By Chris Meaden
Gardner’s Chev Corvair dominated the Australian Sports Sedan scene so
much that he almost unintentionally killed off the category.
Nailard was involved in the building of the car.
Much of the car’s hardware
came from one of
Frank Gardner’s previous
in the form of Lola T332 running gear.
immediately had problems with the governing body of Australian motor
Confederation of Australian Motorsport
(CAMS) which were to plague him and to lead to the eventual demise of
the car. Some of the creative ideas
used on the
Corvair were not what
for the category. The radiators (heat exchangers) were located in the
body work just in front of the rear wheels,
instead of where you would expect
the radiator to be,
at the front of the car.
This allowed the frontal area of
the body work to be very clean and
improved weight distribution, however
he was eventually forced to move
to the front of the car. The hastily
blanked off section
of the guards can be seen in this early pic of the car
HERE [NOTE: click
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The car arrived
too late in 1976 to make an
impact in that year’s Australian
Sports Sedan championship,
when the Corvair debuted at Oran
However, it swept all before it in 1977 in
He won almost every race he entered.
I remember that the car was never very quick in the rain.
not sure if it was due to the car or Frank, but that
was almost the only time it was defeated.
gave Bob Jane plenty of grief but
not just on the track. Frank was sponsored by John Player cigarettes
and at the time Bob Jane had the Marlboro $100,000 Sports Sedan Series
running at his beloved Calder Raceway. In a recent TV interview Bob
Jane indicated that Marlboro was not
a car bearing their opposition’s
logo was winning all the races!
It may not be a coincidence that the cigarette company’s sponsorship of
the series ceased soon after.
If my memory is
Gardner was being bothered by an old back injury and decided to put
Allan Grice in the seat
for 1978 the championship. The
branding of the car
change to the Craven Mild
cigarette brand to reflect
Allan’s existing sponsorship arrangements.
Gricey won the 1978
title and backed that up with
another win in 1979.
The rules at the
time allowed cars
that originally had engines located in the rear of the car to move the
location forward of the rear axle
if desired, or at least there was no
specific rule to disallow that happening. This was an advantage for cars
that originally had the engine swinging out the back, such as the
Many drivers took
Bryan Thomson with his famous
VW Fastback Chev,
with his final
turbocharged Porsche Sports Sedan,
Ken Hastings VW Beetle and
Despite the heroic
attempts by Bob Jane in his
Monaro and Jim Richards in his
Big M sponsored Falcon,
the Confederation of Australian
Motorsport could see that for anyone to
defeat the Corvair,
they would have to
build a rear engined car.
The selection of rear engine road cars to choose from
was thin on the
out-of-production cars that
hardly represented of the future of motoring
decided to change the rules to specify
that the engine had to be placed
in the same relationship to the rear axle as the standard road car.
made the Corvair effectively
Although the late
Pat Crea made a courageous
attempt with a
which at that time was raced by Darrylyn Huitt.
I think it was a Traco Oldsmobile
V8 that Pat stuck out the back of the car
in the normal location.
The experiment was a disaster with the car redefining the term ‘terminal
understeer’. The car looked as if
it was going to do wheel-stands as it accelerated!
The Corvair was
placed on the market
with the suggestion to potential buyers that the
would make an interesting
addition to the sports car category,
in which it could maybe potentially
compete. But predictably
the car was not sold.
All the useful hardware was removed from the car and the
was dumped at a local
council rubbish dump!
What a miserable
end to a perfectly
before the rules were changed,
completed constructed of a
boxy style early model four
door Corvair. The car was not
competitive on it limited
outings. Does anyone have photos of the car or know of it fate?
There is a web site
devoted to Corvairs powered by alternative power sources, and I do not
mean greenhouse friendly power sources! You can access its page related
to the Frank Gardner Corvair by clicking
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