1980 Year In Review

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Aston Martin Bulldog
It took 2 years to develop the Bulldog.

Holden Commodore VC The 4-Cylinder Commodore: Don't put anything valuable in the back, we may need to jetison it to get over the next hill.

Holden Commodore VC
The VC offered 'Shadow-Tone' colours - the first time in 20 years.

Apocalypse Now
Amity and Antipathies created a masterpiece.
Fans of the prestigous Aston Martin marque should not have been surprised with the release of the Bulldog, particularly given the futuristic look of the wonderful Lagonda of 1976. In fact, many credit the Lagonda with turning around the fortunes of the company, and this may have led to the bold plan to push foward with construction of the Bulldog prototype in 1978.

Like the Lagonda, the Bulldog was styled by Willian Towns, and was the first ever mid-engined Aston. Most noteable styling features were the "Gullwing" doors and retracting bonet to reveal a startling array of headlights. Unfortunately the Bulldog never made it into production, and it is rumoured a wealthy Arab businessman purchased this truely unique one-off Aston.

The VC Commodore

For Holden, 1980 would see the release of the new VC Commodore. Distinguished by an 'egg-crate' style grille, the VC was a refinement of the 1978 VB model. Wheels magazine heralded the launch with the statement: "The new VC Commodore isn't perfect ... but that doesn't stop us declaring that it is easily the best Australian car ever." High praise indeed! As well as refining the Commodore concept, the VC offered buyers a four-cylinder engine in addition to the 6 or V8.

The four-cylinder model, launched four months after the rest of the range, was powered by the 1.9-litre Starfire engine fitted to the Holden Sunbird. Acceleration was non-existent, as was the re-sale value. The concept of better fuel consumption in a large family car was commendable, but the lack-lustre starfire engine was simply not up to the job. We love our Holdens here at Unique Cars and Parts, but the JB Camira and VC Starfire Commodore sure tested our loyalty.

But the news was better for those buying the six or V8 versions of the VC. Engine modifications made them up to 25 per cent more powerful and 15 per cent more economical than before, the increased performance and economy achieved with a redesigned cylinder head, camshaft, carburettor, inlet manifold and exhaust manifold and electronic ignition. Another plus was an upgrade of the suspension system which resulted in further improved ride and handling characteristics.

The VC range also reintroduced "shadow tone" (two-colour) exterior paintwork, a feature not seen on a new Holden for 20 years. Another new Commodore option was cruise control. The VC kept Commodore in its place as Australia's top-selling car. Soon after its launch, production of the Holden HZ range, which had continued alongside the Commodore, was discontinued. A new range of ''light commercials" and Statesman sedans was announced at the same time.

The Ford Laser

In other motoring news, Ford announced it would build a new small four-cylinder car in Australia - the "Laser" would go on to become the most popular small car in the country. Stirling Moss announced a comeback to racing, driving an Audi 80 in the British Saloon Car Championship.

Historic Australian Motorsport

Two of 1980's increasing number of Australian historic venues included Amaroo Park, Sydney, organised by the Vintage Sports Car Club of Australia in January and Winton, Victoria, in June with the Austin 7 Club and the Hartwell Motor Club at the helm; by 1980 both events were in their fourth years. Amaroo Park saw 130 cars and 90 motorcycles running in 43 handicap, scratch and regularity events. Major winners included Ian Russell's 1960 Nota Major from Gary Malyon's 1958 Bruderlin in the racing car handicap, Harry Firth's MG TC Special in the MG scratch race (also fastest post-war car) and Dick Vermuelen with a 1938 Ford Special as driver of the day.

Although specials abounded, as befitted the era, there were a number of standard cars as well. Winton saw 22 car and 17 motorcycle events with Austin-Healeys contesting the post-war sports car race, McConville winning; MGs took the flag more than once with Harry Firth taking two - MG Road-racing championship round and a scratch race - while Lou Molina won two scratch races in his MG TB; Tony Molina won the driver of the day award in his Austin 7 special. Both events produced a nice blend of pre and post-war cars.

Return Of The Carrera

The legendary Carrera name, last seen in 1974, returned in 1980 with unveiling of Porsche's new 924 Carrera GT. As its predecessor was, the new model was unashamedly a homologation special. Only 400 cars were built, just enough to qualify it for Group 4 racing. This high-performance sports car was the first road-ready competition version based on the new Porsche transaxle generation. Comparable vehicles would be the Arbath Carrera from the era of the legendary 356, or the later Carrera RS based on the 911.

The production version of the 924 Carrera GT, which Porsche presented for the first time at the Weissach Development Centre, differed from the 924 Turbo largely through increased performance and more-sporting layout. With the compression ratio raised from 7.5 : 1 to 8.5 : 1, a charge-air intercooler and entirely new digital control of ignition timing, the engine of the 1980 Porsche 924 Carrera GT produced 154 kW (210 hp) at 6000 rpm. This took the car to a top speed or 240 km/h - 150 mph. The 924 Carrera GT accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 6.9 s. (924 Turbo, 7.8 s.).

The increased geometric compression and completely new ignition system with digital control were not used solely to achieve such a notable increase in road performance, however. They served sensationally low consumption at the same time. Despite its high-performance characteristics, the 924 Carrera GT scarcely used more fuel than the normal induction-engined Porsche 924. Despite wider track and wider tyres, enlarged air intakes and nose spoiler, Porsche managed to maintain the same, extremely favourable drag coefficient of 0.34 as that of the 924 Turbo for their 924 Carrera GT. It was the result of minute detail work.

The fact that the vehicle sat 10 mm (0.4") lower in front and 15 m (0.6") lower in the rear, while its windshield was bonded to the body, contributes to this achievement. Another first was the use of fibre-reinforced polyurethane for the guards. These were flexible, like the nose and tail pieces of the Porsche 928, so that light blows would leave no trace. In addition, they resisted corrosion and stone damage.

British Leylands new Gaydon Proving Grounds

British Leyland Technology, the BL central research company, lifted the veil from its new purpose-built proving grounds and research establishments in 1980. The heart of the company's activities was a 283 hectare site at Gaydon near Warwick, in Britain's Midlands. BL Technology's purpose was to develop advanced vehicles, components, materials and manufacturing technology. It also provided centralised test and evaluation services to all the BL companies, providing a company-wide technical quality audit. Before the establishment of Gaydon, BL Cars had largely independent technology and research centres for its various vehicle and component companies, and relied heavily on the Motor Industry Research Association's test track and proving facilities.

By September 1980 there were more than 48km of road test circuits in operation at Gaydon including a 4 km emission test circuit, 13 km of low speed endurance circuits and loops, and more than 8 km of high input structural test circuits incorporating a wide variety of rough and smooth surfaces, and water splashes. There were more than 16 km of cross country test routes and a 1.1 km section of varied brake test surfaces. A corrosion test section had special surfaces, salt sprays, humidity chamber, four 'wet' garages, and other 'horrors' to accelerate corrosive action on all vehicle components.

Gaydon's advanced electro-hydraulics laboratory could exactly simulate road-load data taken from the proving ground and carry out a complete body test in eight days compared with 26 weeks by previous methods. Other facilities included hot and cold test rooms, instrument calibration and advanced design and development laboratories, engine mapping, chassis dynamometers, and an experimental stress laboratory. The BL divisions which used Gaydon included Jaguar, Rover, Triumph, Austin-Morris and Land and Range Rover as well as many BL components companies, and the commercial vehicle companies of Leyland Vehicles.

The NRMA released a report in 1980, the findings of which clearly demonstrated that bad roads equated to poor fuel consumption - naturally this was ignored by the politicians. In Formula One, the promising young French driver Alain Prost crashed and fractured his wrist in the South African Grand Prix, while in the same race, Australia's Alan Jones was sidelined with gearbox problems.

Formula One Championship:

Alan Jones (Australia) / Williams-Ford

1980 Bathurst Winner:

Peter Brock & Jim Richards / VC Commodore

NRL Grand Final:

Cantebury (18) def. Eastern Suburbs (4)

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Richmond (23.21.159) def. Collingwood (9.24.78)

Melbourne Cup:

Beldale Ball (J. Letts)

Wimbledon Women:

Evonne Cawley d. C. Evert Lloyd (6-1 7-6)

Wimbledon Men:

Bjorn Borg d. J. McEnroe (1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7 8-6)

The Movies:

  • Raging Bull
  • Kramer vs Kramer
  • Ordinary People
  • Coal Miner's Daughter
  • The Elephant Man
  • Tess
  • Apocalypse Now

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - Ordinary People
  • Best Actor - Robert De Niro (RagingBull)
  • Best Actress - Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter)

Gold Logie:

Mike Walsh (The Mike Walsh Show, Nine)

The Charts:

  1. Time Warp - Original Movie Cast
  2. Shaddap You Face - Joe Dolce
  3. Turning Japanese - Vapors
  4. Space Invaders - Player
  5. Brass In Pocket - The Pretenders
  6. Starting Over - John Lennon
  7. Woman In Love - Barbara Streisand
  8. More Than I Can Say - Leo Sayer
  9. Another Brick In The Wall - Pink Floyd
  10. I Got You - Split Enz
  • William Douglas (UK singer songwriter)
  • Erich Fromm (Psychoanalyst and social theorist)
  • Alfred Hitchcock (Genius director)
  • John Lennon (The best part of the Beatles)
  • Jesse Owens (Coloured sprinter that stuck it up Hitler during the 1935 Olympics)
  • Jean Piaget (Professor of psychology)
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (French novelist and philosopher)
  • Mae West (German born screen goddess)
  • Alfred Neubauer (Arguably the greatest race team manager, who retired after the 1955 Le Mans tradgedy)
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