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.

Sinful Conversions - Engine Conversions That Cause a Stir

In the automotive community, we’re no strangers to engine conversions. Whether it be a neat LS-swap or dyno warping Barra-swaps, we tip our hat to clean and well-engineered engine transplants. However, not all engine conversions make the automotive gods happy, some are downright riot-inducing, with enthusiasts from all corners kicking up a stink. In this article we will take a look at a handful of controversial engine conversions.

Ford Barra Powered HG Belmont

Searching for something a little different from the tonne of LS-swaps around these days, this owner decided to take the ever-popular Barra engine and slot it into the early 70’s Holden. With a sub-11 second quarter mile time the old “Holden” will towel up many popular sports cars, whilst still being used by its owner as a daily driver!

 

Skyline GTR Powered Torana

Dropping powerful engines in smaller cars has been a passion of many a person since the dawn of time. As automotive enthusiasts, we can’t help but look at a car, bike or boat and wonder what we can do to make this faster? Well, in the case of the LX Torana, dropping a twin turbocharged RB26 under the hood is sure to make the trip from A to B in quite a hurry! There are of course a few Holden enthusiasts who are none too happy with a Japanese heart beating in the Aussie legend.

 

LS1 Powered XY Falcon – XYYNOT

This XY Falcon will surely cause a stir amongst both Holden and Ford fans, with one of the most iconic Falcon’s receiving a Chevrolet heart. Featuring a Harrop blower, the cammed, near stock LS1 is producing a solid 458 rear wheel horsepower and is used throughout the Australian drifting circuit!

 

1967 Pontiac Firebird with Toyota Prius Hybrid System

Coming completely out of left field is this Prius-powered 1967 Pontiac Firebird. Enough to make any rev-head cringe just a little bit, this engineering marvel has set the owner back just over $10,000US to date and is expected to be on the road by 2019.

 

LS1 powered Porsche 911 

Porsche fans – turn away now! Replacing the iconic flat six in the rear of this 1986 911 is the tried and true LS1, resulting in a horsepower gain of over 170hp! From a purely performance point of view, when you take into consideration other upgrades including wheels, tyres and suspension, this Porsche is a bit of a weapon. However, the purists still cringe at the thought of anything other than the flat six gracing its engine bay.

Have you heard of any crazy engine swaps that make purists cringe? Or maybe you’re in the process of your own engine swap? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Jason White Wins Sixth Targa Tasmania

Jason White and his co-driver and uncle John White have taken out the 2017 Targa Tasmania for the sixth time, negotiating the notoriously challenging course in their Dodge Viper ACR Extreme. The pair was some 34 seconds faster than second place finisher Michael Prichard and co-driver Gary Mourant (Dodge Viper ACR). The Viper proved to be an impressive machine on the tight Targa course, with the 8.4litre V10 blasting its way around the luscious Tasmanian countryside to become the first American car to take out the prestigious event. However, as impressive as the top two teams were, naturally our attention moves to the classic cars that once again set the tarmac alight.

When you run your eyes down the Top 10 outright finishes, the usual suspects appear; Vipers, Porsche GT3’s, a Nissan GTR and a BMW M3. However, slotted into 9th outright, something a little more surprising; a 1970 Datsun 240Z driven by John Siddins and co-driven by Gina Siddins. Not only was Siddins’ time good enough for an impressive outright finish, it was enough to win the Shannons GT class by over 9 minutes over a score of incredible classics including Craig Haysman’s 1979 Triumph TR7 V8.

Taking out the Shannons Classics class was Peter Ullrich and co-driver Sari Ullrich in their 1963 Jensen CV8 by an impressive 6 minute and 18 second margin over a tight 2nd place battle between an Italian masterpiece and an Australian icon. Eventually, it was David Gilliver and his 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS that were able to take home the chocolates over Richard Woodward and his 1969 Holden Monaro GTS by only 15 seconds.

A category of some interest to us is the TSD Trophy class, in which competitors aim to achieve a set average speed without breaking 130km/h, thus opening up the class to a wide array of vehicles. Taking out the class for the second year in a row were brothers Darryl and Peter Marshall in their Ford Falcon Ute ahead of Christopher Waldock and Christine Kirby in their 2016 Jaguar F-Type as well as Peter Lucas and Angela Coradine and their stunning 1984 Porsche Carrera.

After another successful running, the Targa Tasmania continues to go from strength to strength, and at Rare Spares we look forward to an even bigger year next year!

If you could race in the Targa, what would be your weapon of choice? Head over to the comments section on the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know!

The $312,000 Monaro

A pristine condition 1970 Holden HT GTS350 Monaro has been sold at Lloyds Auctions on the Gold Coast last month for a whopping $312,000. Eclipsing the previous record of $310,000 set in March, this ‘pride of the fleet’ becomes one of the most valuable Monaro’s ever sold at auction. Features include impeccable Platinum Metallic paint, a mere 119,000km on the odometer, a two speed powerglide automatic transmission and of course a 5.7 litre 350 Chevrolet engine. With the sale of this iconic Australian car, we decided to take a look back at the HT GTS350 Monaro and discuss why it holds a special place in the hearts of Australian motoring enthusiasts.

The HT Monaro was introduced in 1969 to much fanfare and whilst the minor design changes including the bonnet scoops and bold bonnet stripes were well received, it was the introduction of the 350 Chevrolet that got the punters excited. Not only was the GTS350 a winner with the public, it left a fair mark on the Australian racing scene as well, where it experienced almost immediate success on the track.

In 1969, in its first year under the management of Harry Firth, Holden Dealer Team GTS350 Monaro’s took out the top and third step of the podium at the Hardie Ferodo 500, piloted by Colin Bond/Tony Roberts and Peter Brock/Des West respectively. The Monaro would also go on to take out the 1970 Surfers Paradise 12 hour race driven once again by Bond and Roberts as well as the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship driven by Norm Beechey. Beechey’s feat was made even more impressive as a result of an 8th place finish at Calder Park, a DNF at Warwick Farm Raceway and a DNS at Symmons Plains. The Monaro would go on to race a further two years in the ATCC before the ‘supercar scare’ of 1972 rendered the Monaro ineligible for the newly developed Group C production class.

Whilst the HK GTS327 Monaro was a great car and may have been the first to take up the fight to the GT Falcon, it didn’t quite hit the nail on the head in terms of usability. It was the GTS350 which propelled the Monaro to levels at the very least equal to that of the Falcon GT. Power outputs were comparable between the Holden and Ford marquees whilst acceleration and top speed figures were almost identical. The GTS was a second faster to 50mph, however only a shade faster to 100mph (20.1 to 20.6), ensuring the Holden v Ford rivalry raged on.

Significant suspension improvements were made to the GTS350 over the regular GTS models with performance in mind. Stiffer shocks, a heavy duty stabiliser bar and rear radius rods ensured a much sportier ride whilst bearing a significant improvement over the harsh ride of the HK GTS327. The end result was a car suitable for the track whilst also being completely practical for day to day use. Interestingly, the GTS350 in manual guise was the first Holden that could be ordered with rally wheels.

The Monaro will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Holden fans, with the iconic coupe representing some of the most iconic designs in Australian automotive history. At Rare Spares, we love to hear your stories of Australian classic cars; do you own an early model Monaro? Or maybe you have your eye on a particular classic? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments below.