The Fastest Aussie Ever

On the clear morning of 27th March, 1994 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia the natural serenity was interrupted by a deafening roar. A 36,000hp Mirage jet fighter engine kind of roar. Except that this engine wasn’t strapped to the back of said Mirage, it was perhaps crazily applied to a wheeled vehicle, set on achieving the World Land Speed record and named the Aussie Invader II.

The story of Aussie Invader II began over 10 years earlier, the inspiration coming from committed Australian speedster Rosco McGlashan, OAM. Rosco’s obsession with speed started at an early age and after following Donald Campbell’s Speed Record attempts, Rosco was determined to go faster than Donald and committed himself to the goal.

From drag racing to rocket powered world record go karts to jet dragsters, Rosco really has the ‘need for speed’ as they say!

The 10 year project to build Aussie Invader II involved a 25 strong team of professionals. From manufacturing processes, to design, aerodynamics, jet propulsion, safety and electronics, Aussie Invader II was a huge undertaking.

Aiming to beat the Australian Land Speed Record of 403mph (set by Campbell), the first outing in 1993 of Aussie Invader II was successful, the car reaching 450mph, however bad weather meant that officially timed runs couldn’t be completed.

Back on the dry, flat Lake Gairdner in 1994 and with improvements to the vehicle, it was time to open the afterburner and set a record. How does a lazy 801.8km/h (498.2mph) followed by an 801.3km/h on the way back to make it official sound? That’s pretty damn quick if you ask us!

Not content on smashing the Australian Land Speed Record, Rosco announced to his team that he wanted to push harder and aim for the outright World Land Speed Record the same day, despite weather conditions deteriorating in front of them. After their jaws came back off the floor, the team prepared the car and nervously watched on as Rosco opened the throttle.

The Mirage fighter engine certainly had the potential in it and Rosco quickly found himself heading southbound and accelerating up to 933km/h (580mph) before it all went wrong. The special wheels broke through the salt surface, pitching the machine sideways as it tramlined across the timing markers, only 200 metres from the measured mile. Sadly, Aussie Invader II was a write off. Fortunately Rosco was still in one piece.

Unperturbed, Rosco and the team rebuilt and debuted Aussie Invader 3 in 1996 at Lake Gairdner for a crack at Richard Noble’s new 633mp/h World Land Speed Record. Despite a higher peak speed of 638mph, the British record would remain due to adverse weather conditions that prevented a committed, official back to back run.

In 1997 the Thrust SSC, developed by Richard Noble stepped up the game, breaking the speed of sound and rewriting the record books. This speed record has not been broken in the 20 years since that feat, which is quite impressive in its own right.

As for Rosco, the obsession continues, and despite being the ‘Fastest Aussie Ever’ with the Australian Land Speed Record, he is not resting on those laurels. Rosco is currently building the Aussie Invader 5R, with the aim of that elusive World Record. The engine? a 62,000 lbs thrust liquid oxygen and bio-kerosene motor. Sounds explosive! We can’t wait to see how the project shapes up.

Another Car in the Wall – The Nick Mason Car Collection

Better known as the drummer from the iconic band Pink Floyd, Nick Mason is also the proud owner of a car collection that would rival that of most around the world. With approximately 300 cars passing through his ownership over the last half a century, Nick Mason is fortunate to have driven every single one of them, and in many cases has hit the track in some of the most iconic vehicles in automotive history. Mason’s collection currently sits at over 40 and features classics such as the Bugatti T35, Porsche 962, Ferrari 213 T3 and Aston Martin LM18. As impressive as these are, there are still a handful of cars in Mason’s possession that surpass these classics.

Ferrari 250 GTO

Worth potentially north of $40 Million AUD, Mason was able to purchase this masterpiece for 35,000 pounds back in 1977, and admits to feeling a little bit stupid at the time to be spending so much on a car. Little did he know it would go on to become one of the most valuable cars in automotive history! One of only 39 built, this GTO lives a cosy life, however has been used in the past to drop the kids off at school and has even been spotted parked on London Streets! 

Maserati ‘Birdcage’ Tipo 61

Owning the lucrative title as possibly Mason’s favourite car, the Tipo 61 earned the nickname of ‘Birdcage’ as a result of its roughly 200 chro-moly steel tubes welded together to form it’s chassis. The ‘Birdcage’ still hits the track, and has cut laps at the famous Goodwood Revival on more than one occasion.

McLaren F1 GTR

Unfortunately this car hit the headlines for the wrong reasons earlier this year, as Mason lost control of the car during a demonstration at Goodwood resulting in some relatively high speed contact with a tyre wall. Fortunately the damage was not terminal, and the GTR will live to see another day. To give you an idea of how rare this car is; there were only 106 F1’s built, and of those only 28 wore the GTR badge. The GTR was essentially the race going version of the iconic McLaren Supercar and dominated various GT racing series in the mid-late 90’s.

Ferrari 512 S

A spectacular car, the Ferrari 512 S did a lot of things right, it had oodles of power and looked absolutely fantastic. However, according to Mason, they didn’t quite get the aerodynamics right, which has led to some interesting moments behind the wheel of the prancing horse. Powered by a 5 litre V12 (hence the name 512), this Ferrari led a somewhat disappointing racing life as it had to contend with the all-conquering Porsche 917. Rules were eventually changed to close the loophole which allowed heavy 5 litre cars to race against the lighter 3 litre cars in the early 70’s sports car racing world, thus rendering the 512 S somewhat obsolete on the track.    


This spectacular collection is up with the best we’ve ever seen! Do you know of any other celebrities with impressive car collections? Or maybe you have a burgeoning collection of your own? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Ireland’s John Goss Special

When Falcon Coupe enthusiast Brock Mahoney started his search for a John Goss Special XB Falcon, we doubt a trip across to Ireland was on the agenda. With only a few vehicles matching Brock’s online searching, he tried to track down a winner with the local Aussie examples, leaving another potential match in Ireland as a last resort. However, with no luck, Brock found himself on a flight to Ireland for what felt like a treasure hunt of sorts, hoping he would hit the goldmine to share a space with his custom XC Falcon show car “INENVY”, a car we are sure that many of you will be familiar with.

The John Goss Special XB Falcon was manufactured in 1975 to honour Goss’ privateer victory in the 1974 Hardie-Ferodo 1000. There is believed to have been up to 800 of the unique Falcon’s produced, although Ford has never announced an exact number. Features unique to the model included a special polar white and either blue or green accent paint scheme, increased dash instrumentation, a three spoke steering wheel, vented bonnet and twelve slot steel wheels.

The John Goss Special in question had been sent over to Ireland a decade ago and restored by the previous owner Tom. This particular Falcon was one of four that have spent time in Ireland, with three being sent directly from Australia and one making its way via England. Tom’s example had been restored so well, it would put many Australian experts to shame, and whilst the exterior remained almost completely to Goss standard, some changes had been made. The original 302 had been replaced by a 351, the four-speed transmission had been replaced with a T5 transmission and the original wheels were replaced with Weld wheels. The original white, single headlight grill had also been replaced with a black, duel headlight grill.

Since returning to Australia, the grill has been returned to its original single headlight state, and the steering wheel has been replaced with a correct GS wheel. New tyres have been fitted and plans are also in place to return the engine and transmission to the original 302 and four speed specification.

And whilst the Falcon lived a cosy life inside a humidity bubble, safely nestled away from the harsh Irish conditions, the car will certainly appreciate a life back on home soil, bathing in the warmth of the Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Do you have any John Goss Special stories the Rare Spares Community will find interesting? Or maybe you’re the proud owner of a beautiful old Falcon? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments section below.

Identity Crisis – Rebadged Cars

Rebadged or badge engineered cars have been common place on public roads for decades, with manufacturers and in some cases governments searching for ways to efficiently manage automotive production. In this article we take a look at four examples of rebadging that have been relevant to the Australian automotive landscape over recent years.

VF Holden Commodore SS – Chevrolet SS

Back in 2013 at Daytona Speedweek , a VF Commodore sporting Chevy badges was unveiled to the US public to a mostly positive reception. It’s wasn’t the first Commodore to be exported and rebadged oversees, however it will be the last. Since the late 90s, Commodores have been exported overseas in various guises. From the Chevrolet Lumina in the Middle East and South Africa, to the Omega in Brazil as well as Vauxhall and Pontiac variants in the UK and US respectively, the Commodore has been rebadged significantly over the years. The Chevrolet SS in question struggled sales-wise in the US, with the lack of a manual option drawing much criticism amongst the very automotive enthusiasts the car was intended to target. A shame really, that the Americans never truly had the chance to appreciate one of Australia’s most loved cars.

Nissan The Ute – Ford Falcon XF

The Ute was one of the simplest rebadge’s you are ever likely to see, with everything from the indicator stalk mounted horn to the grill and steering unmistakably Ford. Even under the Nissan logo on the front grill was a Ford oval shaped space. The Nissan Ute was sold as a result of the model sharing scheme known as the Button plan in the mid-late 80’s. The idea of the plan was to rationalise the Australian automotive industry by inducing car manufacturers into sharing the platforms of key cars.

Toyota Lexcen – VN Holden Commodore

Another rebadged model as a result of the Button plan was the Toyota Lexcen, which was named after Ben Lexcen, the designer of the American Cup winning ‘Australia II’ and its innovative keel design. Kind of ironic that a rebadged car, with little innovative design features, was named after a man who designed one of the most iconic innovations in Australian sporting history, isn’t it? Anyhow, the Lexcen was better received by the Australian public when compared to the Nissan/Ford of above and the Holden/Toyota model sharing scheme would last until 1997. Differences were mostly limited to the grill, badges and some minor interior changes.

 

Toyota 86 – Subaru BR-Z – Scion FR-S

Sold in Australia as the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BR-Z, and in the US at one point as the Scion FR-S, this rear-wheel drive bundle of fun is one of the more popular modern day badge swaps. Featuring design work and product planning from Toyota and engineering and production from Subaru, the 86 was Toyotas attempt at re-entering the ‘drivers car’ market, whilst the BR-Z was Subaru’s attempt at creating a rear-wheel drive to complement its felt of all wheel drive options. With a four-cylinder engine that whilst zippy won’t set the world on fire, the ‘Toyobaru’ has become a favourite amongst sports car enthusiasts looking for a solid ‘bang for your buck’ option.

 

Do you own one of these rebadged cars? Or maybe you own another rebadged ‘classic’. Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below

The European Connection; Holden Commodore’s Euro Influence

To many the Holden Commodore is about as ‘true blue Aussie’ as thongs, vegemite, meat pies and kangaroo’s. With the announcement of Holden manufacturing in Australia ceasing at the end of the year, many are up in arms at the prospect of a re-badged ‘Euro’ Opel Insignia for 2018. However you might be interested to learn that Commodore has long held a strong European influence.

Back in 1978, the VB Commodore hit showroom floors, replacing the Kingswood and Torana with a model that was sized somewhere between the two. The VB, and subsequent VC and VH models were all significantly based on a combination of the Opel Rekord and the Opel Senator.

The story goes that during initial testing of the concept a test vehicle was driven through outback Australia where it is said to have broken at the firewall. As a result, significant improvements were made to the chassis, as well as modifications to both suspension and steering. Design cues throughout the rest of the first generation can be linked back to the Commodore’s European heritage, and whilst the VK and VL did move a little further from the original design, the resemblance is unmistakable.

The second generation of the Commodore heralded a new era for Holden, as they finally had a car that matched the Falcon for size. Once again strong design cues were taken from Opel, with the VN resembling the Opel Senator B and Opel Omega A. The chassis consisted of many components taken from the VL, which was then stretched, widened and strengthened to accommodate the increased sizing of the VN body work. The second generation Commodore would carry on through to 1997 when it was eventually replace by the all-new VT. The European connection would continue however right through to the VZ, with the third generation Commodore once again being based on the Opel Omega.

It was not until 2006 with the VE model that Holden would produce a Commodore not heavily based on its European counterparts. The VE and updated VF were and continue to be a favourite amongst the Australian public, with models such as the SSV Redline and of course the HSV variants showcasing the best of Australia’s automotive capabilities. To the dismay of many, Holden will be winding up its local manufacturing this year, and whilst the 2018 Commodore could very well turn out to be a great car, it just won’t carry the same meaning to many as the Commodores of yesteryear.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming Commodore? Will it be a fitting replacement or an imposter? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.