1966 Year In Review

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Alfa Romeo Spider
The 1966 Alfa Duetto Spider, sadly Battista Pininfarina's last complete design.

Mazda Cosmo
The Mazda Cosmo, revolutionary back then, incredibly collectable now.

Holden HR
When sales of the HD started to wane, GMH hit back hard in 1966 with the release of the HR.

Holden HR Red Motor
If we could turn back time, to a place where women would be impressed with gold-painted air cleaners and Holden Red Engines.

Ford GT40
Ford GT40s would set the fastest times in early practice sessions at the 1966 Le Mans.

The Great Race
Blake Edwards 1965 classic, The Great Race, would become a box-office smach on Australian screens in 1966. The "Perfect Leslie" (Tony Curtis) and Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) were fantastic characters, but Maggie DuBois (the beautiful Natalie Wood) was every young mans fantasy.

Battista Pininfarina's Last Design

The Geneva motor show of 1966 was the launch of the Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider, and was the last complete design from Battista Pininfarina. Despite initial sales being disappointing the basic model managed to stay in production for 27 years, and over time the car's lines became more graceful, fina lly culminating in the square-tailed cars made during the late 1980's.

Today we may well drool over the sumptuous lines of the Mazda RX8, but in 1966 Mazda’s flagship was the “Cosmo”. Futuristic in every sense, the car was designed from the ground up to be a high-performing excitement machine, ready to take on the likes of the Porsche 911 and Jaguar E-Type.

While the Twin Rotary Wankel engines capacity may have only equalled around two litres, it produced a very healthy (for the tine) output of 110 bhp at 7,000 rpm. The Cosmo’s top speed was 186 km/h and it could reach 0 - 96 in around 10 seconds. handling was exemplary, courtesy of the DeDion axle at the rear and wishbones up front. Production would run for five years, however unfortunately only a little over 1100 would be produced in this time.

The HR Holden

When sales of the HD Holden started to wane, GMH hit back hard in 1966 with the release of the "HR Holden". Although the body changes looked mild, they involved reworking the roofline and changing almost all the exterior panels to give a sleeker, more modern profile. Car-buyers responded by making the HR one of the biggest-selling Holden’s of all.

Exterior changes were also effected at both ends, with a new grille with squared-off headlight surrounds at the front and 'tower-type' lights at the rear. The Holden's performance was improved by virtue of enlarged versions of the 'red engine' with higher compression ratios. A new version of the twin carburettor 'W' engine boasted 109 kW (145 bhp), making it the most powerful Holden engine to date. Other HR changes included a slightly widened track, a wider rear.

But although the HR was wider, it was not as wide as the XR Falcon, the all new Mustang inspired model being only the 2nd Australian made car (behind the Valiant AP6) to offer a V8 as an option. In fact the new XR was a revelation, the design so succinct and modern that you simply couldn't help but fall in love with it.

The 289ci V8 also came to the attention of the Victoria Police, who felt the car would be suitable as a 'Pursuit Special', given that some modifications could be made. That job fell to Bill Bourke, and the rest is legend. The XR Falcon GT was where it all began, and they are today unquestionably the most collectable Aussie built cars around.

It probably seemed right that Australian's now had a US built V8 on offer, particularly given we were going "all the way with LBJ". In 1966 the Vietnam protest movement was in its infancy, and relations between Australia and the US were at an all time high.

The conservative Liberal-Country Party Government had been in power for more than 16 years under Robert Gordon Menzies. On January 20th, Menzies would retire, handing the Prime Ministership to his loyal deputy Harold Holt. And it during a US visit by Holt that he uttered those now famous words "All The Way, With LBJ..." in reference to Australia's role in Vietnam. Lyndon Baines Johnson would return the favour by visiting Australia, and exclaiming "You are right to be where you are and we are right to be there with you".

Harold Holt and his Pontiac Parisienne

There were a haadful of demonstrators in Melbourne, but by and large the crowds were pro-US. Holt himself drove a maroon Pontiac Parisienne. And as if we needed any more proof that we were becoming more Americanised, decimal currency would be introduced on February the 14th.

Although it was in 1965 that Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs was to break out of Englands Wandsworth prison, it was in 1966 that the Australian connection occured. Although it is widely reported that Biggs only received a $200,000 cut from the A$5 million booty, he was very much a wanted fugitive.

Australia seemed like a quiet place to hide, and so in 1966 Biggs and wife Charmain entered Australia through Darwin, and then set up house in the Adelaide suburb of Glenelg North. The following year (1967) they would move to the Melbourne suburb of North Blackburn, where they would live for another 2 years in obscurity. By 1969 however, Interpol were closing in on Biggs, and following a tip-off he drove his silver Monaro to Sydney via the Hume Highway and boarded the next available flight to Rio. In 2001, suffering ill health, he would eventually give him self up to authorities in the UK.

Adelaide, and the suburb or Glenelg, would again feature in 1966, but for all the wrong reasons. On Australia Day that year, nine year old Jane Beaumont would take her sister Arnna (7) and brother Grant (4) to the popular Glenelg beach, only to simply disappear. Despite months of extensive searching, the use of clairvoyants and a media frenzy that would keep the event in the public's mind for years afterward, sadly their disappearance would remain a mystery to this day.

Meanwhile, 1966 would see the cultural revolution gain momentum in China, British novelist Evelyn Waugh pass-away; Andrew Peacock win the Federal By-Election for Robert Menzies' vacated seat of Koyong; USA recover its hydrogen bomb 'lost' off coast of Spain; Bob Dylan plays Australian concerts, with tickets priced from $1.55.

In other motoring news for 1966, British car-maker Rover announced it was considering assembling cars in Australia; An English survey showed that dark green was the most popular colour for new cars; Datsun released a new six-cylinder Cedric on the Australian market at $2950; Ford GT40's set fastest times in early practice for Le Mans.

Formula One Championship:

Jack Brabham (Australia) / Brabham-Repco

1966 Bathurst Winner:

Rauno Aaltonen & Bob Holden / Mini Cooper S

NRL Grand Final:

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Melbourne Cup:

Galilee (J. Miller)

Wimbledon Women:

Billie Jean King d. M. Bueno (6-3 3-6 6-1)

Wimbledon Men:

Manuel Santana d. D. Ralston (6-4 11-9 6-4)

The Movies:

  • My Fair Lady
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told
  • The Great Race
  • Zorba the Greek
  • A Man for All Seasons
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Alfie
  • A Man and a Woman

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - A Man for All Seasons
  • Best Actor - Paul Scofield (A Man for All Seasons)
  • Best Actress - Elizabeth Taylor (Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?)

Gold Logie:

Gordon Chater (The Mavis Bramston Show, Seven)

The Charts:

  1. Step Back (Caralyn) - Johnny Young
  2. The Green Green Grass Of Home - Tom Jones
  3. These Boots Are Made For Walking - Nancy Sinatra
  4. Somewhere My Love - Ray Conniff & The Singers
  5. Let It Be Me - Johnny Young
  6. Winchester Cathedral - The New Vaudeville Band
  7. Friday On My Mind - The Easybeats
  8. The Loved One - The Loved Ones
  9. Strangers In The Night - Frank Sinatra
  10. Lady Godiva - Peter & Gordon


  • Montgomery Clift (Actor)
  • Walt Disney (founder of the Disney empire)
  • Evelyn Waugh (British Novelist)
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