V8 Sleuth

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents - WITH AARON NOO­NAN

An­other ‘Race of Cham­pi­ons’ HDT Com­modore from the 1980 AGP meet­ing at Calder has popped up. After a 20-year hia­tus, it’s ready for JB again.

HDT Com­modores from the one-make ‘Race of Cham­pi­ons’ at the 1980 Aus­tralian Grand Prix meet­ing at Calder in Mel­bourne re­main very, very in­ter­est­ing cars with some of them still un­ac­counted for, over 35 years later. AMC has fea­tured this event and these cars be­fore (way back in is­sue #32) so I was in­ter­ested to re­cently re­ceive an or­der for old pho­tos from this event on my AN1 Im­ages on­line mo­tor­sport archive web­site (plug, plug, check it out at www.an-1im­ages.com)

The or­der had a clear theme – im­ages of the John Bowe-driven Com­modore that ul­ti­mately won the event over­all. While Bowe didn’t win ei­ther of the races, his com­bined re­sults meant he was the champ of champs that week­end in the new Brock Com­modores.

A quick call and fol­low up re­vealed what I in­stantly sus­pected: the photo or­der had come from the car owner.

An­drew Bond told us the fa­mil­iar red Com­modore has been owned by his fam­ily for the last two decades. While the pho­tos here show it with the pop­u­lar Sim­mons wheels, he as­sures us that it will have the pe­riod-cor­rect wheels fit­ted when it’s placed on dis­play.

“After the race the cars went to ten­der and I be­lieve this car ended up as a me­dia car, in­for­ma­tion that I picked up when I was in­volved with the HSV Own­ers Club in the 1990s,” he tells the V8 Sleuth. “They had a com­pe­ti­tion at Bathurst in 1981 to pick Brock’s best lap time and who­ever got the clos­est got the Bowe car. A young kid from New South Wales won it so it was shipped to Sut­tons in Syd­ney and they took the pho­tos, etc but the kid was only 16 so he took the cash in­stead of the car, which was bought by an­other gen­tle­man.

“He moved to Mel­bourne in about 1983 and had it ser­viced the whole time and the guy he sold it to is the guy we bought it off in 1994.

“It had had a hard life to start with and it was in pretty bad shape when we got it. We got it back on the road in 1995 and the wife used it as a shop­ping trol­ley for three or four years then it lived in the back of my work­shop for a long time. We didn’t have the time or money to do any­thing with it and we closed the work­shop down and farmed it around a few sheds.”

About two years ago the bul­let was bit­ten for a restora­tion to oc­cur, so the Bowe-driven HDT Com­modore was pulled apart and given a tidy up.

“I’d been procur­ing parts for it over the last 20 years but it didn’t re­ally need a great deal of work, some panels were re­placed from where it was bashed up a bit. The left front guard was pretty bad from where John had ti­died up Char­lie O’Brien in the sec­ond race! But oth­er­wise we left ev­ery­thing as it was. It has new paint and the head­lights don’t fit that well, but then again they didn’t after the first race at Calder after a few taps!”

Bond’s Com­modore has match­ing num­bers en­gine and gear­box with just sig­nage left to take it all the way back to 1980 and that’s where our photo archive came in handy.

“I’ve been in con­tact with the owner of the Dick John­son car so I’d like to tee up a time to go and have a look at the let­ter­ing and signs,” says Bond. “There are so many great de­tails I have picked up on the car from the pho­tos I ac­tu­ally got from AN1 ac­tu­ally, de­tails that I just didn’t have be­fore!”

While we’re chuffed to have as­sisted with this car, the big ques­tion is: what’s next?

“I want to run it in Reg­u­lar­ity so it’s at least back on the track,” he says. “I’ve been in touch with JB’s man­ager too to tee up get­ting him

along to have a drive of it some­where, some­time.”

As many AMC read­ers will re­call, the HDT ROC Com­modores were given Group C log books for the one-off race, how­ever CAMS to­day won’t is­sue an His­toric Group C log book to Bond, in­stead of­fer­ing a Group 3J Im­proved Pro­duc­tion one.

While this is ob­vi­ously a source of frus­tra­tion for the cur­rent owner, there’s no doubt this is a very in­ter­est­ing car in Aus­tralian mus­cle car his­tory and one that we’ll see out and about some­time very soon!

Afew is­sues back we fea­tured the Al­lan Grice Craven Mild A9-X To­rana that owner Tony Saw­ford cur­rently races in the Her­itage Tour­ing Cars cat­e­gory.

Part of the car’s his­tory in­cluded its ini­tial sale from Grice’s Syd­ney-based team to a chi­ro­prac­tor whose iden­tity we couldn’t de­ter­mine at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

We’ve tracked down the for­mer owner of the afore­men­tioned Group C racer and have con­firmed his iden­tity to be James Carter. James con­tin­ues to prac­tise on the NSW Cen­tral Coast and, after a few calls to track him down, in­deed con­firmed he was the very chi­ro­prac­tor we had been chas­ing!

“I bought it from Al­lan (Grice) fol­low­ing Bathurst and had it con­verted to the road, but we left ev­ery­thing in it, put a hand­brake in it and mod­i­fied the muf­flers,” he re­calls.

“I was prac­tis­ing in Mos­man and I knew Frank Gard­ner (Grice’s team man­ager of the time). He was a pa­tient of mine and some­one else re­ferred him. He said ‘if you get my back sorted I’ll get your driv­ing sorted out!’

“I’m a bit of a petrol­head, so that’s what hap­pened. He gave me some key in­struc­tion and took me around the tracks, it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and shortly after that I pur­chased the car,” Carter con­tin­ues.

“I did in­tend to club race it but never got to it. I went to Canada shortly after that and stored it and fi­nally after a few years re­alised I wasn’t go­ing to be able to use it so I sold it. It had ev­ery­thing orig­i­nal, in­clud­ing the num­bers and spon­sor stick­ers. I drove it only on the road pretty much but I did do some lap dashes and hill­climbs in it too.”

The-V8 Sleuth team is work­ing hard with Mus­cle Car Masters event man­age­ment to se­cure a range of in­ter­est­ing cars for this year’s event for both the Peter Brock trib­ute and the Sports Rac­ing Car In­vi­ta­tional.

One car that has come out of the wood­work that we’re keen to have along is the VP SS V8 Com­modore driven by P. Brock and Tony Scott in the 1993 Bathurst 12 Hour.

While Brock’s 12 Hour cars aren’t as cel­e­brated as his Oc­to­ber 1000-kilo­me­tre cars, they’re still in­ter­est­ing parts of his his­tory at Mount Panorama.

Which re­minds me, any­one got any leads on the six-cylin­der Com­modore he drove with Neil Cromp­ton and Peter McKay in the in­au­gu­ral 12 Hour in 1991? I’d love to hear from you!

As-al­ways, I love hear­ing from AMC read­ers with ques­tions, in­for­ma­tion or feed­back. If you’ve got an in­ter­est­ing car or in­ter­est­ing sto­ries, shoot an email to aaron@v8sleuth.com.au or call my of­fice on 03 9585 1981.

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