ALLAN Moffat’s push to introduce the rotary-powered Mazda RX-7 to Australian touring car racing in the early 1980s stoked plenty of heated debate, but the car that was set to replace it may have caused even more ructions among fans.
The Mazda RX-7 was a controversial addition to the Group C touring car ranks in 1981 – disputes over its eligibility raged over almost two years before it was approved for competition – but the rotary rockets soon became a cornerstone of the class.
Moffat’s factory-backed efforts netted him his fourth and final Australian Touring Car Championship crown, a pair of Sandown 400 enduro wins and Australian Endurance Championship titles.
However, the RX-7 never quite snared the Bathurst triumph that Moffat most cherished.
The RX-7s only enjoyed a short racing life of three full seasons before Australia’s adoption of international Group A touring car rules for 1985 – which crippled the competitiveness of rotary-powered cars – rendered them obsolete.
Keen to retain his strong relationship with Mazda, Moffat and his team came up with a cunning plan to create a Toyo Kogyo product that would be competitive under the new rules.
They fitted a Mazda 929 with a five-litre Ford V8 engine.
Then-team manager Allan Horsley briefly touched on the secret project in the latest issue of Australian Muscle Car Magazine.
“It was done at the Moffat’s workshop in Melbourne,” Horsley told AMC Issue 126.
“The V8 fitted perfectly and the gear stick came through the same hole. We took it to Sandown and it sat there with twin exhaust pipes and nobody twigged at all.
“The plan was to continue racing with Mazda in Group A but homologation was incredibly expensive and Mazda Japan didn’t want to do it.”
Manufacturers had to build a minimum of 5000 units of the model they wanted to race in a calendar year in order to homologate the car for Group A competition, and could then build a further 500 ‘evolution’ cars fitted with upgraded parts for competition purposes.
Whether they had to build 500 or 5000 V8-engined 929s, it was a cost that Mazda elected not to bear.
The V8-engined 929 mule was converted back to a road car and the 1985 season saw Moffat spend a year on the sidelines before joining Peter Brock and the Holden Dealer Team as a co-driver for 1986.
The tale is just a small part of a deep dive into Horsley’s career for AMC’s traditional Muscle Man feature, and he tells tales of his time serving as the innovative promoter during Oran Park’s heyday and as Mazda’s go-to man for its motorsport activities.
Also in Issue 126, AMC celebrates the 50th anniversary of the GT-HO Phase III Ford Falcon and reflects on Holden’s stunning show cars with a pair of the company’s former design gurus.