As the images here (taken in late August) show, HRT 033 is coming back to life. The famous car is being restored to return to a racetrack in either late 2016 or early 2017 – for the first time in almost two decades.
A deal was done in early June for Eggleston Motorsport to secure the chassis from Steve Andrew and, perhaps even more importantly, a range of relevant parts. Since then it’s been full steam ahead getting ‘Gabrielle’ back together.
“It’s one of the most famous cars of the V8 era and in touring car history,” says Ben Eggleston of EMS. The Melbourne-based squad has rapidly established itself as a leading restoration business in recent years with its top-notch work on the Mark Skaife/Todd Kelly-driven HRT Commodore VZ Bathurst winner from 2005.
“I remember the stories on that car in the press at the time; it was a massive thing for the sport and a car the likes of which no one had really seen before. It was so unique, a very cool car.
“To win the championship, Sandown and Bathurst in the one year really cemented HRT in the record books. To have two names like Lowndes and Murphy in the car, you don’t get much bigger names in the sport.”
EMS received the HRT 033 chassis a few months ago and since then it’s been full throttle.
“We started work on it straight away, including getting George Smith into action with a whole heap of bits to be refined. Luckily I’d done a lot of history work before I had the car so I had a plan of attack as soon as it arrived.
“We’ve sifted through all of the original parts and doing a full restoration.
“We have the correct number engine for it that won Bathurst 1996 that came with it plus a lot of other components that were still with the car after it was disassembled by HRT. There’s nearly everything with the car. A lot of the stuff we’ve got done have been things like engine mounts. We’ve got the ones out of it but we want to get new ones made, so we’re taking no risks.
“We’ve got the original seat being re-covered, the original dashboard, all the stuff that was with it in 1996. George (Smith) has been amazing help with extra fabricating and making it as it was 20 years ago.”
EMS originally aimed to have the car ready for Bathurst this October and the 20th anniversary of its big win. However, that plan changed when Bathurst organisers asked Eggleston’s team if it could have the sister car from 1996, the #05 Peter Brock/Tomas Mezera machine, ready for the race weekend’s activities marking the 10th anniversary of Brock’s passing.
Eggleston still has vivid memories of standing trackside in 1996.
“I was there that day in the pouring rain at the top of the Mountain for the start of the race,” says Eggleston. “There’s no way back then I’d have guessed I would get to have this car. Owning a car like that – you’d never think it’s possible. I am really keen to bring it back to its glory days.
“I’ve spoken with Craig (Lowndes) about it. He was at a golf day I was at recently so we spoke a fair bit about it. I think he’s pretty keen to see it run again, he loves the history of racing.”