VT Olympic Edition Commodore

“And the winner is....Syduhknee” And with those words in the early 1990s the Olympic games were heading to Australia for the first time in over forty years. They kickstarted a revamp of a tired section of Sydney, reinvigorated Little Athletics, and would give Australia’s own, Holden, a chance to showcase its home grown hero, the Commodore. In 1997 Holden released the VT Commodore. In a program that would ultimately cost around $600 million, Holden took the outgoing VR/VS sheetmetal  and revamped both exterior and interior. Taking Opel’s Omega B, a brand and car that Holden used previously for its Commodore designs, it was widened, strengthened, and given a substantial increase in electronics. Underneath was a work in progress for the IRS or Independent Rear Suspension and the front MacPherson struts. Both had changes that would contribute to a ride and handling package widely regarded as being far better overall than the previous model. The Commodore Executive was the door opener to the VT range, followed by Acclaim, S, SS, Berlina, and Calais. All models received a driver’s airbag, with a passenger airbag an option on the S and Executive. Safety items such as ABS were an option on the base model Executive, but standard on the rest of the range. Traction control was standard on the Acclaim and Calais. Power was courtesy of a 3.8L EcoTec V6, or Holden’s own 5.0L V8. At the time, the Series 1 V6 could also be specified with a supercharger as a factory fitted item. In 1999 the range had a slight update, dropping the supercharged V6 and slotting in the Chevrolet sourced 5.7L V8, which saw the end of Holden using its own 5.0L. The Olympic Edition was like most of the other limited edition cars made available from Holden.  Badges denoting it was part of the Sydney Olympics were fitted to base model cars, and bumpers were body coloured. Wheels were sourced from the higher spec Berlina, aircon was standard as were power windows, and the exhaust was given a chromed tip. Inside a bespoke Olympic Edition cloth was used for the seats and the key came with an Olympic Edition badge. Finally, a dash mounted plaque stated that these cars were of the 3500 cars supplied by Holden and used during the Olympics for official duties. Being little more than a cosmetically enhanced Series 2 VT means that prices for these are on par for the everyday version. But who knows, if you have one it may have been the car that had Cathy Freeman or Ian Thorpe as a passenger. Do you own one a VT Olympic Edition Commodore ? Tell us your story via our blog comments or drop us a line via our social media links. 

The Holden ECOmmodore

Holden has a history of quietly sneaking concept cars or forthcoming design changes into public view. Possibly its biggest hidden in plain sight concept of the last two decades was the ECOmmodore of 2000. Ostensibly a four door coupe version of the VT Commodore, it would eventually point the way towards the upcoming rebirth of the Monaro after showcasing a concept in 1998. But the real talking point was the engine package inside the swoopy body. Holden had joined the then burgeoning hybrid technology race, and in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, put forward a petrol and battery powered engine combination. The petrol side was a transversely mounted 2.0L four cylinder, replacing the 3.8L V6 normally found under the VT’s bonnet. An electric motor, complete with super-capacitors and lead-acid batteries, supplemented the four, with power rated as 50kW. The fuel tank was down to 45L yet the expected range was 800km thanks to a near halving of consumption. There was plenty of torque available for the hybrid with a total of 290Nm, but thanks to the electric motor, 100Nm was there on startup. The transmission was a five speed manual and, because of the east-west engine layout, fed that oomph to the front wheels, not the rear. Emissions were said to be 10% of the normal V6 engine yet performance would have been within cooee of the existing engine and auto transmission. The body was a slightly modified Monaro shell; not only were there four doors, it was fitted over the longer wheelbase wagon floorpan. Aluminium was used to replace sections of the steel floor, with other weight saving additions such as polycarbonate replacing the glass windows, strong but lightweight carbon fibre panels, and some fibreglass panels also. Good looking 18 inch alloys were bolted to the reduced weight suspension components, with rolling resistance lowered by fitting narrower than standard tyres at 165/55. All up, the modifications lowered drag from 0.32cd to 0.28cd. The ECOmmodore would star in the Sydney Olympics torch relay, leading the first 70km stretch from the heart of Australia, Uluru. Although never intended to be a production vehicle, costing showed that if it had been produced, it was at a $3000 premium over the VT at the time. Ahead of its time at the time, the ECOmmodore foreshadowed other marques developing four door coupe bodyshells, and even more, it was 18 years ahead of a tantalizing piece of “what if” with HSV revealing that plans to electrify the ZB Commodore were being investigated. The last known location of the ECOmmodore was inside The Powerhouse Museum. What’s your favourite Holden concept car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments sections below this article! 

Blast from the Past – The Supercars tracks of yesteryear

In two weeks’ time the 2017 Supercars season will reach fever pitch as the championship comes down to the wire at the brand new Newcastle street circuit. The Newcastle circuit is undoubtedly going to prove to be one of the more picturesque racing locations on the circuit and a worthy replacement for the at times dull Sydney Olympic Park race. The Olympic Park location isn’t the first track in Supercars history to make way for a new and improved location, in this article we’ll take a look at some of the rounds that are no longer on the Supercars calendar. Calder Park Calder was staple on the ATCC and V8 Supercars throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and along with Sandown was one of two championship races within a stone's throw of Melbourne CBD. The Supercars utilised the ‘road’ circuit at the facility, bypassing the iconic Thunderdome, a feature which many feel could have added to the variety of racing on the Supercars calendar and potentially lead to a NASCAR style duel format of racing. Unfortunately racing ceased at the venue after the 2001 event when the racing surface and facilities were deemed not up to scratch. The circuit was also the scene of one of the biggest touring car crashes in recent memory when a young Craig Lowndes and his VT commodore went cartwheeling down the front straight after making contact with Steven Richards and Garth Tander. Oran Park Another iconic Australian racing circuit, Oran Park played host to battles from Brock and Moffat through to Ambrose and Skaife before closing down in 2008 to make way for a housing estate. A favourite of many drivers, the short and narrow circuit included one of the only ‘over-under’ bridges in Australian racing. Now unrecognisable to the average racing punter, the only remaining indicator of racing ever taking place on the site is the motorsport related street names. Hamilton Street Circuit Running between 2008 and 2012, the Hamilton 400 took the place of Pukekohe on the Supercars calendar and provided a happy hunting ground for 6 time series champion Jamie Whincup, who took 2 of the 5 race victories at the venue. The racing itself at the track was interesting enough, however bubbling away behind the scenes was a massive debate within the Hamilton City council when it was discovered the event had been operating at a significant loss in its final 2 years. Subsequently the event was relocated back to Pukekohe where it remains today as the Auckland SuperSprint. Mallala Mallala Motorsport Park flew the South Australian flag in the ATCC right up until 1999 when it was replaced on the calendar by the incoming Clipsal 500, which itself was also filling the void left by the Adelaide iteration of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The track received mixed reviews from competitors with Dick Johnson openly criticizing the track’s lack of facilities and bumpy racing circuit; however such remarks were uncommon from Johnson who was renowned for being not much of a fan of any tracks outside of Queensland. On the other hand, Jim Richards suggested the tight track would even the competition up, ensuring close racing at a time when the RS5000 Sierra’s were dominating the competition. Racing at lower levels still takes place at the circuit; however with the passing of longtime owner Clem Smith earlier this year, the future of racing at the circuit is unclear. With a number of other circuits coming and going over the years including trips to Bahrain, Texas and local circuits such as Amaroo Park, Lakeside and the Canberra Street Circuit the Supercars championship has spread its wings far and wide, we’re just scratching the surface! Which former Supercars or ATCC circuit was your favourite? Which would you replace on the current calendar? Head over the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.