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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.

Historic Cars Shine During 25th Targa Tasmania

Tasmania is known for its vast and striking landscape and has a population of only a little over half a million people. But once a year this peaceful and serene state is given a loud and roaring voice. The Targa Tasmania is known internationally for having some of the greatest tight and technical roads in the world, all set within the luscious Tasmanian countryside. A wide variety of vehicles populate the event, from high tech Supercars to modern performance warriors. However there is no category that has the intrigue and respect that the Classic and Vintage classes bring to the competition. The three classes, Vintage, Classic and the prestigious Classic GT, feature some of the motoring world’s most desirable cars from years gone by. This year’s line-up featured some of Europe’s best including the 1960 Aston Martin DB4 driven by Paul Freestone that placed third overall in the Classic Category, behind Peter Ullrich’s 1963 Jensen V8 and the class winner’s, Leigh Achterbergand Greg Fitzgerald, 1984 Porsche 944. A notable mention was the humble Ford Falcon XE driven by Charlie Hughes, showing that a once common passenger car could hold it with the big players, managing to finish fourth. The Classic GT class was dominated by brands from the land of the rising sun, with Jon Siddins 1970 Datsun 240z (affectionately known as the “The Dirty Rotten Datsun”) taking out first place. It was a 1985 Mazda RX–7 driven by Barry Faux coming home second. The saving grace for the European vehicle establishment was the beautiful British 1981 Triumph TR7 V8, driven by Cameron Wearing, finishing in a solid third place for the event. There were enough Torana’s, Monaro’s and Falcon’s to keep any suburban hero happy and with cars like the Ferrari 308 GTB and plethora of Porches, even those with expensive tastes were left satisfied. With the 25th Targa Tasmania behind us, we can reflect and know that the next 25 years will be even better!


Coming up with a ‘Top 5’ list of anything is always going to be subjective. One man’s meat is another man’s poison as the saying goes. A list of the top the ‘Top 5 Car Chase Movies’ is guaranteed to be polarising. While there are dozens of movies that contain car chase scenes, there are certain movies out there that have almost created their own sub-genre. These movies have achieved cult status amongst car enthusiasts and movie buffs alike. So without further ado, here’s a list of the ‘Top 5 Car Chase Movies’. Let the fun begin! The Blues Brothers (1980) It’s the movie that defined cool for a whole generation and showed us how to turn a multitude of police cars into scrap metal in style. Dan Akroyd and John Belushi cared little as they roared through the streets of Chicago leaving 103 vehicles destroyed in their wake. Doing all this in a pair of classic wayfarer shades to a soundtrack of James Brown, Ray Charles and Cab Calloway (they didn’t call it the blues brothers for nothing!) didn’t hurt its chances of making it to the list. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) Who can forget a young Mel Gibson blasting through the red desert in that monstrous Falcon XB GT Coupe, affectionately known as the “V8 Interceptor.” The film put Australia on the Hollywood map and with a 4 million dollar budget it was the highest amount spent on any Australian movie at the time! The film peaks with an unforgettable chase lasting 20 minutes that features mohawked motorbike riders, a full loaded semi-trailer and a plethora of re imagined post-apocalyptic muscle cars all trying to disrupt one seemingly unconquerable Aussie Icon. French Connection (1971) Set in the gritty drug fuelled underworld of New York City, this Academy award winning film (5 to be exact) is known for having one of the most remarkable and intense car chase scenes of all time. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider play two narcotic detectives who stumble across a 32 million dollar incoming shipment of heroin from France. This leads them to take on the challenge of chasing down a high rise passenger train through the busy and overcrowded streets of the city setting a new standard for car chases and cinematography alike. The Italian Job (1969) We all remember the classic movie length advertisement for the Mini Cooper. The iconic British hatch showed its strength in one of the most innovative and imaginative chase scenes to hit the big screen. One of the most nail – bitting moments was when the trio of mini’s went full steam and jumped between two buildings. Although the scene was smooth and portrayed with ease, the stunt was incredibly dangerous with the cars needing to clear a 60 foot gap! Without the help of modern day special effects, this was truly the era of great driving and fearless stuntmen. Bullitt (1968) What car chase list isn’t complete without this one? Steve McQueen and his legendary 1968 fastback are touted with providing us with arguably the most memorable car chase ever. Having a high powered mustang chase a charger through the elevated streets of San Francisco was a muscle car lover’s dream come true. With more jumps, near misses and tyre shredding than you can shake a stick at; this film was one of the first to perfect the car chase. When it comes to movies, there is nothing an enthusiast likes more than a good old fashion car chase. Whether it’s a display of tight and technical driving, the huge pile-ups or breath taking aerial stunts, we are easily entertained. And in the famous words of many pre film safety messages; please do not try this at home.

Tyre symbols and their meaning

Tyres are the unsung heroes of car safety. While they may not be the most exciting part of your car, they are vitally important for keeping your car on the road. As you dutifully and regularly check your tyres for ware and pressure, you may have noticed a bunch of numbers and letters on the sidewall. Ever wonder what they all mean? Well, today we’ll find out, and the best way to do this is to look at an example.                                      225/55 R 16 91V DOT XBFU XJJX 1315 RFT NO REF This jumble of numbers and letters above may look confusing, however it’s a typical example of what you would see on a tyre’s sidewall. Each one means something, though some are more important to us as drivers than others. Let’s start with tyre size. The ‘255’ in the above sequence is the width of the tyre in millimetres across the thread. The ‘55’ is the ‘Aspect Ratio’ which is the profile height of the tyre as a percentage of the width. In this case, the aspect ratio is 55% of 255mm. Next in the sequence is the ‘R’ which stands for ‘Radial’. A Radial tyre is constructed with the plies running at a 90 degree angle to the direction of travel. A ‘B’ would indicate a Bias construction where the plies run diagonally across, however most new tyres these days are Radials. The ‘16’ in the above example is the size of the rim in inches that the tyre fits and is effectively the size of the hole from one side to the other. The next number, ‘91’ is the load index. It is a code which tells you what weight the tyre can carry. For example, 91 equates to a maximum load of 615 kilograms when a load index is consulted. The Speed Rating is next: S= 180km/h; H= 210km/h; V=240km/h; Z > 240km/h; W= 180km/h; Y 300km/h. So for our example, our tyre’s speed rating is 240km/h which is the maximum speed the tyre is capable of. After the speed rating will be the letters ‘DOT’ followed by a series of eight letters and numbers. DOT means the tyre exceeds the safety standards laid down by the Department of Transport in the USA. The series of eight letters and numbers is a serial number used by the manufacturer. The ‘1315’ tell us when the tyre was made. The first two digits is the week of the year and the next two is the actual year. So in this case, the tyre was made in the 13th week of 2015. ‘RFT’ in our example denotes these are Run Flat tyres. The symbol does change though according to the manufacturer. For instance, Pirelli use ‘RFT’, but Michelin use ‘ZP’. Tyres that are specifically designed to be used on certain car makes occupy the next space in the form of a code, depending on the car manufacturer. In this example for instance, the ‘NO’ tells us that this tyre has been specifically designed for Porsche. Last but not least is a code to show whether or not a tyre has been reinforced to carry extra weight. This code will change depending on the manufacturer. For our tyre, it’s ‘REF’ but it could be XL, RF, RFD, etc. depending on which company made the tyre. This list, while not exhaustive covers most of what you will find. Red dots, rotation arrows, whether the tyre can handle mud and snow, mountain snowflakes and the like can be found, along with the basics like maximum tyre pressure. Who would have thought a tyre’s sidewall would provide so much information?  

Q&A with Rare Spares Mildura's Angelo Halacas

Where did your interest in classic cars and resto projects originate? From my father, I was brought up around cars, race cars & the like. My father Jim was the original Rare Spares Distributor for Mildura & it has been great to continue on the relationship with the Halacas Family & RSP.   What is your favourite classic car and why? Tough to pin point one but I’d have to say a street machined HK Monaro.   What classic car/s do you own? I've done a ground-up resto on a VK Calais - picture below. Currently working on my dad’s AC Cobra DRB Kit car running a very health 347 Boss motor producing around 550hp.   What would you change about cars today? The individual styling of makes & models. Seems to have been lost.   What’s the most impressive project you have worked on or you’ve had a customer work on? A customer built a EK Holden ute running an alloy tech v6. Beautiful ute, did 90% of the work him self - pictured below (   Best advice for people beginning a restoration project? Do your research on what’s available and the costing of parts you need for your resto. Secondly don’t cheep out on parts/ the resto it will come back to bite you. Take that bit longer & do it right the first time saves a lot of heart ache.      

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.

Holden Engine Blocks: All the Colours of the Rainbow

Pop the bonnet of a six cylinder Holden between the years of 1948 and 1986 and you will notice, amongst many other changes over the years, a change in the colour of the engine block itself. This wasn’t because Holden wanted to pop down to the local hardware store to take advantage of a paint sale. With every change of colour came a change to the engine. Some were significant changes, some weren’t. The first colour used for the first engines produced was grey, just like a Grandfather. Known as the Grey motor, it was built between 1948 and 1962. During that period, the Buick based block changed very little. This is significant because effectively with the Grey motor, it was one colour for one block. In the production period following the Grey, it was many colours for one block. Starting out as a 132 cubic inch (2.1 litre) on the 48-215, or Holden FX, between 1948 and 1953, it remained unchanged through to the FJ Series (1953-1956) and FE Series (1956-1958) until the FC Series (1958-1960). Come 1960 and the start of the Holden FB’s, the 132 leapt to a mighty 138 and stayed this way through to the EK (1961-1962) and finally to the end of the Grey series with the EJ in 1963. By this stage, the development of the Grey had run its course and it was time for an engine that was entirely new. Enter the mighty Red motor. Produced between 1963 and 1980, this was a game changer. Powering the EH Series onwards, it initially came in two variants: the 149 cubic inch (2.4 litre) 100 BHP version and the 179 cubic inch (2.9 litre), putting out 115 BHP. The Red also came in 161 and 173 cubic inch versions. A host of changes occurred throughout the Red motor including displacement changes up to 3.3 litres, better known as the 202. It was used in a host of models. These included: the EH, HD and HR Standard, Special and Premier Models between 1963 and 1968; the HK, HT, HG, HQ, HJ, HX, and HZ Belmont, Kingswood and Premier Models between 1968 and 1980; the legendary LC, LJ, LH, LX and UC Toranas between 1969 and 1979; the CF Bedford between 1971 and 1979 and finally, the VB Commodore between 1978 and 1980….phew! The next colour motor to hit Aussie roads was the Blue motor. Unlike the change from Grey to Red, which was an entirely different engine, the Blue series was more of a refinement of the Red and included: changing from a nine port head to a twelve point head, the addition of a fully counterweighted crank and stronger con-rods. Released as 2.8 and 3.3 litre, it was used in the WB’s (1980-1985) along with the VC (1980-1981) and VH (1981-1984) Commodores. The final instalment of Holden’s programme of coloured engines for its six cylinders (Holden’s V8s were also painted in different colours but that’s for another day) ended with the Black. Introduced in 1984’s VK Commodore, it ran until 1986. Changes from the Blue to the Black included modifications to the ports and valves, however the most significant change to the 3.3 litre power plant was the introduction of an EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) version, the manifold and rocker cover of which was actually painted red. Sadly, due to emission control requirements, in 1986 the VL Commodore’s home grown six cylinder donk was replaced with the Nissan RB30 and RB20E engines from Japan. They say all good things must come to an end, however Holden’s coloured series of engines is yet another fascinating example of the Australian car industry.

Clipsal Round-up

Rare Spares were proud to present the first Touring Car Masters round this year with the season kick off in Adelaide at the Clipsal 500 over the first weekend of March. We also were delighted to send along Mark and Jane, Rare Spares customers who visited Rare Spares at Summernats, to the event for the weekend long experience! "Both Mark and I were thrilled to find out we had been lucky enough to win the Rare Spares Clipsal Experience. We had an amazing weekend away…  We were treated like VIPs!" said Jane.   Our guests also got to meet Rare Spares Ambassador and motorsport legend John Bowe who had a great weekend himself, starting on the Friday with a qualifying time a full one second faster than his own record time, to put him on the front of the grid for the seventh time in a row at Clipsal. That was until the very end of the session when Glen Seton’s Ford Mustang snuck ahead by six one hundredths of a second to grab pole instead. The first race of the season got underway in sweltering conditions later that afternoon. Starting from second on the grid, JB found himself and his Torana with an early lead but was passed by Greg Ritter in his Chevy Monza. After an appearance from the Safety Car, Bowe was unable to get back ahead of Ritter and had to settle for second place with Glen Seton in hot pursuit. Starting once again from second on the grid for Saturday’s race, JB and Ritter were hard at it from the off, forcing Bowe to clip the tyre wall at the first turn, causing damage to his steering arm and forcing him back to fifth. With the typical courage JB has become famous for, he fought his way back to third behind race winner Greg Ritter and the Falcon XB Coupe of Eddie Abelnica. Sunday’s race was a reverse grid format which made JB’s job a lot harder because of his outstanding qualifying effort. Adam Garwood and his Torana eventually took the win ahead of Andrew Fisher and Andrew Miedecke. Series wise, JB sits in a fantastic second place on 158 points, just 12 points behind series leader Greg Ritter and seven points ahead of Eddie Abelnica. The next TCM round will be the Shannons Nationals at Sandown from the 1st to the 3rd of April. V8 Supercar star driver and Rare Spares sponsored Jason Bright’s season also got off to a sweltering start. Race One saw Jason finish in 19thposition in what could only be described as torturous conditions, with temperatures inside the car exceeding 60 °C! Race Two saw a massive improvement as Brighty was able to bring his VF Commodore home in eighth place in the second 125 kilometre race. For the third and final race on Sunday, the weather played havoc as everyone rushed to put wets on for the start, just as the heavens opened. With the rain beginning to ease, Jason, starting from 18th on the grid, decided to pit for slicks and fuel. This tactic payed off as he was able move up ten places to eventually finish in a well-deserved eighth place. The V8 Supercars next event will be at the Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint from the 1st to the 3rd of April.