Five unusual HSV’s

Holden Special Vehicles has earned an iconic status in the Australian automotive landscape over the last 30 odd years and has manufactured some of the country’s most impressive and fastest sports cars. However, as with most manufactures, not every single model has been a hit with the public and some won’t go down in history as ‘special vehicles’. Time has not aged the below cars particularly well, but none the less in this article we will take a look at three HSV’s that were on the unusual side.

HSV SV1800 Astra

The Nissan Pulsar… ah Holden Astra, wait no the HSV SV1800 Astra will go down as one of the least inspiring and unsuccessful HSV’s to hit the showroom floor. Powering the SV1800 was the all-conquering 1.8 litre four Cylinder Holden Family II engine which produced a mind-warping 79kw and 151nm. HSV took the Pulsar, added HSV badges, a Walkinshaw-esque ‘wind tunnel designed’ body kits and a HSV build plate. Only 30 sedans and 35 hatchbacks were ever sold, with the remaining body kits winding up as a special option for the regular Holden Astra.

HSV Jackaroo

For the HSV Jackaroo, designers took the regular Holden Jackaroo added an uninspiring body kit, velour trim and badges… and that’s about it. Less than 100 of the off-roaders were built, so perhaps as with many other obscure, short-lived cars if you’re an owner you may be wondering if you’re sitting on a gold mine. Guess again. The HSV variant of the Jackaroo will likely net you somewhere in the region of $5-7K (very marginally more than the Holden variant). Off-roaders bemoan the lack of a V8 or a supercharger that would have undoubtedly ensured the Jackaroo lived up to the HSV reputation of being ‘special’.

 

HSV Challenger

Chances are that you’ve probably never heard of the VN Challenger, only the most diehard HSV fans will remember the 50 ‘dolled-up’ Executive Commodore’s that were put together for the Holden dealer group in Canberra. Features included body coloured wheel covers and bumper bars, pin stripes, a HSV grille taken from the SV3800 and Challenger decals and the only colour option was ‘Alpine White’. While the Challenger itself is not particularly unusual, in fact if anything it’s far too ‘usual’ to be considered a ‘special vehicle’, it’s the reason behind its production which is strange. In the early 90’s, HSV produced a number of short run models to coincide with motoring events and other reasons they saw fit, including the Challenger as well as the DMG90, SVT-30, 8-plus and Plus-6, none of which quite reached the lofty heights of many HSV’s that followed.

Have you owned any of the above HSV’s? Or maybe you have a story about one of the many other HSV’s that have hit showroom floors over the last three decades? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

Gone But Not Forgotten – Australian Tracks of Yesteryear

Australia plays host to a number of internationally renowned motorsports events each and every year with Philip Island, Mount Panorama and Albert Park the most notable circuits on the motorsports calendar. But what about the tracks of yesteryear, the tracks that once held events which spectators would flock to in droves? What happened to these tracks and what lays in their place now? We will look to answer a few of these questions in this week’s blog.

Oran Park

Oran Park closed down in 2010 to make way for a housing development after almost 50 years of racing. The course held a reputation within both the car and motorcycle world as a tight, fast and unforgiving circuit which punished even the slightest mistake. The last Supercar race took place at the venue in 2008, in what also served as Mark Skaife’s final full time race event, Rick Kelly went to win the final race of the weekend while Garth Tander took the round win. Unfortunately, as a result of the housing development there’s not really anything left of the track at Oran Park, with only the street names such as Moffat St, Seton St and Peter Brock Drive to represent the racing of yesteryear.

 

Surfers Paradise Raceway

Racing in Surfers Paradise began long before the days of champ cars, the Indy 300, A1 Grand Prix and Supercars as we know them today. Way back in 1966, Gold Coast Businessman Keith Williams (of Sea World fame) decided to build a co-existing race track and drag strip in Surfers Paradise. The popular track hosted weekly drags as well as the ATCC, Tasman Series and even the 1975 Australian Grand Prix with drivers such as Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, Allan Moffat and Bob Jane racing at the track regularly. As with Oran Park, Surfers Paradise Raceway was demolished to give way to the ever-expanding urban sprawl. Of course racing still continues in the form of Supercars on the iconic Surfers Paradise Street Circuit, so not all racing has been lost in the city.

 

Catalina Park  

Opening in 1960, ‘The Gully’ as it was commonly known was one of the nation’s more treacherous racing circuits including rock walls, cliffs and a narrow track right in the heart of the blue mountains. As a result of its mountainous location, fog issues ensured that many race days encountered scheduling issues. While racing stopped at the venue in 1970, the track was utilised for one lap dashes with single cars up until the 1990’s. In 2002 the site was declared an Aboriginal place.

Lobethal

Considered by some to be Australia’s Spa-Francorchamps, Lobethal was a fast, flowing street circuit in South Australia. The almost 14km course ran through the towns of Charleston and Lobethal, with scores of spectators basing themselves at the local pubs to watch the racing. The 1939 Australian Grand Prix was raced on the Lobethal circuit, with racers completing 17 laps in the scorching Australian summer – a number of cars were unable to complete the race. The final race meeting was held in 1948, before closed-street racing was banned altogether by the South Australian government.

Have you driven or raced around any of these circuits? Or do you have a favourite Australian circuit that’s no longer with us? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments section below.

Aussie Cars that never were

When we think about Aussie cars, our minds drift towards the Commodore, the Falcon, or the Territory. However, what about those Aussie cars that didn’t quite go as far in the public domain as these classics? Australia has produced some awesome cars that didn’t quite reach the lofty heights laid out in planning. In this article we will take a look at three Aussie cars that didn’t sell in the intended quantities, but still hold a special place in Australian automotive history.

Ilinga AF-2

The Ilinga (aboriginal word meaning ‘distant horizon’) AF-2 was designed by Tony Farrell in partnership with Victorian businessman Daryl Davies. The intention for the Ilinga was to be a high-performance luxury coupe utilising aluminium body panels over a steel chassis, using a modified Leyland/Rover 4.4 litre V8 to provide the power. Before running into financial difficulties, two prototypes were built and orders were taken, however the 1970’s oil crisis ensured the closing of Leyland Australia, meaning the Ilinga had lost its engine supplier. One of the prototypes lives in the carpark entrance of the Melbourne Museum, whilst the other is nowhere to be found!

 

Giocattolo

Born in 1986, the Giacattolo was the brainchild of Paul Helstead and F1 engineer Barry Lock. With plans to build Australia’s first Supercar, Helstead and Lock took an Alfa Romeo Sprint and dropped a 5 litre Walkinshaw Holden Group A V8. Producing 220kw and 500Nm, the car was a rocket, capable of powering the Giocattolo from 0-100 in under 5.5 seconds while having an electronically limited top speed of 260kph. With upgraded tyres, brakes, transmission and a supremely high tech suspension package, the Giocatollo was akin to a Go-Kart on steroids. The $80,000 price tag however was a bridge too far for consumers, and production ceased after only 3 years and 15 units were built. To take a look at the article we put together on the Italian/Australian pocket rocket earlier in 2017, click here.

Joss JT1/JP1/Vanguard

With more comeback tours than John Farnham, what started out as the Joss JT1 was supposed to be Australia’s answer to iconic supercars such as the Enzo Ferrari and Lamborghini Murcielago. It has never eventuated unfortunately, as numerous attempts to get the project off the ground including renames to JP1 and eventually Vanguard have fallen flat. Featuring a 6.8 litre V8, the 940kg supercar was fast enough to achieve 0-100kph in less than 3 seconds and run the quarter mile in a tick under 12 seconds in stock trim. Only 1 Joss has been built to date and the outlook looks bleak, however we’ve been in this position before only for Joss to announce that the project has been fired into life again! So who knows, maybe there’s still hope for the Joss JT1/JP1/Vanguard?

Have you spotted any of these low production Aussie cars on the road? Or maybe you’re the proud owner of one of the very few remaining Giacattolo’s? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Aussie Cars in Computer Games

For many, racing video games are the opportunity to spin laps around the world’s most iconic tracks in cars they could only dream of owning. For others they want the opportunity to do burnouts throughout backstreets in a VS Commodore without having their pride and joy impounded. Fortunately for Australian gamers we’ve had and will continue to have the opportunity to do both! In this article we’ll take a look at some of the more popular video games that have featured Australian made cars over the years.

Dick Johnson V8 Challenge

The Dick Johnson V8 Challenge was the first mainstream, licensed game to feature V8 Supercars and was released in 1999 for PC. Features included four accurately modelled tracks and over 25 V8 Supercars making it quite an immersive experience for a solely Australian racing video game. While graphics don’t stack up well compared to today’s lofty standards, gameplay is impressive, providing a nice throwback to the racing of that era.

Need for Speed 3

Need for Speed 3 heralded the inclusion of the EL Ford Falcon, Ford Falcon GT and VT HSV GTS in the Need for Speed Series. It was a first for the series, as neither of the first 2 editions featured any Australian cars. By today’s standards graphics were average at best; however the game was a massive hit both in Australia and worldwide, with most key video game critics lauding the games ability to capture the intensity of car chases.

Gran Turismo Series

First making an appearance way back in 2002, the AU Falcon V8 Supercar of Glenn Seton and Neil Crompton made its way into Gran Turismo 3, a game which at the time revolutionised the racing genre on consoles. The car could be purchased for 1,500,000 in game credits or was awarded for victory in the Super Speedway Endurance Race. The first Australian car to feature in the ever-popular Gran Turismo series, the ‘Tickford Falcon XR8’ has since featured in all Gran Turismo titles alongside a host of other Australian race and production cars that have slowly been incorporated over the years. Featuring all the trademarks of V8 Supercars of the time, including noticeable over-steer as a result of the over-powered rear-wheel drive configuration, the AU was an accurate representation of touring car racing in Australia.

V8 Supercars 1, 2 and 3

Known as the Toca Racing series overseas, the V8 Supercar game took what Dick Johnson V8 Challenge started and supercharged it. By the time the third installation rolled around it featured 11 Australian V8 supercar tracks such as Mt Panorama, Eastern Creek and Surfers Paradise and the full V8 Supercar field as well as a host of international touring cars and tracks. Receiving positive reviews, the V8 Supercar Series stacked up well against gaming heavyweights Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsports.

Forza Horizon 3

Released in 2016, Forza Horizon 3 brought the fiercely popular series to Australian shores. An open world game, virtual versions of famous Australian cities and landmarks such as the Great Ocean Road, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and the Yarra Valley provide gamers with the perfect backdrop to race or cruise to their heart’s content. The car list is as extensive as you’d expect for a Forza title, and making appearances in the game are Australian classics such as the HQ Sandman, XY GTHO Phase III Falcon and VS GTSR as well as modern day rockets the HSV Maloo and FPV Pursuit Ute. Forza Horizon 3 is the most extensive gaming representation of Australian car culture and a must play for any automotive enthusiasts remotely interested in gaming.

Do you have fond memories of spending hours behind the screen spinning laps of Mt Panorama in an Aussie car, or perhaps you’ve enjoyed wreaking havoc on Australian roads in Forza Horizon 3? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your gaming experiences in the comment section below.

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.