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It doesn’t seem all that long ago that John Ludlam was introduced to rallying and to a car that was eventually going to come into his life.

Young John and his mate were on their way to the Mount Crawford forest in the Adelaide Hills, in his mate’s dad’s Peugeot 404, listening to stories about rallying, who was competing in the rally that weekend, who the likely crews were, and who the probable winner was. Ludlam, being a car enthusiast, knew all about Lancers, Mazdas and Datsuns, but a Dazda was one make he’d never heard of before.

Soon he and his friends were settled on a suitable corner in the forest near Forties Road, waiting for the first car to arrive. Conversation soon turned to stories about the fine line between having sufficient money and enough talent that it took to be a good rally driver.

As he remembers, the discussion was unresolved. Ludlam was by this time unsure of what this Dazda, shortly to appear, was. Was it English, American, European? He was told to wait and see.

It wasn’t long before young John heard what sounded like a chainsaw backfiring some distance away in the forest. At first he didn’t take much notice. After all, they do use chainsaws to cut down trees in the forest, but why was the sound getting closer?

All of a sudden a Datsun 1600 shot out into the clearing and slid almost uncontrollably toward the corner where he was standing. With the rear of the car trying to overtake the front and the car pointing the wrong way to the direction of the road, the car suddenly changed direction, let out a deafening explosion from the exhaust, and took off down the road, covering Ludlam with gravel and rocks.

All that remained was a rapidly-disappearing dust haze and the smell of castor oil in the air. “Now”, my friend’s father informed me “you know what a Dazda is!” From that moment on, he knew he just had to have one.

The Dazda was a creation of champion South Australian rally driver, Barry Lowe, who was looking for a car that could beat the all-conquering BDA Escorts running in the Australian Rally Championship at the time. A Datsun 1600 was the next best alternative, but to get big power from them to  make them competitive cost a lot of money.

When somebody suggested that a Mazda 13B rotary engine had plenty of power and was relatively cheap to develop to get sufficient horsepower, Lowe thought: Why not combine the two?”

Lowe debuted the car in 1980, slowly developing it until it was fully competitive. In fact it was so successful that he won both the 1982 and 1983 South Australian Rally Championships with it, then continued competing (and winning!) many more events until 1987 when the car was retired.

In total, the car, in the hands of either Lowe or Jim Conaghty, won the SARC a total of four times. The success inspired many other competitors around Australia, including Hugh Bell, Ron King, John Macara, Peter Rowe, John Howard and John Fleming, to remove the L Series Datsun engine from their 1600s and replace it with a ported 13B rotary from a Mazda RX4.

Ludlam’s car started life as a rally car  after it was log booked in 1981 by a guy called Nick Pritchard, from Bentleigh in Victoria, in piston-engined form. Around 1986 the car was converted to a Dazda using the best parts available at the time, but thanks to the demise of Group G, it was rallied only once or twice before it was sold to Michael Barber and Andrew Perry.

Over the next eight years the car was entered in a few inter-club events and motorkhanas until Barber decided that he might part with the car.

Ludlam rang Barber and after a phone conversation that lasted for an hour, he realised he just had to have it. Since acquiring the Dazda, John Ludlam has generally tidied the car up and given it a fresh coat of paint.

It now sees regular use at hillclimbs at Collingrove, races at Mallala, and the occasional rally, all the while getting enormous enjoyment from driving his classic beast. He’d like to hear from anyone who rallied Dazdas in the past or has any knowledge of similar cars.

You can make him a happy man by emailing him at ludlam@chariot.net.au


1970 Datsun 1600 P510. Strengthened and reinforced front end with gusseted strut towers. Fibreglass bonnet and boot lid. Perspex windows in rear doors. Six-point Bond alloy cage with extra cross bracing and reinforcing. Lightweight boot floor and reinforced fuel tank support and muffler support. Modified transmission tunnel to suit Mazda gearbox. IPF headlights with 100/170w 7” inserts, IPF 900 Series spot lights (130w each). Painted Devil Yellow (Holden Monaro colour).

Halda Twinmaster steel case, period-style Recaro seats, hydraulic and mechanical handbrake, big 11,000 RPM tacho with shift light, oil pressure, water temperature and voltmeter gauges. Exide Extreme battery mounted behind driver’s seat. Wiper switch on gear lever.

Mazda RX4 13B bridge-ported. Clearanced rotors, ceramic apex seals and 3-window stationary gear bearings. High volume oil pump, race pulley, 48IDA Weber side draught carburetor on Kreation manifold, Piranha electric ignition. 137kw at the rear wheels at 8,000 rpm.

Lightened flywheel, Borg and Beck twin-plate clutch, Mazda RX4-based gearbox with close ratio set (possibly Holinger). R200 LSD 4.4:1 ratio with Nismo plates built by Stan Holmes. Nissan 280ZX half shafts.

Custom extractors with 2.5” primaries mated to 3” collector. Custom 3: resonator with RotoFlow 3” muffler. The 3” tailpipe goes over the driveshafts (no mean feat!)

Front: Datsun 200B slotted discs with Girling calipers and Ferodo pads.
Rear: Mitsubishi Scorpion discs with Datsun 200B calipers with mechanical handbrake. Twin 5/8” master cylinders with adjustable balance bar.

Front: Pedders adjustable rally struts with Datsun 240K springs. Spherical end castor rods with catch wire.
Rear: Drummond Bilstein shock absorbers with Pedders springs.

14 x 6” Datsun 200B SX wheels painted in Enkei gold for dirt events, 15 x 7” Performance Challengers painted in Charcoal Bitumen with AO32R Yokohama tyres for tarmac events.

Approx. 950kg.

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