We celebrate Basil Green’s legend recalling a spin in Perana Z181
News this morning of the great Basil Green’s passing following a long battle with illness, closes off another giant chapter of South African motoring and motorsport. To celebrate the life of a true South African legend, Auto digs out a feature that adorned the cover of the first Classic Car Africa magazine we published back in 2004. Rest in peace Basil. You will never be forgotten. — Michele Lupini
Like the man himself, Basil Green’s Group 5 Ford Capri Perana is a legend in its own lifetime. Michele Lupini realised a long held dream to drive the car that won every race it started to take the late Bobby Olthoff to the 1970 SA Saloon Car Championship
It wasn’t an easy car to drive. But then nothing at this level was ever easy. Basil Green and his team spared nothing in their efforts to build the ultimate saloon car in 1970. Group 5 racing regulations were pretty wide open back then and there wasn’t much you couldn’t do to a car to make it into a winner in that class.
Building a Capri Out of a Ford GT40
So why not build a Ford GT40 into a Capri? Easier said than done? Hell no, anything was possible to SA’s legendary racers back then. With enough road going versions of Basil Green’s 302-cubic inch V8 Perana built, it was time to tear apart the racetrack like nothing before ever had. And that’s exactly what they did – they literally built a Capri out of a GT40…
A piranha is a little fish. Alone, it’s relatively harmless but in numbers is deadly to anything unlucky enough to stray into its Amazon waters. There’s nothing small about Basil Green’s Capri Perana. And no, it didn’t need any great numbers to kill anything that crossed its path. It was capable of that all on its own…
It all started a couple of years earlier. Basil and his men had built an Essex V6 powered Cortina he and Bob Olthoff would drive in local production car racing. But they had to build 100 similar road cars first to meet qualification requirements to enter into the series. So no problem, the Perana team did just that. They went out and built and sold a hundred street V6 Cortinas…
Capri Was Launched at the Perfect Time
The Cortina Perana racecar was a success. But it was never quite as dominant a winner as Green’s men had perhaps wanted. So Basil and his team decided on another, far more adventurous project based on their experience. They’d tossed the old four out of to fit in a V6 in the Cortina. It was time to rip up the rulebook…
The sleek new Ford Capri had just arrived on the market. Basil soon had his tape measure out to work out that, with a little effort, they’d be able to slip a small block Ford V8 into the classy new coupe. To make it into something Dearborn had never dreamed it could do. Before too long, a whole batch of V8 Capri Peranas were being snapped up off South African Ford dealership floors . Quicker than Green’s Edenvale workshop could slip the big mills under their bonnets.
But this was all part of a bigger plan. The Ford 302, you see, was the same engine in essence that powered Ford’s great Le Mans winning GT40. Albeit in a far more serious state of tune. Which meant that if you could find a GT40 V8 and you had a Capri spare, you could mate the two into the wildest saloon car ever built. Which is pretty much what went down back in early ’70 just off van Riebeek Avenue downtown Edenvale.
Perana Z181 Was a Formula 5000 in Drag
“The engine we ran in this car was the same as what was in the back of Jackie Pretorius’ F5000 Lola and sports racer,” Basil Green, who’d come along for the afternoon pointed out. “I went to America to get the parts for all three of those engines. “We had three of the best Ford mills available. “They were good for 350 horses and had all the right bits. “Even to the GT40 Weber IDA carburettors and manifolds.”
“there was a lot more to it than just slipping the GT40 V8 into the Capri. “We used the latest 4-speed top-loader gearbox, a specially made 9-inch diff. “Add essentially a GT40 suspension – uprights, brakes and wheels. “But that brought its own problems. “An upright broke while I was testing the car at Kyalami just before the first race of the season. “I slammed into the bank at Jukskei. “Whatever we did, we just couldn’t get the car to Killarney for the season opener.”
“But Bobby went on to win every race of the season from there. “Twelve wins out of twelve starts. “The only one we never won that year was the one we missed…”
StRap In — Time to Drive Z181!
Looking over the car before I drove, Basil was clearly emotional as he relived those halcyon days. “We used the steering rack out of the left-hand drive Cologne Capri. “We had to reverse the arms to suit.” Basil stared at the intake trumpets atop the vast engine.
“What happened to the bonnet with the bulge?” Basil asked Peter Lindenberg, who confirmed he still had it. “We used that to house a special plenum chamber, but only ran that in the first race. Basil pointed to the line of round holes in the front valence above the cooler. “We made those holesto give the oil cooler some air!”
“But it went beyond all that – the suspension was quite a trick,” he laughed. “To fit the wide wheels we had to twist the rear springs. “And then we ran bearings on areas there was no clearance to get rid of friction,” Basil reminisced.
“I’ll Never Forget Those Big Back Tyres — Basil Green
“I will never forget the race we first fitted those big back tyres . “We waited until the car was on pole position on the dummy grid,” Basil smiled. “Then the boys wheeled them down the grid, jacked up Bob’s car and put them on. “Basil van Rooyen, who was in another Group 2 Perana on the second row was furious. “He put his R100 protest down even before the start. “At the end, the car was found legal any way and we won again!”
Basil van Rooyen also has great Perana memories. He drove a Group 2 version to great effect. Van Rooyen was delighted when we called him at home in Australia… “Basil Green’s Perana was such an excellent concept and so well done – technically and commercially.
“His group 5 was so successful and without much competition. “It ran fast and furious and beat all in its way.” Van Rooyen raced a Group 2 version. “I saw an opportunity to give Basil G some competition in the class. “So I asked him for a special deal as it would be good for all concerned. “Even though I’d be competing against his works car. “He agreed and I had some terrific duels with Bobby driving Basil’s works car in 1972.”
We Ran a Fully Balanced Exhaust – van Rooyen
“One memory stands out. “I’d been running a fancy balanced exhaust manifold. “It had equal lengths from alternate firing cylinders into a megaphone on each side for 4 cylinders each. “I’d run one on my Mustang. It was extremely challenging to make properly and needed bends that twist as well as turn to clear the obstacles.”
“Bob’s car had the legs on mine down the straight, no matter what we did on the dyno. “One day I found my mechanic Hennie van der Linde welding scraps of pipe to flanges flame-cut in our workshop. “No matching to ports, just random lengths into 2 huge 3″ or 4” pipes on each side.
“When I asked what he was doing, Hennie explained, “no man – everything else is so good. “It must be this blerry exhaust so I’m changing it for practice tomorrow! “I was a bit taken aback but also pleased at his initiative. So I humoured him and went along with it. “So he could learn the thinking behind the Ford GT 40 inspired exhaust…”
400 rpm More Down the Kyalami Main Straight
“The car promptly pulled 400 rpm more down the old Kyalami main straight! “It was at least as quick as Bobby Olthoff’s car. “In the race, I no longer had to slipstream and plan to get across the line ahead. “We won so convincingly that Basil G replaced Bobby with my old rival Koos Swanepoel for the next Kyalami round.”
“Side by side down the main straight on the first lap, I braked at my deepest marker. “But Koos went in 5m deeper and straight on into the bank at Crowthorne. “He shortened the BG car by almost a metre. “I’m not sure if Basil G ever knew about Hennie’s exhaust!”
So, with all the history surrounding it fresh in my mind, I was for once a little anxious. I settled into the orange machine’s red bucket seat and came to grips with the original wheel. The Spartan dash has rough yellow labels describing the various toggles and gauges. Z181 stood idling roughly on the short oval pits road at its WesBank Raceway home. This was a dream come true – I’ll never forget this same car demolishing the field in its Kyalami Debut. Now I’m sitting in it ready to go…
Z181 Responds Brilliantly to Turn-In
Clutch action was easy. The V8 rattles in its hard mountings as I give I a little gas to pull away. There’s a little lash. Perhaps from the clutch, maybe down the drivetrain and I pull off slowly. Wary of owner Pete’s warning to let it warm up a little as I drove onto the main track. Even though I’m all but feathered it, it approached the dogleg left far quicker than expected. Still it responded brilliantly to turn-in.
More aware of its pace, I drove gentler around the rest of the lap. The temperature gauges approached their required levels. The gumball Goodyear slicks built up to their needed heat. Down the straight I let it rev a little closer to the 6000 limit on the big silver tacho in the middle of the dash. I savoured the rumble, the noise. I was even more impressed by the pop-bang-pop overrun backfire as I lift off and gently feed in the brakes.
The brakes were the biggest challenge in BG’s Z181. Its lively front end and seemingly disjointed off-the boil nature kept me on my toes. So I took it slowly to learn how it all works. The car moved around on the brakes. It’s more or less adequate vented front clamps come straight out of the far lighter GT40. The piddly single-pot solid-disc rear brakes pinched from the front of an Escort Mk1 do little to help them.
Brakes: Perana’s Weakest Link
So the brakes are Perana’s weakest link. Not all that effective, with a spongy-hard and pedal and not much feeling. That added to the car’s tendency to move about at the front under braking too. All this made it imperative that you are widest-awake during the process of retardation.
Getting the hang of a car that otherwise clearly loves to be driven hard, I eased into it. Before attempting a couple of hottish tours. The throttle was longer than anticipated when I finally found the floor. And there was a lot more power than I’d just gotten used to.
True to expectation, the harder I pushed Z181, the better and better it responded. Up to speed on my final ‘flying’ lap, I found braking most difficult. It shuddered and chattered down to the required pace for the almost-hairpin lefthander at the end of the straight. On the power, the Perana felt great. The V8 sucks angrily through the IDAs as that rumble progressed to a shout as as the apexes approach far quicker
Steering is Heavy. But Precise
Brake a bit, hold third through and even find fourth before fighting it back down to second for the hairpin Z181 car squirmed under brakes again and even locking up a little at the back. It demands a little lock to keep it going toward my preferred turn-in apex.
Steering is heavy but precise as I turned it hard. I was able to get on the gas impressively quickly and back on the clamps just as quickly. Acceleration was vast and noisy the next apex loomed warp-like. I steered it easily through, looking out not to light up the back through its long exit. Back on the gas I remember Peter’s little finger of warning wagging “If I break it…!”
WesBank’s right-hand-left-hand kinks leading toward the oval bit come up quickly too. They needed a dab on the brakes to slow it to a comfortable enough pace. turn it in over the kerbs and it obeyed well. Feed in the power back on and Z181 followed its nose well as it streaked on into the oval.
Z181 Detroit Locker Diff Gets Busy
Onto the wide expanse of the oval, I gave it a little gas after a precautionary lift. Feel the Detroit locker diff getting active and refrain from egging it on to break traction. On through the oval and onto the straight as I sank the pedal to the floor and let it shout down the straight
No, I never came anywhere near the limit, but I spent enough time with Z181 to know it’s a no-nonsense machine. A man’s car. It has all the power, the handling and the noise to ensure it’s stunning to drive. It seems to tighten up to become a better racer, the harder you push it. I never came close enough to the limit to challenge it. But Perana seemed to be quite forgiving if you respected it right. Which left the most difficult bit to last – the brakes. Or rather the lack of them…
Most of the BG Ford Capri Perana was up to modern supercar spec. Without doubt a huge compliment to a car engineered inthe early ’70s. This was one hell of a machine in its time. But as good as its brakes could have been in ’71, they are nowhere near they are in an average car today. Which made this a most challenging car to drive. No, it isn’t easy, but with respect and understanding, the Perana certainly can be driven very fast.
Bob Oltoff, Basil van Rooyen, & Koos Swanepoel
Which is exactly what Bob Oltoff, Basil van Rooyen, Koos Swanepoel and others did to such great effect way back when. The biggest blast of driving Basil Green’s Group 5 racing Ford Capri Perana was far more than the thrill of the experience. It was the privilege of being able to drive such a legend…
Later, we went out with our photographer hanging out the back of a station wagon to shoot those great images. The Ford’s rumble seemed coarser at times. Only when it started to rain did we realise that the additional rumble was highveld thunder.
Which was was appropriate – the Perana that humbles thunder! Little wonder that nothing could come close to it on track… — Michele Lupini
PERANA – VENI, VIDI, VICI
If ever the words of Caesar held true to motorsport, it had to be the 1970 South African Saloon Car Championship and the arrival of Basil Green’s Group 5 Ford Capri Perana, which absolutely came, saw and conquered.
A gap in the market
Green had eyed a gap in Group 5’s Saloon Car Racing regulations for a Ford Capri running a Ford GT40 V8 and went about convincing Ford to let him build a quantity of 302 V8 powered Cortinas to sell through Ford dealerships, to enable him to create his dream.
Having already had success with a similar project in the Cortina Perana V6, for which he had to build 100 cars to qualify to run an existing racecar, Green and his men went about building the road going V8 Capri Peranas while still developing the race car, which was designed from the ground up with one intention and one intention only – to destroy any racetrack opposition.
And when the Group 5 Capri Perana Z181 arrived at the racetrack – a race late after a testing mishap – it certainly delivered on expectation. The Capri with the GT40 heart – and a lot more – stormed to an easy pole position for its first race at Kyalami and by the time the field had reached the end of the famous circuit’s main straight, driver Bobby Oltoff was already 100m clear.
Z181 Broke Kyalami lap record by 4 seconds
Bobby went on the smash the Kyalami Saloon Car Lap Record by almost four seconds on his way to victory by over half a lap and in record race distance time. From there, Bobby and Z181 completely dominated the SA Saloon Car Championship, breaking lap records on a race by race basis and extending his advantage no matter what anyone did in response.
A case in point was Peter Gough whose Willie Meissner Ford Escort was subjected to the newfangled art of turbocharging in an effort to respond to the flying Perana, while Jody Scheckter supercharged his Renault and Arnold Chatz did all he could with special Autodelta bits for his Alfa GTA.
But the big Group 5 Perana’s days were numbered as Z181 rolled off win after win, for race officials were plotting the demise of the ‘free for all’ Group Five Saloon Car regulations thanks to ‘the complete domination of the series and small fields,’ in favour of less radical Group 2 Production Car rules on a more regionalised basis. BG Perana Z181 had its last race at the end of a year it completely dominated.
ALl All Time South African Legend
That opened the door to a new era, where Basil Green’s Peranas continued to dominate in Group 2 trim in the hands of Oltoff and Basil van Rooyen. X181 was unbeaten in its twelve SA Saloon Car Championship starts and remains one of the legends of South African motorsport.