The Group A Commodores
This edition we revisit three former cover cars as part of our continuing series pinpointing the whereabouts of the Great Race-winning chassis.
a stat that will surprise many: Holden was the most successful marque of the Bathurst 1000’s eight-year Group A era. The General’s three wins (1986, 1987 and 1990) pipped Ford and Nissan (two victories apiece), with Jaguar the only other manufacturer to claim the touring car classic when it was run to international rules.
Holden’s trio of wins says a lot about Fishermans Bend’s tenacity to compete with the global brands and the suitability of tried and tested V8 power around Mount Panorama.
A perfect example of the against-the-odds nature of Holden’s Group A successes was Holden Racing Team’s 1990 victory, the subject of AMC #13’s cover story in 2004.
Win Percy and Allan Grice claimed the upset win despite not being rated a chance against the top Ford Sierra teams and Nissan’s GT-R. Indeed, their Commodore qualified two seconds off the pacesetters’ times. However, thanks to a combination of superb engineering, strong drivers and a never-say-die spirit, the factory Holden squad pulled off the surprise win. While the car was not the fastest in the field, it ultimately possessed the right combination of speed and reliability over 161 laps.
The #16 VL Commodore carries great significance for HRT as the car which claimed the team’s first Bathurst win. In fact, first win full-stop.
The seemingly bulletproof car of 1990 was in stark contrast to the same bodyshell’s first run at the Mountain, as #20 in 1988, when it lasted just a handful of laps. It was the car built at Tom Walkinshaw Racing in England when the fledgling Holden Special Vehicles had concurrent VL racecar builds, in the UK and here in Australia via Larry Perkins.
According to Percy, who was HRT’s team boss in 1990, the chassis in which he won that year’s Bathurst classic was a stripped shell in the corner of the team’s workshop when he arrived in Australia at the beginning of that season.
It was completely rebuilt, he says, re-designated from chassis TWR 023 to chassis 025 and returned to the track as the #16 HRT car at Sandown, Bathurst and at Adelaide’s AGP Group A support event.
It was retired from competition ahead of the 1991 season, when HRT updated the new VN model; and, after doing the promotional rounds, was sent to England, to become a part of Walkinshaw’s personal car collection.
The famous Aussie muscle car was rescued by Holden’s top brass in the early ‘noughties’ after TWR went bust and Walkinshaw was forced to dispose of his collection.
The VL has been a long-time resident of HRT’s Clayton headquarters in Victoria. It returned to the spotlight in 2010 when HRT unveiled its pair of VE Bathurst challenges in the classic white and black livery of 1990 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the giant-killing feat. And again earlier this year highlight HRT’s 25th birthday.