Motoring Myths- The Brock Polarizer

19. April 2016 10:25 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

The year was 1987. Motorsport legend Peter Brock had been closely linked with Holden since 1969. Little did anyone know back then that this amazingly successful collaboration was about to come to an abrupt halt.

Peter Brock and John Harvey formed HDT Special Vehicles in 1980. Cars would come straight off the Holden assembly line and be delivered to the HDT SV work shop in Port Melbourne. Brocky and his team would go to work giving it the master’s touch, improving the Holden with aesthetic and performance modifications, before delivering the souped up cars to the dealers.

Then along came the Brock developed Holden VL HDT Director and things started to get rocky. As far back as 1985, Brock and his friend, Dr Eric Dowker had been developing and testing a mysterious new accessory for the VL Director known as the DB Polarizer.

Mounted in the engine bay on the passenger side and costing an additional $480 at the time, Brock described the Polarizer as a “high-technology energy device which creates a 'polarized' or 'ordered' molecular arrangement as distinct from the normal 'random' structure. This alters the behaviour and characteristics of material and components in the vehicle."

Somewhat confused and perplexed, Holden got their hands on one, took a look inside and found crystals, magnets, tin foil, and epoxy resin. They even sent a Polarizer to Detroit for analysis. Disagreeing with PB, Holden felt the device had no technical merit, issuing the following statement in November 1986: “HMC does not approve or accept any responsibility for the fitment to Holden vehicles of the attachment described as an Energy Polarizer.”

Against the wishes of Holden, Brock pursued the fitment of the Polarizer and released it anyway in Feb 1987. Not long after the product’s announcement, GMH terminated its relationship with HDT Special Vehicles. Five days later, John Harvey and Alan Moffat also walked away from HDT.

Only 173 of the 500 VL Brock Commodores were equipped with the controversial device and only 12 of the ill-fated HDT Directors were produced. In spite of or because of, these “Polarizer” equipped rarities have become extremely collectable.

Holden meanwhile had moved on swiftly, partnering that same year with Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) from the UK to create Holden Special Vehicles (HSV).

It’s hard to imagine that a small plastic box would come between such a successful business partnership. Still, HSV went on to achieve great things after this messy affair. As for Peter Brock, he is held in such high esteem amongst Australian motorsport fans that it would take a lot more than the DB Energy Polarizer to tarnish the legend of one the most respected and iconic drivers of all time.

Future Collectables

11. April 2016 10:11 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

Australia’s classic car market is thriving with the usual suspects grabbing the attention and attracting the big dollars. But what about tomorrow’s classics? What will be the next Ford Falcon GT-HO Phase III, the next Torana A9X? Who knows, but we’ve come up with just some possibilities. Will we be right? Only time will tell. Time to get out the crystal ball.

In no particular order and starting with a car that needs no introduction and whose forefathers are already very collectable; the Third generation Holden Monaro from 2001 to 2005. And within the range specifically: the CV8-R; CV8-Z; GTO; GTS and Coupe 4. Now these, it could be argued have already reached classic status. They, like some others on the list have certainly become very collectable, attracting prices many times more than what they originally sold for.

From Ford in 1999 to 2002, the FTE (Ford Tickford Experience) TS 50 and TE 50 AU Falcons. With three hand built engines available, from the 5.0 litre 200kw and the 5.0 litre 220kw to the 5.6 litre 250kw, these already exclusive beasts will be even more so in the future. These were also the last models to use the iconic Windsor engine which had been used in Falcons since the late 1960s, increasing the likelihood of future classic status.

Back to Holden, this time with the HDT VE Commodores. Anything from HDT is the bee’s knees and the VE is what would be in our garage, quietly waiting for this already very collectable and much sought after car to enter classic status.

The Ford Falcon GT-P from 2002 to 2006 also makes the list. This upmarket GT cost around $70k when new and they can be snapped up for under $20k now. That would bring tears to the eyes if you had bought it new and sure, the price might keep heading that way. Or it might not.

With possibly the most awesome moniker ever to grace a car anywhere is the Ford FPV F6 Typhoon, built between 2004 and 2008. Winning Motor magazine's Australian Performance Car of the Year award in 2006, you can also pick one up for less than $20k. A bargain, just like many of the current classics that depreciated after leaving the showroom only to eventually become more collectable and valuable as time went on.

Dash board evolution

4. April 2016 10:47 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Did you ever go to car shows as a kid to see the latest and greatest the motoring world had to offer? I bet the first thing you did, after savouring the exterior lines of your favourite marque, was to stick your head inside and marvel at all the amazing things the R and D department had come up with. Dashboard buttons, gauges and gizmos that you could look forward to playing with one day. Dashboards back then had come a long way from the ‘old days’, and have come a lot further since.

In fact, the very first dashboards weren’t even used on cars, but were used on horse carriages to stop the driver being splashed by mud that had been ‘dashed up’ by the horses and consisted of little more than a board of wood. Instrumentation layouts and ergonomics certainly weren’t a consideration in the earliest days of motoring. Layouts for even the basics like brakes, accelerators and gear shifters hadn’t even been standardised, let alone the dashboards. Fast wasn’t a concept back then so speedometers weren’t needed. What about a fuel gauge? Use a dip stick my friend.

As the technology dragged itself out of the primordial swamp, cars got faster because engines got bigger, better and more advanced. Information about things like speed and RPM became necessary. So too did information on things like oil pressure and voltage. Early warning signs of an engine’s impending doom are always helpful. With the basics taken care of, attention could be given to convenience items such as fuel gauges and clocks.

Analogue gauges ruled the roost, all the way through from the 30s to the 70s until the digital era in the mid-seventies with the introduction of the futuristic but prohibitively expensive Aston Martin Lagonda. However, the industry never really embraced this new technology which was in its infancy and instead elected to keep analogue displays until something better came along.

Meanwhile, advances in creature comforts like climate control, trip computers and sound systems meant stuffing more and more gadgets and buttons into a finite space. Something had to change, not only from a dash point of view and how basic information was presented, but also how it would integrate with everything else, not to mention the new kids on the block; phones and navigation systems.

Enter BMW’s iDrive in the early noughties. Effectively a round knob in the centre console, it was the car’s ‘nerve centre’, controlling everything from power modes, navigation, sound and phone settings. The display was still in the conventional dash position but to navigate through its maze of menu selections was tedious. Although it was an improvement, it still was a long way from perfect.

The current trend for dashboards and their layout utilizing customizable touchscreen technology seems to be the best of all worlds. Dials have been replaced with a virtual cluster of digitized information that the driver can change. Want to see a map of where you’re going instead of the temperature of the engine? Just swipe your finger. Innovative company Tesla are at the cutting edge of dash design and this can be seen with their incorporation of a single 17 inch touch screen that virtually takes care of everything; car modes, navigation, entertainment, communication, the lot.

Add HUD (Head Up Display) technology derived from the world of military aviation, and new cars will look more at home on the set of Star Wars than driving down the road. Exciting stuff, but just imagine what the future will bring.

Holden Engine Blocks: All the Colours of the Rainbow

29. March 2016 12:22 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Pop the bonnet of a six cylinder Holden between the years of 1948 and 1986 and you will notice, amongst many other changes over the years, a change in the colour of the engine block itself. This wasn’t because Holden wanted to pop down to the local hardware store to take advantage of a paint sale. With every change of colour came a change to the engine. Some were significant changes, some weren’t.

The first colour used for the first engines produced was grey, just like a Grandfather. Known as the Grey motor, it was built between 1948 and 1962. During that period, the Buick based block changed very little. This is significant because effectively with the Grey motor, it was one colour for one block. In the production period following the Grey, it was many colours for one block.

Starting out as a 132 cubic inch (2.1 litre) on the 48-215, or Holden FX, between 1948 and 1953, it remained unchanged through to the FJ Series (1953-1956) and FE Series (1956-1958) until the FC Series (1958-1960). Come 1960 and the start of the Holden FB’s, the 132 leapt to a mighty 138 and stayed this way through to the EK (1961-1962) and finally to the end of the Grey series with the EJ in 1963.

By this stage, the development of the Grey had run its course and it was time for an engine that was entirely new. Enter the mighty Red motor. Produced between 1963 and 1980, this was a game changer. Powering the EH Series onwards, it initially came in two variants: the 149 cubic inch (2.4 litre) 100 BHP version and the 179 cubic inch (2.9 litre), putting out 115 BHP. The Red also came in 161 and 173 cubic inch versions.

A host of changes occurred throughout the Red motor including displacement changes up to 3.3 litres, better known as the 202. It was used in a host of models. These included: the EH, HD and HR Standard, Special and Premier Models between 1963 and 1968; the HK, HT, HG, HQ, HJ, HX, and HZ Belmont, Kingswood and Premier Models between 1968 and 1980; the legendary LC, LJ, LH, LX and UC Toranas between 1969 and 1979; the CF Bedford between 1971 and 1979 and finally, the VB Commodore between 1978 and 1980….phew!

The next colour motor to hit Aussie roads was the Blue motor. Unlike the change from Grey to Red, which was an entirely different engine, the Blue series was more of a refinement of the Red and included: changing from a nine port head to a twelve point head, the addition of a fully counterweighted crank and stronger con-rods. Released as 2.8 and 3.3 litre, it was used in the WB’s (1980-1985) along with the VC (1980-1981) and VH (1981-1984) Commodores.

The final instalment of Holden’s programme of coloured engines for its six cylinders (Holden’s V8s were also painted in different colours but that’s for another day) ended with the Black. Introduced in 1984’s VK Commodore, it ran until 1986. Changes from the Blue to the Black included modifications to the ports and valves, however the most significant change to the 3.3 litre power plant was the introduction of an EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) version, the manifold and rocker cover of which was actually painted red.

Sadly, due to emission control requirements, in 1986 the VL Commodore’s home grown six cylinder donk was replaced with the Nissan RB30 and RB20E engines from Japan. They say all good things must come to an end, however Holden’s coloured series of engines is yet another fascinating example of the Australian car industry.

History of the Phillip Island Race Track

12. February 2016 14:25 by Rare Spares in General  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

A couple of hours South East of Melbourne lies the quaint little tourist destination of Phillip Island. Popular with locals and city slickers alike, it’s known for its fishing, surfing, and relaxed way of life and of course, it’s Penguin Parade. But if you’re into motorsport, then you’ll love the ‘Island’ for an entirely different reason. And that’s because Phillip Island is home to one of the best and most exciting race circuits on the planet.

Racing on Phillip Island actually began in 1927 in the form of a 200 mile road race for motorcycles. The following year, the ‘100 Miles Road Race’ for cars was run, which would eventually become known as a little race called the Australian Grand Prix. However, back then it was simply a rectangular circuit utilising public roads with a length of 10 kilometres for cars and 16 kilometres for motorcycles. Then in 1935, the racing suddenly stopped for a while.

It was the vision of Bernard Denham to build a dedicated motor racing complex and Winston Maguire’s job to make it happen, so in 1951 the two men along with four other local businessmen met to get the ball rolling.

The actual design of the track was by Melbourne Consulting Engineer Alan Brown who based it on the Zandvoort Circuit in Holland, which in turn was designed by John Hugenholtz, widely regarded as “one of the finest racing circuit designers in the world”.

The first ‘event’ took place in 1954 when a member’s only rally got the chance to drive around the unsealed circuit. On the 15th of December 1956, the first actual race was run on the sealed circuit in front of a lack lustre crowd, with several car clubs each contributing to the running of the event. The winner of that historic race was Lex Davison. That day also saw the soon to be great Jack Brabham compete in the main race, but also sadly saw the track’s first fatality.

The first Armstrong 500 was run between 1960 and 1962. After the 1962 race, the track was so badly damaged, the race moved to Mount Panorama which of course morphed into the now famous Bathurst 1000. Unfortunately, funds weren’t available to repair the track at Phillip Island which forced it to close. Then in 1964, Businessman Len Lukey (now you know where Lukey Heights comes from) bought the track for £13,000.

1967 saw it reopen with the Phillip Island 500K endurance race. Rounds of the Australian Manufactures’ Championship and Australian Touring Car Championship were run during the 1970s, but due to escalating maintenance requirements, the complex eventually closed once more and was run as a farm.

Then in 1984, it was sold again for $800,000 to an investment group which poured a huge amount of money into the infrastructure of the entire complex. In 1988, the final round of the Swann Insurance International Series for motorcycles was run, ushering in a new dawn and era for the track. The following year, the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix was awarded to Phillip Island. The ‘Island’ was once again back on the international map. The AMGP ran again the next year but moved to Eastern Creek in 1991. 1997 saw the old girl get her revenge though as the series returned to Phillip Island and has been there ever since.

1990 also saw the Superbike World Championship move from Oran Raceway near Sydney to Phillip Island, where it remains.

Four wheels also returned to the island in a big way in 1990 with the Australian Touring Car Championship for the first time in thirteen years. Although the ATCC missed the next two years, it returned again in 1993 and stayed until 2004, although by now the series was rebranded to what we know and love as V8 Supercars. From 2005 to 2007, it went on to host the Grand Finale, the final round of the V8 Supercars season.

It was around this time in 2004 that the ‘For Sale’ sign went up again for the now world famous race track. Always knowing a good thing when he sees it, billionaire Lindsay Fox’s Linfox Property Group bought it for an unknown amount in 2006.

The four wheelers remained in the form of a 500 kilometre race between 2008 and 2011 known as the L&H 500. The Sandown 500 was replaced by the Phillip Island 500 as the annual V8 Supercar 500 kilometre race, which was later reinstated in 2012. Since then it has hosted the Phillip Island Super Sprint.

All great champions have their ups and downs. Indeed, it’s in the face of adversity that the qualities of a true champion emerge. The great Muhammad Ali once said “Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” If you could apply this to race tracks, Phillip Island would definitely be a world champion.