Keeping you up to date with all things Rare Spares.

Rare Spares

Rare Spares Blog

  • Join Us on Facebook!
  • Visit Us on YouTube!
  • Follow Us on Instagram!
  • Subcribe to Our RSS Feed

Reflecting on a Legend – The Story of the Rare Spares Ambassador

John Bowe is one of Australia’s most highly respected motorsport icons with an incredibly successful career that spans over four decades. The living legend carved his own path being the only driver in Australian motorsport history to win an incredible six National Championships in four categories. JB started his journey in 1971 debuting in Formula Vee and taking out the Tasmanian title at the early age of 16. Winning the Formula Ford crown a year later showed that the young gun had what it took and his motorsport journey began. JB’s career stepped up significantly in speed when he joined the ranks of the Formula 5000 category, breaking through in 1984 to claim his first Australian Drivers Championship and showed the ADC was no fluke, taking the title for a second time a year later.  Bowe received the coveted CAMS Gold Star in 1984 and 1985 and it propelled him into the sphere of the Touring Car world. He made his Touring Car debut in the Mark Petch Motorsport 240 Turbo during 1985, becoming a full time Volvo driver for the 1986 season. In 1987 JB took on the endurance season as co-driver to Glenn Seton with the Nissan Motorsport team. 1988 would prove pivotal for JB, joining the Dick Johnson Racing Team (DJR) in the nimble, high power turbo Ford Sierra RS500 starting his long term association with the blue oval. Racing in the Touring Car Championship and continuing victories with DJR, JB’s legendary status was beginning to take place. Fast forward a couple of years and the team landed their first Sandown 500 win. It wasn’t until shortly after in 1994 that JB and Dick Johnson held off five pursuing Holdens late in the race to take the win in one of the most intense Bathurst 1000’s ever, a moment that is still etched in every motorsport fanatic’s brain. With many successful moments, JB eventually left DJR in 1999, and after spending time with PAE Motorsport, went on to join Brad Jones Racing in 2002 and transformed the team soon after. His final season was in 2007 racing for Paul Cruickshank Racing. Upon retiring from full time racing, he had 213 Championship race starts, a record that still stands today. Completing 22 seasons with the level of success the JB had is feat that will never be forgotten. Bowe was inducted into the V8 Supercars hall of fame in 2009 for his incredible achievements in the sport. JB has continued his love affair with the world of motorsport, racing for various teams and working with Ford as their factory test driver. JB hasn’t shied away from the limelight with an impressive 80 Touring Car Masters races under his belt he has won three TCM titles in his own 1969 Ford Mustang “Sally” Trans Am, and his last in a Holden Torana SL/R 5000. “I wanted to drive something that was Australian, and honestly I’ve always had a soft spot for the Torana since I was a kid,” explained John. Although we have touched on a brief history of JB, we cannot go without mentioning his passion and enthusiasm for the world of motorsport, continually motivating newcomers and mentoring many current and future champions. “I am leaning more towards the historic scene nowadays, but honestly, I love motorsport and I will continue to be involved in one way or another for as long as I can,” mentioned John. JB’s love for the automotive world has never been a secret and we at Rare Spares are proud to have John Bowe as our Ambassador for the past ten years. “I am a car enthusiast through and through, and we all share a common bond, without Rare Spares, three quarters of Aussie classics on the road wouldn’t be on there,” he added. We are certain that the next ten years will be just as exciting and in the famous words of Mark Skaife “Bowe can drive anything”, and we are sure he will continue to do so for many years to come.  

Race HQ – Chasing glory in one of the most popular Holden’s ever built

The Holden HQ will forever be remembered as the most popular Holden ever built in Australia, with close to half a million rolling out of Holden factory’s between 1971-1974. The HQ is also debatably one of the best looking cars the company has ever made (yes we know there are plenty of others) and is one of the brands most versatile; available in sedan, wagon, panel van, and coupe variants. These vehicles were powered by various engines during production, from the humble 173ci six cylinder red motor all the way through to the cracking 350ci Chevrolet V8, there has always been something for everyone. The once commonplace car has now caught the eye of collectors, leading prices to climb, however there are still so many diehard fans of Holden’s popular platform that there is an entire race series dedicated to them! HQ Racing Australia has been around for over 25 years and offers affordable grassroots motorsport to anyone seeking cheap thrills. The series spans the entire country, with each state running their own events. When we think of racing, we commonly imagine high powered beasts that would blow the doors off a modern car, however this series has a kicker, the requirement to race is that the HQ Kingswood must be near stock and retain the factory fitted 202ci Red Motor and single barrel Stromberg carburettor mated to a 3 speed manual. Now that’s what we call a challenge. Due to the restrictions the racing is extremely close, which means that there is inevitably some panel damage occurring. This is probably why HQ parts were being swallowed up very quickly until remanufactured parts could be made - and we're glad we can help out here! However the HQ hasn’t been known to be a slug by any means, and all you have to do is look to the other end of the spectrum to see that some are still given the go fast treatment. The Touring Car Masters (TCM) is arguably Australia’s premier classic racing series, and always has a HQ or two in the mix. One of the most well-known would be Brett Youlden's lime green HQ Monaro. The car was originally purchased as a rusty shell, then restored and loaded with all the goodies you could imagine. The no expenses spared HQ features a heavily worked 350ci V8 with a Holley carburettor, comprehensive roll cage, Koni adjustable shocks and Alcon calipers. The car puts down a massive 630HP and 520 ft lbs of torque and if you’re keen enough, it’s currently for sale. The HQ has carved its way through Australian motoring history, and although it’s a regular show stopper at meets and car shows across the country, we can all sleep better at night knowing there is someone somewhere thrashing the absolute beans out of one!

Converting Classics

The Holden Monaro and the Ford Falcon have represented Australia’s finest domestically produced automotive muscle and for many decades they have been enduring icons of Australian lifestyle and manufacturing ability. However with such a strong connection to American car culture through the media and in particular movies, it was inevitable that U.S classic cars became the target for people looking for something unique. Aussie’s could never go to the dealership and purchase a Mustang (not until recently anyway!) or a pristine Camaro, Dodge, Pontiac, Chevrolet, or Plymouth, just to name a few. Maybe the fact they were so rare added to their mystique and perhaps what made them so desirable? Importation was possible, but there was a very large difference between Australian and U.S built cars. Americans drove on the left hand side of the road and Australian’s drove on the right hand side of the road. As a result, American cars were built as Left Hand Drive vehicles to suit the conditions, whereas Aussie cars were built to suit driving on the right hand side of the road. Early on, most Australian states determined that any LHD vehicles imported had to be converted to RHD. Where there is a will there is a way and although some may see it as sacrilege, conversion laws were written and those keen enough started to have a crack at conversions themselves. Enthusiasts had to go through the hard yards and get their hands dirty to find out what worked and what didn’t, but conversion specialists soon created an industry and were able to cater to those seeking to own an American classic by taking care of the entire process, at a cost. The conversion process has never been an easy task, generally including removing and changing the firewall, steering column, pedals, brake and clutch masters, wiring, lights, hand brake, wipers, seats, console, control leavers and gear selectors, just to name a few items. Fortunately for us, times have changed and so have the laws. For the majority of American classics, Australians won’t need to go to the lengths of carrying out a conversion as most can be legally driven in left hand drive, depending on their age and the state you live in. However, if you have had yours eyes on some later model vehicles you would be best to wait it out or start saving those pennies! To find out more about the regulations around conversions in your state, contact your local roads authority.

The Holden V8 Engine Rainbow

After covering the history and evolution of the humble 6 cylinder, it's time to look at the type of engine that established Holden as a performance heavyweight, and that’s their V8. These engines didn’t miss out on the brands trademark colour coding treatment and here we will dive into the variations and lineage of one of Australia’s most iconic engines. The first of Holden’s mighty V8s were given the go fast treatment from factory, starting with the colour. The rocket red engines began production in 1969 and were available in either a 253 (4.2L) or a 308 (5.0L) cubic inch format. Both of these variants made their way into some seriously special cars, including Holden’s entire classic Monaro line with the HK through to the HG featuring the iconic red V8. The HQ to HZ Statesman, HK to HZ Kingswood and both the LH and LX Torana’s also received the roaring red heart. The first ever commodore, the VB, was also given the red powerhouse option, igniting our countries love affair of affordable sedans with grunt. After the Monaro and Torana ceased production, the market was evolving and it was time for the engine to receive an overhaul in 1980. Improvements were signified by the new blue colouring with both the 253 and 308 engines receiving upgraded 12 port heads and double barrel carburettors. Although the bottom ends remained unaltered, the EGR ports on the heads were changed and the engines were fitted with electronic ignition. These engines featured in the final WB Statesman alongside the VC and VH commodore. The last of the old ‘colour’ series Holden motors were the Black variants, available in either a 302 (4.9L) or 308 (5.0L) cubic inch format. They featured in the VK Commodore and not a lot had changed in regards to design however the cylinder heads did receive improved gas flow and valve changes. Although the colour coding ceased, our countries affinity with the Aussie V8 did not. Public outcry led to the hugely popular “V8 till 98” campaign and saw Holden produce their iconic V8’s up until 1999, with the VT HSV GTS being the final hurrah. Even though Holden then chose to import the LS1 V8 engine from GM, it allowed us to keep the legendary Commodore and continue our proud motoring history.  

Wheelvolution

I know what you are thinking, what’s so special about the wheel right? The answer in short is…a lot! From the earliest wooden creations to the carbon and titanium built wonders we see today, the wheel has undergone numerous makeovers and has been responsible for driving modern civilization forward (no pun intended). Here we will look at a brief history of the humble wheel, and where it may be headed in the future. The old saying necessity breeds invention has rung true since the humble beginnings of humanity. The wheel is up there with electricity and flight as one of our greatest accomplishments. The wheel was necessitated by the fact humans were struggling to transport goods and build materials over long distances effectively. The first wheels were believed to have been created around 3500BC. It’s hard to imagine that back then people were getting around on solid stone Flintstone rims. The biggest advancement came around the time the axle was invented, allowing it to be placed inside the wheel thus allowing livestock, goods and people to be transported on a platform of sorts. Most commercial applications of the wheel began when it was in its simple wooden incarnation. This style of wheel was used for thousands of years, undergoing only slight alterations during that period. From a single solid piece of wood to carved and inserted spokes, the world was changing and so was one of its most important inventions. The biggest advancement since the wheels inception, took place in the 1870’s, when wire wheels and pneumatic tires were invented. The addition of air filled tires allowed an otherwise uncomfortably bumpy journey to become bearable and paved the way for today’s high tech offerings. The wheel really is something that we now all take for granted as we drive to work, have car parts delivered, or move huge materials and resources that assist our way of life. The history of the wheel has not finished being written, with many companies attempting to write the next chapter by developing ideas that are straight out of a science fiction movie. One example, patented by Michelin, the ‘Tweel’ is an airless wheel with flexible spokes. Although its commercial applications are limited, NASA has contracted the company to produce them for their next generation Lunar Rover. So the next time you head out to the garage and admire your ride, consider those wheels you run are the result of thousands of years of evolution and with the transportation of people, goods and anything else you can think of relying on the wheel, we say roll on the next century.  

HDT’s Forgotten Heros

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 NitronReleased 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 5000This 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

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

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

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

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.