Sandman back on the
Holden talent, Red Bull cash and Triple Eight race engineering are behind V8 Supercar Sandman
THERE is still life in the Holden panel van. Nearly 40 years after the original, and despite a death sentence hanging over the Commodore, the Holden hero has been reborn and reimagined as a V8 Supercar Sandman.
It picks up the roof and back door from the Commodore Sportwagon, side guards from the ute, a bunch of handformed side panels and a unique quarter window copied from the original panel van.
There is no chance of it becoming a production model but it has just begun an Australia-wide tour, making special appearances at V8 Supercar races including the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide and the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The new-age Sandman is the result of Holden talent, Red Bull cash and Triple Eight race engineering.
But, ironically, the inspiration came from Bathurst winning team boss Roland Dane, an Irishman whose shaggin’ wagon dream car was turned into a reality by 21-year-old Holden designer Tom Grech.
“When I was a nipper, I used to get a copy of Wheels magazine every month from my godfather in Adelaide. Then I saw the original Mad Max movie and thought the Sandman was pretty cool,” Dane says.
“I wanted something different for the race team to use for our passenger ride days. I was thinking we could do a station wagon but then I realised we could do a panel van.
“When I spoke to Holden about it, they were keen to get on-board. And here we are.”
It took a lot of hard work for a good idea to become a 240km/h reality, much of it by Grech. He was hand-picked for the job by another of Holden’s prodigies, Peter Hughes — who designs the Commodore warpaint each V8 Supercar season.
“I’m a creative designer for interior and exterior in the advanced studio at Fishermans Bend,” Grech says.
“I thought door handles and chromed trim would be my job. But they’ve thrown me in at the deep end and I’m involved in whole car designs for GM’s global brands, Chevrolet, Cadillac. “Then this came along. “I’m stoked. It’s a pretty awesome thing, just because it’s my first car.
“It came together so quickly, in just three months. All the other projects in the studio take so long because we’re looking out to cars in 2025.”
The heart of the Sandman is a retired V8 Supercar racer, which was parked last year after failing to win favour with fivetime champion (soon to be six) Jamie Whincup.
It’s been tweaked for more speed and spectacle, picking up a bigger engine, F1-style paddle gearshift and grippier Michelin tyres, with the bodywork laid over the top.
Grech did the original sketches and then it was down to the fabricators at Red Bull Racing in Brisbane to create the bodywork.
“That’s not just fibreglass. It’s all steel, with carbon fibre panels inside. It’s not a bodgie job, it’s properly built,” says Dane. “It took hundreds of hours. We used as many original Holden panels as we could.”
The car’s silver paintjob reflects Red Bull’s involvement. there is also a pair of carbon fibre surfboards on the roof.
“The idea was to carry over a lot of existing parts,” Grech says.
“Proportionally speaking, it’s more radical because it’s lower, shorter and wider.
He did much of the early work, from research in history
The quick and the deadly: The Supercar Sandman and its panel van inspiration (left); nailbiting time for Paul Gover in the cockpit at the Gold Coast last weekend