Sand­man back on the

Holden tal­ent, Red Bull cash and Triple Eight race en­gi­neer­ing are be­hind V8 Su­per­car Sand­man

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@news.com.au

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

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