Isle Alight!

Australian Muscle Car - - Phillip Island Classic -

The Phillip Is­land Clas­sic is one of the best his­toric mo­tor rac­ing events in the world. The Clas­sic is so good it’s nom­i­nated for awards, while bring­ing in thou­sands of spec­ta­tors and over 500 en­trants ev­ery year. Sadly, this year’s event didn’t seem to have a main theme and the ‘spe­cial’ cars from over­seas – a la last year’s tasty in­vi­ta­tional field of Can-Am and Le Mans sportscars – were thin on the ground. Or so it seemed at first, un­til you started to dig a bit.

There was a Kur­tis 500 – the two-seat US sport­scar based around Kur­tis’ Indy 500 win­ners. There were Maser­atis and Alfa-Romeos from the USA and UK re­spec­tively, hid­ing among more

His­toric rac­ing in Aus­tralia is a bit like NASCAR – the sea­son starts with the big­gest event of the year. Old race car junkie Bruce Moxon checked out the quirky, quick and quak­ing at the 2014 Phillip Is­land Clas­sic.

fa­mil­iar cars from closer to home. There was a 1927 Bu­gatti and a Lan­cia from the same year. There was also Mark Dono­hue’s Porsche from the first-ever In­ter­na­tional Race of Cham­pi­ons se­ries, the last car he drove to vic­tory.

Fa­mous driv­ers from days gone by and from to­day were on hand, rac­ing, sign­ing stuff or just look­ing around.

Sir Jack Brab­ham was the event pa­tron and was on hand to sign au­to­graphs, have his pic­ture taken and act as spe­cial guest of hon­our at a din­ner on Satur­day night. Sir Jack is pretty frail these days; the years have caught up with him and there was a warn­ing that this might be his last visit, as travel is just too much for him.

But Sir Jack cer­tainly seemed full of beans – whisked here and there to meet and greet. Less ev­i­dent was Cap­tain Peter Jan­son, who was last seen headed for the main­land in his Rolls-Royce, much to the dis­ap­point­ment of many fans.

Phillip Is­land turned on its usual mixed bag of weather, with over­cast skies and rain on Fri­day, cloud clear­ing on Satur­day and a warm and sunny main race­day Sun­day.

The park­ing ar­eas were full of fan­tas­tic cars old and new and a few brave souls even dressed up for the oc­ca­sion. Your hum­ble scribe also got into the spirit with a fetch­ing choco­late-brown sa­fari suit and mut­ton chop side­burns to match – think your un­cle who was try­ing to be hip in 1980

and you’ll have it! (Pic­tured above.)

As al­ways, there’s just so much go­ing on that it was just im­pos­si­ble to get to ev­ery­thing, but here are some high­lights.

Salut­ing the SL/Rs

The To­rana SL/R 5000 L34 fra­ter­nity cel­e­brated the 40th an­niver­sary of the leg­endary To­rana V8 by ar­rang­ing for its na­tional meet­ing to co­in­cide with the Phillip Is­land Clas­sic. Ap­pro­pri­ately, there were only two To­ranas rac­ing in the Her­itage Tour­ing Cars (Group C/A) cat­e­gory and both of them were L34s.

Dean How’s yel­low car (main pic, far left) was orig­i­nally raced by John Stoop­man at the 1975 Phillip Is­land 500km ManChamp round when the track broke up, as it did quite a bit in the 1960s and ’70s. It was later raced by Bernie McClure at the Hang Ten 400 at Sandown un­der a lease deal, but the car never ac­tu­ally raced at Bathurst.

It was then sold to Dave Lang­man who raced it un­til 1978. When the A9X came along, Lang­man traded this car in on the newer model. He pulled the en­gines and gear­boxes out of both cars and swapped them over, and then the L34 was sold off as a road car.

At its last race, the car broke a gear­box and Lang­man parked on the grass, which then caught fire. Mar­shals rolled the car onto its roof to get at the fire, then rolled it back over, dam­ag­ing the tur­ret in the process. So Dave Lang­man had a sun­roof fit­ted to hide the dam­age be­fore sell­ing the car. Just two weeks later, the car was stolen and later found in a pad­dock with a blown en­gine. The new owner had the en­gine re­built, but due to be­ing un­fa­mil­iar with the twin-points dis­trib­u­tor they couldn’t get it run­ning right.

Con­se­quently, the car was parked in a garage with an in­ten­tion to ‘get it go­ing one day.’

Fif­teen years later Dean How bought it. “It was miss­ing the big front brakes and the roll cage. And I had to put a new roof on it. All the in­te­rior, the spoiler and sway bars are orig­i­nal. Dave Lang­man has been very help­ful. It’s got 38,000km on it, I have had the speedo re-con­nected to keep the mileage ac­cu­rate.”

The other L34 came from a car with a short and

scary life. In 1974 the McRae broth­ers, sons of the owner of Dust­ings Holden, ran a brand-new L34 at Bathurst. Dur­ing that very wet race, the car aqua­planed on Con­rod Straight and hit a tree, floor first, sev­eral feet off the ground. The car was de­stroyed, bent like a banana and it’s some­thing of a mir­a­cle that no­body was killed. By the way, the car had been is­sued its CAMS log­book the Fri­day be­fore the race! That’s tight.

They came home and got right to work on a re­place­ment car, which they got log­booked in De­cem­ber 1974 and raced that month in the 500km race at Phillip Is­land. The car then raced at Calder, Ade­laide In­ter­na­tional, Sandown and Bathurst in 1975. The car then went to Wayne Mitchell who raced it un­til 1977, when it too was sold as a road car.

In 1997, one Ian John­son bought it to build into a Targa Tas­ma­nia car. Ian thought he’d been sold a dud, as when he started to strip paint he found the front was one colour and the back an­other. But once he rubbed back the mid­dle the truth be­come ev­i­dent; this was an ex-race car, not a cut-and-shut.

Cur­rent owner Rod Hat­field bought the in­com­plete car from John­son and “chased up a fair bit of stuff. It had a mix­ture of nuts and bolts, im­pe­rial, Whit­worth and met­ric sizes. It was as rough as guts and had a blown en­gine.”

So it needed some work and an in­spec­tion shows it’s had plenty of it – the car is im­mac­u­late.

Rod also owns the HDT To­rana SL/R 5000 fea­tured this edi­tion in Aaron Noo­nan’s V8 Sleuth sec­tion and cen­tral to the 40th cel­e­bra­tions on the Is­land. It’s the car Peter Brock drove in just two races in 1974 to wrap up the ATCC.

Lawlor unto him­self

Terry Lawlor won all four Her­itage Tour­ing Car races in the GIO Nis­san GT-R cam­paigned by Bob Forbes’ team. Lawlor had just bought that car from Rod Mark­land and traded his ex-Colin Bond Cal­tex Sierra to the Mark­lands. Word is that there might have been an Austin Kim­berly as part of the trade...

Jim Richards was run­ning his own Sky­line, one of sev­eral be­ing cam­paigned out of the ev­er­in­creas­ing Nis­san fold and un­der the watch­ful eye of Fred Gibson. Jim and Bryan Sala (Ford Sierra) were best of the rest.

Sun­day’s fea­ture race was a tor­rid af­fair with Lawlor, Richards and Carey McMa­hon fight­ing for the lead. Sadly, it also saw Carolyn Kruger’s older Sky­line dam­aged af­ter a tail­shaft failed, wreck­ing the gear­box, diff, floor and the fol­low­ing ‘Es­cort agent ‘Neville But­ler’s day as he ran over the de­bris.

The Cap­tain, Peter Jan­son, may not have spent long on the Is­land, but his old VH, in the hands of Mil­ton Se­feris was ev­er­p­re­sent in the Group C di­vi­sion, win­ning the Group C di­vi­sion in the first three races. Adam Work­man’s Nis­san Blue­bird pre­vailed in the fourth race.

Of spe­cial HTC in­ter­est at the meet­ing was a con­tin­gent of New Zealan­ders in some tasty BMW M3s. Con­rad Timms’s ex-Pirro 1992 DTM car has a sig­nif­i­cant Aus­tralian link, be­ing the Paul Mor­ris Diet Coke car that Ger­man Joachim Winkel­hock raced at Bathurst 1992. Then there was Stephen Grel­let’s ex-Michel Ferte 2.7-litre ‘Su­per Tourismo’ M3, from the French Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship. Nei­ther could do any­thing about Bill Cutler’s ex-Sch­nitzer M3 that was first raced in Aus­tralia when it flung at the scenery at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity at Bathurst’s World Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship round in 1987.

In­set: Rod Hat­field, owner of the Dust­ings L34 and the SL/R 5000 Brock used to clinch the 1974 ATCC, bumped into ‘The Cap­tain’ Peter Jan­son. Be­low: Terry Lawlor and his GT-R reigned supreme in the Her­itage Tour­ing Cars.

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