One of Holden's unsung Bathurst heroes fetches half a mil
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If you're a bit wealthy and you love your big, brutal, Aussie V8s, then you'll be doing either one of two things — you'll be selling them, or you'll be buying them.
The market for these cars, both new and old, is coming to a head in 2017. Just a few weeks ago an HSV GTSR W1 was bidded up to an eye watering $278,000 (though it still failed to meet reserve...), and more recently this comparatively basic, humble, 1969 Holden HT Monaro GTS sold at auction over the ditch for AU$500,000 (NZ$541,000) on Saturday. That's a record price.
It's never that simple of course. This Monaro is an integral part of Aussie motoring history; not just for what it did for Holden, but also for what it did for Australian motorsport.
The Holden Dealer Team was formed in 1969, at a time where motorsport was well and truly a 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday' exercise. This very car was used to help homologate their three-car assault for that year's Hardie-Ferodo Bathurst 500 (in the days when the race was 500 miles long, rather than the 1000 kilometres it is today).
That doesn't sound like the most important application ... until you realise the difference the research around humble '57 D' provided the HDT squad. It debuted at the Sandown 300 with Spencer Martin and Kevin Bartlett behind the wheel, and looked good until it crashed heavily. Martin copped much of the blame for the crash, though the team later found that brake failure was the real cause. They also found that the Monaro was chewing up its own piston rings during the race, leading to loss of power and a lot of oil being guzzled.
Come the Bathurst 500, HDT fronted two new Monaros based on the specifications of the diagnosed changes to the piston rings and brakes. Come the great race — a race that Holden and their 'unreliable' Monaro were underdogs for — and HDT claimed victory with their lead '44 D' car of Colin Bond and Tony Roberts. In fact, all three of the HDT Monaros finished in the top six, while the other four Monaros on the entry list all failed to finish.
Why's this result so important? Well, one of HDT's drivers at the time was a young bloke named Peter Brock. He, a Bathurst rookie, had finished third with Des West in the team's second car. Brock was raw at the time; talent unearthed from club racing with barely a drop of professional experience. Had he not tasted podium success in 1969, he could well have left HDT to compete for another team, or even faded into obscurity as a lot of race drivers do.
But no, having claimed a podium on debut with the team Brock stayed on and became one of the most popular and influential competitors in Australian sport, not to mention a grand ambassador for both Holden and the Australian Touring Car Championships. He won three ATCC titles and eight of his nine Bathurst crowns with the HDT (the first coming two years after his 1969 podium).
As is typical of race cars from this period, this Monaro is more or less a pure road car. The interior is full upholstered, with its tartan and completely non-supportive seats, its wood grain dash trim, and no roll-over protection at all.
When it was new, you could buy one of these for less than AU$4,000. What a time to be alive.