Aussie Motorsport Classic: The Channel 9 Camaro

October 3, 1982. Reid Park, Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Lap 27. Kevin Bartlett. Camaro. A time, location and car that are forever etched into Australian motorsport history. KB is up with the leaders in the famous Bathurst 1000 when one of a batch of fourteen wheels the team had bought for the Camaro fails. It’s the rear left. Instantly, the tyre deflates, pitching the Channel 9 branded car’s rear into the concrete safety wall. The left front bounces off as the nose swings around and it’s just on a right hand curve on an uphill run. Unsettled, there’s momentum enough to cause the Camaro to roll over to the right, landing on its roof. The car skids to the other side of the track and quickly a trackside official is there to assist a shaken Bartlett out of the inverted Camaro. He’s ok, points at the clearly ruined wheel and tyre, and walks into the crowd. In context, it was a miracle that Bartlett and the Channel 9 sponsored car were in the race at all. In practice just a couple of days before, co-driver Colin Bond was at the wheel when a ball joint nut on the front left wishbone came adrift. The front left suspension collapsed and flung the corner into the wall. The location? Almost exactly where the wheel would fail two days later. As KB says: “it was a miracle that my crew and the TAFE smash repair team had it back together in time for qualifying.” However, there’s more to the story in getting the car on track in the first place. Bartlett bought the car, a brand new 1978 built machine, from an American dealership and imported the car into Australia. The intent was to race it in what was then the Group C regulations. Once the car landed, Bartlett says, a lot of work was needed to get the car down to the weight as stipulated. The leaf spring suspension was replaced with fibreglass units, super strong Kevlar for the front guards and spoilers, but CAMS insisted that the car use drum brakes at the rear, instead of the optional disc brakes. In case you’re wondering why the car looks different to a 1978 model, it’s because CAMS also said the car had to run with bodywork from the ’74 to ’77 models. Bartlett still shakes his head in disbelief. But there was a hidden benefit as it turned out. The earlier bumpers were aluminium, not steel… Is the Channel 9 Camaro your favourite Aussie Motorsport classic? Or maybe you're a GTHO or Torana sort of person? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us about your favourite cars to hit the Australian motorsport scene!

The Final Holden built on Australian Shores

The final Holden built on Australian shores has rolled off the Elizabeth production line. On October 20 at 10:45am, the final four Australian built Holden’s were ‘officially’ completed with a red VFII SSV Redline Commodore the final to leave the facility. The Commodore, on black wheels with a manual transmission was the 7,687,675th Holden built and will be kept and used as a museum piece. The other cars down the production line on October 20 were the final Holden ute (SS), wagon (Calais) and ‘limousine’ (Caprice). With a 6.2 litre LS3 up front, the last SS will also go down as Holden’s fastest production model to date with 304kw and 570nm on offer (Not including HSV models). With accessories that include FE3 suspension, a sunroof and HUD, the final commodore is testament to the journey Australian built cars have come on over the last 7 decades. In terms of power, safety and usability the final Commodore (and Falcon for that matter) is hardly bettered in terms of ‘bang-for-buck’. After 69 years of manufacturing, Holden ceased manufacturing operations in October, leaving hundreds unemployed and bringing an end to a huge part of Australia’s manufacturing history. Employees were taken by bus to the Adelaide Oval for final knock-off drinks and treated to a show by the legendary Jimmy Barnes. The Elizabeth plant, in Northern Adelaide has been sold to an unidentified owner who will turn the facility into a business park. With this closure, we bid an official farewell to Australian automotive manufacturing and look back at the many classics produced on our shores. Stay tuned to the Rare Spares Blog where we will continue to take a look at the many classics produced on Australian shores. Do you have any Holden stories you would like to share? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.  

How did the Falcon and Commodore get their names?

The Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore are undoubtedly the two cars that will be remembered most fondly in the hearts of Australians as the years pass. But just how did the Falcon and Commodore get their names? In most cases, the names of modern cars are the result of hundreds of hours spent by marketers in boardrooms trying to conjure up a name that they believe resonates with the target audience. But in the case of the Falcon and the Commodore, there is a little bit more to the story! Read on to find out about the origins of the names of these two great cars. The Ford Falcon Unbeknownst to some, the Falcon has a history long before it ever hit the shores of Australia with some experts believing the name goes as far back as 1935 when Edsel Ford used the name plate on an early luxurious motor vehicle. It didn’t hang around long though, and by 1938 the Falcon had been rebranded as Mercury, which of course went on to become the long-lived ‘luxury’ division of the Ford Motor Company. The Falcon then reappeared in 1955 as a Chrysler concept vehicle, which was built with the intention of going head to head with the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet’s Corvette. After only 2 or 3 were built, the idea was shelved once the costings of developing a low volume, high priced vehicle didn’t quite stack up. Now from here is where the story goes one of two directions depending on which side you believe. The first story goes that in 1958, both Chrysler and Ford had internally named their new small car the ‘Falcon’. In the auto industry all names need to be registered with the Automotive Manufacturers Association, and in a case of true coincidence Ford managed to register their ‘Falcon’ a matter of only 20 minutes ahead Chrysler, ensuring the name was Ford’s. Controversy ensued and Chrysler was left searching for a new name. On the contrary, the other much less exciting story is that Henry Ford II called up Chrysler boss Tex Colbert and asked for permission to use the Falcon name. Colbert was happy to allow the name be used as Chrysler had their eye on another name… The Valiant. Two years the later the Falcon made its way to Australian shores and after a few early hiccups became one half of Australia’s much publicised Holden v Ford rivalry. The Holden Commodore As some of you may know, the Holden Commodore didn’t actually start its life on Australian shores. Some 60 years ago, Opel were building a car called the ‘Rekord’. In 1967 a slightly upspec-ed Rekord was rebranded as the Opel Commodore and marketed as a faster and better looking alternative to the dating Rekord. While the naming process isn’t as interesting or long winded as the Falcon, the Commodore was named after the naval officer rank. After 10 years of Commodore production the name was brought to Australia and utilised under the Holden banner. The original model, the VB Commodore shared its likeness with both the Opel Commodore C and the Rekord Series E. Right through until 2007 the Holden Commodore drew on a design used by the Opel Omega and Opel Senator before being replaced by the first truly Australian designed Commodore – the VE. So while in 2018 the Commodore will be replace by an Opel, remember it’s not the first time that Australia has been graced with a European designed Holden. What other car makes and models should we look at the origins of? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Ford Mustang – Australia’s new favourite?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably heard that Ford and Holden have or are in process of shutting down their Australian manufacturing operations. And you’ve probably also began to notice the abundance of new Mustang’s on Australian roads, leaving us with a big question. Can the Mustang replace the hole left in the market by the departure of cars such as the Falcon XR8 and Commodore SS? In this article we’ll discuss this issue and have a look at Ford’s new pony car. The Mustang is quite a different beast to the outgoing Aussie V8’s; firstly it’s a coupe, so it’s unlikely that you’re going to see a Mustang with three kids in the back and a caravan in tow. It does however stack up pretty well from a performance point of view, the outgoing (supercharged) XR8 packed 335kw and 570nm, the outgoing SS features 304kw and 570nm while the Mustang is right there with 306kw and 530nm. All three will take you from 0-100 in around 6 seconds with the XR8 the quickest of the bunch with its instant supercharged power separating it from the pack. The one area that is unlikely to be disputed is the sheer breathtaking appearance of the Mustang. In comparison, the 4 door Aussie sedans have nowhere near the presence on the road of the American coupe. The Mustang breaks the mould of cookie cutter international cars that err in favour of practicality over anything with the slightest amount of character. And at the end of the day that’s what the Australian public will miss the most about Australian built cars – the character. They may not have been the fastest, or the best built, but they offered a crazy amount of ‘bang-for-buck’ and won the hearts of countless men, women and children throughout the journey. In 2017, close to 10,000 Mustang’s will fly off the showroom floor, and if supply could keep up with demand that number would very likely be higher. It hasn’t all been rosy for the Mustang in Australia though, with namely a dodgy ANCAP safety rating scaring off many potential owners, while build quality issues continue to take the shine off what’s an otherwise very impressive package from Ford. None the less, with Ford’s move to an international friendly range of cars, the Mustang is here to stay and the Aussie public has taken to it like a fish to water. What are your thoughts on the new Ford Mustang? Is it the high powered replacement for Commodores and Falcons that the Australian public is itching for? Or is it a short-lived fad that will be gone just as quick as it came? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

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.

Dick Johnson and The Infamous Rock

Ford racing legend Dick Johnson was at the centre of one of motorsports greatest controversies in 1980. While leading the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 disaster struck when he encountered a rock on top of the mountain on lap 17, ruining both his car and any hopes he had of race victory. In this article we will recount the incident, the following outpouring of support from the general public and discuss just how the rock ended up on the track. The 1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 started about as well as Johnson could have hoped. With main rival Peter Brock experiencing issues as a result of a collision with a back marker and going a lap down at the start of lap 17, the race was Johnson’s to lose. As any Australian motorsport fan would know, the mountain tends to strike in the strangest of ways, and only a matter of 30 seconds after putting Brock a lap down, Johnson experienced firsthand the ways of the mountain. After passing through the cutting, Johnson rounded the next right to be confronted with a tow truck on one side of the road, and a football sized rock on the other. With nowhere to go, Johnson hit the rock. The impact ripped the front wheel and suspension apart before sending the XD Falcon into the wall at high speed. At such an early stage of the race it’s hard to say it cost Johnson a certain victory, but with the lapped Brock going on to win the great race, it’s not too much of a stretch to say the race was Johnson’s to lose. Later in the day Johnson was interviewed for TV, where he emotionally explained the incident, stating “I just couldn’t believe my bloody eyes. These galoots up there that just throw boulders... like it was enormous.” He went on to explain that to repair the car and have it back on track would cost him at least $40,000 and that until fences were installed around the track he wouldn’t be returning. The public responded with an outpouring of support, calling into the TV station to donate money towards the rebuilding of Johnson’s car. When all was said and done, $72,000 had been donated by the public, which was matched by Ford Australia leaving the grand total at $144,000. The amount reignited Johnson’s racing career, which still continues today as a key stakeholder in the DJR Team Penske Racing Team, which is currently dominating the 2017 Supercar Championship. Of course Johnson would return to the mountain, recording three wins in the great race, including the very next year in 1981. But just how did that rock end up in the middle of the Mt Panorama racing circuit? Well the story goes that two hungover men had made their way to the side of the track to watch the racing after a big night on the cans. One of them was lying down with his head resting on one rock and his feet resting on another, using it to hold him in position on the steep bank above the track. While moving his feet, he dislodged the rock, sending it plummeting down the embankment. At this point the two men bolted and were never to be seen again and as for the rock… the rest is history. Johnson has since stated in interviews that he believes this story and even shares in the humour of the situation, having the rock on display in his office for the last 30 years. What’s your favourite Bathurst memory? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Pikes Peak 2017 Wrap-up

Known as one of the most extreme racing events in the world, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb roared into Colorado once again in June, with highly accomplished drivers and riders making their way from all corners of the globe to have a crack the famous ‘Race to the Clouds’. While in its current paved form, the course isn’t quite as insane as it once were (check out the iconic short film ‘Climb Dance’ to see what old school Pikes Peak was all about), there’s no doubting the task at hand is only suited to the supremely talented and/or the slightly crazy. Taking the win in 2017 was Romain Dumas, a French Porsche factory driver and former Le Mans 24 hour winner. For Pikes Peak he took the wheel of his Norma MXX RD Limited to take victory for the third time in four years. Despite the impressive victory and a respectable time of 9 minutes and 5 seconds, Romain was left somewhat disappointed in the run and explained that mechanical issues put a stop to having a run at Sebastien Loeb’s incredible record run (8min13sec) in 2013. “It’s difficult to put words to this victory. The primary objective was to win, which is what we did and it’s never easy here. Never. I even questioned whether I’d get to the summit....We got first place, but we wanted so much more that I’m unable to feel completely satisfied today” Said Dumas. While one-off prototypes are undoubtedly incredible, at Rare Spares we can’t help but cast our eyes through the results to find how the classics went! In a throwback to the old school Pikes Peak days, an Audi Quattro S1E2 drew cheers the whole way up the mountain on its way to a respectable to time of 12 minutes and 18 seconds. The 44 year old Porsche 911 RSR driven by Christopher Lennon found itself inside the top 25 outright and 3rd in the open class with a seriously impressive time of 10 minutes and 50 seconds. Arguably the crowd favourite was R J Gottieb in his amazing sounding ’69 Chevy Camaro who was able to tame the mountain in a tick over 11 minutes to wind up inside the top 35 outright. Australia’s best hope of victory in the car category came in the form of Tony Quinn, who piloting his 633kw VR38DETT-powered Ford Focus bodied machine came within 3 kilometers of setting a lighting fast time before his brakes gave way. Although disappointed, the failure hasn’t dampened Quinn’s spirits who has stated he will back to take on the mountain again next year. The most impressive Australian result this year belongs to Sydney born Rennie Scaysbrook, who riding a brand new KTM Super Duke 1290 R finished second outright in the bike category. By doing so, Scaysbrook became only the 3rd man in history to break the 10 minute barrier on a motorcycle. The Pikes Peak Hill climb holds a certain prestige, with competitors and spectators alike respecting that this mountain is a special beast, capable of wreaking havoc on those who take it lightly. Many have stated that the incredible Sebastien Loeb/Peugeot record from 2013 may never be broken, and in fairness no one has come even close yet. However, with a number of incredible custom built hill climb machines popping up across the world, it’s unquestionable that Pikes Peak is sure to retain its incredible reputation long into the future.

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.

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.