Barry Oliver | Heaven for humpies

Back in the early days of touring car racing in Australia the gun car to have was the FX-FJ Holden affectionately known as the ‘humpy’.

LABOUR OF LOVE: John Routley has spent months building a replica of his own humpy from the early 1970s with some modern modifications to the engine and the wheels. A roll cage is another modern addition.

LABOUR OF LOVE: John Routley has spent months building a replica of his own humpy from the early 1970s with some modern modifications to the engine and the wheels. A roll cage is another modern addition.

In a true celebration of this iconic motoring heritage, next weekend there will be 24 of Australia’s own running at the Baskerville historic meeting.

Interestingly quite a number of humpy drivers of the era went onto achieve great success in the sport.

There was Spencer Martin who raced the famous Boomerang Service Station car and later won the Australian Gold Star in 1966 and 1967 in a Brabham BT11.

Then there was the larger-than-life ‘Stormin Norman’ Beechey who raced the famous black FX car, registration PK 752, to many wins before progressing through a number of touring cars, culminating in two Australian Touring Car Championships in 1965 and 1970.

Sydney Journalist Max Stahl was one of the front runners in those halcyon days and later became the architect of Targa Tasmania.

His car is still going strong and will be driven at this meeting by Westbury’s Grant Bingley.

Bruce McPhee was one of the stalwarts of early Holden racing who then progressed to become one of our best endurance drivers, winning the Bathurst race in 1968.

Bo Seton, father of 1993 and 1997 Touring Car champion Glenn, was another front runner and later went on to win the 1965 Bathurst race in a Ford Cortina with Midge Bosworth.

Locally the top drivers in humpy Holdens included Alan Ling in the ex-Geoghegan Repco-headed car, Ross Farmer, David Lewis, Gene Cook, Mike McIvor and numerous others.

The car pictured is a replica of the FX Holden raced by local driver John Routley in 1972 and 73, and is a beautiful representation of what spectators will see on the track next weekend.

It’s taken Routley thirteen months and hundreds of hours to build the car from a bare shell and as with all Routley’s cars from the past, the engineering is superb.

The car features the same ‘grey’ motor that was produced by Holden on release to the Australian public in 1948, although with significant modifications to improve performance and reliability.

Cubic capacity is up to 2350ci from 2122ci and, whereas the original motor produced what was then a healthy 62 brake horsepower, this new engine produces about three times that and revs to 7000 RPM.

To achieve that there is a billet crankshaft, special conrods, pistons, valves and three 45-millimetre Weber carburettors and fabricated exhaust headers.

The gearbox is the original three-speed ‘three on the tree’ common in the day, the suspension is stock except for springs and shock absorbers, and the wheel size is 7.5-inch wide by 13-inch diameter shod with soft compound Toyo tyres.

This is in contrast to the early days when the standard 4.5-inch wide rims were used and a recent ride around Symmons Plains with Routley was a revelation as to how much grip there was.

The car still has drum brakes, as in period, but has the later HD model Holden drums on the front and the drums all round are finned to improve cooling.

One of the most significant changes from the original race car is the fitting of a CAMS-approved roll cage to improve the safety aspect considering the car will now be much faster than it would have been 45 years ago.

The other advantage of the cage is that it reduces the amount of twist in the chassis and therefore improves the handling characteristics.

It’s taken Routley thirteen months and hundreds of hours to build the car from a bare shell and as with all Routley’s cars from the past, the engineering is superb.

Routley started racing in 1968 in an FX and it was four years and three cars later that he started racing the car that he has now replicated.

Other cars he raced during his career included a six-cylinder TF Cortina in the early eighties before progressing to a Group N V8 Chevrolet Impala in 1985 that proved to be one of the most popular cars in the state and later thrilled fans in Western Australia.

There was also a very spectacular lightweight XM two-door Falcon Sports Sedan with a supercharged six-cylinder motor that was indecently fast.

Next weekend there will be eleven mainland entries with five each from Queensland and Victoria and one from New South Wales joining the thirteen Tasmanian cars.

Through the efforts of humpy owner Peter Mather, whose immaculate car will be on display next weekend, the early Holdens featured in demonstration laps at the Baskerville reunion in 2009.

Such was the response a much greater number was featured in 2014, so this year will be the third occasion they have been included, and it is most appropriate as 2017 will mark the end of production of the Holden in Australia.

The humpies will be on the track four times during the weekend joining another 180 cars and 60 motor cycles.

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