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.