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Australian muscle car pioneer passes away

The former Racing Manager at Chrysler Australia during the glory days of Australian Series Production racing, John Ellis has sadly passed away.

Much younger than his rival managers at Holden (Harry Firth) and Ford (Al Turner), Ellis started as a young engineer at Chrysler Australia Ltd as he held a big interest in sports cars as he was soon handed the formidable task of rivalling the other two large Australian manufacturers on the race track.

In 1969, it was Ellis three years out of university leading the development of the VF and VG Pacers during the season as the muscle car wars heated up.

Working with drivers the likes of Leo Geoghegan, Norm Beechey, Jim McKeown and Doug Chivas, Ellis worked with Weber in Italy to fully develop the E38 for weeks as it became a successful model for Chrysler both on-track as well as in the showrooms.

Podium results at Bathurst and many wins on the Series Production circuit ensured a loyal following, which continues to this day.

It was underdog story as Ellis had only a portion of the budget compared to Holden and Ford, but proved a worthy adversary to the two up until the program was shut down in 1972 following the ‘Supercar Scare’ during the lead up to that year’s Hardie-Ferodo 500.

Following his time at Chrysler, Ellis moved to a role in major developments consulting on projects linked to the South Australian Government including the Heyson Tunnels on the South Eastern Freeway outside of Adelaide.

Ellis continued to hold an interest in sports cars by enjoying his collection through the Sporting Car Club of South Australia and was navigator to Geoghegan in the 2002 Classic Adelaide rally driving in his own improved E37 Charger.

Continuing to remain in contact with many past drivers, Ellis was on hand for the Charger’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Ellis passed last week, with Repco sending its condolences to Marj, Guy and Henry as well as his friends.

Thanks to the Chrysler Car Club of South Australia for providing the information for this story.