Gabrielle’s restora­tion

Australian Muscle Car - - Immortal Muscle -

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.”

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