Fi­nal fling

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

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.

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