Impromptu VH Pacer racer
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.