We're rewinding today on Saturday Sleuthing to a V8 of the late 1980s – the first Commodore racecar to carry the colours of Holden Special Vehicles – and we’ve tracked it down!
After the well-publicised split between Peter Brock and Holden, the ‘General’ did a deal for both its racing program and special road car division with Scot Tom Walkinshaw.
Getting HSV up and running was a task big enough in itself, so the racing program was contracted out to multiple Bathurst winner Larry Perkins.
His VL Commodore received a splash of black, red, silver and white paint and the addition of the new HSV logo and took to the track for the 1988 Australian Touring Car Championship.
So what was that car and where did it end up?
The car actually was a new VL – PE 004 – built in late 1987 and debuted at the Calder round of the World Touring Car Championship with Perkins and Denny Hulme driving.
This was the event that was held on the combined road and Thunderdome circuit – hard to believe that was 25 years ago this year!
It ran in a plain white livery initially and was then taken to the Wellington WTCC round in New Zealand and ran in Casio colours at the non-championship end-of-season Adelaide Grand Prix support event, where Perkins ran third behing the ailing Sierra of Dick Johnson and George Fury’s Skyline.
It became the HSV Commodore for Perkins in the 1988 ATCC, however the turbo Sierras – particularly of Johnson’s Shell team – were just too fast for the five-litre V8 and Perkins’ best result of the season was a third at Sandown and he finished seventh in the Championship.
All season race fans had been teased about the arrival of the new, fuel-injected, ‘Walkinshaw’ VL Commodore with its wild styling and various other updates. The debut date was continually pushed back and the new-spec car didn’t appear in Australia until the Sandown 500.
Perkins had a new car, so his ATCC car was updated to ‘Walkinshaw’ spec and run at the ‘500 for Brit Jeff Allam and German Armin Hahne, who replaced Tom Walkinshaw after the Scot stayed home due to the passing of his father.
The international duo retired with a broken axle and the car then became the HSV team’s spare (labeled #40) at Bathurst and used in practice to give the drivers plenty of laps pre-race.
It next went to New Zealand for the Nissan Mobil 500 street race in the hands of Allam and Brit Andy Wallace before Hulme then drove it at the Adelaide AGP support race and he and Perkins finished up with a popular 1-2 finish!
It was sold to the late privateer Llynden Reithmuller in 1989 and he raced it (still in base HSV livery) in a range of ATCC rounds (including having a crash in the wet Winton round) as well as Amaroo in the AMSCAR Series. Engine problems meant it was a retirement from Bathurst.
It was then sold to the Lansvale Smash Repairs team of Trevor Ashby and Steve Reed in 1990, who ran it in the AMSCAR Series as well as Bathurst and the inaugural race at Eastern Creek, the Nissan 500.
They built a new VN Commodore and 1991 and pulled the running gear from the Perkins-built chassis, which was sold as a shell and then attempted to be dressed up as a road car still painted in its yellow Lansvale war paint!
It passed through the hands of a few more owners, who had various intentions for the car that never came to fruition, before being sold to current owner Glen Featherstone around five years ago.
“Basically it had a set of racing struts with it, but it was basically just a body shell, though we know its line of history,” Featherstone told the V8 Sleuth recently.
“It’s been put back to its 1988 VL carburetor-engine spec that Larry ran it in the 1988 championship. It’s back in livery, all the mechanicals have been done and it’s ready to go.
“I applied for a COD (Certificate of Description, required for cars to compete in Historic racing in Australia) with CAMS but it was knocked back because I didn’t have the Harrop cambered diff in it. So I’ve sourced one of them, as well as a Getrag gearbox.
“The engine has been built to original spec and if the COD comes through in time, I’d love to get it out at Sydney Motorsport Park in a few weeks’ time for the Muscle Car Masters.
“I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people, but Troy Henness is a close mate of mine and he’s put a lot of work into it and helped make it happen with the paint and panel and mechanical side of things.”
So there you have it – the first car to carry the colours of HSV in Aussie touring car racing that led to the eventual formation of the Holden Racing Team.
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