Rare Spares Holden Torana GTR-X Concept Car

Holden has a very strong history when it comes to designing and engineering concept cars. Of recent years there’s the immaculate Efijy, and the reborn Monaro. Both two door cars, interestingly enough, as two other concept cars were also two doors. There’s the Hurricane, and the Torana GTR-X.

The latter came oh so close to being put into production, and the chassis itself was based on the LC Torana XU-1. The low slung, fibreglass bodied, slinky looking, machine even had the same engine, the then potent 186S.

Exterior design was eye catching, with a long bonnet that started with a flat, shovel-like nose, pop up headlights, a steeply raked windscreen, and a sharp tail with hockey stick tail lights. These were design elements that were later seen in two of Italy’s best from Ferrari and Maserati.

Inside the cabin featured laid back bucket seats, milled aluminuim sheeting, a plethora of gauges for oil temp and pressure and the like, and a short throw gear selector for the four speed manual.

That was connected to the straight six which produced 119kW and 265Nm. They’re hardly groundbreaking numbers now but for a car built in 1970 that weighed under 1050kg, they provided more than enough punch. Unique at the time were the disc brakes to be found at each corner.

It’s unclear exactly how many versions were built; some say three, some say four, but it’s known that just one example of what could have been an inspirational car survives. Holden has a museum at its Melbourne based headquarters, where the sole survivor lives in cosseted luxury.

Why wasn’t it ever sold? The population of Australia in 1970 was just over twelve million and Holden’s numbers indicated that wasn’t enough to justify what would potentially be a low volume seller. Considering how well received the Datsun 240Z was when it was released just a year before, and how it’s perceived still after nearly fifty years, one could say this was a somewhat shortsighted view.

Have you seen the Holden Torana GTR-X? What do you think of the car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

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!

David Ryan’s FX Holden Build

In this week’s Rare Spares Blog we will be taking a look at a project car close to the heart of Rare Spares Director David Ryan. It would be fair to say that David has an affinity with old Holdens, more specifically 1950’s FX’s and FJ’s, having owned numerous of the early Aussie classics and having raced them across the country and overseas!

David has recently been able to purchase back one of his old Variety Club Bash cars, and has an ambitious plan laid out for it to be completely restored by Christmas 2018 for a special occasion – his granddaughter Chloe’s wedding! The 1953 FX in question has had anything but an easy life, let’s take a look!

In 1953, David’s father, uncle and a mate decided to take part in the REDeX  Around Australia Reliability Trial using a black 1953 FX Holden taken from the fleet of the family taxi service and used for the event.

Upon its return it was reinstated to the rank to serve out its days once again as a cab.


 

In 1986, David, and some mates decided to take part in the famed Variety Club Bash event using an EH Holden setup specifically for offroad racing. Officials deemed the car was too fast and not suitable for this sort of event, hence a more suitable replica of the original FX was decided to be built for their next foray into the Bash the following year.

The work undertaken to build the replica FX was completed by David and his mates utilising the converted bus depot that was at that stage the premises of the fledgling Rare Spares organization.  David’s father was kept in the dark on the build until the time of unveiling, when one day he drew back the garage doors to unveil the pristine replica of his beloved REDEx machine.


 

 

In 1990, the FX was sold and David was left to focus on his many other ongoing projects. These included competing in the 1993 London to Sydney Marathon in a HK Monaro, taking an Aussie 1946 Chev ute street rod to the US and a trip to Mexico to compete in the 2013 La Carrera Panamericana, a 3200km open road event, racing a 1954 FJ! You can read about this incredible restoration and event here

Over the past decade David was in regular if not frequent contact with the owner asking if the FX would ever be available to buy back. The once loved car was languishing in a suburban backyard, dying a slow and rusty death, with the new owner unwilling at that time to part with it..

Fast forward to early 2018, David was searching through some online early Holden forums where low and behold, his FX was listed as possibly coming up for sale! A quick phone call was made to the owner to re-express his interest.

 

 

After a week or two of negotiating back and forth, the car is now back in David’s hands and plans are well underway for a complete restoration to be finished by December for Chloe’s wedding. With an abundance of options for her wedding car, one would think Chloe would go for something a little more luxurious. However, with the FX once again back in the hands of her grandfather, there was only one car Chloe had in mind!

The car is now in Adelaide where it is being paint stripped and rust treated, this is due to be completed by mid next week. From there extensive rust repair will be undertaken before being baked, primed and painted by a good friend. The seats will be re-trimmed in their original colour (red) all while a full mechanical refurbishment will be undertaken. The 132ci grey motor, 3 speed transmission, differential and suspension will all be rebuilt to stock specifications.

We will be paying close attention to the FX Holden build, so stay tuned for further updates as 2018 progresses!

What are your memories of the early 1950s Holden’s? Did you or someone you know own one? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comment section below!

A Look at Australia’s best Hillclimbs

Hill climbs are about as old as five minutes after the first time a bloke strapped on a horse, saw a slope, and thought “my nag can get up that”. Then the car came along and nothing changed except the bit the human was attached to.

What’s a hillclimb? Hillclimb is a speed event, where one car and driver runs over a defined uphill winding course, from a standing start, against the clock.  In competition, cars are classified into categories so as to have cars of like potential performance competing against each other.

Australia has a pretty strong history when it comes to hillclimb events and although there’s a few roads around that would be great as a hillclimb, such as Brown Mountain near Bega, there’s other, more established, runs around the country.

 

New South Wales

It should go without saying that perhaps the Mt Panorama racetrack is also home to hillclimbing. Run in reverse direction (clockwise) to traditional motorsport when heading up towards The Esses (750m), or normal direction using Mountain Straight (1300m), it’s an opportunity for competitors to hillclimb Australia’s best known racing circuit.

 

Queensland

Perhaps the best known hillclimb track in the north eastern corner of Australia is the Mount Cotton site. Owned and operated by the MG Car Club of Queensland it’s been in operation since 1968. A 50th anniversary run was held on the 18th of February and featured legendary Australian racing driver Dick Johnson unveiling a commemorative plaque.

 

Victoria

There’s a number of hillclimbs to choose from here, with hillclimbvic.com.au a great place to visit to find out more. Bryant Park, in Yallourn, just north-west of Traralgon, is run by the Gippsland Car Club. It’s a tight, twisty, 1300 metre long track and has hosted the Australian Hillclimb Championship three times. The Rob Roy Hillclimb in Christmas Hills is another spectacular burst through the hills. Now owned by the MG Car Club of Victoria, Rob Roy was the host of the very first Australian Hillclimb Championship way back in 1938!

 

Western Australia

North of Perth is the former Wanneroo Park Raceway, now known as Barbagallo Raceway. It’s home to the 1350m Jack’s Hill Hillclimb and is run by the Vintage Sports Car Club of W.A. 2017 saw Marcel Every race his Formula Toyota to a time of 50.01 seconds, in a car that he bought from third place getter, the appropriately named Ray Ferrari. Although not the tallest of climbs the amount of turns make this a challenging piece of road.

 

South Australia

There’s the Barossa Valley in South Australia, famed for its wine and there’s the Collingrove Hillclimb track. Located approximately sixty kilometers north west, of Adelaide in Angaston, Collingrove has been running since 1952 and is owned and operated by the Sporting Car Club of South Australia.

Drivers such as Norm Beechey have competed here. There’s nine turns along the shortish 750 metres of tarmac, yet rises an amazing 70 metres, The quickest time was set in 2014 by Brett Hayward, with a mere 25.15 seconds under the tyres.

Collingrove hosted the Australian Hillclimb Championship in 2017.

 

Tasmania

The North West Car Club hosts the Barrington Hillclimb. Complete with 31 bends over a 2.3 kilometre distance it’s a relatively new entry to the hillclimb runs for Australia.

Have you ever competed in a hillclimb event? We’d love to see the cars you’ve competed in! Upload a photo of your hillclimbing weapon into the comments section below this blog on the Rare Spares Facebook Page.

Adelaide 500 recap

The 2018 Clipsal 500 is the season opener for the category now known as Supercars. This year's event was history making on four fronts: seeing the Audi Sport LMS R8 cars race in Australia for the first time; the debut run for the new SuperUtes category; the first major event for Holden in 2018 after ceasing manufacturing in 2017; and the debut of the Opel sourced ZB Commodore in a trim never to be seen on Aussie roads.

 

It's the twentieth time that Adelaide has hosted the opening round and the street circuit, renowned for its ability to bite any driver that blinks, didn't fail to do so again.

 

The program is always full at the Clipsal, with the headline act backed by a solid group of support categories including Improved Production cars, Carrera Cup,  Stadium Trucks, the Dunlop Super 2 series (formerly known as the Development Series), and the Touring Car Masters.

 

New to Australia were the Audis. There's a strong competition base in this category and they joined the Australian racing scene for the first time after successful seasons in the South East Asian region.

 

But it was eyes on the ZB Commodore as the new bodyshape hit the track for the first time on Friday. Fourteen of the ZB shapes ventured out and, as expected, it was Jamie Whincup in the Red Bull team that topped the timing chart first up.

 

However Whincup would also be the first in the Commodores to hit the walls in the notoriously fickle street circuit and necessitating some frantic behind the scenes repair work overnight. Qualifying had Kiwi gun Shane van Gisbergen top qualifying and he'd go on to win the weekend's races.

 

The Commodore itself has seen much debate, has divided purists and general punters, and with a non V8 powertrain and FWD/AWD inside its hatchback styled body in the road-going versions, further, in many opinions, takes Supercars away from its production based roots.

 

The Stadium Super Trucks have proved to be a crowd pleaser since they commenced racing in Australia, with the 2018 season seeing a famous Australian name in the charts. Brabham. Matthew Brabham.

 

Proving that petrol runs deep in his veins, Brabham would close out the weekend with a first and two thirds. The weekend was not without incident for the high flying machines, with one driver hitting a wall just before the finish line after a collision with another driver. Somehow the vehicle made it across the line in a cloud of smoke sans a rear wheel.

 

As always, the Touring Car Masters, or TCM, put on a show and Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe didn't hold back in his racing efforts. JB qualified third in the Wilson Security/PAYCE Holden Torana SL/R before setting the fastest lap in race one, but traffic early in the race had the Torana fall to mid field.

 

Race 2 was a better effort, with Bowe finishing second, and just three tenths behind Steven Johnson, son of his old racing partner, Dick. JB also managed to set the faster race time than Johnson and closed to within a tenth of the fastest ever race lap for the TCM at Adelaide, set by one John Bowe in 2017 at 1.29.28.

 

The Torana continued its form in Saturday's third race, taking the checkered flag a full half second ahead of Johnson in his Mustang, and again knocked on the door of the outright race record. Sunday's fourth and final race for the TCM category saw Johnson failing to finish, but Bowe avoided any entanglements to take out the race, winning the weekend, and seeing just two one hundredths of a second needed to break his own race record, setting a 1.29.30.

 

As a Rare Spares ambassador, John Bowe is an ideal fit for the Touring Car Masters as well, as Rare Spares have parts and panels for the kinds of cars that race in this spectator friendly category. You can find out more about Rare Spares at www.rarespares.net.au

 

Were you at the Clipsal 500? What did you think? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.