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!

David Ryan’s FX Holden Build

In this week’s Rare Spares Blog we will be taking a look at a project car close to the heart of Rare Spares Director David Ryan. It would be fair to say that David has an affinity with old Holdens, more specifically 1950’s FX’s and FJ’s, having owned numerous of the early Aussie classics and having raced them across the country and overseas!

David has recently been able to purchase back one of his old Variety Club Bash cars, and has an ambitious plan laid out for it to be completely restored by Christmas 2018 for a special occasion – his granddaughter Chloe’s wedding! The 1953 FX in question has had anything but an easy life, let’s take a look!

In 1953, David’s father, uncle and a mate decided to take part in the REDeX  Around Australia Reliability Trial using a black 1953 FX Holden taken from the fleet of the family taxi service and used for the event.

Upon its return it was reinstated to the rank to serve out its days once again as a cab.


 

In 1986, David, and some mates decided to take part in the famed Variety Club Bash event using an EH Holden setup specifically for offroad racing. Officials deemed the car was too fast and not suitable for this sort of event, hence a more suitable replica of the original FX was decided to be built for their next foray into the Bash the following year.

The work undertaken to build the replica FX was completed by David and his mates utilising the converted bus depot that was at that stage the premises of the fledgling Rare Spares organization.  David’s father was kept in the dark on the build until the time of unveiling, when one day he drew back the garage doors to unveil the pristine replica of his beloved REDEx machine.


 

 

In 1990, the FX was sold and David was left to focus on his many other ongoing projects. These included competing in the 1993 London to Sydney Marathon in a HK Monaro, taking an Aussie 1946 Chev ute street rod to the US and a trip to Mexico to compete in the 2013 La Carrera Panamericana, a 3200km open road event, racing a 1954 FJ! You can read about this incredible restoration and event here

Over the past decade David was in regular if not frequent contact with the owner asking if the FX would ever be available to buy back. The once loved car was languishing in a suburban backyard, dying a slow and rusty death, with the new owner unwilling at that time to part with it..

Fast forward to early 2018, David was searching through some online early Holden forums where low and behold, his FX was listed as possibly coming up for sale! A quick phone call was made to the owner to re-express his interest.

 

 

After a week or two of negotiating back and forth, the car is now back in David’s hands and plans are well underway for a complete restoration to be finished by December for Chloe’s wedding. With an abundance of options for her wedding car, one would think Chloe would go for something a little more luxurious. However, with the FX once again back in the hands of her grandfather, there was only one car Chloe had in mind!

The car is now in Adelaide where it is being paint stripped and rust treated, this is due to be completed by mid next week. From there extensive rust repair will be undertaken before being baked, primed and painted by a good friend. The seats will be re-trimmed in their original colour (red) all while a full mechanical refurbishment will be undertaken. The 132ci grey motor, 3 speed transmission, differential and suspension will all be rebuilt to stock specifications.

We will be paying close attention to the FX Holden build, so stay tuned for further updates as 2018 progresses!

What are your memories of the early 1950s Holden’s? Did you or someone you know own one? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comment section below!

History of the Sandman

The Holden Sandman, a car that represented a generation of Australians and likely one of Holden’s most iconic cars has undergone a number of reincarnations throughout its lifetime. While the true Sandman will always remain the 1970’s surf and lifestyle icon for most, the Sandman name has been used on a number of cars throughout the four decades between then and now. In this week’s blog we’ll recap the different looks the Sandman has undertaken throughout the years.

The Original Sandman (HQ, HJ, HX, HZ)

A combination of the ever increasing costs associated with owning a sports car combined with the increasing liberation and freedom of the youth of Australia led to a boom in the popularity in panel vans before the Sandman was even announced. Not one to miss a sales opportunity, Holden brought out the Sandman, a panel van by nature, with the added performance and luxury initially of the Belmont and eventually the Kingswood. Optional extras included the 253ci V8, a mattress, and sunroof while softer suspension and a drop-down split tail gate for ease of access differentiated the Sandman from the regular panel van. Understandably the Sandman was a huge hit among young Males who now had a car that could do everything – you could sleep in it, transport surfboards and ‘woo’ mates and lady friends alike; the Sandman was sexy.

The Concept

In 2000, Holden teamed up with surf wear brand Mambo to create a modern day Sandman concept. Based on the VU ute, the Sandman concept was received very well amongst the general public, with many calling to introduce it into production. Featuring a ‘burnin’ love’ interior, ‘bushfire orange’ exterior and the Sandman logo gracing the tailgate - the concept was true blue Aussie. Gracing the side panels were murals designed by Mambo’s head art director, featuring bush and beach goddess’. In reaction to the favourable reception from punters, the Sandman styled canopy was included as a $6,150 option to regular Utes in 2003, although was discontinued in 2006 when interest decreased, not to mention the incredibly complex nature of installation.

The Race Car

Supercar team Red Bull Holden Racing set about creating a tribute to the original Sandman in 2014 when they created their new ride car. In what looks like a VF ute from the side, and a VF Wagon from the rear, the Red Bull Sandman was met with mixed reception, although is none-the-less, an impressive vehicle. The car was originally built with a 700HP V8 and featured new-to-the-sport technology such as paddle shifting and a fly-by-wire throttle. This year, however, the Sandman has been used as a test dummy for the incoming twin-turbo V6 that will grace the sport come 2019. The car was used to unveil the new engine to the public in October 2017 with demonstration laps at the Bathurst 1000.

The 40 year anniversary ‘reincarnation’

In 2015, Holden decided it was time to reincarnate the Sandman in the form of a limited edition Sportwagon and Ute. Although without a true panel van option, purists were left disappointed in what were essentially SV6 or SS-V Commodores with added logos, pinstripes and a ‘retro’ coloured interior. Given the small production run of only 250 across all options, the 2015 Sandman may very well end up a collectable in the future, particularly as Holden manufacturing in Australia has ceased. Time will tell…

What are your thoughts on the various Holden Sandman’s throughout the years? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Australia’s Best Classic Show cars

Australia is home to some of the most impressive show cars in the world, as evidenced by the huge turnout each year at iconic motoring events such as Summernats and Motorex. Whether it’s the pure visual spectacle or the respect we have for the time and effort that goes into building them, you can’t help but be impressed by show cars. In this article we will take a quick look at a few of Australia’s most impressive show stoppers.

XBOSS

Undoubtedly the most celebrated show car in the country, XBOSS has won just about every award worth winning. The stunning 1976 XB Falcon Coupe is one of the neatest you will ever see, and features one of the coolest bonnets we’ve ever seen! 8 years in the making, XBOSS was built almost exclusively out of the owners shed and has since taken on the world’s best at a number of prestigious car shows throughout Australia and the USA. If you haven’t had the chance to take a look at this car up close, do yourself a favour and track XBOSS down, you won’t regret it.

 

LSA Powered 85’ VK Commodore

Australia has always had a thing for high-powered Commodores, particularly those built in the 80’s and this particular VK is one of the most impressive in the land! The 6.2 litre supercharged LSA is arguably the most incredible GM engine to grace Aussie shores and with a custom engine cover, this LSA fits the looks of this VK to a tee. And while the custom registration plate ‘CU H8N’ is a touch cringeworthy, the rest of this magnificent beast truly is a work of art.

 

11 Litre Hemi Powered Falcon GT

A wild piece of machinery, this XY GT replica pumps out a whopping 1400hp courtesy of a huge 11 litre, 673 cubic inch Hemi V8. At Rare Spares, we love our classic Australian cars and love to see how individual owners go about making their pride and joy’s unique, and this Falcon is a perfect example of someone wanting to stand out from the pack. Coated in a beautiful gloss black and gold paint job, this car is most definitely a fan favourite. Word is the owner doesn’t mind taking this masterpiece out for a spin on the weekends, so keep an eye out for this wonderful beast.

BUILTQ HQ GTS Monaro

The Monaro… an incredible car which will go down in history as possibly the best looking Australian produced car. And “BUILTQ” is considered one of the best Monaro’s out there, with a 5-litre supercharged V8, completely re-upholstered interior and incredible maroon paint work headlining the modifications made to the beautiful coupe. But as with many show cars, the further you look in to the Monaro the more impressive it gets, for example the awe inspiring welds throughout the exhaust system. The owner of BUILT HQ regularly hits the road with his pride and joy, because at the end of the day, what’s the point of having the coolest toy if you can’t play with it?

 

What’s your favourite Aussie Show car? 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.