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Holden Heartbeat – Revisiting HRT

When it comes to Australian motorsport, there is no team more iconic than the Holden Racing Team. HRT is one of most successful teams in the previous V8 Supercar series and here we will take a look at some of the defining moments in the team’s long history. HRT was formed in 1990 out of the joint venture that began a few years earlier between Holden Special Vehicles and Tom Walkinshaw Racing. That year, the VL Commodore with its roaring V8 was pitted against a technology focused field which included the Ford Sierra and Nissans GT-R. Although the GT-R had been dominating the season, Mt Panorama provided one of the most memorable Bathurst 1000 races of the decade, with Allan Grice behind the wheel the team won against all odds laid the foundation for future success in the series. In 1994 Rickard Rydell was unable to compete in the Bathurst 1000 due to family matters back home in Sweden, so a young Formula Ford driver was chosen to take his place, that person was Craig Lowndes. Lowndes showed a stunned crowd that he had what it takes up against motorsport legend John Bowe and two years later become a full time driver for HRT, winning a huge amount of races and then going on to take home the crown in the 1998 and 1999 championships. It would be difficult to mention HRT without noting its most important figurehead, the legendary Peter Brock. Brocky was arguably Australia’s most successful motor racing driver and was somewhat of a Bathurst Legend and signed to the team in 1994. With a string of wins under his belt, the deal only solidified Peter Brocks dedication to Holden. Later on HRT began to enter their golden years with Mark Scaife behind the wheel of the imposing VX HRT 045. Skaife piloted the powerhouse to take two championship and Bathurst victories from 2001 to 2002 with Tony Longhurst and Jim Richards as co-driver. The partnership was a winner and in 2003 the car was converted to a VY under new Project Blueprint rules. Word is that Scaife loved the car so much, he still owns it! HRT defined motorsport in this country and was the home for many of Australia’s most well-known drivers. Although future of the team is up in the air, the name HRT will no longer continue after Holden decided to end their 26 year relationship in August of this year. Hopefully the team will evolve with the support of Walkinshaw Racing but this remains to be seen. After winning six drivers championships and Bathurst seven times, we are proud to have witnessed the passion and prowess of one of the country’s most important motorsport teams. What is your favourite moment in the long history of HRT? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments!

Restoration Renaissance – A tribute to Les McVeigh, his two retiring partners and a look at the past and future of Rare Spares

When it comes to keeping Aussie classics alive, there is no business that does it quite like Rare Spares. With a deeply rooted passion for all things automotive, the company has gone leaps and bounds to cover a variety of makes and models like no other. Rare Spares provides automotive enthusiasts across the country with the necessary life lines to keep their pride and joy running like a dream and looking greatThe company started from humble beginnings, supplying new and refurbished parts for 1948 - FJ series Holden’s. The business quickly grew from a residential basement to a variety of locations throughout Melbourne as a result of the increasing demand and popularity of their products. In 1986 the company expanded its offerings to also include Ford parts as well creating products that catered to OEM specifications and even developing an industrial rubber product range. Rare Spares was soon being distributed Australasia wide, the company had gone from being a small automotive parts manufacturer to an industrial powerhouse incorporating metal pressing, information technology, clips & fasteners as well as hose products.Rare Spares has proudly supported the Australian Automotive Aftermarket over the years, and when it comes to keeping our pride and joy on the roads, it wouldn’t be a long shot to suggest that anyone with a classic Australian car has relied on Rare Spares to provide them with some of the finest of details. Also catering to industrial sectors, Rare Spares has been a significant and crucial contributor to our automotive landscape as a whole.  But it would be difficult to discuss Rare Spares without mentioning one of its most important contributors, Managing Director Les McVeigh, who sadly passed away in early June of this year. Les was an instrumental part of Rare Spares, co-founding and growing the company over four decades to now becoming a multi-million dollar parts supplier for classic Ford’s and Holden’s, as well as other manufacturers. Not one to run a business solely with profit in mind, Les was an automotive enthusiast through and through. Since an early age Les enjoyed the hands on aspect of the scene which would explain his passion for creating important and even forgotten parts. At the age of 18 a young Les McVeigh purchased an FX (48 215) Holden from Dandenong that managed to travel 50 meters before blowing up. Not to be deterred, Les got the car home and got to work replacing the engine and has remained a Holden man from that time onwards. Les as well as the Rare Spares directors are first and foremost passionate car people, so their enthusiasm and dedication has translated into the long running support they have provided to the automotive restoration community for over 40 years.  Les had been a vital part to the key of Rare Spares success, but other long time partners have been vital to ensuring the businesses growth and variety of products.  Neal Videan, Director of Supply, is hanging up his boots after 36 years of contribution. When asked about his time at Rare Spares, Neal discussed how he played his part in bringing the company to life. “Working with the company has been incredible, there have been so many things I have had a hand in getting manufactured and brought to market, but still working for the company today to bring in profits and dealing with customers that I set up years ago.” A theme that is echoed throughout the company is the quality of the people who work for Rare Spares. “I truly enjoy the diversity of the people who work for the company, I think we have a real family feel within the organisation” When asked about the future of the company, Neal was excited for what is on the horizon. “We will be growing the base of industrial products customers, which includes contract manufacturing and I think there will be more and more demand parts for the traditional Rare Spares product lines. Even with the demise of Holden and Ford people will still want to do up the Aussie icons.” As Neal says goodbye to the company he helped build, he discussed what he plans to do in his spare time.  “I will have a few family duties to attend too but I actually have a soft spot for classic motorbikes. I usually play around with Vincent HRD’s.”  General Manager David Rayner also has also been fundamental to the growth of Rare Spares over the years.  “In the 36 years I’ve been with the company, it’s been incredibly interesting, enjoyable, often challenging but ultimately rewarding” When asked about the most exciting aspect of being involved with the company, David touched on the importance of Rare Spares within the automotive community. “It would have to be the end results of manufacturing a huge variety of componentry for the restoration market. That ultimately is what we do, making parts for motoring enthusiasts; it’s the most rewarding and exciting part of the business.” David also provided an insight into where he sees the company heading in the future. “As the cars get older, we will be making parts for newer cars, when they get 20-30 years old, we will be the ones keeping them on the roads. Of course we will continue to make parts for cars we traditionally made parts for as I can see the demand for these growing.” Whilst Rare Spares is expanding, David plans to slow things down a little once he leaves the company by focusing on travel and maintaining his fleet of cars which includes a 1960 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, Ford Granada and a Ford Zodiac among others. David Ryan, Director of Finance also provided some insight into the direction of the passionate company. “There is still a vast array of spare parts that need to be made, we haven’t backed off on our new product program, and we are now making parts of the size and complexity that we hadn’t even dreamed of five to ten years ago. As the model years roll on, more parts will be required, it’s an ever unfolding landscape and one we are truly excited to be involved in.” Lance Corby has been with the company for 36 years and now assumes the role of Managing Director. When asked about the future of the company Lance mentioned that Rare Spares will continue to grow despite the end of Australian vehicle manufacturing. “Rare Spares is a progressive company, we will continue to move forward with the times and fact motoring companies are moving manufacturing out of Australia doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. There is a great opportunity for Rare Spares here and we are going to look outside of the box, we don’t want to restrict ourselves to what we are doing today. We will try and move the company forward in any which way we can.” Melissa McVeigh, Director of Marketing and daughter of Les, shared her thoughts on the company’s legacy and direction. “We are all very excited and optimistic about what the future holds for Rare Spares.  Although we may have recently lost over 150 years of knowledge of those who are no longer with us be it in passing or retiring, their legacies, passions and drive live on in all of us.” Melissa also continued to mention how Rare Spares will continue to flourish as time goes on. “We now have a very dedicated, knowledgeable team at Rare Spares and we are all looking forward to the future in working together to continue to grow and overcome any challenges we may face with the changes in the Automotive Industry.” “We are passionate about what we do and the people we do it with. As a wise man once said to me, if you’re not making mistakes you’re not growing or learning, just don’t make them twice.” As Rare Spares continues to hone their focus on classic Ford and Holden parts, many new products are destined to hit the shelves, the future of Rare Spares continues to brighten as many of the common place cars we see today, become the classics of tomorrow. However it is clear to see that Rare Spares co-founder, Les McVeigh’s legacy will continue to positively impact everyone in the automotive scene for decades to come and with Australian manufacturing coming to a close, the next chapter for Rare Spares begins.  

That 70’s Show – Revisiting popular passenger cars of the 70’s

Back when Countdown was on TV and AC/DC rocked the airwaves, the Holden and Ford rivalry was spilling over from the 60’s and Japanese imports were becoming an increasingly popular choice. The 1970’s produced some of our most loved vehicles and here we will take a look at how the automotive landscape existed in this groovy era. Holden was the powerhouse against Ford and accounted for 1/3 of all car sales; even though this had slightly decreased since the 60’s, Ford’s accounted for almost a quarter of sales with Chrysler being the third most popular brand. Four door passenger vehicles were common place, but with the introduction of two door coupes, the sportier man’s option soon became the Monaro, Falcon or Charger. Later on in the decade Ford was closing the gap against Holden with notable models such as the Cortina, Capri and Escort, but it wasn’t until 1977 that Ford took the title from Holden as the country’s most popular automotive brand with just over 54,000 Falcons sold. Although Ford had taken the sales lead by the late 70’s Holden hit back with one of its most memorable and potentially most important cars in our motoring history, the humble Commodore. Even though Holden’s and Ford’s were selling big, up and coming Japanese brands Datsun and Toyota were facing off and slowly gaining a foothold in the Australian market. Toyota was the most popular Japanese brand with their sporty Celica and reliable Corolla until 1973 when Datsun’s 1200, 1600 and 180B models outsold Toyota’s. Although the Japanese brands sales figures didn’t come close to that of Holden or Ford’s, the early 1970’s proved that they were growing in popularity with 1 in 5 cars sold coming from the land of the rising sun. With such a vast automotive landscape, Australia in the 1970’s was a time of innovation and design and although both Holden and Ford are discontinuing production of their famed offerings, we at Rare Spares are proud to be able to support these models, new and old, for many years to come. What is your most memorable moment from the 70’s? Sitting in the back of your parent’s classic or purchasing your first car for a bargain price? Head over to the comments section on the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know!

Holden Heritage Collection – Driving Down Memory Lane

When it comes to cars, our passion generally extends beyond the vehicles themselves. Car parts, posters and memorabilia go hand in hand with automotive obsession, and when the Royal Australian Mint decided to produce a collection dedicated to one of Australia’s most loved brands, the team here at Rare Spares couldn’t have been more excited. The Holden Heritage Collection is a series of 12 coins celebrating some of Holden’s most memorable creations. Here we will take a look at some of our personal favourites. Starting with the 1948 FX Sedan. This car was the first to bear the Holden name, it did 0-60mph in 18.7 seconds and fuel consumption better than most cars today of 6.3L/100km. The FB Holden makes its appearance with its unique American styling cues and gorgeous wrap around front windscreen. This classic was also the first Holden to be exported in left hand drive form. Then there is the ever so popular EH Holden, with its classy looks and advanced red engine - this vehicle was produced between 1963 and 1965. We also love the HK Monaro, with its timeless muscle car looks and potent 327ci topping the range, this was a sports car designed, engineered and manufactured from right here in Australia. Another personal favourite of ours is without a doubt the LJ Torana GTR XU-1. This car was the cream of the crop with its 202 and was made famous after it claimed victory at Bathurst in 1972 with a young Peter Brock behind the wheel. The Holden Heritage Collection also features the FC, FE, FJ as well as the HQ Kingswood, HX Sandman and even the humble VC Commodore. The collection is comprised of uncirculated 50 cent coins, however the value of these are much more to an enthusiast and also comes with their own unique card describing the history and details of the vehicle. We know that most people who don’t have an automotive passion might scratch their heads trying to wonder how we could be excited about coins, but as classic car enthusiasts, we would have it any other way. Have you owned any of these iconic Holden’s yourself or managed to get your hands on these limited edition coins? Let us know and share some photos in the comments section of our Facebook page!  

Torana Triumph – The Holden of the Future

The Holden Torana is one of Australia’s most loved cars and with many still on the road today, it’s easy to see that they are just as popular as ever. With both the LC and LJ cementing their place in our proud motoring history, there was one model that almost defined it, the Torana GTR-X. The GTR-X was a product of the ambitious 1970’s Holden motor company who was out to produce a car that pushed the boundaries of automotive design. The future halo car’s styling was one that was influenced by iconic European sports cars of the time such as the Lotus Esprit and Maserati Khamsin. The GTR-X featured an incredibly sleek-wedged shaped fiberglass body and ran mechanical components from the LC GTR XU-1. The engine bay housed the 186 from the XU-1 complete with triple Stromberg carburettors and was mated to a 4 speed manual transmission and 3.36 rear axle. The car also featured pop-up headlights, elevated rear light assembly, flush mounted door handles and fuel filler. The design was finished with a black and orange strip that housed the infamous GTR-X name and ran along the bottom of the body sweeping up to meet its distinctive LC Torana inspired taillights. Weighing in at a feather weight 1043kgs, the stunning vehicle had the agility to match, recording a top speed of 210km/h during testing. The interior featured a wealth of instrumentation within the aluminium dashboard including electric clock, ammeter, speedo, and tachometer as well oil pressure, water temperature and even an engine vacuum gauge. Although the LX Torana, in race bred A9X from, was the first Holden fitted with four wheel disc brakes, the futuristic GTR-X almost claimed the title by a full 7 years. Unlike many concepts, Holden was genuinely serious about its production which they highlighted throughout brochures and promotional footage. Unfortunately due to unexpected production costs the car was never fully realised and only one complete example is in existence today. This prototype was restored back to its original white paint finish and currently resides at Holden’s Melbourne offices. There is rumour that the original pre-production body is undergoing restoration somewhere in the south east of Melbourne, but one can only wait patiently until it sees the light of day. With Holden creating some of the country’s finest cars, we can only imagine what could have been if this masterpiece was put into production. What did you think of the GTR-X when you first laid eyes on it? Futuristic flop or pinnacle of motoring excellence? Head over the Facebook page and let us know in the comments!

Reliving the glory days – A look at Group N Touring Cars

As motoring enthusiasts, most of us are fans of motorsport in one form or another, from the golden days at Mount Panorama to the modern high tech powerhouses we see in the V8 Supercars, we really can’t get enough motorsport action. Fortunately for those of us who are fans of classic metal we have the thrilling Touring Car Masters series on offer as well as many grass roots events. However there is another class that really holds its own in the world of competitive racing and that is Group N Touring Cars. For those unaccustomed to the old school racing category, it was introduced in 1981 and originally only cars manufactured prior to 1965 were eligible. Vehicles requirements stated that only saloons with seating for four passengers could be entered and mechanical modifications were allowed as long as they replicated those which would have existed to the prior to 1965. The class was a runaway success and due to its popularity, the eligibility criteria changed in 1995 to include cars built up until the end of December 1972, allowing a larger and more varied array of vehicles to compete. Today the group features three distinct sub categories. Group Na is suitable for cars that were commercially available in Australia prior to the end 1957 and includes timeless classics such as the Morris Oxford, Jaguar Mk 1 and the Austin A30. Group Nb is a broader class that includes vehicles that were built and cemented a competition history either overseas or on home soil, as long as the make and model was homologated by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile). These cars could be manufactured up until December 31st 1964 and includes pioneering vehicles such as EH Holden, XM Falcon and the nimble Mk1 Mini Cooper S. Group Nc is only for touring cars that competed in Australia between the start of 1965 until the end of 1972. These classics must have competed in the Australian Touring Car championship or the third category for Group C in Improved Touring Cars. This is the most popular Group N category due to its accessibility and includes many iconic cars such as the 1967 Camaro, Holden XU1 LJ Torana, XY Falcon and Valiant Charger as well as a long list of others. Group N racing is for those who want to relieve the golden days of motor racing and with these classic cars, although a handful at times, the experience can be incredibly rewarding. With the modern world moving ahead and advancing vehicle technology, many will always have a soft spot for these vintage rides and we are thankful that there are so many racing series which celebrate and promote classic car culture. Here at Rare Spares, we love keeping your old classic alive by supplying a broad range of parts and panels to keep your pride and joy running perfectly. If you have fond memories of the series, or have even entered yourself, head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and share it in the comments!

Prevention and Preservation - Safeguarding Your Classic

There is just something about old cars that makes them special, the sound, the simplicity, the nostalgia, but there are a couple things we don’t like to discuss. Their temperamental nature and expensive running costs are all second to biggest destroyer of classic metal, rust. It’s a harsh reality when it comes to owning a classic car but back in the day, automotive manufactures were focused on design and never really stopped to think how their cars will fare 30 years down the track. Most left the factory with minimal safeguards against the elements but over time, paints and finishes have improved to become more resilient to our climate, so the condition of these classic cars today was largely left in the hands of previous owners. Appropriately nicknamed “Cancer” due to its ability to spread rapidly throughout a vehicle, the sight of rust can be disheartening at first. Generally speaking you could be up for big bucks if you are lacking metal fabrication skills or aren’t on good terms with a fabricator. The process usually involves stripping the car back to bare metal and hitting it with a sand blaster, a time consuming and frighteningly expensive process. Lucky for us Rare Spares takes pride in offering replacement sections from panels to fenders and even rails and sub frames, without these god send parts, you would probably have to take out a bank loan to get things up to scratch. So once you have sorted out the rust (or made a smart purchase) it is time to make sure it doesn’t come back. Some choose not to but we think it is a good idea to prevent the rust from gaining a foothold again. Everyone has their own personal method of prevention which generally includes Fish Oil, Cavity Wax or Lanox, all we can advise is to make sure you treat the right places. We suggesting hitting the door sills, inner guards, wheel wells, cavities, anywhere water can collect, it can rust.  Nowadays cars are coated from factory to prevent rust, but modern cars still miss the classic feel and charm of a vintage masterpiece. If you have carried out a big repair job or have your own rust prevention secret, head over the comments section of the Rare Spares page let us know!  

Off the beaten path – A look at some of Australia’s best driving roads

We are all privileged to call Australia home, with world class scenery right at our door step and summer just around the corner, it’s a great time to get our pride and joy ready for some amazing road trips. Here is a list of some of Australia’s best driving roads and what makes them so special. Great Ocean Road – Victoria   Covering 243km of some of the country’s most breathtaking coastline, the winding road passes through lush rainforests, over limestone cliffs and alongside a number of offshore inlets and blowholes. Originally built as a memorial to those who fought in World War I, the coastal marvel is home to a number of tourist attractions such as The Twelve Apostles and the London Bridge. Although the speed limit has been lowered over time, it still doesn’t make it any less breathtaking. 99 Bends – Tasmania With a stretch of road known by locals as the 99 Bends, you’d be able to bet that it is one hell of a drive. The sections of winding road are a fleeting example of what Victoria’s closest neighbour has on offer. Smooth freshly paved tarmac glides through some of Tassie’s best mountain ranges making the route a true test of skill and bravery. The stretch of road is also a favourite among drivers or the Targa Tasmania, but whether you have a high performance street machine or a classic cruiser, this road never fails to impress. Macquarie Pass - New South Wales Deep within one of New South Wales many national parks, hides an extraordinary 8km road that has many stories to tell. With an abundance of narrow roads, tight hairpins, steep roadways and limited visibility, the stretch is notorious for accidents, but when driven with caution, the technical and testing road is incredibly rewarding. Black Spur Drive - Victoria A favorite spot among car enthusiasts and motorcyclists alike, Black Spur Drive is one of Victoria’s many unique offerings. The towering Eucalyptus trees and a sea of flora and fauna, makes the backdrop one of a kind. The road twists and turns over 30km between Healesville and Narbethong and features many hairpin turns and short punchy straights. Although two thirds of the Black Spur was burnt in the Black Saturday firestorm, the road is still just as beautiful as it is challenging. Think we’ve missed a couple or have a few secret spots of your own? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and share your favourite piece of asphalt in the comments!

The Rotary Holden – When Cultures Collide

Many of us have fond memories of the old HJ Holden. Whether it was the humble sedan, the handy wagon, useful ute or even the mighty Monaro, these cars are a staple of our automotive history. Featuring a base 173c straight six up to a 308ci V8, these cars were quite a performer at the time, but there is another tale to the humble Holden that lived a very different life overseas. Japan is known for its automotive quirks and out of the box designs, but in 1975 there was a prestige car taking place. Mazda needed a flagship sedan that was large, comfortable and would appeal the luxury vehicle market. Having made ties with General Motors, our HJ Premier was soon exported to the land of the rising sun to fill their missing segment. Exporting cars and re badging them is nothing new and has been done for many years, but Mazda didn’t want to skip on adding it’s most well-known feature to the luxury sedan, a factory fitted wankel rotary engine. The 13b has featured in many of the brands cars over the years but its most unique use would undeniably be in the Holden HJ. Known as the Mazda Road Pacer, the rebadged (and re-engined) HJ (and later HX) Premier and most were destined for use by Japanese Diplomats and high ranking government officials. The car offered many ultra-luxurious features that no one knew they wanted such as a central locking system that automatically activated over 10km/h, a chime system that activated at 90 km/h, duel air conditioning, a mini fridge in the boot a dictation systems and stereo that could be controlled from both the front and rear seats. The short lived unicorn was made over the span of two years and with only 840 produced and with Japans snowing winter conditions, not many have expected to last to the current day, making the car as rare as hen’s teeth. The strangest thing is that some die hard Mazda/ and Holden fans have imported a handful of these cars back to Australia. So if you see one of Holden’s classic icons sporting a pair of quirky fender mirrors, just know that the owner hasn’t miss-matched two classic car cultures and probably has a story to tell about his Road Pacer.

Reborn Wrecks – Creating a Masterpiece

When it comes to cars we often picture ourselves cruising down long winding roads or working away in the shed, getting our pride and joy running just right. But sometimes that’s just not enough to satisfy our automotive obsession. Most of us are just big kids at heart and now we have the tools to turn those left over spares sitting at the back of the shed into something special. Some may frown because these parts could be used to restore other classics, but these cars can be beyond repair and it could be their last chance before they are sent to china and turned into a fridge. Many creative individuals have spent countless hours and money on turning forgotten or discarded parts and sections into some of the most original furniture and decretive items. Buying a wreck can be cheap as chips and if you have some fabrication skills and a little bit of creativity on your side, there is no limit to what you can do. For those who couldn’t see themselves carving up a piece of classic metal, Rare Spares provides a plethora of reproduction panels so you can sleep easier at night. Pool at the pub is fun, but how about having your favourite American classic converted into a pool table? Carpool Tables in the US turns out these wonders starting at a cool $10,000 US, but we think it might be more fun making it yourself!     Who doesn’t love BBQ? The only thing we could think that would make it better is being able to stare at your favourite classic whilst cooking away. Take this incredible HDT Torana for example, our personal favourite and definitely a good way to forget the salad.     It’s not an uncommon sight to see old Chevrolets rear cuts turned into bench seats at American Diners, especially considering their size and comfort from factory! Man Cave’s all over the country are hiding some of the wildest and most unique creations. If you or someone you know has created a unique piece of automotive art, feel free to post it in the comments section on our Facebook page!