This car played a fairly big role in my mo­tor rac­ing life, way back in 1980. It was one of the very first of the Brock cars, and the word was around there would be a ‘Race of Cham­pi­ons’ us­ing the first batch of pro­to­types at Calder Park, along­side the Aus­tralian Grand Prix. It was a great mar­ket­ing idea for HDT.

A bloke called Gra­ham Sell­ers was the Calder man­ager at the time – he ran it for Bob Jane – and I used to ring him ev­ery day to try to get a gig in the race. It drove him mad, the poor bug­ger.

For the GP, I was go­ing to drive for Ansett Team Elfin for Gar­rie Cooper’s For­mula 5000. But all the tour­ing car stars of the day were in the tin-top race, in­clud­ing Peter Brock. In the end, I think to shut me up, Sell­ers gave me a drive in it. It was such a good car, and we were to race Satur­day and Sun­day. I came sec­ond in both races, so over­all I won the points.


So I got this huge – I’ve still got it – M-shaped resin tro­phy, as the race was spon­sored by Big M milk. And it was pre­sented by Jackie Stew­art, who wasn’t a ‘Sir’ back then. So I have this photo I’m quite at­tached to, grin­ning with the tro­phy with these Big M girls in ly­cra suits and Jackie Stew­art.

So I thought that event was go­ing to change my life. You know I was just a lit­tle car sales­man from Devon­port and I’d be cat­a­pulted into star­dom. I still didn’t drive a tour­ing car for an­other five years!

In terms of a mo­tor car, these were the first mod­ern Aussie Mus­cle cars. They were far nicer to drive than the Fal­con GTs. The last of the To­rana mus­cle cars was the A9X and it was a lot more raw. Even driv­ing it now, it has nice steer­ing, clutch and gear­box – they were quite re­fined. The ba­sics were a five-litre V8 with (in this case) four-speed man­ual, with good sus­pen­sion and Irm­scher wheels. They only made a to­tal of 500 and it would be in­ter­est­ing to know how many of these very early race cars still ex­ist.

While I did a story on an­other of these cars a few years ago, this is the ac­tual car I raced and it’s a lit­tle weird sit­ting in it for the first time since 1980. Own­ers An­drew and Ja­nine Bond have done an amaz­ing job putting it to­gether. It still drives re­ally well and is as good as, if not bet­ter than, when I last saw it.

Ja­nine tells us it was a bit ropey when An­drew first turned up with it a cou­ple of decades ago. “An­drew found this and brought it home in 1995 – it was one of those, ‘you’re kid­ding me’ sit­u­a­tions. You ex­pect me to drive the kids to school and go to work in that?! I’ll be a laugh­ing stock. It’s loud, look at me… here I come!” she re­calls.

Mean­while An­drew says their re­la­tion­ship with the car got off to a rocky start. “I low­balled the guy I bought it from just be­fore Christ­mas 1994,” he said. “And he told me in no un­cer­tain terms to do the phys­i­cally im­pos­si­ble. I let him sweat on it for a while. It was just af­ter New Year I went back, with a wad of cash and threw it on the ta­ble.

“It had four flat tyres, all these tools on the roof and the boot, it had rust in the sills, no fuel in it

– it had been sit­ting around for four or five years and was al­ways go­ing to need a restora­tion.

“We poured some fuel down the carby,


pumped up the tyres, and it fired. I had to take a bat­tery out of an­other car. I got it down to the servo, put some fuel in it and it promptly stopped – I thought, here we go. I found a claw ham­mer in the boot and gave the carby a bit of a tap, think­ing there was prob­a­bly some rub­bish in the nee­dle and seat. It fired up and got home. As Ja­nine said, she saw it and said ‘oh no, that’s bloody hor­ri­ble’. I reck­oned it would clean up al­right.

“The first time she drives it she stalls it – ‘I don’t like it, get rid of it’. Two weeks later you needed a crowbar to get Ja­nine out of the car. She loved it.”

Ja­nine used it as her daily, say­ing they towed the kids mo­tor­cy­cles be­hind it, went camp­ing with it. It was the daily un­til 98, when the gear­box was get­ting noisy and it had a bit of a rat­tle from the en­gine. It sat in the back of a work­shop for years.

“Mum and Dad were up one week­end,” ex­plains An­drew, “and they asked what are you go­ing to do with this thing? I said I’d get around to it one day. He said well come on, let’s get into it. We pulled off all the boxes that were cov­er­ing it and started. The win­dows weren’t work­ing, the ra­dio wasn’t work­ing so we got all the electrics go­ing.

“Un­for­tu­nately he passed away and I lost in­ter­est in it for 12 months or so. So late 2014 I de­cided Long­ford was on and I wanted to do that…the fly­ing mile. I quickly tore into it again and nearly got there, but not quite. Then I had a leisurely cruise to the end and regis­tered it in April 2016.”

Ja­nine re­calls when she fi­nally got to drive the re­stored car, years af­ter it went into hi­ber­na­tion. “Over the years An­drew had bought dif­fer­ent cars, SP23, CV8 Monaro,” she says, and re­calls him warn­ing her that she might have

rose-tinted mem­o­ries of what the Com­modore was like to drive. He didn’t want her get­ting her hopes too high. “Any­way he threw me the keys af­ter he’d had a test drive of it, I had tears stream­ing down my face and I punched him – it’s bet­ter than I re­mem­ber! I love get­ting out in it – it’s good fun. It’s a piece of his­tory that we’re proud to be care­tak­ers of.”

Ini­tially the plan was sim­ply to tidy up the car, but as is of­ten the case with these things, one job led to an­other. The pre­vi­ous owner had used it tow boats and it was reg­u­larly backed into the wa­ter. An­drew started fix­ing an is­sue on the rear of the car and then no­ticed they needed to put a sill in it. “So it be­came a bare shell, he ex­plains. “I rubbed it back by hand, which I don’t rec­om­mend to any­body, and that’s one rea­son why it took so long to do. One of my mates is a re­ally fas­tid­i­ous panel-beater and ev­ery­thing on the car is 100 per cent. There’s very lit­tle filler in it. I found a re­ally good pain­ter. He’s a Com­modore nut as well and did a very good job.”

The car has only done around 100,000km, but it has had a colour­ful life. “Im­me­di­ately af­ter John raced it be­came a me­dia car for HDT,” says An­drew. “So it graced a few mag­a­zines early on. And then they gave it away at Bathurst 1981. Who­ever got clos­est to pick­ing Brock’s qual­i­fy­ing time won the car. It got shipped to Sut­tons in Chul­lora – a young kid, a 14-year-old, won it. He took the money in­stead.

“A copy­writer from Mel­bourne who was work­ing in Syd­ney bought it. He moved back to Mel­bourne and I have re­ceipts for ev­ery cent he spent on that car – two vol­umes of them – and most of it was spent at HDT over the was al­ways ser­viced by them and a few mods done over time. It had ex­trac­tors put on it, slightly big­ger camshaft. The guy we bought it from didn’t re­ally look af­ter it – whacked a tow­bar on it and towed his boats around with it.”

When you’re a rac­ing driver you’re just look­ing to the next car that goes faster, you’re never look­ing back 20 or 30 years. It’s col­lec­tors like these guys that keep them alive. I’ve al­ways been fond of those cars. They were just great things and that was a nice era of Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing. An­drew and Ja­nine have done an in­cred­i­ble job of car­ing for it.


ABOVE Bowe re­unites with his old flame, that he hoped would bring him fame.

TOP JB’s Race of Cham­pi­ons HDT Com­modore is once again pris­tine.

ABOVE RIGHT Very lit­tle race scaf­fold­ing by to­day’s stan­dards.

ABOVE Badge of hon­our. ’95 Na­tion­als par­tic­i­pant de­cal.

LEFT It’s ours. An­drew and Ja­nine Bond are smil­ing now. That wasn’t al­ways the case.

RIGHT It’s red. Very, very red in there.

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