Australian Muscle Car
Our Back in the Day section in AMC #114 featured some fantastic images from the Surfers Paradise round of the 1974 Australian Touring Car Championship. As the pics showed, it was the day Peter Brock not only gave the new LH model Torana SL/R 5000 its race debut but also wrapped up his rst ATCC title.
It was also the one and only time Brock and Dick Johnson raced as Holden Dealer Team team-mates.
At Surfers that weekend Dick drove a second HDT entry, the ‘NSW’ HDT Torana XU-1 normally raced by Colin Bond. Enlisting the services of a top local ace was perhaps team boss Harry Firth’s way of providing
Brocky with backup – or was Firth auditioning Johnson for a HDT co-driver role later in the year at Bathurst? A Brock/Johnson pairing in a HDT Torana L34 – it never happened but what a Bathurst driver combo that would have been! At the time Johnson was among the country’s top privateer Torana drivers – and indeed had shared (and prepared) Bob Forbes’ XU-1 to sixth place at Bathurst the year before, in what was thethen 28 year-old Johnson’s Great Race debut. At the time, in fact, the future Ford hero was a committed Holden man. In his 10 years in the sport to that date, Johnson had only ever raced Holdens.
This got us thinking. Dick’s various old Ford race machines that survive today are much revered and generally worth a pretty penny. But where are the Holdens? It’s hard to recall a single one of them ever even popping up for sale, let alone being lovingly restored to its former glory. It’s almost as though they’ve been erased from history.
Which is perhaps not too surprising. After all, Holden fans probably feel a bit con icted when it comes to cherishing an old Holden race car made famous by a Ford star. And
Blue Oval followers would be even less inclined to have anything to do with an early Dick Johnson car with that Lion badge attached.
So, we wondered: where are all the lost Dick Johnson Holdens?
Johnson began racing, like so many others in the early ‘60s, in a Humpy Holden. Dick bought a second-hand FJ model with 57,000 miles on the clock and hotted it up at home (and painted it up in a kind of dull beige colour from tins of paint he found under stored under the house). The FJ soon made way for a red EH Holden, followed by a yellow Torana GTR modi ed for Improved Production (in this car Dick scored his rst ATCC championship points, at Lakeside in 1970). A little later Johnson got together with local Holden dealer Zupps to race its Series Production XU-1, with Dick’s GTR now running in Zupps colours.
The plan had been for Zupps to update to a new LH Torana SL/R 5000 for Johnson to drive, but this never eventuated. Instead, Dick did a deal to race an XU-1 with a different Holden dealer, Barry Nixon-Smith. Dick was still racing this car as late as 1976 (and still giving the top L34 drivers a run for their money) until an offer came from Bryan Byrt Ford to switch to the dark (blue) side and race its XA Falcon Hardtop Sports Sedan and new XB Group C tourer.
The Nixon-Smith car, we believe, is known – the ill-fated Brock/Chivas XU-1 Bathurst ’73 car. But about the others? How many Dick Johnson Holdens are still out there? So, Whaddayaknow?