Holden’s unsung Bathurst heroes and hero cars is the theme of the latest issue of Australian Muscle Car magazine. The new edition, issue 104, presents five Holden stories covering the years 1963, ’68, ’73, ’78 and ’83. The quintet of stories has one common theme: cars, drivers or events that have been largely overshadowed or overlooked over the years.
It’s exactly half a century ago since a Holden won the Great Race for the very first time. No one back then could have known that it was just the start of a long and gloriously successful era in touring car racing for the General. But it didn’t start as expected, with a successful debut for factory team cars. Rather, that first Bathurst victory went to a privateer Holden Monaro driver. Bruce McPhee’s achievements at Bathurst in ’68 do tend to get overlooked a little these days, which is a pity as it was a cunningly executed victory by a chap of which little is known by most people who worship the ground other Bathurst Holden winners walk on.
There’s so much more to McPhee’s story and victory than what’s been previously told. With the help of Bruce’s daughter Anne and race mechanic Mark Levenspiel – and previously unseen photographs – we shed new light on the McPhee team’s landmark 1968 Bathurst win and the man himself.
Holden’s Bathurst history didn’t start with McPhee in ’68. It kicked off five years earlier, in the very first Bathurst 500. While one of the new EH models finished a solid second that year, further back and almost unnoticed, the oldest Holden ever to start the Great Race at Bathurst made it to the finish against rival teams’ expectations. It’s somewhat poetic that the ‘galah performance’ of this pioneering pink-and-grey FB model Holden in the ’63 Armstrong 500 started the marque’s colourful history. It’s a story that’s never been told – until now.
This unlikely racecar gave a pair of racing mad lads a boy’s own adventure. Fifty-five years on, we’ve tracked down drivers Lex Brailley and Phil McCumisky who tell their story to AMC.
Then there’s the story of the Monaro nameplate’s unexpected return to Bathurst, in the hands of Ron Dickson, in 1973. The tale of the big black HQ Monaro, another little known Holden Bathurst hero car, whose story, until now, has yet to be told.
Of course, much is known about Peter Brock’s nine Bathurst winners. But few are aware of just how easily it could have unravelled for Brock in 1978 in his return appearance on the Mountain for the HDT – as team boss John Sheppard explained to AMC. Sheppard, an unsung Holden hero if there ever was one, offers some fascinating insights into that race – which itself lives in the shadow of the crushing six-lap win the following year – and what it was like to work with Brock.
Fast forward another five years and in ’83 Brock famously (or infamously?) won Bathurst by swapping across to the sister #25 entry after the #05 car’s engine quit a mere eight laps into the race. That earned the ’83 #05 machine the dubious honour of being the worst performed of all the cars Brock started at Bathurst. Perhaps as penance it was fitting that in ‘retirement’ the car ended up unceremoniously perched atop the roof of a Melbourne Holden dealership. Read on for the story of how it got there – and how Brocky himself helped get it back down!
Beyond our cover stories, we present the Top 25 most memorable moments for Dick Johnson Racing on the Mountain. In truth, this could have been a Top 40 or Top 50, but we’ve whittled it down to just 25 moments.
Issue #104’s Muscle Man is Spencer Martin, who is interviewed and profiled in detail. Martin was the Holden Dealer Team’s first driver and a two-time Gold Star champion.
We also review the AMSCAR Series’ Group A years.
All that and a whole lot more in the brand new issue of Australian Muscle Car magazine.