V8 SLEUTH WITH AARON NOONAN
Last issue’s debut column has prompted plenty of suggestions and thoughts from AMC readers as to the crazy places around the world that Aussie racing cars have ended up! The story about the pair of Mobil Holden Dealer Team Commodores built for the ETCC that year sure has encouraged reaction from plenty of readers – plus a few leads to follow up on in the future.
One reader has even emailed to tell me they believe that one of Allan Grice’s European Touring Car Championship Commodores from 1986 has ended up in Finland with a career as a rallycross car!
I know there’s an ex-Briggs Motorsport Falcon V8 Supercar in Malaysia, an ex-HRT Commodore in England and a smattering of Aussie muscle all over the world.
Finding the most obscure place that an Aussie racing car has ended up surely sounds like a mission for a V8 Sleuth – but only with the help of fantastic readers, so please drop me a note with any suggestions! Last
issue’s cover story celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Holden Torana SL/R5000 and the go-faster L34 version. That’s prompted me to write some words about an important car that is sitting in country Victoria.
The first Holden Dealer Team SL/R 5000 Torana – driven in the final two rounds of the 1974 Australian Touring Car Championship by Peter Brock and helping him clinch his maiden ATCC crown – lives on.
The first HDT V8 racing Torana, it was also raced by Brock and Colin Bond in a few races after those ATCC rounds, but came to grief at Lakeside in the 4IP Production 500 event for touring cars when a right brake disc collapsed and he speared off into a bank.
The HDT had brand new cars for the ManChamp races when the L34-optioned challenger was introduced, so this car was then taken off the track and repaired.
It was then sent across to Perth to Wayne Negus and passed through the hands of four more owners before being purchased in 2007 by Rod Hatfield of Ballarat, who takes up the story.
“When Brock crashed it at Lakeside, he and Michelle Downes (his wife at the time) brought it down and the motor and gearbox was taken out of it and it was taken to John Dixon to repair it,” he told the V8 Sleuth.
Pressure from the Western Australian Holden Dealer Group and Marlboro, who complained about a lack of representation and exposure in the West, saw the car transferred to Negus in 1975 (hence why it then wore a ’75 HDT Marlboro livery).
“Harry (Firth) gave Negus the car to setup and race and he raced it over there for a few years,” says Hatfield.
“It went from him to John Morris and then to Glenn Baker, who was the last one to actually race it in 1984.
“Then it went to David Taylor and then Peter Gillison, who was in Collie, a mining town in Western Australia.
“It was in a bad way when we got it. It hadn’t been registered and he’d put some plates on it and went to one of those ‘go and whoa’ days but he put it into a tree going from second to third gear. It was bent pretty badly and was five inches and five-eighths shorter on the driver side!
“It had been sitting there since 1992 and I got it in 2007. Initially we didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t until Wayne Negus wrote us a letter that we got onto what it really was. Everyone over there had thought it was a promo car.
“But Wayne sent Ian Tate (ex-HDT mechanic) and me an email and he told us the whole story and that’s how it all started.
“It had been suggested that the SL/R 5000 had been turned into a HDT rally car, but we clarified later though that it had been an L34 that became the rally car.
“John Dixon was the missing link who could verify the car when we were going through the CoD (Certificate of Description) process with CAMS a few years ago.
“He had it all worked out from looking at it within the day. He remembered that he’d put a new rail in it and they had a lot of trouble getting parts given the cars were new then and didn’t have many spares so early in the period of those cars. Basically, without him we were stuffed!
“The CoD process took two and a half years and I sponsored Telstra to do it! We chased up everyone who worked on the car.
“It’s still got the original roll-cage in it. We had to start again with a fresh motor but Ian went back through and found details in his diary of what he’d done for the engines back in 1974. He’s done the same thing as he did back then and when they put it on the dyno it had 325 compared to 305 from back in the day.
“I just need another 70 more to keep up with the L34s!”
He ran the car at Calder just before its recent special appearance at the Phillip Island Classic (see page 74), and was suitably thrilled.
“I took it for a run because I hadn’t taken it through its paces in the three years since it has been finished. But it was a beauty!”
Hatfield would like to race it, but given its rarity and value as Brock’s first ATCC winner, he reckons it’s best he doesn’t.
“Plus, it just won’t be competitive with the other Group C cars. With my Dustings (ex-Rod McRae) L34 we’re just starting to shake up a few A9Xs and Commodores. But with the SL/R 5000 and L34s you have to drive them carefully too.”
Now looking sharp in its 1974 Brock ATCC appearance and specification, the SL/R 5000 formed a special part of festivities at the recent Phillip Island Classic given it’s the 40th anniversary this year of Brock’s first ATCC crown.
Arecent trip to Mount Panorama for the Bathurst 12 Hour gave me the chance to make a trip to stop in at the National Motor Racing Museum on the Monday after the race (which was a ripper by the way!).
Some vision caught me eye on one of the TV screens in there – it seemed to be actual Channel Seven race telecast vision from perhaps 1964, maybe the 1965 race.
Now, given my involvement with the Seven Sport Magic Moments of Motorsport DVDs via Chevron and Seven, I know that there would appear to be nothing of the sort in the archive.
So where did this vision come from? I asked one of the Museum staff, who indicated it had been used as part of last year’s 75th anniversary celebrations of Mount Panorama.
Perhaps it came from a film reel that had been given to Armstrong, the sponsor of the time? Did you perhaps donate it to the Museum? I’d love to know, it’s very much a piece of Bathurst endurance race history.
As always, I love hearing from AMC readers with questions, information or feedback, so shoot me a note to email@example.com and keep reading future issues for stories that could sometimes be deemed stranger than fiction…