Aussie Motorsport Classic: The Channel 9 Camaro

October 3, 1982. Reid Park, Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Lap 27. Kevin Bartlett. Camaro. A time, location and car that are forever etched into Australian motorsport history.

KB is up with the leaders in the famous Bathurst 1000 when one of a batch of fourteen wheels the team had bought for the Camaro fails. It’s the rear left. Instantly, the tyre deflates, pitching the Channel 9 branded car’s rear into the concrete safety wall. The left front bounces off as the nose swings around and it’s just on a right hand curve on an uphill run.

Unsettled, there’s momentum enough to cause the Camaro to roll over to the right, landing on its roof. The car skids to the other side of the track and quickly a trackside official is there to assist a shaken Bartlett out of the inverted Camaro. He’s ok, points at the clearly ruined wheel and tyre, and walks into the crowd.

In context, it was a miracle that Bartlett and the Channel 9 sponsored car were in the race at all. In practice just a couple of days before, co-driver Colin Bond was at the wheel when a ball joint nut on the front left wishbone came adrift. The front left suspension collapsed and flung the corner into the wall. The location? Almost exactly where the wheel would fail two days later.

As KB says: “it was a miracle that my crew and the TAFE smash repair team had it back together in time for qualifying.” However, there’s more to the story in getting the car on track in the first place.

Bartlett bought the car, a brand new 1978 built machine, from an American dealership and imported the car into Australia. The intent was to race it in what was then the Group C regulations. Once the car landed, Bartlett says, a lot of work was needed to get the car down to the weight as stipulated. The leaf spring suspension was replaced with fibreglass units, super strong Kevlar for the front guards and spoilers, but CAMS insisted that the car use drum brakes at the rear, instead of the optional disc brakes.

In case you’re wondering why the car looks different to a 1978 model, it’s because CAMS also said the car had to run with bodywork from the ’74 to ’77 models. Bartlett still shakes his head in disbelief. But there was a hidden benefit as it turned out. The earlier bumpers were aluminium, not steel…

Is the Channel 9 Camaro your favourite Aussie Motorsport classic? Or maybe you're a GTHO or Torana sort of person? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us about your favourite cars to hit the Australian motorsport scene!

Volkswagen Beetle – The Peoples Car

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most instantly recognisable cars in the history of automotive manufacturing, and just as interesting as the silhouette of the iconic bug is the story behind its concept. In this article we will take a quick look at the history of the Beetle and delve into its Australian connection throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

The origins of the Volkswagen Beetle date back to the early 1930’s when a Fuhrer by the name of Adolf Hitler proclaimed that the automobile, an at the time luxury afforded to only the very rich, should be available to the masses. Hitler specified that the ideal vehicle must be suitable for carrying 2 adults and 3 children at 100 km/h, while consuming no more than 7 litres of fuel every 100 km. Tasked with creating a vehicle to service the needs of the masses was tasked to Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche set about designing and building three prototypes, branded only ‘Volkswagen’ (“The Peoples Car”), the very round, bug-like appearance of the car ensured it was colloquially referred to as the Beetle.

Throughout WW2, Porsche developed a number of military spec Beetles that served as the first to leave his Wolfburg factory. With it’s now distinctive rear-mounted air cooled engine, the military spec vehicles were near on indestructible and were even designed to float for a short period of time in case of emergency!

By 1945 production was in full swing and the first customer vehicles were spreading throughout the streets of Europe. Armed with a 19kw flat four engine, the early Beetles proved a massive hit with the public and at a price of only 990 Reichsmark, which was similar to the price of a small motorcycle; the Bug was a genuine option for almost all families.

Fast forward 8 years and importation of the Beetle commenced into Australia, with assembly of the Peoples Car commencing in Melbourne by 1954. Throughout the 60’s locally manufactured parts and panels were being utilised in Melbourne built Beetles, with work being undertaken at the now HSV owned Clayton manufacturing plant. As we’ve become all too familiar with in recent times, sales of the Beetle eventually began to decline and in 1976 all Australian Volkswagen manufacturing efforts were ceased and the workshop was sold to Nissan Australia.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the first major re-design of the beetle took place and a look at the current Beetle finds a significantly different car to what was established way back in the 1930’s. The engine has been moved to the more traditional front mounted layout while power figures have increased with range topping models featuring in the area of 150kw. The unmistakable shape is still present and although not everybody’s cup of tea serves as one of very few modern cars that pay homage to their historical ancestors.

Do you own an early model Volkswagen Beetle? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comments section below.

5 of the Best Australian TV Car Commercials

Australia has been home to many fantastic car ads over the years, with manufacturers pushing to appeal to our unique mannerisms and sense of humour. In this post, we look at 5 of the best car commercials that have hit Australian’s TV screens over the years.

Subaru Outback – Made For Australiana - 2015

This clever Subaru Outback ad, which was based on the original Australiana skit written by Billy Birmingham, received extremely positive reviews when it hit screens in 2015. The narrator expertly twists the pronunciation of Aussie towns, animals and phrases to piece together a 90 second clip outlining an epic Subaru Outback road trip. The ad has received well over 2 million views on YouTube, cementing it as one of the most popular Australian Car ads in history.

 

Football, Meat pies, Kangaroos, Holden Cars - 1970’s

This 1970’s Holden ad is arguably Australia’s most iconic car ad. To this day, the tune is still familiar to anyone whose ears have been graced with the chant of: “Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars”. The aim of the ad was to entrench Holden Cars as a brand that was to be associated with all things universally considered Australian. Featuring clips of iconic Australian locations such as the Sydney Opera House intertwined with shots of the era’s Holden cars; this ad is an interesting look back at Australia in the 70’s.

 

Honda HR-V - Dream Run - 2015

The Honda HRV ad titled “Dream Run” is one of the most well produced Australian car ads of the last 5 years; featuring everything from a transformer like HR-V to a talking dog. This ad takes viewers inside the lucid dreams of main character ‘Brian’, who at every step is being told to ‘wake up’. Fortunately for Brian, magically a Honda HR-V appears and he’s able to get away from everything and everyone who’s trying to end his incredible adventure. “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics serves as the perfect backing track to this weird and wacky ad.

 

Toyota Hilux – Baby Come Back - 2011

Tragedy strikes in this 2011 ad when a man’s Hilux roles off a cliff and into the ocean below. The incident results in the character slipping into a deep depression, as he’s unable to cope with the loss of his beloved Ute. As the grief proves too much and the man walks alone along the beach at the scene of the accident, he is amazed to stumble across his washed up Hilux. Unbelievably, the Hilux is unscathed and starts without issue. This ad was well received as it not only gave a funny portrayal of the ‘tough-ness’ of Toyota’s Hilux, it didn’t take itself too seriously, which is a trait many of the target audience could associate with.

 

Holden Ute - Thunderstruck - 2001

Although maybe not as creative or cutting edge as some of the others on this list, this ad succeeded in capturing the dreams of many of the car’s target market. The ad portrays a SS Ute cutting loose in a deserted field, resulting in a huge tornado and storm. With AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” playing in the background, this ad was successful in outlining that the SS was a car not to be messed with. Interestingly, this ad was produced pre-hoon laws, at a time when many manufactures were pushing the limits of what was allowed to be shown in TV ads.

What is your favourite Australian TV car commercial? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know below in the comments section.

Falcon Favourite - John Bowes Favourite Falcon Racer

When it comes to motorsport icons, it’s hard to look past John Bowe. With a successful career that spans over four decades and the only driver in Australian motorsport history to win an incredible six National Championships in four categories, JB has forged his own path and his own legacy. Although Bowe is known to steer anything with four wheels, he has been affiliated with the blue oval for some time and here we will take a look at the man’s favourite Falcon as Australia bids farewell to the iconic model.

It’s no secret that JB has been behind the wheel of many memorable Fords over the years. Who can forget the incredible Shell Sierra RS500 or the iconic AU and BA Falcons, the aussie hero has even been known to pilot classic frames such as a vintage mustang in the TCM Series. With so many amazing cars, you’d be surprised to know which one stole JB’s heart, the EBII that he drove to victory at Bathurst in 1994. Holding off five pursuing Holden’s late in the race, JB and Dick Johnson thrilled onlookers to take the win in one of the most intense Bathurst 1000’s ever, a moment that is still etched in every motorsport fans memory.

At the end of 1994 the car was converted to EF specifications with a different roof, front guards and boot among other things being added. Soon after, the vehicle claimed another win in the 1995 V8 Supercar Championship. It’s no surprise that JB’s favourite Falcon racer is the one he has had such a positive success from. The car itself was originally built by Jimmy Stone at DJR, with every part meticulously planned to extract maximum performance and drivability.

Although there was somewhat of a raining success, the Falcon faced tragedy when it was involved in a crash in 1996 at Phillip Island Circuit, bouncing around on its tail, roof, nose and finally into the wall at the Hayshed after a collision with Craig Lowndes. With the crash taking place at 235km/h Bowe was lucky to walk away, however the iconic Falcon met its maker in race car heaven.

With so many stories to tell, both on the track and off, it is sad to say farewell to one of the blue ovals most beloved offerings. However with such a great community and availability of spare parts, we know that the falcon will live on for many years to come.

What is your favourite Falcon? Make sure to head over the comments section of the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments.

The Lost Playgrounds – Revisiting Forgotten Race Tracks

The world of motorsport is the driving force behind many of our automotive passions, from Brocky conquering the mountain to drivers trying to be the fastest down the strip, the automotive landscape we know and love was built on the many scenes that exist within it. Unfortunately as time moves on and budgets deplete, these once famed automotive playgrounds turn to nothing more than bare concrete overrun by the earth underneath claiming back its territory. Here we will take a look at some of the forgotten racetracks that time has forgotten. 

Catalina Park – Australia (pictured above)

Starting on home turf, “The Gully” was a 2.1 km circuit which opened on February 12 in 1961 and was originally the home of top level motorsport during the 1960s. The mountainous location featured amazing scenery however it was prone to fog which regularly caused delays to races. The track was incredibly narrow by today’s standards and was surrounded by walls, railings and hillside. The tracks use decreased with the opening of other circuits closer to Sydney such as Oran Park and Amaroo Park and closed at the start of the 2000.  

Fuji Speedway NASCAR Track – Japan (pictured above)

Once upon a time this was Japans most famed tracks. Fuji Speedway NASCAR Track was built in the 1960’s to serve as Japans first official Formula 1 Grand Prix track, however it didn't take long before it began changing hands rapidly. First it was designated as a NASCAR track, and then it sold to Mitsubishi and later become Toyota’s property. With its high speed banked corners, Fuji Speedway NASCAR Track was abandoned after it was decided to be too dangerous for modern motorsport.

 

Valencia GP Circuit - Spain (pictured above)

Although this marvellous track may be one of the most recently built, it has still suffered a similar fate to those before it, with financial misfortune the cause of its demise The Valencia GP track was built in 2007 and was used as an official F1 GP track but failure to negotiate a deal with the F1, the owners soon abandoned the track in 2015.

When it comes to places to test your machine, there are plenty of well-known and exciting locations. However we feel that some of the super circuits, if only given a chance, could come back more exciting than when they left. 

What is your favourite racing track? Which ones do you have the fondest memories of? Make sure to head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page to let us know!