A look at John Bowe’s On-Track achievements

Rare Spares Brand Ambassador and Australian Motorsport icon, John Bowe, was recently inducted into the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame, joining names such as Brock, Webber and Brabham on the illustrious list. Throughout his hugely successful career, Bowe’s resume stacks up against some of the greatest in the history of the sport. In this article, we’ll take a quick look back at a few of the highlights on Australian shores throughout his career (so far!). Back-to-Back Australian Drivers Championships In the mid 80’s Bowe went on a tear through the 1984 & 1985 Australian Drivers Championships behind the wheel of a Cosworth powered Ralt RT4, winning 9 of a possible 12 races across the two year span. The two championships really kickstarted a career that would result in him becoming the only person in history to win the Australian Drivers Championship, Australian Sports Car Championship and Australian Touring Car Championship. Bathurst victories with Dick Johnson Bowe joined forces with Dick Johnson to take victory on the mountain on two occasions. First in 1989 behind the wheel of the light switch powered Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, and the second occasion in 1994 in the Ford EB Falcon. The Sierra was so hit and miss that the DJR cars were almost guaranteed of victory provided they made it to the finish line. The duo qualified on pole and led almost every single lap around the mountain to earn Bowe’s first Bathurst victory. In 1994 the team came from 10th on the grid to victory after Johnson had a mishap during Saturday’s Top Ten Shootout – a very impressive performance! 1995 Australian Touring Car Championship The 1995 ATCC driver lineup reads as a ‘who’s who’ of Australia’s most talented racing drivers with names such as Brock, Seton, Perkins, Johnson, Skaife, Crompton and Richards gracing the starter’s flag each weekend. None were a match for Bowe and his Shell Racing DJR EF Falcon, who went on to win four events to win the title by an impressive 27 points over Glenn Seton at years end. 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour Victory In 2014 John Bowe joined forces with Craig Lowndes, Mika Salo and Peter Edwards to win what as at the time the fastest Bathurst 12 Hour yet. Behind the wheel of their Ferrari 458 GT3 the team completed 296 laps to beat out a number of highly touted local and international teams. The win came in Bowe’s 29th consecutive year racing at the famed circuit. What do you consider John Bowe’s greatest motorsport achievement? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

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.

The Final Holden built on Australian Shores

The final Holden built on Australian shores has rolled off the Elizabeth production line. On October 20 at 10:45am, the final four Australian built Holden’s were ‘officially’ completed with a red VFII SSV Redline Commodore the final to leave the facility. The Commodore, on black wheels with a manual transmission was the 7,687,675th Holden built and will be kept and used as a museum piece. The other cars down the production line on October 20 were the final Holden ute (SS), wagon (Calais) and ‘limousine’ (Caprice). With a 6.2 litre LS3 up front, the last SS will also go down as Holden’s fastest production model to date with 304kw and 570nm on offer (Not including HSV models). With accessories that include FE3 suspension, a sunroof and HUD, the final commodore is testament to the journey Australian built cars have come on over the last 7 decades. In terms of power, safety and usability the final Commodore (and Falcon for that matter) is hardly bettered in terms of ‘bang-for-buck’. After 69 years of manufacturing, Holden ceased manufacturing operations in October, leaving hundreds unemployed and bringing an end to a huge part of Australia’s manufacturing history. Employees were taken by bus to the Adelaide Oval for final knock-off drinks and treated to a show by the legendary Jimmy Barnes. The Elizabeth plant, in Northern Adelaide has been sold to an unidentified owner who will turn the facility into a business park. With this closure, we bid an official farewell to Australian automotive manufacturing and look back at the many classics produced on our shores. Stay tuned to the Rare Spares Blog where we will continue to take a look at the many classics produced on Australian shores. Do you have any Holden stories you would like to share? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.  

The Kia Stinger - a New Favourite?

The long awaited Kia Stinger has finally hit Australian roads over the past 6 weeks and we are getting our first look at how the Australian public is reacting to the Korean hatch/sedan which is being dubbed as a potential Commodore and Falcon replacement. While it’s by no means perfect, initial reviews of the range-topping Stinger GT have been overwhelmingly positive. The Stinger GT has to get a number of runs under its belt before it can truly be considered a car that will replace some of Australia’s most loved cars; but it has gotten off to a great start! The Good Straight off the bat, the appearance of the Stinger GT is great, and the latest and greatest in a line of Kia’s over the last 10 years that have progressively gotten better and better in terms of both appearance and performance. The sleek lines of the Stinger result in an exceptionally efficient aerodynamic package while large vents in the front and at all four corners serve to keep both the 3.3 litre twin-turbo’d engine and Brembo brakes cool. Packing 272kw and 510nm the GT has plenty of go, and will at least match, if not better 0-100 times of both the Commodore SS and XR6 Turbo Falcon of years past. The interior is neat, polished and will rival that of any in the sub $60K price bracket, with a ‘squared-off’ steering wheel and a sporty driving position contributing to the overall premium feel of the car. The 8 Speed Automatic Transmission is a truly impressive unit, taking like a duck to water to Australia’s driving conditions and contributing towards a ‘real-life’ fuel consumption of around 8L/100km on the open roads and around 11.5L/100km during normal city driving. The GT’s suspension has also received positive reviews, with a sports mode coping with all but the most spirited of driving while the comfort mode provides a compliant ride in more traditional driving scenarios. Overall, there is a lot to like about Kia’s new Halo car. The Not So Good One of the major reasons both the Commodore and Falcon were so popular for so many years was the ability to comfortably seat 5 adults, and a family holiday with 3 kids and the Caravan in tow was a walk in the park. Unless your name was Aaron Sandilands you probably weren’t going to be complaining of a lack of head room either. This is one area that the Stinger falls flat, as a result of the slightly smaller dimensions all round, the Stinger will not comfortably carry 5 adults, nor will it provide ample headroom for those of us north of 6-feet tall. Towing Capacity is at 1500kg while the down-ball rating is a meagre 75kgs, which means this will likely not be a suitable option for those with caravans, larger boats or anything particularly heavy that requires towing. Perhaps the most griped about disappointment is the sound coming out of the Stinger GT’s standard exhaust. The GT, with the standard exhaust is quiet, too quiet for a performance car. Fortunately Kia realised the issue and has fast-tracked an optional bi-modal exhaust which should be available before year end for $2659.99. Videos of the new exhaust system show a much throatier sounding note, more akin to that of typical sports cars. The Verdict The Stinger GT is a very good car which is sure to prove itself a hit with the Australian public, is it a like-for-like replacement for the departing Aussie classics? Not quite. While it ticks the RWD and performance boxes, it doesn’t quite match the Commodore and Falcon in terms of usability or ‘street-cred’. The Stinger GT however will be considered one of the best value for money sports sedans in the world, taking the fight to many higher credential offerings from its European rivals. What do you think of the new Kia Stinger GT? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

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.

The Camaro is coming to Australia!

With Holden’s manufacturing in Australia now wrapped up, our attention turns to HSV and what they have on the horizon now that the RWD V8 Commodore has gone the way of the Dodo bird. Well, although not yet 100% confirmed, the word doing the rounds in the automotive industry is that HSV will be importing and converting both the Chevrolet Camaro SS and Silverado to right hand drive for the Australian public. While the idea of a right hand drive Silverado somewhat excites us, it’s the 339kw Camaro SS that really gives us hope of an exciting future for HSV fans. In 2016, the long awaited arrival of the Ford Mustang came to fruition and left in its wake year-long waiting lists and a complete obliteration of all expected sales figures. For the first time in decades Holden and in turn HSV are facing the short term prospect of a car lineup without a V8 and quite frankly are being left in the dust by Ford and it’s pony car. With the above factors considered, GM execs and the Walkinshaw group have reportedly come to an agreement to import the Camaro and convert it to suit the Australian market in HSV’s Clayton factory. So, GM will bring the Camaro and take a decent chunk out of the Australian performance car sales market now dominated by the Mustang, right? Well not quite, while the cost of importing the car won’t be astronomical, unfortunately once you throw in the cost of the right hand drive conversion it’s expected the final sale price will be around the $90,000AUD mark, some $30,000 north of the Mustang GT. So, why bother you may be asking? Well it’s not all that straight forward; the Camaro will be marketed as a more exclusive alternative to the Mustang (only 1,000 per year will be built) while offering some serious power in the name of Chev’s 339kw LT1 V8 (33kw more than the GT). So who will be purchasing the Camaro? As much as the Ford v Holden rivalry has died down over recent years, there are still a huge number of people who would rather drive a 1997 Holden Barina than anything with a Ford badge… even if it is a Mustang. So now these people have an option, and quite a good looking, fast one at that. Word in the industry suggests the Camaro could be gracing showroom floors as early as 2018 and don’t stress, it will have Chevy badges gracing the grille, not Holden. How do you feel about the Camaro hitting Australian roads? Will you be trading in your Commodore for the aggressive coupe? Head over to the Rare Spare Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Ford Mustang – Australia’s new favourite?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably heard that Ford and Holden have or are in process of shutting down their Australian manufacturing operations. And you’ve probably also began to notice the abundance of new Mustang’s on Australian roads, leaving us with a big question. Can the Mustang replace the hole left in the market by the departure of cars such as the Falcon XR8 and Commodore SS? In this article we’ll discuss this issue and have a look at Ford’s new pony car. The Mustang is quite a different beast to the outgoing Aussie V8’s; firstly it’s a coupe, so it’s unlikely that you’re going to see a Mustang with three kids in the back and a caravan in tow. It does however stack up pretty well from a performance point of view, the outgoing (supercharged) XR8 packed 335kw and 570nm, the outgoing SS features 304kw and 570nm while the Mustang is right there with 306kw and 530nm. All three will take you from 0-100 in around 6 seconds with the XR8 the quickest of the bunch with its instant supercharged power separating it from the pack. The one area that is unlikely to be disputed is the sheer breathtaking appearance of the Mustang. In comparison, the 4 door Aussie sedans have nowhere near the presence on the road of the American coupe. The Mustang breaks the mould of cookie cutter international cars that err in favour of practicality over anything with the slightest amount of character. And at the end of the day that’s what the Australian public will miss the most about Australian built cars – the character. They may not have been the fastest, or the best built, but they offered a crazy amount of ‘bang-for-buck’ and won the hearts of countless men, women and children throughout the journey. In 2017, close to 10,000 Mustang’s will fly off the showroom floor, and if supply could keep up with demand that number would very likely be higher. It hasn’t all been rosy for the Mustang in Australia though, with namely a dodgy ANCAP safety rating scaring off many potential owners, while build quality issues continue to take the shine off what’s an otherwise very impressive package from Ford. None the less, with Ford’s move to an international friendly range of cars, the Mustang is here to stay and the Aussie public has taken to it like a fish to water. What are your thoughts on the new Ford Mustang? Is it the high powered replacement for Commodores and Falcons that the Australian public is itching for? Or is it a short-lived fad that will be gone just as quick as it came? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Five unusual HSV’s

Holden Special Vehicles has earned an iconic status in the Australian automotive landscape over the last 30 odd years and has manufactured some of the country’s most impressive and fastest sports cars. However, as with most manufactures, not every single model has been a hit with the public and some won’t go down in history as ‘special vehicles’. Time has not aged the below cars particularly well, but none the less in this article we will take a look at three HSV’s that were on the unusual side. HSV SV1800 Astra The Nissan Pulsar… ah Holden Astra, wait no the HSV SV1800 Astra will go down as one of the least inspiring and unsuccessful HSV’s to hit the showroom floor. Powering the SV1800 was the all-conquering 1.8 litre four Cylinder Holden Family II engine which produced a mind-warping 79kw and 151nm. HSV took the Pulsar, added HSV badges, a Walkinshaw-esque ‘wind tunnel designed’ body kits and a HSV build plate. Only 30 sedans and 35 hatchbacks were ever sold, with the remaining body kits winding up as a special option for the regular Holden Astra. HSV Jackaroo For the HSV Jackaroo, designers took the regular Holden Jackaroo added an uninspiring body kit, velour trim and badges… and that’s about it. Less than 100 of the off-roaders were built, so perhaps as with many other obscure, short-lived cars if you’re an owner you may be wondering if you’re sitting on a gold mine. Guess again. The HSV variant of the Jackaroo will likely net you somewhere in the region of $5-7K (very marginally more than the Holden variant). Off-roaders bemoan the lack of a V8 or a supercharger that would have undoubtedly ensured the Jackaroo lived up to the HSV reputation of being ‘special’.   HSV Challenger Chances are that you’ve probably never heard of the VN Challenger, only the most diehard HSV fans will remember the 50 ‘dolled-up’ Executive Commodore’s that were put together for the Holden dealer group in Canberra. Features included body coloured wheel covers and bumper bars, pin stripes, a HSV grille taken from the SV3800 and Challenger decals and the only colour option was ‘Alpine White’. While the Challenger itself is not particularly unusual, in fact if anything it’s far too ‘usual’ to be considered a ‘special vehicle’, it’s the reason behind its production which is strange. In the early 90’s, HSV produced a number of short run models to coincide with motoring events and other reasons they saw fit, including the Challenger as well as the DMG90, SVT-30, 8-plus and Plus-6, none of which quite reached the lofty heights of many HSV’s that followed. Have you owned any of the above HSV’s? Or maybe you have a story about one of the many other HSV’s that have hit showroom floors over the last three decades? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments 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.

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.