Mystery Box Rally

It’s been wryly said that the first rally came after the first twenty owners of “horseless carriages” met at a pub. Disclaimer: there may be little, if any, truth, to that but it is true that car rallying sprang into life very early in the history of the car. It is generally accepted that the first rally was the Monte Carlo Rally of 1911. The format, without the name as such, goes back even further, with the 1894 Paris – Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition.

As cars, or automobiles, developed, and the technology evolved, rallying grew in popularity. Worldwide, various formats grew, with perhaps the best known being the WRC, with intercontinental rallies also proving popular. All of these take money, and sometimes lots of it. So for those with an eye on the economic side?

Australia’s world renowned for the larrikin streak and sense of humour and with a strong aftermarket car culture various forms of rallying have come and gone. One of the newer ones has, at its heart, what Australia holds dear. Mateship. Called the Shitbox Rally, drivers have cars that hover around the $1000 and are driven on a variety of road surfaces. The funds raised go towards cancer research via the Cancer Council of Australia.

The rally has spawned a child, and this is called the Mystery Box Rally. One key component of the regulations is that the cars must be at least 25 years old. It will be a looped drive, starting and finishing at the same location, and in October of 2018 the rally began from Mildura, in Victoria.

Founded in 1887, the town is situated around 100 kilometres east of the South Australia/New South Wales/Victoria border and sits on the banks of the Murray River. It’s a beautiful little town and ideal for the rally start. The cause itself is identical to the Shitbox Rally, with funds raised (teams are asked and expected to raise a minimum of $3500) going towards cancer research. Teams cover incidentals such as registration fees, food and accommodation, and fuel for around 2,500 kilometres.

To add to the enjoyment and the struggle, the regulations stipulate that only two wheel drive cars can enter. All wheel and four wheel drive cars are excluded, as are historic and vintage vehicles. The organisers, with perhaps a wise eye, also stipulate that the car to be entered should be cost effective in the possibility of a breakdown. Smartly, the organisers limited each team to just two drivers, again with an eye on the potential for carrying passengers, they being those that have had a vehicle give the ultimate sacrifice.

Drivers are kept in the dark as to the day’s route overnight – which adds the element of mystery, with information only provided to the teams early in the morning. And organizers are at pains to point out it’s not a race, as such. The winner is judged on how much was raised, the actual condition of the car (or, how hopeless it is), the joie de vivre the team exhibits, and literally anything that organisers decide on as the event progresses.

The 2018 Mystery Box Rally saw something in the order of over one hundred cars entered, ranging from a 1992 Toyota Camry wagon to a 1993 Ford Laser, from a 1990 Toyota Celica to a 1993 Holden Commodore wagon. Most teams reached their minimum $3500 amount, with Jasmine Brill & Felicity Pollock, in Fergus, a 1992 Mazda 626, raising $13,607 under the team name of “All The Gear And No Idea”.

“Two Burkes In A Merc”, Paul Marsh and John Koerner rallied a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300C and snared $11,700, whilst Lindsay and Nicholas McAulley raked in $5725 in their 1982 Volvo 244GL, an unbreakable car if there is one.

This year’s rally raised over $367K, with a guaranteed minimum 80% going towards cancer research. If this looks like something that appeals, register here: https://www.mysteryboxrally.com.au/contact/

Have you ever entered the Mystery Box Rally and have a story to tell? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know all about it in the comments section below this article! 

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.

Identity Crisis – Rebadged Cars

Rebadged or badge engineered cars have been common place on public roads for decades, with manufacturers and in some cases governments searching for ways to efficiently manage automotive production. In this article we take a look at four examples of rebadging that have been relevant to the Australian automotive landscape over recent years.

VF Holden Commodore SS – Chevrolet SS

Back in 2013 at Daytona Speedweek , a VF Commodore sporting Chevy badges was unveiled to the US public to a mostly positive reception. It’s wasn’t the first Commodore to be exported and rebadged oversees, however it will be the last. Since the late 90s, Commodores have been exported overseas in various guises. From the Chevrolet Lumina in the Middle East and South Africa, to the Omega in Brazil as well as Vauxhall and Pontiac variants in the UK and US respectively, the Commodore has been rebadged significantly over the years. The Chevrolet SS in question struggled sales-wise in the US, with the lack of a manual option drawing much criticism amongst the very automotive enthusiasts the car was intended to target. A shame really, that the Americans never truly had the chance to appreciate one of Australia’s most loved cars.

Nissan The Ute – Ford Falcon XF

The Ute was one of the simplest rebadge’s you are ever likely to see, with everything from the indicator stalk mounted horn to the grill and steering unmistakably Ford. Even under the Nissan logo on the front grill was a Ford oval shaped space. The Nissan Ute was sold as a result of the model sharing scheme known as the Button plan in the mid-late 80’s. The idea of the plan was to rationalise the Australian automotive industry by inducing car manufacturers into sharing the platforms of key cars.

Toyota Lexcen – VN Holden Commodore

Another rebadged model as a result of the Button plan was the Toyota Lexcen, which was named after Ben Lexcen, the designer of the American Cup winning ‘Australia II’ and its innovative keel design. Kind of ironic that a rebadged car, with little innovative design features, was named after a man who designed one of the most iconic innovations in Australian sporting history, isn’t it? Anyhow, the Lexcen was better received by the Australian public when compared to the Nissan/Ford of above and the Holden/Toyota model sharing scheme would last until 1997. Differences were mostly limited to the grill, badges and some minor interior changes.

 

Toyota 86 – Subaru BR-Z – Scion FR-S

Sold in Australia as the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BR-Z, and in the US at one point as the Scion FR-S, this rear-wheel drive bundle of fun is one of the more popular modern day badge swaps. Featuring design work and product planning from Toyota and engineering and production from Subaru, the 86 was Toyotas attempt at re-entering the ‘drivers car’ market, whilst the BR-Z was Subaru’s attempt at creating a rear-wheel drive to complement its felt of all wheel drive options. With a four-cylinder engine that whilst zippy won’t set the world on fire, the ‘Toyobaru’ has become a favourite amongst sports car enthusiasts looking for a solid ‘bang for your buck’ option.

 

Do you own one of these rebadged cars? Or maybe you own another rebadged ‘classic’. Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below

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.