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 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.

Five Memorable Summernats Grand Champions

Summer is fast approaching and for many that means one thing; Summernats. Summernats plays host each year to Australia’s best show cars, street cars, burnout cars and more in a festival of cars, music and burnt rubber. Each year the elite entrants compete in a series of events to establish who is the year’s Grand Champion, with criteria stretched from the typical ‘car show’ presentation points to include a number of driving tests. A scroll through the list of previous Grand Champions is like a walk through one of the most impressive car museums you’ve ever seen, and in this article we’ll take a quick look back at some of our favourites.

Rob Beauchamp’s VL Commodore – Top Street Machine Overall at Summernats 1, 2 & 3

Rob’s Jaw dropping VL Commodore will be remembered as not only one of the meanest VL’s in the land, but as also a car that pushed the limits of the term ‘street machine’. Fitted with a Kinsler-injected 302 Chev at the time, the VL was a full blown drag car, capable of mid 10’s and barely suited to use on the street. It was the immaculate attention to details that won fans and judges alike to win the then named Top Street Machine overall at Summernats 1, 2 & 3.

Howard Astill’s Rock Solid 3 – Grand Champion at Summernats 4 & 5

Howard Astill’s XA Falcon went through a number of guises throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s before it was reborn as the gobsmacking Rock Solid 3. Featuring an ever-so-cool neon paintjob, Rock Solid 3 typified what the punters love about show cars – it was fast, loud and eye catching. The XA would dominate Summernats 4 & 5 before being parked to allow Astill to move on to the next of his many incredible builds. In recognition of his contribution to the show car scene, Astill was honoured as a Rare Spares Legend in 2009 – check out our blog from 2015 with Howard here.

Joe Lore’s BLOWJO XY Falcon – Grand Champion at Summernats 23

Everybody loves an XY, and you’ll struggle to find any better in the land than Joe Lore’s purple beast. Featuring a 351 Cleveland (stroked to 383cu) and a humungous blower, BLOWJO is an incredibly striking vehicle that ran away with victory at Summernats 23 in 2010. If you haven’t had the chance to see this XY up close yet, keep an eye out for the incredibly detailed airbrush work on the interior and underbody, this car is a true work of art.

Peter Fitzpatrick’s ’59 FC Holden – Grand Champion at Summernats 2

A six time Grand Champion winner, Peter Fitzpatrick is a name that stands without peer in the Summernats history books. At Summernats 24 Peter Fitzpatrick arrived with his ’59 FC Holden and swept all before him, taking out not only the coveted Grand Champion award, but also winning the People’s Champ and Top Judged awards, the first to do so in the history of Summernats. Peter Fitzpatrick is also a Rare Spares Legend, recognised in 2012 for his legendary contribution to the street machine community.

Mark ‘Happy’ Williams’ HQ One Tonner – Grand Champion at Summernats 30

The most recent Summernats Grand Champion winner, fan favourite Mark ‘Happy’ Williams and his HQ One Tonner was a popular winner with the huge Summernats 30 crowd. The Supercharged One tonner is a sight to behold and sounds incredible, becoming the first Western Australian built car to take out the Grand Champion sword at the 2017 event. An emotional victory for Williams, who lost his father only days before the event, in his memory the car’s license plates were changed from ‘2HAPPY’ to ‘4MYDAD’.

Which is your favourite Summernats Grand Champion? We would love to hear which car and why, so head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

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.