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The Case Of The Missing V8

1970-71 START

I had a thought over the weekend. I was driving around in my BF XR8 Falcon Ute and it hit me, where have all the V8’s gone?

It wasn’t that long ago that you would drive past a Ford or Holden dealership and all you would see out the front were their flagship V8 models. Now all you see is diesel pickups and economical buzz-boxes. So what happened?

Well, some blame the fuel prices, but I call nonsense on that. My brother drives a Toyota Hilux and it costs about the same to fuel up as my ute does. Granted, it’s mileage is better but only by about 100-150km per tank; so I don’t think that’s the problem.

Others site practicality as the cause. Again, my V8 has a 1.8m long tray and can take 750kg in it and tow a caravan at the same time. Still trying to see the problem.

The only thing I can think is that a combination of media and manufacturers have led us astray.

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If we think back to 1970 (long before I was even thought of – but not long before my colleague Kyle was) V8’s ruled the roads. They were the calling card of the blue-collared, working-class man. Cold Chisel sang about them, Peter Brock raced them and for many Australian kids born in the 70’s and 80’s, Mum and Dad probably spent a lot of time in them (Sandman anyone?).

Fuel was, in terms of a dollar figure, cheaper back then. But when you account for inflation of the dollar over 40 years, it’s actually not that different to now. In 1970, the average price for a gallon of unleaded petrol was around $0.52. With inflation, that is equal to approximately $5.80. If a gallon is 4.54 litres, that puts the cost of fuel per litre in 1970 at $1.27. The average price at the bowser today is between $1.30 and $1.35 – so not that different.

But why were V8’s so popular then compared to now? It’s a hard question to answer but I think honestly the appeal was driven away from them and pushed in other directions. In 1970, you had an option of V8 engines, generally ranging from small 253 Holden blocks to the Mountain eating 351’s and even the mighty 454 Chev Big Blocks. But in 2005, when it all started to slip away, you could get a 5.4L Falcon or a 5.7L Commodore. They had quiet exhausts and trip meters. 

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By 2010, there was no more V8 Falcon’s and the V8 Commodore’s were on the chopping block. The salesmen were steering us all towards a Focus or a Colorado. 

And for that, I blame Al Gore. His inconvenient truth sent car makers running for the hills and everyone suddenly wanted low emissions and long-range. Because, god forbid, if you even murmured the words “lumpy cam” or “burnout”, polar bears might instantly become extinct.

Now, I must make it clear. Clean, renewable energy is the way forward. Elon Musk converted me to that last year when I drove his brilliant Telsa Model S P90D – BUT! Why can’t we still have our V8’s in the meantime?

The sweaty, singlet-wearing, beer drinking V8 has been abducted and made to wear a suit. You can find him hiding under the bonnet’s of cars that cost upwards of $80,000 – save for the Ford Mustang. But even that’s not quiet right because as great as the Mustang is, and it is great, the 5.0L V8 is kind of small.

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Now, if you want a V8, you have to visit the Europeans and hope your credit rating is good enough to afford an Audi or a Merc or if you’re in a good enough position, a Maserati. But they’re hardly even V8’s. Strapping turbochargers to 4.2L engines doesn’t count, does it? Surely not.

I want the big-bangers back. I want tunnel-rams and lumpy-cams. I want to pull up at a set of lights and when the 17-year-old in his Mum’s Elantra looks at me and turns up his Adele so loud that everyone can hear it, I simply open the taps and show him what real noise it.

It’s time for a V8 revival. Let’s get Barnsey and Dick Johnson together and hold a concert to bring back the Mighty Muscle car. It’s not to late, it’s never too late. There’s no replacement for displacement. V8 for life.

(Please note we very much enjoy the European V8’s, we’re just trying to make a point here)

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