Five Memorable Summernats Grand Champions

Summer is fast approaching and for many that means one thing; Summernats. Summernats plays host each year to Australia’s best show cars, street cars, burnout cars and more in a festival of cars, music and burnt rubber. Each year the elite entrants compete in a series of events to establish who is the year’s Grand Champion, with criteria stretched from the typical ‘car show’ presentation points to include a number of driving tests. A scroll through the list of previous Grand Champions is like a walk through one of the most impressive car museums you’ve ever seen, and in this article we’ll take a quick look back at some of our favourites.

Rob Beauchamp’s VL Commodore – Top Street Machine Overall at Summernats 1, 2 & 3

Rob’s Jaw dropping VL Commodore will be remembered as not only one of the meanest VL’s in the land, but as also a car that pushed the limits of the term ‘street machine’. Fitted with a Kinsler-injected 302 Chev at the time, the VL was a full blown drag car, capable of mid 10’s and barely suited to use on the street. It was the immaculate attention to details that won fans and judges alike to win the then named Top Street Machine overall at Summernats 1, 2 & 3.

Howard Astill’s Rock Solid 3 – Grand Champion at Summernats 4 & 5

Howard Astill’s XA Falcon went through a number of guises throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s before it was reborn as the gobsmacking Rock Solid 3. Featuring an ever-so-cool neon paintjob, Rock Solid 3 typified what the punters love about show cars – it was fast, loud and eye catching. The XA would dominate Summernats 4 & 5 before being parked to allow Astill to move on to the next of his many incredible builds. In recognition of his contribution to the show car scene, Astill was honoured as a Rare Spares Legend in 2009 – check out our blog from 2015 with Howard here.

Joe Lore’s BLOWJO XY Falcon – Grand Champion at Summernats 23

Everybody loves an XY, and you’ll struggle to find any better in the land than Joe Lore’s purple beast. Featuring a 351 Cleveland (stroked to 383cu) and a humungous blower, BLOWJO is an incredibly striking vehicle that ran away with victory at Summernats 23 in 2010. If you haven’t had the chance to see this XY up close yet, keep an eye out for the incredibly detailed airbrush work on the interior and underbody, this car is a true work of art.

Peter Fitzpatrick’s ’59 FC Holden – Grand Champion at Summernats 2

A six time Grand Champion winner, Peter Fitzpatrick is a name that stands without peer in the Summernats history books. At Summernats 24 Peter Fitzpatrick arrived with his ’59 FC Holden and swept all before him, taking out not only the coveted Grand Champion award, but also winning the People’s Champ and Top Judged awards, the first to do so in the history of Summernats. Peter Fitzpatrick is also a Rare Spares Legend, recognised in 2012 for his legendary contribution to the street machine community.

Mark ‘Happy’ Williams’ HQ One Tonner – Grand Champion at Summernats 30

The most recent Summernats Grand Champion winner, fan favourite Mark ‘Happy’ Williams and his HQ One Tonner was a popular winner with the huge Summernats 30 crowd. The Supercharged One tonner is a sight to behold and sounds incredible, becoming the first Western Australian built car to take out the Grand Champion sword at the 2017 event. An emotional victory for Williams, who lost his father only days before the event, in his memory the car’s license plates were changed from ‘2HAPPY’ to ‘4MYDAD’.

Which is your favourite Summernats Grand Champion? We would love to hear which car and why, so head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Blast from the Past – The Supercars tracks of yesteryear

In two weeks’ time the 2017 Supercars season will reach fever pitch as the championship comes down to the wire at the brand new Newcastle street circuit. The Newcastle circuit is undoubtedly going to prove to be one of the more picturesque racing locations on the circuit and a worthy replacement for the at times dull Sydney Olympic Park race. The Olympic Park location isn’t the first track in Supercars history to make way for a new and improved location, in this article we’ll take a look at some of the rounds that are no longer on the Supercars calendar.

Calder Park

Calder was staple on the ATCC and V8 Supercars throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and along with Sandown was one of two championship races within a stone's throw of Melbourne CBD. The Supercars utilised the ‘road’ circuit at the facility, bypassing the iconic Thunderdome, a feature which many feel could have added to the variety of racing on the Supercars calendar and potentially lead to a NASCAR style duel format of racing. Unfortunately racing ceased at the venue after the 2001 event when the racing surface and facilities were deemed not up to scratch. The circuit was also the scene of one of the biggest touring car crashes in recent memory when a young Craig Lowndes and his VT commodore went cartwheeling down the front straight after making contact with Steven Richards and Garth Tander.

Oran Park

Another iconic Australian racing circuit, Oran Park played host to battles from Brock and Moffat through to Ambrose and Skaife before closing down in 2008 to make way for a housing estate. A favourite of many drivers, the short and narrow circuit included one of the only ‘over-under’ bridges in Australian racing. Now unrecognisable to the average racing punter, the only remaining indicator of racing ever taking place on the site is the motorsport related street names.

Hamilton Street Circuit

Running between 2008 and 2012, the Hamilton 400 took the place of Pukekohe on the Supercars calendar and provided a happy hunting ground for 6 time series champion Jamie Whincup, who took 2 of the 5 race victories at the venue. The racing itself at the track was interesting enough, however bubbling away behind the scenes was a massive debate within the Hamilton City council when it was discovered the event had been operating at a significant loss in its final 2 years. Subsequently the event was relocated back to Pukekohe where it remains today as the Auckland SuperSprint.

Mallala

Mallala Motorsport Park flew the South Australian flag in the ATCC right up until 1999 when it was replaced on the calendar by the incoming Clipsal 500, which itself was also filling the void left by the Adelaide iteration of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The track received mixed reviews from competitors with Dick Johnson openly criticizing the track’s lack of facilities and bumpy racing circuit; however such remarks were uncommon from Johnson who was renowned for being not much of a fan of any tracks outside of Queensland. On the other hand, Jim Richards suggested the tight track would even the competition up, ensuring close racing at a time when the RS5000 Sierra’s were dominating the competition. Racing at lower levels still takes place at the circuit; however with the passing of longtime owner Clem Smith earlier this year, the future of racing at the circuit is unclear.

With a number of other circuits coming and going over the years including trips to Bahrain, Texas and local circuits such as Amaroo Park, Lakeside and the Canberra Street Circuit the Supercars championship has spread its wings far and wide, we’re just scratching the surface!

Which former Supercars or ATCC circuit was your favourite? Which would you replace on the current calendar? Head over the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

The Camaro is coming to Australia!

With Holden’s manufacturing in Australia now wrapped up, our attention turns to HSV and what they have on the horizon now that the RWD V8 Commodore has gone the way of the Dodo bird. Well, although not yet 100% confirmed, the word doing the rounds in the automotive industry is that HSV will be importing and converting both the Chevrolet Camaro SS and Silverado to right hand drive for the Australian public. While the idea of a right hand drive Silverado somewhat excites us, it’s the 339kw Camaro SS that really gives us hope of an exciting future for HSV fans.

In 2016, the long awaited arrival of the Ford Mustang came to fruition and left in its wake year-long waiting lists and a complete obliteration of all expected sales figures. For the first time in decades Holden and in turn HSV are facing the short term prospect of a car lineup without a V8 and quite frankly are being left in the dust by Ford and it’s pony car. With the above factors considered, GM execs and the Walkinshaw group have reportedly come to an agreement to import the Camaro and convert it to suit the Australian market in HSV’s Clayton factory.

So, GM will bring the Camaro and take a decent chunk out of the Australian performance car sales market now dominated by the Mustang, right? Well not quite, while the cost of importing the car won’t be astronomical, unfortunately once you throw in the cost of the right hand drive conversion it’s expected the final sale price will be around the $90,000AUD mark, some $30,000 north of the Mustang GT. So, why bother you may be asking? Well it’s not all that straight forward; the Camaro will be marketed as a more exclusive alternative to the Mustang (only 1,000 per year will be built) while offering some serious power in the name of Chev’s 339kw LT1 V8 (33kw more than the GT).

So who will be purchasing the Camaro? As much as the Ford v Holden rivalry has died down over recent years, there are still a huge number of people who would rather drive a 1997 Holden Barina than anything with a Ford badge… even if it is a Mustang. So now these people have an option, and quite a good looking, fast one at that.

Word in the industry suggests the Camaro could be gracing showroom floors as early as 2018 and don’t stress, it will have Chevy badges gracing the grille, not Holden. How do you feel about the Camaro hitting Australian roads? Will you be trading in your Commodore for the aggressive coupe? Head over to the Rare Spare Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

The History of Fuel Injection and how it impacted Australian Automotive

The history of fuel injection dates back over 100 years ago, to 1902 where it wasn’t used in cars, rather in aviation applications. A French aviation pioneer by the name of Leon Levavasseur installed a device of great similarity to a fuel injection system on his Antoinette aircraft, which  also holds the distinction of carrying the first V8 engine of any type ever produced.

Many other pioneers experimented with the fuel injection concept over the next 20 years, and by 1925 John Hesselman, the pioneer behind the Hesselman engine, established what we know as petrol direct injection. On the diesel front, it was very common for these types of engines to be utilising a primitive version of fuel injection.

Throughout the Second World War fuel injection played a huge part in the German air fleet, with many of their aircrafts running direct fuel injection and capitalising on the inherent efficiencies associated with the technology.

Post WW2, fuel injection began making its way into more consumer oriented products and eventually made its way to Australian manufacturers by ways of the XE Falcon and VK Commodore. The XE Falcon, released in the early 80’s featured a 4.1 litre six cylinder Electronically Fuel Injected engine that was introduced to replace the 4.9 litre and 5.8 litre Cleveland V8’s. The reception among the general public was spotty at best, who were left to rue a significant decrease in power when compared to the lumbering V8’s.

The VK Commodore in general was very popular amongst punters; although the fuel injected straight six optioned VK struggled to take off. The lack of uptake among the public was reflected in Holden’s choice to recruit the Nissan RB30 for the VL, which of course has gone down in folklore as one of Holden’s most iconic and popular vehicles.

Since those early days of fuel injection in Australia, the concept has improved by leaps and bounds worldwide, and the packages included in the outgoing Commodores and Falcons were up there with the best. Of course the engine packages included in these models have come a long way since the early 80’s, and engines such as the Ford Barra showcased exactly what Australian motoring was all about – just enough tech, just enough efficiency and a whole lot of power.

What’s next in automotive technology? Are Electric Vehicles going to spell the end of fuel injection, or does the internal combustion engine have some fight left? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Volkswagen Beetle – The Peoples Car

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most instantly recognisable cars in the history of automotive manufacturing, and just as interesting as the silhouette of the iconic bug is the story behind its concept. In this article we will take a quick look at the history of the Beetle and delve into its Australian connection throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

The origins of the Volkswagen Beetle date back to the early 1930’s when a Fuhrer by the name of Adolf Hitler proclaimed that the automobile, an at the time luxury afforded to only the very rich, should be available to the masses. Hitler specified that the ideal vehicle must be suitable for carrying 2 adults and 3 children at 100 km/h, while consuming no more than 7 litres of fuel every 100 km. Tasked with creating a vehicle to service the needs of the masses was tasked to Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche set about designing and building three prototypes, branded only ‘Volkswagen’ (“The Peoples Car”), the very round, bug-like appearance of the car ensured it was colloquially referred to as the Beetle.

Throughout WW2, Porsche developed a number of military spec Beetles that served as the first to leave his Wolfburg factory. With it’s now distinctive rear-mounted air cooled engine, the military spec vehicles were near on indestructible and were even designed to float for a short period of time in case of emergency!

By 1945 production was in full swing and the first customer vehicles were spreading throughout the streets of Europe. Armed with a 19kw flat four engine, the early Beetles proved a massive hit with the public and at a price of only 990 Reichsmark, which was similar to the price of a small motorcycle; the Bug was a genuine option for almost all families.

Fast forward 8 years and importation of the Beetle commenced into Australia, with assembly of the Peoples Car commencing in Melbourne by 1954. Throughout the 60’s locally manufactured parts and panels were being utilised in Melbourne built Beetles, with work being undertaken at the now HSV owned Clayton manufacturing plant. As we’ve become all too familiar with in recent times, sales of the Beetle eventually began to decline and in 1976 all Australian Volkswagen manufacturing efforts were ceased and the workshop was sold to Nissan Australia.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the first major re-design of the beetle took place and a look at the current Beetle finds a significantly different car to what was established way back in the 1930’s. The engine has been moved to the more traditional front mounted layout while power figures have increased with range topping models featuring in the area of 150kw. The unmistakable shape is still present and although not everybody’s cup of tea serves as one of very few modern cars that pay homage to their historical ancestors.

Do you own an early model Volkswagen Beetle? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comments section below.