“What’s a Monaro?”

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

The birth of the short-lived Holden Dealer Rac­ing Team came as a com­plete sur­prise to Phil West.

“I was driv­ing for Scud­e­ria Ve­loce and [team boss] David McKay comes up and says, ‘Ph, Ph, Phil, we’re putting a team in the Bathurst 500. Three Monaros.’ “I won­dered to my­self, ‘What’s a Monaro?’.” He found out soon enough, but there was a big­ger sur­prise at the first of­fi­cial test at Holden’s prov­ing ground at Lang Lang.

“They had three Fal­con GTs there. I was chat­ting to the chief en­gi­neer and he said [the man­u­fac­tur­ers] swapped cars.”

West de­cided pretty quickly that he was back­ing the right horse.

“What a bloody aw­ful car that GT was. Ter­mi­nal un­der­steer, un­less you pro­voked the back for a bit of over­steer, and then it wanted to bite you.”

He re­calls the work of Tony Roberts and the Holden team and the en­joy­ment on the ride-and­han­dling track at Lang Lang.

“They had been do­ing the cars and they had done a magic job. Those cars were a dream, with to­tally neu­tral han­dling. You almost thought them around cor­ners. I had al­ways driven lit­tle cars, but as soon as you drove the Monaro it shrank down to an F1 car. It did ev­ery­thing right.” But the test wasn’t trou­ble-free. “Sud­denly the car went very strange, wouldn’t stop, and I went side­ways and slid off and parked in the Mulga,” he re­calls.

“I heard the en­gi­neers say­ing, ‘F**king rac­ing driv­ers, al­ways blam­ing the mo­tor car’, then they un­did the rear axle and pulled it out and it im­me­di­ately burst into flames.”

The bond­ing agent for the rear lin­ings had failed un­der pres­sure, the lin­ings had torn off, the brake pis­tons had popped out and the fluid caught fire when it was ex­posed to air. “That proved I hadn’t done that,” West laughs. When McKay asked him what things needed im­prove­ment, West asked for a bit more front grip and the en­gi­neers pulled out some anti-roll bars.

“They went off and made them. Half an hour later I was out there again.” But there was another mishap. “I lost grip in the same cor­ner as be­fore. I’d torn the cen­tre out of one of the wheel nuts and there were three splits in the steel rim. Which kinda proved I drove a bit harder than the test driv­ers.

“We kept on with it, and I knocked 3.5 seconds off my time. Then they trot­ted a set of Dun­lop rac­ing tyres out. I did two laps and the inside wall of the tyre was smoking, where it had been been hit­ting on the ra­dius rods.

“But they had al­ready writ­ten the work­shop man­ual. It was four seconds faster than XAS Miche­lins on six-inch rims but we couldn’t use them,” he re­counts.

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