1973 Year In Review

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Holden HQ
The incredibly popular HQ Holden - which gave GMH its best ever export figures.

Leyland P76
The P76, a good car that suffered a reputation similar to today's 'P' Plate drivers - bad.

Datsun 120Y
The Datsun 120Y, the editors wifes first car; her fondest memory being the traffic jams she would create going up Punt Road when laden down with 3 other passengers.

Sydney Opera House Opens
Sydney celebrates with the opening of the new Opera House.

The Price Is Right
Garry Meadows would host the extremely popular new game show "The Price Is Right" in 1973. It has continued to air - on and off - to this day.

Holden's Best Export Year

1973 remains as Holdens best ever year for exports (with a total of 41,181 cars shipped) the result of the incredibly successful and popular HQ Holden model. In March, a four-door Monaro GTS sedan, with virtually the same specifications as the GTS coupe, was released. That same year, a silver Holden Premier commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Holden car. Unfortunately 1973 also ushered in the sudden rise of oil prices, which disrupted international trade and brought about the return of widespread unemployment.

The HQ Holden may have been topping the sales charts,but the biggest news in the Australian automotive calendarfor 1973 was the release of the Leyland P76. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that this revolutionary new shape would become popular with other manufacturers in following years.

The P76 introduced significant advances, such as the first ever Australian made car to use an all-alloy engine, low weight (only 1250kg for the Executive model), safety features such as full-length side intrusion reinforcement on all doors, power-assisted front disc brakes (only offered as an option on the 'Big Three' sedans), concealed windscreen wipers, recessed exterior door handles and a front hinged bonnet.

But the P76 suffered from a poor image, due largely to poor assembly quality, and problems with reliability and parts supply. Despite winning several motoring awards, including the prestigous Wheels "Car of the Year", and other accolades from the motoring press, it would only stick around for 2 years. It's a shame, because the car deserved better.

The Datsun 120Y

We couldn’t talk about 1973 without mentioning the release of the Datsun 120Y. Never a glamorous car in its hey-day, the perennial 120Y can still be seen on the highways of today and, due to its poor road manners is not particularly collectable. But, as with all cars that have been out of production for over 20 years, they are becoming scarcer and an extremely good condition vehicle could just make a good buying decision. Add to this the public's love of re-cycled kitsch and the 120Y could make a come back.

To add to the world's woes, international terrorism was on the rise, instigated by groups such as "Black September", the "Red Brigades", the "PLO" and the "IRA". On a lighter note, the 'blue-rinse' set was soon to have a new pin-up boy with the launch of Channel 0/10's "The Mike Walsh Show", a live daytime variety show. Enormously popular, the show would enjoy a four-year run on 0/10, before switching to Nine in 1977.

Despite his earlier 'resignation' in 1971, Graham Kennedy returned to our screens with "The Graham Kennedy Show", while Garry Meadows introduced us to a still favourite game show "The Price Is Right". But it was "Number 96" that would remain the ratings winner that year, helped no doubt by Abigails 'naked' appearance on the show - even if was in glorious black and white.

1973 also saw the conversion of Bathurst from imperial to metric, with the length of the race being lengthened to 1000 kilometres (630 miles). That year, it looked certain that Brocky would take the honours, but when the HDT pit crew advised Brocks co-driver Doug Chivasto stay out there for "just one more lap", they had badly miscalculated the fuel left in the tank. Chivas coasted the XU1 along Conrod Straight, but the momentum wasn't enough to get it to the pits, so he was forced to push the Torana along pit lane. Moffat seized the opportunity to take the lead and the win in his Falcon XA GT. The ignominy can be seen in our Bathurst Memorable Moments feature.

1973 Earls Court Motor Show

The first of the new cars displayed at London's 58th Motor Show was the AC 3000 from the (small) old-established AC Cars factory on the river at Thames Ditton in Surrey. AC started making three-wheelers (Auto-Carriers) before World War I and became a great success. The company's founder, would you believe John Portwine, had a designer who was a genius. After the war he drew up a light-alloy overhead "six", which remained in production as an AC power-unit until well into the 1950s.

Designer Weller also invented a slipper chain-tensioner for the overhead camshaft drive of the lightweight six-cylinder motor - and by the early 1970s it was being used on cars and motorcycles all over the world as the "Weller Tensioner". The AC 3000 spelt the end of the seven-litre Ford V8-engined model. The company claimed they were having difficulty getting the special body panels from Frua in Italy and also that the energy crisis would sound the death knell for the big American-type engine.

The AC 3000 used the ubiquitous Ford three-litre V6, but unlike the other specialist manufacturers, the Thames Ditton firm put the motor transversely behind the (two) seats, where, through a chain - presumably with a Weller tensioner - they drove the rear wheels through a five-speed Hewland-made gearbox. The weirdness didn't end there, as the welded-steel monocoque centre-section featured a bolted-on front and rear sub-frames (of square-section steel tube), and the fire-resistant GRP body panels were bolted to the chassis. There was a front-mounted radiator with electric cooling fan, the motor was dead standard except for a specially-shaped sump, and AC claimed the maximum would easily be 130 mph (210 km/h).

Suspension was independent all round, as were the disc brakes, there were pop-up headlights, a built-in roll-over bar, and a lift-off "Targa" top. It was a good-looking car, in the AC tradition, which entered production in 1974. Strangely enough, the second of the new British cars shown at Earls Court in 1973 was also a two-seater, high-performance coupe, but with its engine aft of the rear suspension, and of much lower power-output The Scorpion is the product of the Innes Lee Motor Co. Ltd. of Telford, Shropshire.

The Hillman Imp-engined 100 mph-plus car was reported to be a very workmanlike job. The Imp power-unit was in 998cc "Rally" form with 10:1 compression ratio and a power-output of 65 bhp (DIN) at 7000 rpm (88.34 kw). The car was designed by noted Irish chassis specialist Tom Killeen (late of Jensen), and the GRP body has steel gull-wing doors which can quickly be taken off for open-air motoring. The centre section was steel monocoque, and the front and rear sub-frames were of square-section welded steel tube. There were pop-up headlights, a built-in stereo as standard equipment, and the Scorpion was only 41 in. high (1.041 metres). In the U.K. the attractive newcomer was expected to cost about $3200 and 1974 production was expected to be about five cars a week. Innes Lee claimed a 0-60 mph in 10 seconds, although the power output wasn't colossal, the dry weight of the Scorpion was only 11 cwt (600 kg approx.).

British Leyland showed updated or facelifted versions of the Austin Allegro, the MGB GT V8, the Series 2 Jaguar and Daimlers, and Rovers with 2200 four-cylinder and detuned V8 motors, but absolutely brand new at Earls Court was the interesting "Minissima" town car, designed by Bill Towns, who has used a basic British Leyland Mini engine/front-drive unit to power a 90 in. long (2.240 metres) four-seater saloon. So short is the Minissima that it could be parked end-on to the kerb, and it gained room for four by sitting the two rear occupants facing each other. There was only one door, at the back, where all occupants entered and make their way to wherever they were going to sit. The arrangement provided for simplicity of manufacture, and for the maximum stiffness in the body structure.

Mechanically the Minissima was a straightforward 850 Mini with automatic transmission (AP four speed/torque-converter in the engine sump) and Towns set the selector lever to the right of the body to provide maximum occupant space. Because of its Mini configuration, the diminutive little Minissima could be 1000cc or 1.3-litre-powered, it was a shame that British Leyland only treated the project as a design study - with four seats, a good turn of speed, realistic fuel economy, and a length 30 inches less than the standard Mini, the Minissima would have made a better proposition than the lead-acid battery-driven city cars that were getting all the attention back then.

British Leyland, indirectly, gained a great deal of publicity and public-viewing from the "Aquila" (Latin for "Eagle"), a design study on an Austin Maxi which was styled by then 27-year-old Christopher Field. Field entered the 1972 contest, sponsored by British Leyland and the Daily Telegraph, and won it with his Austin Maxi-based Aquila. The attractive bodywork was built by a Halifax coachbuilder who usually made bodies for hearses. The Aquila was purely a styling exercise - it offered the same amount of internal occupant and luggage space as the standard Maxi, but its looks were far more advanced. The Aquila was only finished a couple of weeks before the Motor Show, and Field was officially presented with it by the Duke of Kent. When interviewed about the win, Field claimed he had no intention of keeping the car ... "Think what it cost to build, and the insurance - that windscreen - it's unique. It would probably cost two or three hundred pounds to replace if a stone shattered it!" Field was also nervous of driving his brain-child in the narrow Devon lanes, because of possible damage to a "one-off" car.

Ford gave the then "new" Cortina its first public showing at the London Show, and they had certainly made a good car better. Ford had responded to motoring writers' moans about the inefficiency of the slot-type ventilation (as compared to the previous Cortina's excellent "eyeball" system), and the deeply-recessed instruments which were so difficult to see. The new Cortina had much better black-faced, large, round-dialled instruments in a completely new higher-mounted fascia, and the ventilation was switched back to the "eyeball" type - which worked like a charm. The suspension was softened, the dampers toughened (anti-roll bars were fitted front and rear), and the 1600 model had the OHC motor which had been fitted to the 1.6-litre Capri since 1972.

In addition, Ford reintroduced the "E" version of the Cortina, designated 2000E (the two-litre OHC engine), which had as standard a vinyl roof, lush cloth seats, polished wood fascia and fillets, deep pile carpets and all. A very pleasant and comfortable car to drive. The handling was good and the engine had enough power to waft the 2000E to more than 100 mph (160 km/h). UK price for the Cortina was about $2200. The Cortina range embraced Britain's best selling car. In the midst of the hardest-hitting strikes and industrial upsets they have experienced for a long time, Chrysler UK upped the engine capacity of their popular Hillman Avenger models to 1300 and 1600cc (from 1250 and 1500). But the company's future was very much in the balance.

Because of strikes and industrial troubles Britain's 1972/1973 car production figures didn't come up to the expected figures. There were, by 1973, some 13 million cars on the roads of Britain, and Britons were buying imported cars to the tune of about 31 per cent. But, as Lord Stokes pointed out at the traditional eve-of-Motor Show press luncheon, "it's not so much that British motorists don't want to buy British, it's that the factories aren't making anything for so much of the year! And of course, the foreign manufacturers are taking advantage of that fact". To prove that there was a great deal of truth in Lord Stokes' observation, it was a fact that British motor imports reached record proportions during 1973.

Ford Sells 3000 Vehicles To The Police In The UK

In the UK FORD sold a record 3000 vehicles to Britain's police forces during 1973. The most popular model was the Escort which accounted for more than half the vehicle supplied. Twenty-six of the high performance Mexico Escorts were supplied to police forces in the Liverpool area. In other news from the UK, Firestone Tyre and Auto Service Limited joined with Dunlop and the Denovo Total Mobility Tyre network throughout Britain. The Denovo was the revolutionary safety tyre/wheel which was available as a standard option on Rover and Mini 1275 GT models in Britain.

Dunlop hoped to have Denovo service centre established within ten miles of each other through Britain and England and Wales, and within 20 miles of each other in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire. The Denovo was safe to drive on even when flat, at normal highway speeds for up to 100 miles. While on the subject of tyres, Jackie Stewart, three times world grand prix driving champion was settling into his new role as consultant and test engineer in the road tyre field with the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber company during 1973. Stewart took the position after his retirement from racing last year, following the death of h is close friend and team-mate, Francois Cevert. Pirelli was awarded a contract to supply Cinturato radials as standard equipment for the new Ford Capri released in Britain in February.

Opel Destroy's It's Cars

OPEL destroyed more than 110 cars in crash tests during 1973 to prove front and rear end crushability construction and to test for passenger compartment rigidity. The models crashed ranged from the basic Kadett to the top-of-the-line Diplomat. Also during 1973 VW and Audi slashed their prices in the UK in an attempt to improve their market share. The Passat range received an 8.8 percent cut and the popular Audi range was reduced in price by 6.1 percent.

Formula One Championship:

Jackie Stewart (Britain) / Tyrrell-Ford

1973 Bathurst Winner:

Allan Moffat & Ian Geoghegan / XA Falcon GT

Wheels Car of the Year:

Leyland P76

NRL Grand Final:

Manly-Warringah (10) def. Cronulla-Sutherland (7)

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Richmond (16.20.116) def. Carlton (12.14.84)

Melbourne Cup:

Gala Supreme (F. Reys)

Wimbledon Women:

Billie Jean King d. C. Evert (6-0 7-5)

Wimbledon Men:

Jan Kodes d. A. Metreveli (6-1 9-8 6-3)

The Movies:

  • The Harder They Come
  • American Graffiti
  • The Exorcist
  • The Sting
  • Last Tango in Pari

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - The Sting
  • Best Actor - Jack Lemmon (Save The Tiger)
  • Best Actress - Glenda Jackson (A Touch Of Class

Gold Logie:

Tony Barber (Great Temptation, Seven)

The Charts:

  1. Tie A Yellow Ribbon - Dawn
  2. Monster Mash - Bobby "Boris" Picket
  3. For The Good Times - Perry Como
  4. And I Love You So - Perry Como
  5. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
  6. You're So Vain - Carly Simon
  7. Never, Never, Never - Shirley Bassey
  8. Any Dream Will Do - Max Bygraves
  9. I Am Pegasus - Ross Ryan
  10. Top Of The World - The Carpenters


  • Bruce Lee (Legendary Chinese/American Kung Fu Actor)
  • W.H. Auden (Poet)
  • Pearl S. Buck (Humanatarian)
  • Betty Grable (Screen legend)
  • Pablo Picasso (One eared artist)
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson (former US President)
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