way for turbo-charged diesel engines to be used in production cars.

The diesel engined CIII setting records at Fiat's Nardo test track in Southern Ital
The diesel engined CIII setting records at Fiat's Nardo test track in Southern Italy.

Nadia Comaneci
Nadia Comaneci, the star of the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, scored seven perfect 10's on her way to three gold medals.

The Sullivans
The extremely popular "Sullivans" would air on Channel 9, following the exploits of a typical Australian family during World War 2.

Howard Hughes
Howard Huges, aviator, movie producer & billionaire.

Frampton Comes Alive!
The quintessential rock/pop album of the '70's, Frampton Comes Alive!

The Aston Martin Lagonda

In 1976 the prestigous UK car manufacturer Aston Martin was to release the much vaulted Willian Towns Lagonda. The bold design seemed better suited to an episode of the Thunderbirds, right down to the all new electronic instrumentation. In fact it was the complexity of the high-tech electronics and touch sensitive controls that stopped the Lagonda being released 3 years earlier in 1973. Each car required 2,200 man-hours to manufacture, and only 25 were manufactured each year for the US market. When production finally finished in 1990, only 645 had been made.

Holden unveiled the LX Torana range, available in both sedan body and the first locally produced hatchback. There was also a choice between four-cylinder, six-cylinder and eight-cylinder engines. Just under 50,000 LX Toranas are produced, including 8527 hatchbacks. Sadly, GMH decided to scrap the manufacture of coupe based Monaros, the last of the line being 600 highly specified "LE" (Limited Edition) models.

The Holden Sunbird

Later in the year the four-cylinder LX Torana was revised and relaunched as the Holden Sunbird. Sedan and hatchback variants were offered, both equipped with the new Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) system. To help cement the Torana's position as Australia's favourite medium sized car, Bob Morris and John Fitzpatrick would take out the 1976 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 in a Torana.

In other motoring news, the 10,000th local Mini rolled off Leyland Australia's Enfield production fine; The first of 25 special Ford RS2000 Escorts anived in Australia - their destiny would lie at the race track. Jack Brabham's eldest son Geoff qualified on the front row of the grid in his first European Formula Three race, while US driver Mario Andretti commited himself to his first full-time Formula One contract by signing with Lotus.

The XC Falcon

More power and torque, better visibility, suspension refinements and simpler servicing were the innovations introduced to Fords 1976 XC Falcon. The appearance changes reflected the basic necessities needed to identify a new model, but they certainly made it easier to separate XC from XB, than GM-H's changeover from HJ Holden to HX. Basically the XC was the same old Falcon - Ford was merely marking time until 1979 when its drastically revised and restyled XD was to hit the market.

The XC was built on the floor pan introduced in 1966 and was the third revision (like GM-H's HQ/HJ/HX line) since the XA Falcon was released. The special difference with this Falcon was the then new six cylinder engines. The 200 and 250 CID (3.3 and 4.1 litres) were fitted with a new crossflow head, which had bigger valves, revised cam timing, new manifolds and a substantial boost in power and torque.

The changes were of course brought about by the need to comply with emission regulation ADR 27a, but where many thought the engines would lose power because of the clean-up-Ford engineers reversed this trend by producing even more output - a factor which gave FoMoCo a hefty push-along in the competitive race between its cars and the General's then cleaner Holden range. GM-H engineers estimated power was down on their cars by about seven percent across the board, while vehicle weight was been reduced by a mere nine kilograms. Ford meanwhile has upped vehicle weight (in the Falcon 500 versions) by about 93 kg, while engine output for the 4.1 litres six went up by 9kW to 92kW @ 3700rpm.

On all engines except the 3.3 litre six torque has been increased substantially. On the 4.1 torque was upped by 8.5Nm. Ford said at the time that the four-year engine cleanup program (and associated other projects) cost an estimated $16 million. Ford justified the need for the expenditure by asserting that the medium car market (Falcon/Holden/Valiant) has stabilised after a noticeable decline. Ford MD Brian Inglis said the company was looking to equal, or better, the success of the XB Falcon, of which more than 170,000 units were sold.

Ford revised the model lineup by dropping the GT and the Futura. It introduced a new variant of the Fairmont, tagged the Fairmont GXL. With this car Ford hoped to hit the young, middle-management executive type. It was lavishly equipped and trimmed, and came with the 4.1 litre six as standard, with T-bar auto, sports suspension, slippery diff, four-wheel disc brakes and additional sound insulation.

Mercedes Benz Diesel Speed Record Attempt

Following their successful short distance diesel class record attempts with a five cylinder single-seater car, Daimler-Benz decided to put one of the engines into a gull-wing CIII coupe. The turbo supercharged engine was run flat out for 64 hours and set up a series of sixteen diesel class records in the 2000-3000 cc class, as well as some new world records in open class - regardless of engine type. These included 5000 miles at 252.540 km/h; 10,000 kilometres at 252.249 km/h, and 10,000 miles at 251.798 km/h.

Detail modifications which brought the drag coefficient below 0.3 included lowering the nose, eliminating the pop-up headlamps in favour of lamps in the air intake, and flat discs on the wheels flush with the tyres. Slightly smaller bores and pistons brought swept volume of the engine down from 3,005 cc to 2,999 cc. Compression ratio was reduced slightly as the engine had to run continuously at the full boost provided by the Garret Airesearch turbocharger, running at about 135,000 rpm. This multiplied power by 2.5 from 80 to about 190 bhp DIN at 4,700 rpm. Maximum torque was 372.65 Nm at 3,600 rpm.

No boost control valve was fitted but the Bosch injection was modified for the continuous full power condition and camshaft timing was changed. Special pistons were used with ducts for oil-jet cooling, gudgeon pins were thicker, and rods adapted accordingly, but crankshaft and main bearings were of the same material and dimensions as standard production. The exhaust gas, entering the turbocharger at 750 Celsius, emerged at 600 Celsius. The unit itself glowed red hot, and not surprisingly, a lot of heat went into the inlet air, by compression and conduction. It was therefore passed through a cooler on its way to the inlet manifold which brought the air temperature down from 200 Celsius to 100 Celsius.

There were two engine oil coolers and a gearbox oil cooler in the tail of the car. The normal five-speed box of the Clll was used, with its own oil pump, but final drive ratio was changed from the 3.46:1 used with the experimental four-rotor Wankel to 3.07 giving an overall ratio in 5th of 2.17:1. With driver and the special 140-litre tank filled up, kerb weight was about 1300 kg. Michelin provided the 215 VR15 tyres, based on the XWS design and mix. After pit stops, the car would accelerate away again hitting 100 km/h in 6.5 sec. The Daimler-Benz Technical Director, Professor Scherenberg, said exhaust emissions and specific fuel consumption did not differ significantly from thoseof the production unblown engine. Overall fuel consumption on the record run was 14.266 mpg, and oil consumption only 4035.4 mpg - remarkable figures for continuous speeds of well over 250 km/h.

But where in the world can you keep up over 250 km/h continuously day and night? The run was done on an extraordinary circular track built for such endurance running by Fiat, at Nardo, in Southern Italy. It was a circle of 4 km diameter with banked surface measuring 12.6 km to the lap. Professor Scherenberg emphasised that this dramatic exploit did not indicate any intention to return to racing. Rather it was a quiet demonstration that after the retirement of the famous Rudi Uhlenhaut. Daimler-Benz had plenty of younger development engineers who knew how to drive quickly.

The run was done by four of the development engineers who worked on the project - Joachim Kaden, Dr. Hans Liebold, Guido Moch and Erich Waxenberger. They drove in 2.5 hour spells and normal stops for driver change, refuelling, oil check and general look round were performed in 20-30 sec. At longer intervals they changed tyres and checked and adjusted valve clearances as well. This originally took 10 minutes but just to show the spirit of Neubauer still reigned, the mechanics practised before the run until they got down to an overall time loss of four minutes including time spent in slowing down, the pit stops and accelerating again afterwards.

Drivers helmets were fitted with microphones, and they had to report all instrument readings by radio once per lap. partly to keep them alert on the very monotonous task of travelling continuously round a circular track. The diesel records were raised by about 60 km/h. The world records, previously held by A.B Jenkins, or by Porsche, were improved by as much as 41.5 km/h. Data accumulated on this exercise pushed forward the programme which led to marketing of turbocharged diesel cars.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President

In the US, Jimmy Carter would become that countries 39th President. Further North, Montreal Canada was to host the '76 Summer Olympics, but not before controversy was to take place when some 32 nations, most of them from black Africa, walked out when the IOC refused to ban New Zealand because its national rugby team was touring racially segregated South Africa.

Taiwan also withdrew when Communist China pressured trading partner Canada to deny the Taiwanese the right to compete as the Republic of China. Once the games got started, thankfully the politics were quickly forgotten, and replaced by the memories of a new star, 14-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who scored seven perfect 10's on her way to three gold medals.

Pol Pot

In other world news, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot became Cambodia's Prime Minister (and virtual dictator) on April the 2nd after Prince Sihanouk stepped down, while in Uganda Israeli airborne commandos would attack the Entebbe Airport and free 103 hostages held by pro-Palestinian hijackers of an Air France plane - one Israeli and several Ugandan soldiers would be killed in the July 4 raid.

In a first for Australian television, the ABC, Seven and Nine would combine forces to provide the Olympic Games coverage from Montreal. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were telecast live, with highlights packages screening each evening. 1976 would also see Channel 9 air two home grown drama series that would quickly gain huge and loyal followings - Grundy’s hospital drama "The Young Doctors" and Crawford Production’s World War II drama "The Sullivans".

The Year of Frampton! If you were challenged to name five rock albums that epitomized the 1970's, Frampton Comes Alive! should probably top the list. Former Humble Pie guitarist Peter Frampton recorded a few perfectly fine albums with his band Frampton's Camel, but it wasn't until some of those tracks were recorded at a live performance in San Francisco and released as "Frampton Comes Alive!" that he became a household name. Buoyant pop, sentimental ballads, arena rock, this album had it all.

The double LP set sales records and contained three bona fide radio hits ("Baby, I Love Your Way," "Show Me the Way," and "Do You Feel Like We Do?"), one of which, shockingly enough, was over 14 minutes long. No wonder that, to many, the two-and-a-half-minute songs of the Damned and the Sex Pistols felt like a breath of fresh air a year or two later.

Formula One Championship:

James Hunt (Britain) / McLaren-Ford

1976 Bathurst Winner

Bob Morris & John Fitzpatrick in their Torana L34

NRL Grand Final:

Manly-Warringah (13) def. Parramatta (10)

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Hawthorn (13.22.100) def. North Melbourne (10.10.70)

Melbourne Cup:

Van Der Hum (R. J. Skelton)

Wimbledon Women:

Chris Evert def. E. Cawley (6-3 4-6 8-6)

Wimbledon Men:

Bjorn Borg def. I. Nastase (6-4 6-2 9-7)

The Movies:

  • Rocky
  • Taxi Driver
  • Network
  • All the President's Men

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - Rocky
  • Best Actor - Peter Finch (Network)
  • Best Actress - Faye Dunaway (Network)

Gold Logie:

Norman Gunston (The Norman Gunston Show, ABC) and Denise Drysdale (The Ernie Sigley Show, Nine)

The Charts:

  1. Fernando - Abba
  2. Let's Stick Togther - Bryan Ferry
  3. Mississippi - Pussycat
  4. Howzat - Sherbet
  5. Dancing Queen - Abba
  6. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
  7. If You Leave Me Now - Chicago
  8. We Do It - R & J Stone
  9. Tonight's The Night - Rod Stewart
  10. Rock Me - Abba


  • Florence Ballard (The forgotten Supreme)
  • Sal Mineo (Brilliant Actor cut down in his prime)
  • Howard Huges (Aviator, Movie Producer & Billionaire)
  • Agatha Christie (Crime novelist)
  • Andre Malraux (French author & resistance leader)
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