The European Connection; Holden Commodore’s Euro Influence

To many the Holden Commodore is about as ‘true blue Aussie’ as thongs, vegemite, meat pies and kangaroo’s. With the announcement of Holden manufacturing in Australia ceasing at the end of the year, many are up in arms at the prospect of a re-badged ‘Euro’ Opel Insignia for 2018. However you might be interested to learn that Commodore has long held a strong European influence.

Back in 1978, the VB Commodore hit showroom floors, replacing the Kingswood and Torana with a model that was sized somewhere between the two. The VB, and subsequent VC and VH models were all significantly based on a combination of the Opel Rekord and the Opel Senator.

The story goes that during initial testing of the concept a test vehicle was driven through outback Australia where it is said to have broken at the firewall. As a result, significant improvements were made to the chassis, as well as modifications to both suspension and steering. Design cues throughout the rest of the first generation can be linked back to the Commodore’s European heritage, and whilst the VK and VL did move a little further from the original design, the resemblance is unmistakable.

The second generation of the Commodore heralded a new era for Holden, as they finally had a car that matched the Falcon for size. Once again strong design cues were taken from Opel, with the VN resembling the Opel Senator B and Opel Omega A. The chassis consisted of many components taken from the VL, which was then stretched, widened and strengthened to accommodate the increased sizing of the VN body work. The second generation Commodore would carry on through to 1997 when it was eventually replace by the all-new VT. The European connection would continue however right through to the VZ, with the third generation Commodore once again being based on the Opel Omega.

It was not until 2006 with the VE model that Holden would produce a Commodore not heavily based on its European counterparts. The VE and updated VF were and continue to be a favourite amongst the Australian public, with models such as the SSV Redline and of course the HSV variants showcasing the best of Australia’s automotive capabilities. To the dismay of many, Holden will be winding up its local manufacturing this year, and whilst the 2018 Commodore could very well turn out to be a great car, it just won’t carry the same meaning to many as the Commodores of yesteryear.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming Commodore? Will it be a fitting replacement or an imposter? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Sinful Conversions - Engine Conversions That Cause a Stir

In the automotive community, we’re no strangers to engine conversions. Whether it be a neat LS-swap or dyno warping Barra-swaps, we tip our hat to clean and well-engineered engine transplants. However, not all engine conversions make the automotive gods happy, some are downright riot-inducing, with enthusiasts from all corners kicking up a stink. In this article we will take a look at a handful of controversial engine conversions.

Ford Barra Powered HG Belmont

Searching for something a little different from the tonne of LS-swaps around these days, this owner decided to take the ever-popular Barra engine and slot it into the early 70’s Holden. With a sub-11 second quarter mile time the old “Holden” will towel up many popular sports cars, whilst still being used by its owner as a daily driver!

 

Skyline GTR Powered Torana

Dropping powerful engines in smaller cars has been a passion of many a person since the dawn of time. As automotive enthusiasts, we can’t help but look at a car, bike or boat and wonder what we can do to make this faster? Well, in the case of the LX Torana, dropping a twin turbocharged RB26 under the hood is sure to make the trip from A to B in quite a hurry! There are of course a few Holden enthusiasts who are none too happy with a Japanese heart beating in the Aussie legend.

 

LS1 Powered XY Falcon – XYYNOT

This XY Falcon will surely cause a stir amongst both Holden and Ford fans, with one of the most iconic Falcon’s receiving a Chevrolet heart. Featuring a Harrop blower, the cammed, near stock LS1 is producing a solid 458 rear wheel horsepower and is used throughout the Australian drifting circuit!

 

1967 Pontiac Firebird with Toyota Prius Hybrid System

Coming completely out of left field is this Prius-powered 1967 Pontiac Firebird. Enough to make any rev-head cringe just a little bit, this engineering marvel has set the owner back just over $10,000US to date and is expected to be on the road by 2019.

 

LS1 powered Porsche 911 

Porsche fans – turn away now! Replacing the iconic flat six in the rear of this 1986 911 is the tried and true LS1, resulting in a horsepower gain of over 170hp! From a purely performance point of view, when you take into consideration other upgrades including wheels, tyres and suspension, this Porsche is a bit of a weapon. However, the purists still cringe at the thought of anything other than the flat six gracing its engine bay.

Have you heard of any crazy engine swaps that make purists cringe? Or maybe you’re in the process of your own engine swap? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Jason White Wins Sixth Targa Tasmania

Jason White and his co-driver and uncle John White have taken out the 2017 Targa Tasmania for the sixth time, negotiating the notoriously challenging course in their Dodge Viper ACR Extreme. The pair was some 34 seconds faster than second place finisher Michael Prichard and co-driver Gary Mourant (Dodge Viper ACR). The Viper proved to be an impressive machine on the tight Targa course, with the 8.4litre V10 blasting its way around the luscious Tasmanian countryside to become the first American car to take out the prestigious event. However, as impressive as the top two teams were, naturally our attention moves to the classic cars that once again set the tarmac alight.

When you run your eyes down the Top 10 outright finishes, the usual suspects appear; Vipers, Porsche GT3’s, a Nissan GTR and a BMW M3. However, slotted into 9th outright, something a little more surprising; a 1970 Datsun 240Z driven by John Siddins and co-driven by Gina Siddins. Not only was Siddins’ time good enough for an impressive outright finish, it was enough to win the Shannons GT class by over 9 minutes over a score of incredible classics including Craig Haysman’s 1979 Triumph TR7 V8.

Taking out the Shannons Classics class was Peter Ullrich and co-driver Sari Ullrich in their 1963 Jensen CV8 by an impressive 6 minute and 18 second margin over a tight 2nd place battle between an Italian masterpiece and an Australian icon. Eventually, it was David Gilliver and his 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS that were able to take home the chocolates over Richard Woodward and his 1969 Holden Monaro GTS by only 15 seconds.

A category of some interest to us is the TSD Trophy class, in which competitors aim to achieve a set average speed without breaking 130km/h, thus opening up the class to a wide array of vehicles. Taking out the class for the second year in a row were brothers Darryl and Peter Marshall in their Ford Falcon Ute ahead of Christopher Waldock and Christine Kirby in their 2016 Jaguar F-Type as well as Peter Lucas and Angela Coradine and their stunning 1984 Porsche Carrera.

After another successful running, the Targa Tasmania continues to go from strength to strength, and at Rare Spares we look forward to an even bigger year next year!

If you could race in the Targa, what would be your weapon of choice? Head over to the comments section on the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know!

Driving for a Cause – Classics cars at the Variety Bash

The Variety Bash was founded in 1985 by none other than Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith, after he invited a few mates to make the trip from Bourke in far western New South Wales all the way up to Bourketown in northern Queensland. Along the way teams would recreate the Redex Car Trials of the 1950’s whilst raising money for the Variety Club of New South Wales, a charity which to this day still raises money for children with special needs. There were a few rules for participants; all cars had to have been manufactured pre-June 1966, have no performance modifications and meet a number of safety considerations such as carrying a certain amount of water, oil and be prepared for the harshest of Australian conditions. Other ‘rules’ were fines for things such as not having enough fun, cheating (or not cheating enough!), going too fast or not fast enough and taking the event too seriously. At the end of the day, the event isn’t a race; it is an enjoyable fundraising event to help those in need!

Dick Smith’s car for the first event was a 1964 EH Holden, which he went on to use in all Variety Bash’s up until 2001, throughout which time he raised upwards of $2 million. The old Holden has had almost all of its parts replaced at one time or another, with the exception of the driver’s side door which remains original! The car now resides in the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney after a broken front chassis rail brought an ending to its bashing career.

A tradition that has stuck since the events early days is that of weird and wacky car designs and competitor costumes. From a Mad Max V8 Interceptor replica to Hippy Vans and even Limousines, the Variety Bash has seen it all throughout the years! A quick look through the Variety Bash’s cars for sale section of their website gives you an idea of the sort of vehicle required for such a journey. Highlights include a 1976 Cadillac Grandeur Opera Coupe, a 1991 Ford F150 Ambulance, a tiger striped Mercedes Benz 450SEL and a 1984 Rover SD1 V8. None of which would generally sound suited to a cross country road trip, although fit the theme that’s made the Variety Bash a truly iconic Aussie event.

Whilst the event was originally founded in New South Wales, Bash’s now take place around all states and territories of Australia, each with their own unique travel itinerary. To get involved, head over to the Variety website and start your fundraising!

Have you ever participated in the Variety Bash? Or are you in the process of putting together a car for the 2017 event? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us all about it!

Power Boost - Taking a Look at Two Iconic Aussie Turbo’s

Over the years, Australian manufacturers have been mostly known for producing family sized rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated six and eight cylinder vehicles. However, throughout the years, both Holden and Ford have dipped their toes into turbo-charging technology, providing affordable cars with oodles of power and a plethora of modification options. Whilst there have been a number of turbocharged vehicles from Australian manufacturers, none have captured the hearts and minds of the public quite as much as the VL Turbo and the XR6 Turbo. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at these turbo powered favourites and discuss what made these such successful models.

Holden Commodore VL Turbo

With unleaded petrol coming of age throughout the 80’s, Holden battled to find an engine appropriate for their new VL model that could deal with the new fuel. So, when they turned to Nissan and sourced the Skyline bound RB30 six cylinder for the new Commodore, Australian car enthusiasts were understandably excited. Excitement levels would reach their peak when it was announced that a turbo would be coupled with the RB30, producing a powerful 150kw. Not only was the turbo of significance, improvements were also made in the form of front disc brakes, 15 inch wheels and FE2 suspension, making the VL turbo the affordable modifiers dream.

The Australian Police Force also took note as they adopted a modified version of the VL Turbo as their new pursuit vehicle. These VL’s were denoted “BT1” and featured a number of modifications such as different pistons, upgraded four wheel disc brakes, Corvette front calipers, larger oil pump and a knock sensor. These modifications not only gave the Police a vehicle capable of chasing crooks down a highway, they allowed officers to perform breaking manoeuvres out of reach to the average car of the time.

VL Turbo’s and particularly BT1’s are worth a pretty penny on the used car market these days and you’ll be doing well to find one that isn’t modified to the gills. However, VL Turbo’s still contain a certain level of “wow” factor that will buy you a level of street cred that’s out of reach to a current model Commodore.

Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo 

In 2002, the BA Falcon XR6 Turbo brought upon a step outside of the Falcon’s recent conservative comfort zone and was a Falcon truly deserving of a performance car reputation. By bolting a Garrett turbo onto the 6-cylinder ‘Barra’ engine platform, the XR6 turbo was able to produce a lively 240Kw/450Nm whilst giving its 8-cylinder competition a serious hurry-up. Fast in stock form and a tinkerers dream, the Barra platform was able to handle a wild level of modifications.

Fast forward 14 years and Ford has released its last iteration of the XR6 Turbo – the FGx XR6 Turbo Sprint. Producing a mind bending 370kw/650nm in overboost form, which is only activated at full throttle for a maximum of 10 seconds; the XR6 Turbo Sprint is the fastest 6 cylinder ever produced in Australia. Based on the previous FPV F6 model, features of the new Sprint include a new lower airbox, carbon fibre intake and a freer flowing exhaust. Other specifications include updated suspension, new Pirelli tires and a recalibrated ZF automatic transmission.

Despite a somewhat lackluster interior, which has remained largely unchanged since the original BA, a 0-100 time of 4.7 seconds and a quarter mile time “in the 12’s” is enough to ensure Ford enthusiasts aren’t at all bothered by the interior. The end result is quite possibly the best ‘bang for your buck’ Australian car ever built.

These two cars will most likely go down in history as the two greatest turbocharged Australian produced cars ever made. Do you own either of these two iconic fan favourites? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your turbocharged pride and joy in the comments below.