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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!

Jason Bright – A look at one of motorsports most familiar faces

Australian Motorsport has many characters and one of the most well-known names in the scene would be Jason Bright. Born in Moe in regional Victoria, Bright’s fondness for competitive racing started at a young age. Beginning his motor racing career in 1988, the then 15 year old Bright took the title of the Junior Club Championship in Gippsland. The fast learner went on to win the Senior Championship at the club a year later, showing that he was as eager as anyone to cut his teeth into the world of professional motorsport. Bright’s success in karting led to him competing in the Victorian Formula Ford Championship and then moved into the Australian category in 1993. After successfully winning the Australian Formula Ford Championship in 1995, Bright finished runner-up in the Australian Drivers Championship in 1996 however managed to snag two wins in the US Formula Ford 2000 in the same year and was awarded Rookie of the year. The progressive driver made his debut into V8 Supercars a year later at the fast and tight Symmons Planes Raceway. His on track performance was noticed and he was soon indoctrinated by Stone Brothers Racing after becoming a full time touring car driver. Bright promptly won the Bathurst Classic (one of his favourite personal achievements) in 1998 before departing Australia with his eyes set on a Champ/ Indy car racing title in 2000. After coming in sixth in the Indy Lights Series in America, Bright returned home and signed on with the Holden Racing Team in 2001, coming in third for the season. Bright later established Britek Motorsport in 2005 whilst driving for Ford Performance Racing and unfortunately experienced difficulty propelling the marque to success with limited placings in the V8 Supercar series. Although Bright joined his own team in 2007, the dissolution of Britek Motorsport eventually led to him joining the Brad Jones Racing (BJR) team in 2010. Since then, the competitive driver has managed to claim many podium finishes over the years as well as the memorable JR Trophy at Pukekohe in 2013. Bright is still racing for BJR in this season of the V8 Supercar series and it’s clear to see how he has become such a highly regarded competitor. “I’ll keep racing competitively as long as I continue to enjoy it; I’m not ready to hang up my helmet just yet!" Not short on racing experience, with a string of international and local victories under his belt, Rare Spares are proud to support such a talented motorsport veteran.  

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!