Twenty five year on, O’Brien can’t really recall why he sold his Commodore, but he put his spare mechanicals into Callaghan’s VL shell and presto there was an Orange Everlast Commodore. It was certainly no tangerine dream in the two years it raced in this hue!
In 1992 it was involved in the infamous race ending accident on a sodden Conrod Straight when the winning Nissan GTR of Jim Richards/ Mark Skaife pinballed into a number of wrecked cars including the Everlast Commodore, which was classified 18th.
Worse was to come in 1993 when O’Brien came together with a tentative Dick Johnson in his Falcon in greasy conditions on top of the Mountain. Both cars were wrecked.
“I gave him plenty of opportunity for him (Johnson) to pass me before The Cutting,” recalls O’Brien. “He wasn’t game as it was wet and treacherous. I thought; ‘I’m not backing off all day.’ Over the top I moved over, but too far as I got in the marbles. The car snapped right and I was along for the ride. I was pretty fortunate that I hit him as I was heading straight for the wall.”
Another VL shell was built up at O’Brien’s Canberra workshop for 1994, this time back in Everlast powder blue. O’Brien practiced and qualified but sat out the race due to illness. He was suited up for the last stint but when the Commodore developed gearbox issues it was decided to keep Barry Graham in the car. He and Brian Callaghan Junior bought the Commodore home in 20th.
The following year O’Brien engaged a pay driver for the first time when Ron Barnacle ponied up $10,000 for the privilege. But that was also the year that Commodore privateers running Perkins engines ran into trouble with valve springs.
“Perkins recommended customers to change them,” recalls O’Brien. “I was the only one who didn’t and I was the only (Perkins) customer not to have an issue in the race. We finished 10th.”
After almost 10 years on the track with the almost vintage VL model, O’Brien purchased a VR Commodore at last.
”I had Dencar put a cage in it and Ken Rowse built it up in his Melbourne workshop. My son Peter was building the (Holden) engines by this time – we never had an issue,” says O’Brien of his 17th place finish.
The 1996 Tooheys 1000 would be the last Bathurst for Bill O’Brien as a driver, though the team returned for one final fling the following year with son Peter in the VR. Sadly he didn’t finish.
“He was pretty good behind the wheel,” O’Brien said about his oldest son. “I wanted to give him an opportunity before it was too late. I practiced but didn’t race. I’m glad Peter did Bathurst as he wouldn’t have got another chance as the race was changing.
“It was time to get out while I could. Things were getting political and the cars more expensive. Peter had a good business that needed looking after. Common sense prevailed and we quit.”
Bill has seen it all over the years: rain, hail and shine; cheers, beers and tears.