The Holden Monaro 427C - Australia's Homegrown GT Monster

The Australian automotive industry is an oddity in the global scheme of things. A small buying population, the most brands per head of population, and innovations not seen elsewhere, make it virtually unique.

Although we weren’t the first to build a car with a hardtop and two doors, we certainly made some great ones. Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Holden all have cars that are memorable and one that stands out was the Monaro 427C. 

Designed, engineered, and built in Australia, this car was intended to be a track weapon and race in the Bathurst 24 Hour. The first of these races was set to run in late 2002, meaning the development of the car, slated to run in 2003, had to be brought forward. 

The heartbeat of the 427C was its US sourced 7.0L or 427cid V8. With the Holden Racing Team turning down the offer of developing the machine, Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) took the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R engine, a Monaro body, and the responsibility of running the 427C as a race car. 

The car would later be a controversial one; the race would attract cars from outside Australia such as Lamborghini’s Diablo GTR, Ferrari’s 360 N-GT, and the monstrous Chrysler Viper ACR. All of these cars would race with the same engine they would come off the production line with. However, the Monaro at the time came with Chev’s fabled 350cid or 5.7L V8, and therefore would be ineligible to run. However, the organiser of the race, which would come under the umbrella of a racing group called Procar, allowed the Monaro to be run with the bigger engine to be seen as more competitive with capacities such as the 8.0L V10 in the Viper.

As the race was going to be run under the then current GT regulations, GRM had to design a body kit to suit both the regulations and the aerodynamics of the VX Commodore based two door. Using the V8 Supercars design as a basis, GRM fitted a wider rear wing that sat below the car’s roofline, as per the regulations. A similar front air dam was fitted to the front, and underneath the 427C utilized a number of components that could be found on a Supercar. 

A technically minded casual observer would see a Hollinger six speed manual transmission, wheels of 18 x 11 and 18 x 13 inches, MacPherson strut front suspension and a trailing arm rear, bolted to coil springs and thick anti-roll bars. The engine was said to be good for 600 ponies (447kW) and would be bolted into the front of a car weighing 1,400 kilograms. 

All up the Monaro 427C would be 4789mm in length, run a front and rear track of 1559mm/1577mm, and roll on a wheelbase of 2788mm. The aero package provided plenty of down-force and made for a stable on track racer. 

Raced at the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour by a team of four drivers, being Garth Tander, Nathan Pretty, Steven Richards, and Cameron McConville, the car was also being touted as being available as a road car. The race car itself would prove to be strong, durable, and a race winner. Although despite suffering a flat tyre and a collision with another car, the car would ultimately win in its debut race by 24 laps.

As a road car, it was potentially to be powered by a 433kW version of the 427cid engine. But, as a business case, the numbers simply didn’t add up and would result in a mooted buy price of $215,000 being out of reach of its intended market. Just two road going cars, and just four race cars, would be built.

The Monaro 427C would go on to compete in the Australian Nations Cup Championship in 2003, and the Bathurst 24 Hour race in the same year. A second race car had been built by then. Driven by Peter Brock, Jason Bright, Todd Kelly, and Greg Murphy, the car would win by just 0.3035 of a second. Tander, driving the 2002 winning vehicle, was thwarted in a last sector charge by a yellow flag thanks to a car close to the racing line.

The 427C would race in 2004 and see a third chassis completed, before the Nations Cup category collapsed due to fiscal issues. With regulations reverting to GT Championship rules in 2005, the Monaro 427C was deemed ineligible. Of the race cars, one is with a private collector, one is in the Bathurst Motor Museum, and little if anything is known of the locations of the others.  

History of the Sandman

The Holden Sandman, a car that represented a generation of Australians and likely one of Holden’s most iconic cars has undergone a number of reincarnations throughout its lifetime. While the true Sandman will always remain the 1970’s surf and lifestyle icon for most, the Sandman name has been used on a number of cars throughout the four decades between then and now. In this week’s blog we’ll recap the different looks the Sandman has undertaken throughout the years.

The Original Sandman (HQ, HJ, HX, HZ)

A combination of the ever increasing costs associated with owning a sports car combined with the increasing liberation and freedom of the youth of Australia led to a boom in the popularity in panel vans before the Sandman was even announced. Not one to miss a sales opportunity, Holden brought out the Sandman, a panel van by nature, with the added performance and luxury initially of the Belmont and eventually the Kingswood. Optional extras included the 253ci V8, a mattress, and sunroof while softer suspension and a drop-down split tail gate for ease of access differentiated the Sandman from the regular panel van. Understandably the Sandman was a huge hit among young Males who now had a car that could do everything – you could sleep in it, transport surfboards and ‘woo’ mates and lady friends alike; the Sandman was sexy.

The Concept

In 2000, Holden teamed up with surf wear brand Mambo to create a modern day Sandman concept. Based on the VU ute, the Sandman concept was received very well amongst the general public, with many calling to introduce it into production. Featuring a ‘burnin’ love’ interior, ‘bushfire orange’ exterior and the Sandman logo gracing the tailgate - the concept was true blue Aussie. Gracing the side panels were murals designed by Mambo’s head art director, featuring bush and beach goddess’. In reaction to the favourable reception from punters, the Sandman styled canopy was included as a $6,150 option to regular Utes in 2003, although was discontinued in 2006 when interest decreased, not to mention the incredibly complex nature of installation.

The Race Car

Supercar team Red Bull Holden Racing set about creating a tribute to the original Sandman in 2014 when they created their new ride car. In what looks like a VF ute from the side, and a VF Wagon from the rear, the Red Bull Sandman was met with mixed reception, although is none-the-less, an impressive vehicle. The car was originally built with a 700HP V8 and featured new-to-the-sport technology such as paddle shifting and a fly-by-wire throttle. This year, however, the Sandman has been used as a test dummy for the incoming twin-turbo V6 that will grace the sport come 2019. The car was used to unveil the new engine to the public in October 2017 with demonstration laps at the Bathurst 1000.

The 40 year anniversary ‘reincarnation’

In 2015, Holden decided it was time to reincarnate the Sandman in the form of a limited edition Sportwagon and Ute. Although without a true panel van option, purists were left disappointed in what were essentially SV6 or SS-V Commodores with added logos, pinstripes and a ‘retro’ coloured interior. Given the small production run of only 250 across all options, the 2015 Sandman may very well end up a collectable in the future, particularly as Holden manufacturing in Australia has ceased. Time will tell…

What are your thoughts on the various Holden Sandman’s throughout the years? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

1992 Bathurst Re-cap

As the Supercar enduro cup is about to begin and the iconic Bathurst 1000 creeps up on us at a rapid rate, we’ve decided to produce a series of articles on some of the more memorable Bathurst’s over the years. We chose to begin with 1992 for a number of reasons, firstly it’s one of the more controversial Bathurst in the race’s history, and with the re-introduction of turbochargers in 2018 (in the form of wildcard entries) creating a bit of talk currently, we thought it would be worth checking out the last time turbo’s hit the mountain.

For a bit of background in the 1992 event, Jim Richards and a young Mark Skaife had been campaigning the all-conquering Nissan GT-R throughout the 1991 and 1992 seasons with a championship a piece and Bathurst victory in 91 to boot. To say that the ‘Godzilla’ wasn’t universally loved would be an understatement. Ford and Holden fans were displeased with the GT-R’s perceive benefits, namely four-wheel drive and a power advantage.

Bathurst weekend arrived and to the joy of Ford fans, Dick Johnson was able to upstage the GT-R in the top 10 shootout, putting down an incredible time in his Ford Sierra RS500 with Skaife following almost 2 seconds behind. On race day, the track was hit with severe weather (eventually resulting in 16 DNF’s), with Richards’ and Skaife’s four wheel drive GT-R benefitting from the inclement conditions.

In the early stages of the race, tragedy struck. New Zealander Denny Hulme lost his life after suffering a heart attack mid-race. Hulme’s car came to a rest on Conrod straight under seemingly innocuous circumstances, before he was then transferred to Bathurst Hospital where he passed away.

Racing resumed after a prolonged safety car period and as conditions worsened the majority of the field pit for wet tyres, however, the Nissan stayed out on slicks ensuring they were able to stretch their lead to a seemingly insurmountable one-lap lead. More and more cars found themselves in the wall as conditions continued to deteriorate, and eventually the stewards were left no option other than to red-flag the race. In the meantime, as Richards continued making his way around the circuit he damaged the front left wheel of the GTR, before losing traction out of forest elbow and winding up off the circuit with a score of other mangled cars.

The stewards were left with the unenviable task of declaring a race winner, eventually deciding to score the race as finished on the previously completed 143rd lap, resulting in race victory to Richards and Skaife. The result didn’t sit well with Holden and Ford fans, who booed and jeered the two as they stood on the podium. Richards’ response will go down in racing folklore; “I thought Australian race fans had a lot more to go than this, this is bloody disgraceful. I’ll keep racing, but I’ll tell you what, this will remain with me for a long time. You’re a pack of arseholes.”

While certainly creating a stir at the time, in hindsight it’s just one of many incredible moments that shape the history of the incredible racing spectacle that takes place at Mt Panorama each year.

Stay tuned as we continue to talk Bathurst in the lead up to this year’s great race. What do you remember about the 1992 Bathurst 1000? Do you agree with the steward’s decision? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Celebrity Supercars – Jay Kay

Throughout 2017 we’ve been taking a look at some of the most impressive celebrity supercar collections around the world; we’ve looked at Jay Leno, Rowan Atkinson, Nick Mason and Eric Bana among others. In this installment we will be taking a look at the lead singer of Jamiroquai; Jay Kay, and his incredible collection of ‘about 90-100’ classic, crazy and all round impressive cars. With a number of hit songs throughout the 90’s and 00’s Jay Kay’s fortune skyrocketed to a net worth of an estimated $70 million, and as many of us would do, he has spent a large portion of this on exotic cars. A Porsche 918, ENZO Ferrari, Maserati, A6G Ferrari F40, Rolls Royce Phantom and Bentley Continental have held real estate in Jay Kay’s garage; however the following four cars are the ones that most caught our eye.

 

 

‘Kermit the Frog Green’ LaFerrari

With only 500 examples worldwide, chances are that you’ve never seen a LaFerrari in the flesh, and if you had you could almost bet it would have been red in colour, maybe black or even white. But not one afraid of standing out in a crowd, Jay Kay decided to go with bright green. At first glance, the car is interesting to say the least! However, in all fairness the incredible Ferrari didn’t look too bad in 2014 when it made the trip to Goodwood. And while understandably this wouldn’t be the first choice of colour for most, it does seem to suit Jay Kay!

 

 

Aston Martin DB5

There aren’t too many cars that are as instantly recognisable as the Aston Martin DB5, which of course leapt to stardom off the back of the wildly successful James Bond film franchise. A tick over 1000 DB5’s were built and are said to be worth in the area of £2 million these days, little surprise that one of the UK’s most impressive car collections is home to one.

 

 

Lamborghini Miura P400SV

Featuring a 3.9 litre V12 and looks to die for, the Miura is widely considered one of the very first supercars. Capable of 0-60mph in just under 7 seconds, the Miura was fast by even today’s standards and with only 150 P400SV’s built it certainly ticks the exclusivity box. Making Jay Kay’s Miura even more unique was the lack of a driver’s side window, which shattered under the pressure of a door being closed with slightly too much force.

 

 

1965 Ferrari 330 GT Vignale Shooting Brake

This one of a kind Ferrari is one of the stranger cars that were ever in Jay Kay’s collection. What started as a 330 GT was commissioned to Fredo Vignale of Vignale Coachworks for modification to include shooting brake bodywork. This strange but impressive contraption has been a common sight at many car shows and even the odd short course hill climb over the last few years whilst under Jay Kay’s ownership. The 330 GT Vignale Shooting Brake was listed for sale by Jay Kay in 2015 for an undisclosed price, and if you have to ask for the price… well you know the rest.

Which of these cars is the most impressive to you? Do you know of any celebrity car collections we haven’t covered yet? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Dick Johnson and The Infamous Rock

Ford racing legend Dick Johnson was at the centre of one of motorsports greatest controversies in 1980. While leading the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 disaster struck when he encountered a rock on top of the mountain on lap 17, ruining both his car and any hopes he had of race victory. In this article we will recount the incident, the following outpouring of support from the general public and discuss just how the rock ended up on the track.

The 1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 started about as well as Johnson could have hoped. With main rival Peter Brock experiencing issues as a result of a collision with a back marker and going a lap down at the start of lap 17, the race was Johnson’s to lose. As any Australian motorsport fan would know, the mountain tends to strike in the strangest of ways, and only a matter of 30 seconds after putting Brock a lap down, Johnson experienced firsthand the ways of the mountain. After passing through the cutting, Johnson rounded the next right to be confronted with a tow truck on one side of the road, and a football sized rock on the other. With nowhere to go, Johnson hit the rock. The impact ripped the front wheel and suspension apart before sending the XD Falcon into the wall at high speed. At such an early stage of the race it’s hard to say it cost Johnson a certain victory, but with the lapped Brock going on to win the great race, it’s not too much of a stretch to say the race was Johnson’s to lose.

Later in the day Johnson was interviewed for TV, where he emotionally explained the incident, stating “I just couldn’t believe my bloody eyes. These galoots up there that just throw boulders... like it was enormous.” He went on to explain that to repair the car and have it back on track would cost him at least $40,000 and that until fences were installed around the track he wouldn’t be returning. The public responded with an outpouring of support, calling into the TV station to donate money towards the rebuilding of Johnson’s car. When all was said and done, $72,000 had been donated by the public, which was matched by Ford Australia leaving the grand total at $144,000. The amount reignited Johnson’s racing career, which still continues today as a key stakeholder in the DJR Team Penske Racing Team, which is currently dominating the 2017 Supercar Championship. Of course Johnson would return to the mountain, recording three wins in the great race, including the very next year in 1981.

But just how did that rock end up in the middle of the Mt Panorama racing circuit? Well the story goes that two hungover men had made their way to the side of the track to watch the racing after a big night on the cans. One of them was lying down with his head resting on one rock and his feet resting on another, using it to hold him in position on the steep bank above the track. While moving his feet, he dislodged the rock, sending it plummeting down the embankment. At this point the two men bolted and were never to be seen again and as for the rock… the rest is history. Johnson has since stated in interviews that he believes this story and even shares in the humour of the situation, having the rock on display in his office for the last 30 years.

What’s your favourite Bathurst memory? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.