Bathurst 1966

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -


Holden will for­ever be known as win­ner of the 1966 Gal­la­her 500. But few know that the Holden/Rauno Aal­to­nen Cooper S was seen as the fac­tory BMC Aus­tralia team’s third-string en­try. What’s more, Bob went to great lengths to en­sure he and Aal­to­nen would be com­pet­i­tive on Sun­day Oc­to­ber 2, 1966. Con­cerned that his Cooper S may not be iden­ti­cal to the other two, he asked for and re­ceived fac­tory in­ter­ven­tion.

“On Mon­day be­fore the race all three cars went on the dyno,” he ex­plained. “Dave Brad­ford, an English ap­pren­tice I knew well, rang me and told there was a prob­lem. Dave said: ‘One of the cars is down one and a half horse­power... and you know which one you will get!’

“So I rang Evan up and asked if I could bor­row one of the cars that night. I picked it up at 6pm Mon­day and took it to my garage at Pym­ble. Dave was there or­gan­is­ing things. We stripped the car back to the bodyshell and bal­anced ev­ery­thing. We bal­anced all gears, brake drums and discs, axles and drive­shafts, as well as check­ing the blueprinted mo­tor. The parts went to Lynx En­gi­neer­ing for bal­anc­ing and then back to the work­shop. I re­turned the car the fac­tory on the Tues­day morn­ing; no one knew it was gone!

“I was just look­ing for an edge, and the edge just hap­pened to be that it had to be as per­fect a car as you could pos­si­bly get.

“I got the car again on the Tues­day night and I drove it all night to Can­berra and Yass. On Wed­nes­day Dave put it back on the dyno and found it was up one and a half horse­power, so I told him to wind back the dis­trib­u­tor!”

The skul­dug­gery con­tin­ued at the track where there was sand­bag­ging in qual­i­fy­ing – no one wanted to show their true speed, as he re­calls.

“You had to sand­bag be­cause if you were fastest you might find the num­bers on your car had swapped overnight. There were no log­books then. Rauno un­der­stood the team pol­i­tics. I told him we shouldn’t show our full speed in qual­i­fy­ing and we should just back off af­ter the Cas­trol Tower at Sky­line. We were tim­ing half laps and work­ing out what a quick lap would be with­out set­ting one.”

The race was a fran­tic af­fair. Lead driver Aal­to­nen took the lead early, with an ar­mada of Mi­nis snap­ping at his bumper. Brian Fo­ley’s works Cooper S led for 15 laps be­fore his en­gine failed and Aal­to­nen was able to eke out an ad­van­tage that Holden built upon. The Charlie Smith/Ron Haylen Cooper S kept them hon­est un­til crashing out at the half­way mark. By the end Aal­to­nen/Holden had won by over a lap.

Holden sub­se­quently had a very full dance card in ’67 – stan­dard pro­duc­tion, Im­proved Pro­duc­tion and rally Mi­nis. There were times when the Lolita sportscar’s 1100cc en­gine would

go into the rally Mini for an event on Satur­day night, be­fore be­ing re­turned to the Lolita on Sun­day morn­ing!

For the 1967 Bathurst 500, Holden was very much the se­nior driver, paired with lanky Bri­tish driver Tony Fall, but the Cooper S had no an­swer for the faster XR Fal­con GTs and Alfa Romeo GTVs. Holden/Fall were best of the rest, win­ning their class and fin­ish­ing fifth out­right. The fol­low­ing week­end he fin­ished third out­right with Ge­orge Shep­heard in the South­ern Cross Rally.

BMC wound back its in­volve­ment with Mi­nis in 1968 and Holden had to look else­where for drives, in­clud­ing over­seas.

One such event was the 1968 Lon­don to Syd­ney Marathon in a Volvo 142. Bob was a pas­sen­ger asleep in this car when it crashed in In­dia and his head went through the wind­screen. Bob is not sure which was scarier, re­al­is­ing he was sail­ing through the wind­screen or end­ing up in an In­dian hospi­tal...

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He was a very busy boy fol­low­ing his ’66 Bathurst vic­tory in #13C. He dab­bled in sportscars, in­clud­ing the Lolita MkII (in­set).

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