Mus­cle Ma­niac

Josh Bar­nett al­ways wished he could have been a HDT me­chanic... ex­cept he was born af­ter the le­gendary squad folded. Yet, as an ex­tra for the Brock mini-se­ries, he got to “live the dream” of be­ing a dealer team mule.

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

Our cor­re­spon­dent al­ways wished he could have been a HDT me­chanic... ex­cept he was born af­ter the le­gendary squad folded. Yet, as an ex­tra for the Brock mini-se­ries, he got to “live the dream” of be­ing a dealer team mule. Sort of.

Tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion com­pany En­de­mol Shine was clearly up for a chal­lenge when it pressed the play but­ton on cre­at­ing the Brock mini-se­ries. If there’s one legacy in Aus­tralia you don’t want to de­pict in­cor­rectly, it’s Peter Per­fect’s. Any­one who fol­lowed Peter Brock’s ca­reer could have picked the show to pieces on mi­nor de­tails shown. We all know the full story and it’s why we loved the man, the cars, the sport and the moun­tain he con­quered so much.

While mi­nor faults would have stood out to AMC read­ers like the prover­bial, con­versely, it’s highly un­likely you would have no­ticed me. I was lucky enough to be cast in most of the se­ries’ pit­stop scenes as a Holden Dealer Team me­chanic – a “mule” in Brock­s­peak.

As a huge life­long Peter Brock fan I was truly, again in Brock­s­peak, “liv­ing my dream”.

I must point out that I’m not an ac­tor. Not even close. That’s why, in the fin­ished prod­uct, I’m not heard or even in fo­cus. I don’t even get a men­tion in the ex­tended cred­its listed on the web­site. Not that I care about any of this.

That was never my dream any­way. I grew up want­ing to be like Brocky, but with very lit­tle money and, more im­por­tantly, lit­tle tal­ent, I did what many other failed rac­ing driver dream­ers do – I joined the me­dia.

In sum­mary I was a journo pre­tend­ing to be an ac­tor pre­tend­ing to be a pro­fes­sional me­chanic. Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the King of the Moun­tain I just gave it a red hot go.

My pit­stop scenes were filmed at Scheyville Na­tional Park on Syd­ney’s north-west­ern out­skirts in late Novem­ber and early De­cem­ber 2015. It was here, on the site of a for­mer mil­i­tary train­ing camp and cen­tre for mi­grants that Bathurst’s Pit Straight and Mur­ray’s Corner were re­cre­ated with the help of some Com-Gen magic.

The set was built around a 1970s/’80s-vin­tage pit­lane struc­ture cre­ated from scratch for the film. In the show they su­per­im­posed the grass and the Moun­tain with the fa­mous gi­ant letters be­hind it. This looks in­cred­i­ble on the fi­nal prod­uct when you know what the set looked like be­fore the magic wand was waved. On the ac­tual set we were sur­rounded by bush and dead grass but on the TV screen it re­ally does look like we were ac­tu­ally at Bathurst.

Un­der­neath these makeshift struc­tures were thou­sands upon thou­sands of old tools, worn tyres and rags. Be­hind the pits they had mar­quee tents, old HDT and Ford sig­nage plus an old school bus. Armco was erected along the grid to com­plete the look.

As I was born in the late 1980s it felt like I had trav­elled in a time ma­chine. This was also helped by the fact ev­ery per­son – some days there were around 50 back­ground ex­tras get­ting around – not in­clud­ing the tech­ni­cal crew was dressed in pe­riod cloth­ing. We spent a good hour ev­ery morn­ing get­ting our hair and fa­cial hair done to match. Be­ing a mule I was in over­alls ev­ery day. For the early scenes, in the non-pro­fes­sional era when Brock be­gan his ca­reer in the HDT Monaro, it was greasy plain-coloured suits. For the To­rana and early Com­modore years we were up­graded to the bright red with yel­low stripes and HDT badges. But my favourite out­fit was the late ’80s era. Putting on the Mo­bil shirt and pants was one of many mo­ments on set I felt like a kid at Christ­mas. The blue py­jama-wear­ing Brock was the one I grew up with and idolised. But if the clothes made me ex­cited like a child, when the cars came out of the hold­ing shed it was like go­ing to Dis­ney­world.

With the help of Brock car col­lec­tor Peter Cham­pion, some of the cars were legit, re­stored Brock cars. The 1987 Mo­bil VL was one of those. This car was the #05 that Brock started that year’s race in but in­fa­mously broke down early. It’s not to be con­fused with #10 (now owned by the Bow­dens) in which he fin­ished the race third on the road and was later el­e­vated to his ninth and fi­nal Bathurst win.

Both cars were vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal in ap­pear­ance, ex­cept for the num­ber and the front wind­screen

sticker. So pro­duc­ers sim­ply placed re­place­ment mag­netic stick­ers over the top for scenes where they needed #10 in­stead of #05.

This car is cen­tral to the high­light of my time as a mule. The sec­ond episode fea­tures a scene where me­chan­ics push #10 into the garages, with a de­jected third-placed Brock sadly walk­ing back to the pits (though we know that in the Sierra era, third place in the VL was a great re­sult for him). Yours truly was placed at the driver’s door – one hand on the wheel; one on the A-pil­lar.

One as­pect that didn’t feel au­then­tic on a sup­posed Bathurst race week­end set was the weather. I’ve been to Bathurst many times, but never has it been over 40 de­grees Cel­sius in Oc­to­ber. It was bloody hot in the shade, but when you’re wear­ing rac­ing crew gear and stand­ing along­side a white car re­flect­ing the hot sun onto you, it could be the sweati­est I’ve ever been while work­ing.

That said, it still didn’t feel like work. I looked into the cabin and in my head I was re­mind­ing my­self that I was touch­ing the same pieces of metal and plas­tic the great man did in his prime. Like how a de­vote Chris­tian would have felt touch­ing the manger Je­sus Christ was born in. Brock was like a god to me and although he’d been gone for al­most a decade, I could feel his pres­ence.

Any­way, com­ing back down to Earth, a cou­ple of the other mules and I were re­quired to push the car about five me­tres for­ward in the scene while Peter (well, ac­tor Matt Le Nevez) spoke to the cam­era in front of us. This took mul­ti­ple takes, so we needed to move it back and for­ward sev­eral times. Be­ing a big race­car, it doesn’t roll for­ward like your av­er­age Toy­ota Corolla road car. It re­quired a bit of mus­cle. But even still, I left the set amazed that I was ac­tu­ally be­ing paid for this.

Be­yond the buzz of de­pict­ing mo­tor rac­ing his­tory, be­ing on set with some of Aus­tralia’s best ac­tors was also pretty cool. Harry Firth was played by Steve Bis­ley or ‘Goose’ from Mad Max. Set­tle down all you Wa­ter Rats fans!

I’ll let your women folk tell you the soapies Le Nevez has acted in prior to land­ing the role of Brock. He was of­ten do­ing push-ups and squats in be­tween takes which he told me was “to make him look ex­hausted like the Bathurst driv­ers would be.”

Le Nevez was ac­tu­ally very hum­ble and was happy to chat with us non-celebri­ties in be­tween takes. You could tell he was lov­ing play­ing this role, es­pe­cially the driv­ing scenes he did him­self. He was very pleased with him­self when he nailed a Brock-like power skid leav­ing the pits say­ing “did ya see that?” to every­one watch­ing when he hopped out of the car.

The end prod­uct was con­tro­ver­sial, cop­ping plenty of crit­i­cism for the sto­ry­telling ‘li­cence’ taken – I have no idea who the char­ac­ter ‘Peanut’ was meant to be – but it was per­son­ally an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Hope­fully a younger au­di­ence will now be in­spired to learn more about his many rac­ing achieve­ments.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.