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.

 

John Bowe 2017 Touring Car Masters season review

Rare Spares Brand Ambassador and our long-time friend John Bowe has just wrapped up his 2017 Touring Car Masters campaign at the Newcastle 500 over the weekend. In what was a hard fought series Bowe and his Torana SL/R 5000 spent many rounds at the front of the pack and even led the series coming in to the final round. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, as he could do little to stop the hard charging Steve Johnson on the tight streets of Newcastle’s East End. In this week’s blog, we’ll take a quick look at Bowe’s incredible season.

The 2017 TCM season kicked off way back in March at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, and for Bowe the season started with a bang. Bowe was challenged early in both races 1 & 2 before recording victory in both, while a 6th in race 3 was enough to guarantee him the round victory. Round 2 at Winton saw one of the biggest accidents in the category’s history and unfortunately Bowe was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Race 1 went swimmingly for the number 18 Torana as Bowe worked from 23rd on the grid to take the win, a monumental effort around the short Victorian circuit.

Race 2 was where it all went pear shaped for a large number of the TCM field as Jason Gomersall span in front of the following pack as he rounded the 2nd corner on the first lap. Gomersall span into the path of Eddie Abelnica and his XB Falcon before being collected by Mark King’s Camaro, leaving both cars with very heavy front end damage. The ensuing pack had nowhere to go, with a number of cars finding each other or the surrounding walls. Bowe was sandwiched in the middle of all the action and the resulting broken ribs ensured a non-start for race 3 and a short stint in hospital for the fan favourite.

Bowe was able to make a speedy recovery from the massive shunt to line up only four weeks later at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin. It wasn’t quite a fairytale comeback as a gearbox issue left the Torana in a plume of smoke early on in the first race. Some quick work was done to the Torana and he was able to make it back on to the circuit for races 2 & 3, finishing in 2nd and 1st respectively.

On to Queensland Raceway and after recording his 90th victory in the TCM category Bowe left the event sharing the championship points lead with Adam Bressington. The ‘paper-clip’ as it’s known in the industry provides a unique challenge to competitors with a number of difficult breaking sections wreaking havoc on the TCM field. Sandown provided a unique challenge to competitors as race 1 was run in terribly wet conditions. The conditions provided a shuffle in the running order with Bowe finishing in 8th. Race 2 was abandoned while Bowe was out in front after Gomersall parked his Torana in the tyres at the end of the back straight. Wrapping up the weekend with a 2nd in race 3, Bowe was able to take the lead in the championship over his rivals.

While Bathurst wasn’t a bad weekend for Bowe by any stretch of the imagination, the event began the late season run of Steve Johnson. Scoring 4,2,2 finishes throughout the weekend was enough for Bowe to maintain the championship lead, however closing quickly was Johnson who took 2 of the 3 victories throughout the weekend at the mountain.

Bowe entered the final round with a 5 point lead, however was only able to manage 3rd in both races, making up ground throughout the first half of the track but struggling to keep up with the big Mustang of Johnson and the Camaro of Bressington down the more open sections of the track. The championship went to Johnson who won both races and the image of Bowe congratulating Johnson post-race will be go down as one of Australian motorsports great moments of sportsmanship.

As well as TCM racing, Bowe has kept busy piloting a number of different race cars throughout the country this year at a host of different events. Take a look at his Facebook page to keep up to date with all of the incredible cars John gets behind the wheel of – very impressive!

What was your favourite moment of the 2017 TCM season? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Five Close Motorsport Finishes

Parity has become an increasing focus across almost all forms of motorsports in recent years, however close races are still few and far between. As motoring enthusiasts there’s not much we love more than watching two drivers go toe-to-toe over the distance of a race with the end result coming down to the thousandth of a second. In this week’s blog we’ll take a look back at a few of the closest and most memorable motorsport finishes in history.

1986 Spanish Formula 1 GP

In a race between two of racing’s most famous and well respected racers Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, the end result will be remembered as one of the closest in the history of Formula 1. Mansell elected to pit in the closing stages of the race for fresh tyres while Senna elected to stay out on older, worn out rubber. Mansell took increasingly bigger chunks out of the late Brazilian’s lead as the race wore on; eventually falling only 0.014 seconds short of victory after Senna successfully covered his lines in the final corners.

2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400

The 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 came down to the wire between eventual winner Ricky Craven and the hot-headed Kurt Busch. As the two cars approached the line the two traded paint, with Craven eventually holding of Busch by 0.002 seconds at “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” Subsequently, the race was voted as the best NASCAR race of the decade by members of NASCAR Media.

2013 Freedom 100

Commentators at the time were calling it the greatest finish in the history of the Indianapolis Raceway, as four drivers from the IndyCar support category; Peter Dempsey, Gabby Chavez, Carlos Manoz and Sage Karam went toe-to-toe on the final lap. The resulting finish looks as though it had been staged as the drivers finished four-wide with Dempsey making a last straight dash from fourth to first. The final result; first and second were separated by 0.0026 seconds, with the gap to fourth totaling 0.0443 seconds.

2006 Portuguese MotoGP

2006 was an interesting year for Moto GP, as multi-time world champion struggled with an unreliable bike and struggled to reach the lofty heights of seasons past. This left the late Nicky Hayden to take out the championship under thrilling circumstances. In hindsight the Portuguese GP would prove to be the race that potentially cost Rossi the championship as a hard charging Toni Elias came from way back to snatch victory by 0.0002 seconds.

2016 NHRA Summit Southern Nationals

This race went about as close as you could get to a dead-heat, with NHRA Top Fuel Drag racers Doug Kalitta beating teammate JR Smith by a miniscule 0.0001 seconds, or about an inch. You would be forgiven for thinking that results like this are a foregone conclusion in drag racing, with similar cars racing over such a short distance. However, the more you watch top level drag racing, the more you realise that the chances of both cars having a perfectly clean run are slim to none. This race truly was an impressive spectacle.

Do you know of any other close racing finishes? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your favourites 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.