Thursday, 28 February 2019

XF-YEAH!

Something a little different from the National Motor Racing Museum in Bathurst, NSW... 
The utility variation of an Australian-engineered local-market model from an American manufacturer - briefly re-badged as Japanese - heavily modified to rocket around Mexico in the late 80s...

Oh yes, it's the 1984- Ford (Australia) XF Falcon Ute built by Australian Jim Hunter to compete in the "Presidente Sauza SCORE Baja 1000" in November 1987!

Not only does its existence make clear it survived that adventure (and the following decades!), the Australian and American driver team of Jim Hunter and Randy Salmont successfully completed the day-long ~700 mile loop from Ensenada to Ensenada and won their class (Class 6). Impressive pace and durability for the car's first attempt...

Essence-of-Falcon: while most of the bodywork appears as you'd find on an XF Falcon Ute, the view from the back starts to reveal there's some serious work lurking beneath...

...that's assuming you'd overlooked the stratospheric ride height (both ends good for ~15" of travel) up to this point!

No leaf-sprung solid-axle here!
Chrome-moly tube space frame, rear-mounted GM TH400 and a now-independent 9" diff fitted with inboard Jaguar disc brakes...

...while the intricate rear suspension has seemingly, conveniently, been coloured in order to highlight the different components!
It consists of a pair of large transverse torsion bars (in yellow) bolted to the chassis' main RHS behind the diff by a fantastic gusseted combination bracket (yellow) that also secures the similarly large diameter swaybar (silver/grey). The swaybar ends with links (black) sky-high above the back of each torsion arm (black), with even longer links (also black) running vertically down to the top of those very serious looking hubs.
Each hubs is located by five chrome-moly tube links (all painted blue): a pair of long trailing links running longitudinally from the back of the cab to the 5 and 11 o'clock positions on the forward side of the hub, with a trio of transverse links - two lower and a single upper - running to the 12, 4, and 8 o'clock spots, each topped by long-travel Rancho shock (all white) tasked with ensuring there's no unwanted rotation or load on that hub/wheel!

Further forward, the rear-mounted 45 gallon tank fed the Falcon's ~400HP warmed-over 351ci Cleveland.

On an interesting tangent, while this motor is right at home under the bonnet and here sits in its original position, the XF Falcon actually marked the point where Ford Australia stopped fitting these V8s to the Falcon! The previous XE and XD revisions of the same 1979- fourth-generation Falcon came equipped with both 302ci and 351ci Australian-manufactured variations of Ford's "Cleveland" V8..

The huge (particularly for a 2WD Utility based on an early-eighties passenger car!) 35x12.5R15 BF Goodrich Mud Terrains. The large diameter and chosen gearing seeing the car push ~140mph (225km/h) flat-out.

Geography humour.
The "II" of "Down Under Thunder II" being Jim's second attempt at the Baja 1000 after competing the year before in a Chevy Blazer (and well, again in June 1987 in the Baja 500 in a Chev C20)...

*arm at maximum extension*
Unfortunately this was as close to the cab or front-end as I was to get, with the car penned in and roped off on all other sides; so that's a "no" for a glimpse of the interior or front suspension here... 
So a step back it is; things could be worse!
One thing's for sure: has inspiration been hurled into the too-hard-basket here?! It's instantly apparent that nowhere near enough X-series Falcon Utes are given the Prerunner / Trophy-truck look!

We're done anyway. Hopefully you enjoyed the brief look this potentially-forgotten piece of motorsport history as much as I did. What an awesome bit of gear...

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Paseona!

Yes. Because even Toyota's passionfruit-flavoured hypermiling-chariot deserves a little love; the not-so-flattering mention alongside the 2JZ-GTE as products of year-on-year-on-year record sales for Toyota in the previous post no doubt a little insensitive.

Even as the mundane cousin to the gullwing-doored fishbowl that was the Toyota Sera, it'd be rude not to step back for another look at the larger picture - a manufacturer bothering to squeeze yet another sporty coupe (regardless of ability, an arguably unnecessary product for style-conscious buyers..) in an already packed lineup.
How packed? It's staggering to remember there was a point in time Toyota could justify development of this alongside the already-unnecessary pairing of AE101 Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno coupes. It's 130mm shorter. 50mm narrower. 10mm lower. Another 1.5litre twin-cam four' again driving the front wheels (the 1496cc 5E-FE and 1498cc 5A-FE in the Paseo/Cynos and Corolla Levin / Sprinter Trueno respectively)... and base prices less than 200,000yen apart? Sure these things were destined to sell in pointlessly different dealerships, but you're just adding two more slices into the same damn pie. You may now get to line up for piece three times, but you're not going to get yourself a whole lot more!
Hell, and that's if we forget even attempting to get buyers stretch for the 1.5million yen Celica or 1.6million yen SERA models - that'd never fly! Absolute night and day to Toyota's modern day 86 sports coupe, where a one size fits all, shared development ring-in from another manufacturer is the name of the game. It was just a different time.
So yes, let's swing some appreciation toward that Paseo/Cynos... if only as a shining reminder of the era it was created...

Right. So how best to celebrate the little Toyota few enthusiasts choose to hurl love and attention toward? One rarely dressed with wax and tyre-shine and paraded in front of my nose at a local car show, ripe for a flattering photoshoot?
Well if there's one thing that twists my arm harder than a brochure, it's glossy photos strapped to a damn novel of marketing faff in an original press kit. The glossiest of brochures would have never stood a chance if the manufacturer was unable to charm the journo's first!

I'm actually sad to say that, not surprisingly, elaborate little press kits like these simply aren't a thing anymore. Like catalogues, phone books and even newspapers, the internet finally managed to stand up for the world's forests and render these things unnecessary. It's bitter sweet I guess.

I just think they're a great piece of history, almost regardless of the vehicle they're for (that's my excuse for owning these and I'm sticking to it!) - so here's two from the first generation Paseo's early days in Australia: the June 1991 launch (not long after the Japanese Cynos equivalent's introduction) and a 1993 shuffle into a two-tier lineup in an attempt to compensate for the rising Yen...

Inside you'd typically find a pack black&white photos, slides (revealing those colours!), the vehicle information in the form of a handful of press releases and information about the launch day/event itself.

Absurdly as always, the 1991 launch was a mid-week Paseo-heavy-rendevoux at a Health Retreat well on the way to Canberra...
What GPS?!

Some of the more interesting pages from the press kit...
The Paseo / Cynos' 5E-FE in some detail..

In all honesty I've never been one for the Paseo's styling (it's the proportions), but while styling's subjective, effort and clear direction can ALWAYS be appreciated. It's cohesive if nothing else..

...pride in the engineering and build quality is far more impressive to me anyway!
Supporting my argument that there was a noticeable step up in build quality from Japanese manufacturers in this era - over-building that produced some real automotive cockroaches! I have no doubt many of the Paseos I've seen at the wreckers over the years could have driven themselves out with fuel and a battery. An absolute waste when the resulting longevity of quality and simplicity no longer exists, but building something to last 30 years when many will throw it out within 10 has clearly been questioned in the decades since.. 

You know things aren't looking great when you've stepped into decimals for torque output...

Sunroof, air-conditioning and those smart five-spoke alloy wheels the only options; otherwise quite well equipped for a reasonably-inexpensive sportscar in 1991...

...but urgent band-aids on the Japanese economy soon saw to that. As mentioned above, by 1993 equipment was subtlety stripped out as a two-tier lineup attempted to hide the accountant's handiwork:
"BE AWARE WITH FLAIR..."

Don't worry, it goes on to explain...

"Toyota has launched a new range of its Paseo sports car and used the launch to trial a defensive driving course aimed specifically at Paseo buyers..."

"...The range (lineup adjustments) is a direct answer by Toyota to unfavourable currency exchange rates which are threatening to force up the price of imports..."

"...The Paseo Defensive Driving Course has been called: Be Aware With Flair."

...and a launch that saw those same journalists trundle along to a defensive driving course. You better believe that's a "NO" to the health retreat this time..!

The lineup adjustments saw equipment stripped out of the standard car, with a now even more heavily equipped variant added above: the Paseo Alpha - interestingly a variant name it now shares with the Japanese Cynos!

Ohhh how I have a soft spot for dated graphic design..

 Four-wheel discs a welcome addition for the higher-spec variant...

A bit of a look at the Paseo's reasonably attractive front sports seats - the backrest extends right up behind the headrests, with the headrest attaching to the front like a pillow of sorts. Searching some of the seat's part numbers has confirmed, amazingly, that these seats are Paseo-specific. Quite surprising...

AM/FM/Cassette with component CD player - another point of pride for the Paseo it seems! A basic looking setup, but one I still need to grab from the wreckers when I get a chance...

Just like the seats, I'm surprised those sharp looking five-spoke alloys (although only a modest 14x5.5JJ) are again Paseo/Cynos specific.

All eyes on those economy figures!

"...performance? Oh, yeah, it has one of those.."

Launching into a dynamic shot of a Paseo pedalled in defensive-driver-training anger...
Look-out cardboard friend!

...a wet course and the speed implied by the body roll at that steering angle? Bloody well asking for trouble!

"..No! No, why?! You're supposed to go faster when somebody tailgates you!"

Ah, tennis. Much safer.

"Squash champion Michelle Martin has joined the growing number of women who have made Toyota's Paseo 2 + 2 coupe their personal transport."
Okay then, squash it is!

"α" or "Alpha" - the first letter in the Greek alphabet - now appearing on the rear garnish to identify the upper spec car. As mentioned earlier, this is a variant name it shares with the Japanese Cynos equivalent; interestingly however, while this became the upper spec car in Australia, it is the base Cynos in Japan - the upper spec car in Japan's two-tier Cynos lineup being the "β" or "Beta"...

Regardless of the badge, it seems the easiest way to pick these would be that roof spoiler. The front car here being a Paseo Alpha (likely the same one pictured in the other photos), the centre car another Alpha, this time fully optioned, with the car rounding out the photo up the back looking to be a base Paseo.

Anyway, I'd say we're just about done here!

No wrecker or car show examples unfortunately. While I could have a quick poke around the Japanese or Australian marketplaces for a current available example, I'd like to hope the sixty-odd images above'll do you just fine. I'm sure you get the idea.
...and again, the whole point here today being? Well, just remembering to fling some love the humble ol' Toyota Paseona's way the next time you see one!