Volkswagen Beetle – The Peoples Car

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most instantly recognisable cars in the history of automotive manufacturing, and just as interesting as the silhouette of the iconic bug is the story behind its concept. In this article we will take a quick look at the history of the Beetle and delve into its Australian connection throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

The origins of the Volkswagen Beetle date back to the early 1930’s when a Fuhrer by the name of Adolf Hitler proclaimed that the automobile, an at the time luxury afforded to only the very rich, should be available to the masses. Hitler specified that the ideal vehicle must be suitable for carrying 2 adults and 3 children at 100 km/h, while consuming no more than 7 litres of fuel every 100 km. Tasked with creating a vehicle to service the needs of the masses was tasked to Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche set about designing and building three prototypes, branded only ‘Volkswagen’ (“The Peoples Car”), the very round, bug-like appearance of the car ensured it was colloquially referred to as the Beetle.

Throughout WW2, Porsche developed a number of military spec Beetles that served as the first to leave his Wolfburg factory. With it’s now distinctive rear-mounted air cooled engine, the military spec vehicles were near on indestructible and were even designed to float for a short period of time in case of emergency!

By 1945 production was in full swing and the first customer vehicles were spreading throughout the streets of Europe. Armed with a 19kw flat four engine, the early Beetles proved a massive hit with the public and at a price of only 990 Reichsmark, which was similar to the price of a small motorcycle; the Bug was a genuine option for almost all families.

Fast forward 8 years and importation of the Beetle commenced into Australia, with assembly of the Peoples Car commencing in Melbourne by 1954. Throughout the 60’s locally manufactured parts and panels were being utilised in Melbourne built Beetles, with work being undertaken at the now HSV owned Clayton manufacturing plant. As we’ve become all too familiar with in recent times, sales of the Beetle eventually began to decline and in 1976 all Australian Volkswagen manufacturing efforts were ceased and the workshop was sold to Nissan Australia.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the first major re-design of the beetle took place and a look at the current Beetle finds a significantly different car to what was established way back in the 1930’s. The engine has been moved to the more traditional front mounted layout while power figures have increased with range topping models featuring in the area of 150kw. The unmistakable shape is still present and although not everybody’s cup of tea serves as one of very few modern cars that pay homage to their historical ancestors.

Do you own an early model Volkswagen Beetle? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it 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.

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.

The $312,000 Monaro

A pristine condition 1970 Holden HT GTS350 Monaro has been sold at Lloyds Auctions on the Gold Coast last month for a whopping $312,000. Eclipsing the previous record of $310,000 set in March, this ‘pride of the fleet’ becomes one of the most valuable Monaro’s ever sold at auction. Features include impeccable Platinum Metallic paint, a mere 119,000km on the odometer, a two speed powerglide automatic transmission and of course a 5.7 litre 350 Chevrolet engine. With the sale of this iconic Australian car, we decided to take a look back at the HT GTS350 Monaro and discuss why it holds a special place in the hearts of Australian motoring enthusiasts.

The HT Monaro was introduced in 1969 to much fanfare and whilst the minor design changes including the bonnet scoops and bold bonnet stripes were well received, it was the introduction of the 350 Chevrolet that got the punters excited. Not only was the GTS350 a winner with the public, it left a fair mark on the Australian racing scene as well, where it experienced almost immediate success on the track.

In 1969, in its first year under the management of Harry Firth, Holden Dealer Team GTS350 Monaro’s took out the top and third step of the podium at the Hardie Ferodo 500, piloted by Colin Bond/Tony Roberts and Peter Brock/Des West respectively. The Monaro would also go on to take out the 1970 Surfers Paradise 12 hour race driven once again by Bond and Roberts as well as the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship driven by Norm Beechey. Beechey’s feat was made even more impressive as a result of an 8th place finish at Calder Park, a DNF at Warwick Farm Raceway and a DNS at Symmons Plains. The Monaro would go on to race a further two years in the ATCC before the ‘supercar scare’ of 1972 rendered the Monaro ineligible for the newly developed Group C production class.

Whilst the HK GTS327 Monaro was a great car and may have been the first to take up the fight to the GT Falcon, it didn’t quite hit the nail on the head in terms of usability. It was the GTS350 which propelled the Monaro to levels at the very least equal to that of the Falcon GT. Power outputs were comparable between the Holden and Ford marquees whilst acceleration and top speed figures were almost identical. The GTS was a second faster to 50mph, however only a shade faster to 100mph (20.1 to 20.6), ensuring the Holden v Ford rivalry raged on.

Significant suspension improvements were made to the GTS350 over the regular GTS models with performance in mind. Stiffer shocks, a heavy duty stabiliser bar and rear radius rods ensured a much sportier ride whilst bearing a significant improvement over the harsh ride of the HK GTS327. The end result was a car suitable for the track whilst also being completely practical for day to day use. Interestingly, the GTS350 in manual guise was the first Holden that could be ordered with rally wheels.

The Monaro will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Holden fans, with the iconic coupe representing some of the most iconic designs in Australian automotive history. At Rare Spares, we love to hear your stories of Australian classic cars; do you own an early model Monaro? Or maybe you have your eye on a particular classic? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments below.

Mr Bean, McLarens, Minis and Movies – The Rowan Atkinson Car Collection

One of the most famous of all British actors’ Rowan Atkinson shot to fame in Blackadder, but of course is remembered most for his Mr Bean character, that formed the TV series and movie spin offs of the same name. The Mr Bean character left audiences around the world in ruptures thanks to the comedic brilliance and eccentric style of Atkinson. At the same time, the iconic yellow Mini that Mr Bean drove around complemented the character of Mr Bean perfectly, and who doesn’t love a Mini!

In a world far away from the crazy world of Mr Bean, Rowan Atkinson is an avid car enthusiast and collector, owning many jaw-dropping, rare vehicles.

Many enthusiasts may already be aware that for many years Atkinson owned an incredible McLaren F1, one that he purchased brand new in 1997 for 640,000 pounds.

Not one to leave the McLaren as a museum piece in an air conditioned garage, Atkinson effectively drove the car as his ‘daily’ for many years, putting a huge number of miles on the car and was regularly spotted picking up groceries and attending events in the car.

With so much driving, the chances of an accident increase and unfortunately, the poor McLaren was involved in two crashes during Atkinson’s nearly two decades of ownership.

The second and far more serious accident occurred when Atkinson lost control on a high speed slippery bend, colliding with a tree. The impact was so severe that the engine of the McLaren was thrown 60ft from the car and left Atkinson with a broken shoulder.

Luckily the McLaren was insured, because the repair bill was a massive 900,000 pounds (or around $1.5 million AU), becoming England’s highest ever single insurance pay out at the time. What was the annual insurance cost you may be asking? Apparently it went up to around $90,000 after the big crash!

Atkinson ended up selling the McLaren in 2015 for the tiddly sum of 8,000,000 pounds (13 million AU!) Bargain!

The McLaren was only a small piece of a bigger collection of classics.

 

 

 

An Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato is something of a rarity but Atkinson enjoyed stretching the legs of the British thoroughbred while in his ownership.

 

 

 

Mercedes Benz SLS with gull wing doors anyone?

 

 

 

Atkinson is a fan of Honda’s and although he also owns a Honda Civic Hybrid plug in model, the Honda NSX makes up for things and is a much nicer sight!

 

 

Atkinson is quite private so other rumoured cars in his possession are hard to confirm, but a Lancia Delta Integrale and an Audi A8 are among those believed to be in his stables.

One thing you won’t see Atkinson buying is a Porsche!

"I have a problem with Porsches. They're wonderful cars, but I know I could never live with one. Somehow, the typical Porsche people -- and I wish them no ill -- are not, I feel, my kind of people. I don't go around saying that Porsches are a pile of dung, but I do know that psychologically I couldn't handle owning one." he explained.