Pair of Holden Racing Team Commodores for sale over the ditch
I've written a few of these kinds of articles, where a shiny and rare car — or set of cars — has popped up for sale at some incredible auction house on the other side of the world. But very rarely do any of the cars that feature in such stories actually tickle any of my right parts.
But this is a little different.
Dutton Garage are an automotive showroom in Melbourne; the kind of showroom that you'd expect to find up some Italian backstreet, obscure and out of the way. What's more, these kinds of showrooms normally have a tendency to stock the same plain jane cookie-cutter selection of European classics. But it's not some 50-year-old Ferrari or some tatty old Chevy I'm here to talk about; it's these two hairy-chested Kangaroo steak pie V8 racers.
Both are former Bathurst 1000–winning cars, and both peaked in their racing duties while racing for the Holden Racing Team. But, they're both from completely different eras in motorsport.
It isn't often that Holden's factory Australian Touring Car Championship team are classified as underdogs, but against its respective competition this VL was certainly no favourite in the days of the Group A formula. With its old-school naturally aspirated V8, the Commodore had to take on the might of the Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth and the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R — and it often lost.
The loss wasn't just one on paper, it was one that could be spotted a mile away when stacking up the cars side by side. While the Sierra and Skyline cut sports-car silhouettes with their sleek two-door designs, the taxi-cab Commodore's already bulky four-door sedan arrangement was further underlined by Walkinshaw's 'extensive' and polarizing cladding. The boot-lid was clearly a dining table in a past life, and the bonnet had more unexpected ups and downs than a Warriors NRL season.
Yet, the VL did claim a sweet, sweet win in 1990. Sure, it was somewhat aided by the technical gremlins that plagued the new-at-the-time GT-R, but it was a triumph nonetheless of gruff old-school underdog versus flashy 'rice rockets' as some would call them.
Fast forward to Bathurst 2011 and the Holden VE Commodore V8 Supercar that's also for sale, and things have moved on in a big way. Group A was long dead, and the all-Australian V8 formula that replaced it was in reasonable health. The Holden Racing Team had gone from being underdogs to being six-time V8 Supercar and Bathurst 1000 champions. 2011 became their seventh win, after Garth Tander and young rookie Nick Percat were able to pull off an incredible win; typified by the successful resistance to a wild attack from former HRT driver Craig Lowndes in the dying laps.
Both cars tell very different stories from different times in the history of HRT, and both are for sale at Dutton Garage (price on application). But the two of them make a wonderful pairing. Hopefully they get to continue to stick together, exchanging their own war stories as HRT's legacy continues to soldier on.