HDT’s Forgotten Heros

23. May 2016 11:50 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

Australia has had a lot to offer the world over the years: Vegemite, Fosters, Paul Hogan and perhaps the most iconic of them all, the Holden Commodore. Holden’s hero has seen many revisions since its creation in 1978 as advancements in technology, emissions and safety standards continually drove innovation and improvement. Of course we love the comfort and build quality of the modern, well refined models but there is something nostalgic about the wild styling and brutish performance from Holden’s glory days.

The Holden dealer team or HDT began producing vehicle enhancements after a string of motorsport successes in 1980. Here we will take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of HDT’s finest offerings that have flown under the radar and in some cases have been forgotten.
                                                                                                
VL Nitron
Released in 1986, the Nitron package was essentially a limited edition VL Commodore sold from select regional Victorian dealerships. The ‘Brigade Red’ painted car was offered with both a naturally aspirated and a turbo charged engine, sports suspension, a full body kit, HDT Aero wheels and interestingly enough, fitted with Peter Brocks controversial energy polarizer. The number of Nitrons produced is a mystery; however some suggest it to be under 150, making these cars incredibly rare. So rare in fact that most of us didn’t even know it existed!

VL LE
Whilst Peter Brock was riding the wave of super stardom, there was little that he didn’t put his name to. The VL LE was a luxury cross performance sedan that featured a number of Brock enhancements, including a Brock interior, Brock premium sound system and you guessed it, an energy polarizer. The car was a hit, with many high-end features as standard and the option of a naturally aspirated six, a turbocharged edition and a V8. It’s easy to see why models such as this made the VL a household name.

VK LM 5000
This edition of the Commodore was a temporary model that was released before the main VK series and commemorated HDT competing in Le Mans. The car was released with only a V8 option available, making them popular within the muscle car crowd and although the extras offered were limited, buyers could get an optional Borg Warner transmission and Scheel seats. The VK LM took the title of the most ‘Australian’ car ever built with the model featuring an Aussie flag and Brocky’s signature as standard.

VH Australian Dealer Pack
Once the VC commodore ended, HDT dealers were after the next high performance alternative. The result was the Australian Dealer Pack or ADP, and gave the common Commodore a degree of exclusivity. With any HDT offering at the time, all signs pointed to V8, with either a 4.2 or 5L option available. Those who wanted a little more above the deluxe FM/AM radio and larger fuel tank were treated to VC style flares, Stratos seats and 16 inch wheels, a wild option back in the day.

HDT established itself over the years as the go to company for Holden fans looking at an up spec’d machine and even today their magic is being applied to newer commodores, like the ‘Blue Meanie’. But with the Commodore soon to be extinct, you can expect these quirky cars to start fetching big figures at auction, so if you have been thinking of buying back your teenage hero, you better start saving!

 

Round Australia Trials

16. May 2016 10:05 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Back in 1953 a remarkable race took place in the remote and unforgiving Aussie outback. It featured some of the world’s first mass produced vehicles taking on searing heat, river crossings, dry deserts and back country bush tracks.

The original 1953 REDeX Round Australia Trial was the second longest trial event ever staged in the world at the time. It was immensely popular with more than two thousand people scrambling to be involved and almost every news outlet in the country reporting on it. Many of the roads linking Australia back then were in such poor condition that automotive manufacturers used it as an opportunity to prove that their cars could stand up to the harshest of conditions.

The cars were allowed to be modified, with elements such as springs, clutch and tyres all taking top priority but the regulations stated that engines had to remain as they were from factory. Under-carriage clearance and overall durability were important as many of the so called roads were nothing more than two wheeled tracks, divided by grass up to four feet high.

Some of Australia’s pioneering motorsport icons took place in the event over the years including Eddie Perkins in a Volkswagen Beetle, Harry Firth in Ford Cortina GT and the one and only Peter Brock in a Holden VB Commodore. Other cars to feature in the golden years of the Trials were Peugeot 203's, Citroen’s, Ford Customline’s, Jaguars and even a couple of Fiat’s.

Although there were almost 15 of these events spanning over five decades the majority took place in the 1950’s. Today an event of this scale would require a well-equipped 4WD and a wealth of mechanical knowledge, but back then 4WD’s hadn’t even appeared on the market. Nowadays these old school beauties are driven on warm sunny days and freshly paved roads, but next time you see one, remember that they might not be as fragile as you think.

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.