Im­promptu VH Pacer racer

Australian Muscle Car - - M.i.a. Found -

Last edi­tion car­ried the bizarre story of the road-go­ing Chrysler VH Pacer that hit the track dur­ing the 1971 Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship fi­nale at Oran Park. In­cred­i­bly, we’ve found that very car! Be­fore we tell you more about the resur­fac­ing of this mys­tery mo­bile, let’s recap that odd-ball oc­cur­rence some 43 years ago.

In one of strangest in­ci­dents in ATCC his­tory, a rogue spec­ta­tor drove a road car onto the track mid-race and did a slow lap, while ti­tle con­tenders Al­lan Mof­fat, Bob Jane and Pete Geoghegan raced on in front of the big­gest ever crowd at the Syd­ney cir­cuit.

Af­ter nearly get­ting bun­dled off the race­track by Mof­fat’s Coca-Cola Mus­tang, the hat­less, belt­less, cig­a­rette-smok­ing dare­devil pulled into pit­lane where of­fi­cials de­liv­ered him to po­lice.

The in­ci­dent has long been part of Aussie rac­ing folk­lore, but un­til re­cently we had never seen a photo cap­tur­ing the mo­ment. En­ter Lyn­ton He­mer, who posted the black-and-white shot you see here on an in­ter­net fo­rum’s ver­sion of AMC’s ‘Punter Pics’.

Am­a­teur snap­per Lyn­ton was shoot­ing from the main spec­ta­tor area on the fi­nal turn when he heard the PA com­men­ta­tors make men­tion of a car on track that shouldn’t be there.

“Of course, we all hoped he’d come around again, so we could get an­other laugh, but he thought bet­ter of it and stopped at the pits.

“I’m only ir­ri­tated that a bloke stood up in front of me, but grate­ful that he didn’t move left and block my shot com­pletely!”

Lyn­ton posted the shot to an in­ter­net fo­rum in 2011 and AMC colum­nist Phil An­ders brought it to our at­ten­tion. So ear­lier this year we con­tacted Lyn­ton re­quest­ing per­mis­sion to pub­lish his shot in AMC #72.

“No hel­met, no seat­belt and a cig­gie dan­gling from the cor­ner of his mouth,” was how Lyn­ton summed up when he kindly sup­plied it. “I won­der where he is to­day?”

AMC also qui­etly won­dered whether the hap­less Pacer still ex­isted. A long-shot if ever there was one. Or so we thought...

A week af­ter AMC #72 hits news­stands a South Aus­tralian Chrysler en­thu­si­ast, ‘DP’, who wishes to re­main anony­mous, con­tacted the mag­a­zine via email.

DP wrote: “Re­gard­ing the photo of the VH Pacer at Oran Park 1971 in your mag­a­zine, if you look at the num­ber plate it is RDL-505 (South Aus­tralian rego). I know that the Pacer in the pic­ture was one of the rare au­to­matic VH Pac­ers. It’s Vi­ta­min C in colour. This Pacer is also a SOA (Spe­cial Op­tion Author­ity) car. I be­lieve the SOA is white in­serts in the seats.

“You may be won­der­ing how I know all this? The RDL-505 VH Pacer is sit­ting in my garage and still has the orig­i­nal plates. The car is in un­re­stored orig­i­nal con­di­tion; a bit rough but she seems to be all there.” HELLO! It turns out that DP is the fifth owner of this in­fa­mous car and that he had no idea un­til Fe­bru­ary 2014 that his or­ange Valiant is in fact Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous VH Pacer racer. Hey, it’s a small field!

DP ad­ver­tised the car for sale re­cently and was con­tacted by a pre­vi­ous owner who was aware of the car’s, um, track his­tory and told him about the Oran Park in­ci­dent.

It all sounded a bit fan­ci­ful to DP... un­til he saw Lyn­ton’s im­age in AMC. Good story, huh? “From what I can work out, there were six­teen au­to­matic VH Pac­ers built,” DP ex­plains. “And of those, seven were fit­ted with the D341B high­per­for­mance block.”

DP’s car was op­tioned with the A95 in­te­rior dress-up pack­age (re­clin­ing bucket seats, car­pets, 3-spoke steer­ing wheel) and the hood dress-up pack­age (black-outs).

DP’s Pacer’s high level of per­for­mance and dress-up op­tions is con­sis­tent with the be­lief that the would-be Pacer racer ‘bor­rowed’ the new VH model from the pad­dock area.

The South Aus­tralian ‘RDL’ reg­is­tra­tion plates sug­gest the car was owned by Chrysler, pos­si­bly from the com­pany’s press test fleet. Such up­spec cars are of­ten pro­vided to jour­nal­ists by car com­pany PR op­er­a­tives so they leave the best pos­si­ble im­pres­sion in the quest for favourable press re­ports.

What we can­not ex­plain is the plain-look­ing bon­net in Lyn­ton’s photo, but that might just be a trick of the light.

DP, since learn­ing he owns a quirky piece of Aussie mus­cle car his­tory has, not un­ex­pect­edly, de­cided to hang onto the car. He plans a tidy-up.

“It’s a crazy story,” the South Aus­tralian says. “I didn’t be­lieve it at first.”

As ever, if you know more about this car or in­ci­dent – or have other im­ages – con­tact us via am­ced­i­to­rial@chevron.com.au

As an aside, we’ve heard from an AMC reader who – through at­tend­ing Hawkesbury Agri­cul­tural Col­lege – knew the dare­devil driver and told us he was, un­sur­pris­ingly, suf­fer­ing men­tal health is­sues at the time.

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