When is a million dollars not a million dollars? Some would say “when it’s not in my bank”. And that’s a fair call. However, the answer is when expectations and reality collide.
The end of June 2020 saw such an occurrence, but one with a happy ending. A 1969 Holden HT Monaro GTS 350 was pegged to sell at an auction hosted by Lloyds and crack the magic million. However, the Holden Dealer Team entered a car with Spencer Martin and Kevin Bartlett as drivers in a race at Sandown in Victoria.
That was the 1969 Sandown Three Hour Datsun Trophy Race, an enduro for Series Production Touring Cars and unfortunately for the car and drivers, it made an ignominious exit at the 45 minute mark thanks to brake failure.
Clad in white, with a black bonnet and sporting a yellow painted grille, the car was garaged and repaired before being sold on in 1970 to the NSW metro sales manager for General Motors-Holden (as the firm was known then), Tony Connolly. A Rob Coulson took ownership in 1998 and gave the GTS 350 a full restoration, bringing the HT back to a fresh-from-the-factory look.
There’s a little more to the story though. The car was put together by HDT’s “The Silver Fox”. Harry Firth was quickly becoming a legend in Australian motorsport and had a keen eye for talent of the driving kind. As history well knows, one Peter G. Brock would be taken under Firth’s wing and quickly proved Firth’s talent spotting ability. It was also the first Holden factory backed motorsport competitor.
Brock would drive the second team car at Bathurst just weeks later to finish 3rd, with a win for the HDT group and another GTS 350 thanks to Colin Bond and Tony Roberts.
The HT GTS 350 packed a 5.7L (350ci) engine, a development of the slightly smaller 5.4L or 327ci V8. Power was rated as 224kiloWatts and powered through to the rear wheels via a four speed manual or a two speed “Powerglide” auto. Holden’s own “Trimatic” was available late in the HT’s run but not for the 350ci.
Coulson listed the car for auction in 2017 where it was purchased for a cool half million Australian dollars. The buyer was an collector of Red Lion products based in Queensland.
At the Lloyds Auction at the end of June 2020, the machine went under the hammer for less than expected, but a still very tidy $715,000. That buyer also wished to remain anonymous and in good news for the Australian museum industry, declared that the car would stay in Australia.
However, there was a development of sorts; the auction house had been suggesting to GM that they buy the car and donate to an Australian museum. But in what the cynical would say is an example of a government department doing the right thing, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications stepped in and warned the Monaro might be an Australian Protected Object. This ensures that this rare piece of motoring history stays at its rightful and proper home here in Australia.