Brock prototype 1995 Holden VR Commodore rally racer - Reader Resto

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Guy Allen & Shepheard family

Presented by

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The test bed for Holden's tilt at the 1995 Mobil 1 trial has been brought back to its former glory

 This car was auctioned by Graysonline

Peter Brock's prototype Holden VR Commodore Mobil 1 trial rally car

Back in 1995, the decision had been made to run a round-Australia rally – an idea that had waxed and waned in this country from the early fifties. The whole idea originally gained traction in the mind of the public with the REDeX-sponsored rallies of the 1950s. Those original events of 1953-54-55 are legendary and raised car rallying from some back-blocks activity followed by a few hardy enthusiasts, to front page news in the daily newspapers.

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Through all of them, there was one name that was a consistent thread – Shepheard. Reg Shepheard was the Australian holder of the REDeX franchise, and an enthusiastic sponsor of the events. His son George not only saw them, but became a pivotal player in the 1979 rally, for which he built the Commodores that famously placed 1-2-3. He returned in 1995 to build another fleet of Commodore rally cars for Holden, with Peter Brock, Ed Ordynski and Ross Dunkerton as the drivers.

Over two decades down the track, George found himself on the tools again, restoring the original VR Commodore test mule, which he’s just completed, and it’s now for sale. This was the machine Peter Brock tested over several months before the event – he actually raced another car.

| Past Blast - 1980 HDT VC Commodore

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The prototype emerged after being hidden in a shed for over 18 years, and that was after a completely unsympathetic driver "thrashed the arse off it", according to George, and did some unwarranted though repairable damage.

But before we get into the resto itself, let’s have a look at what this test mule, and the cars that followed, consisted of.

| Read next: Brock cars - the Brock enhancement legend

peter-brock-rally-team.jpgMeet the crew – yep, it takes a lot of people to pull it all together for the rally

Once he got the call from Holden, George attended the South Australia production line, accompanying the shells down the track, ensuring they received some additional welding, and had their roll cage mounts installed.

Period photos show the bare shells being worked on back in George’s workshop in Queensland (he owns GSA Wholesale Suspension), where the chrome moly cages went in. There was a host of rally gear fitted, including twin fuel systems, very substantial underbody protection, communication equipment, fire extinguishers, seats, harnesses and so-on.

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-engine-bay.jpg

As for mechanical spec, the decision was made to go with the V6 engine, a five-speed manual transmission and limited-slip diff. The engines were built by the legendary Ian Tate and George supported the use of the six.

"It was not much slower than a V8," he explains, "But the weight distribution was more conducive to rallying. They came together really well."

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-16.jpgMuch of the interior trim was kept – Holden wanted them to look like road cars

The transmissions were built at GMH to the team’s specifications, while one of the tricks with setting up the LSD included making sure it was assembled at the right tension. Nevertheless, George reckons the diffs took a terrible pounding in the event and he vividly remembers they managed to change the internals on a rally car, at the Port Hedland stop, in just 18 minutes.

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-4.jpgEarly PR shot of the team, prior to the rally

This prototype was out there being thrashed months before the event, with Brock at the wheel. "Peter was very good at feedback," says George. "He was a bush engineer, and that’s because he started out that way, and he was really good to work with once you knew what he was looking for." Over the decades, the pair became good friends. Much of the testing was done on a vast private property near Kilcoy in Queensland. George remembers those times fondly, saying the family who owned it would often come out to see the action, bringing along a picnic for the whole crew. George chuckles at the memory – "I was thinking if this is testing, this is pretty good!"

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With Brock bundled onto a flight back home, the crew would then set about working through whatever problems they’d encountered. One had to do with the design of the rear suspension, which was fine for normal use but threatened to crack under rally conditions. That involved working out subtly altered geometry, along with strengthened mounting points and components.

In the end, the cars rode on fully-adjustable suspension, though the ride height was not raised as much as you might expect. "If you go more than 20mmin either direction, the suspension stops working properly," says George.

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-9.jpgA lot of work went into that suspension

The extensive testing covered a host of aspects of the car, sometimes raising issues where apparently minor changes could have a big effect. For example, one of the reasons the spotlamps were located atop the bonnet was so they didn’t interfere with the engine cooling.

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Meanwhile, as far as possible, Holden was keen for it not to look too much like a race car, which is why the original bumpers and much of the original trim remained in place.

When it came to the rally, Brock’s event was effectively over after he collided with a stalled competitor hidden in a dust cloud somewhere near Kalgoorlie. "But Peter being Peter, he said ‘you blokes have got to fix this – I’m going on’," recalls George. In the end it was team-mates Ed Ordynski and Ross Runnalls who took the line honours.

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-12.jpgFuel cell and boot are clearly the work of pros

It was only 18 months ago that George was reunited with his old friend the test mule. After sitting in a shed for years, it was in a pretty ordinary state, so he got one of the original 1995 crew to come in and help him put it back together.

George has kept a list of the componentry that was worked on, and it’s comprehensive. You can see the huge effort that has gone into getting the car race-ready again, with everything from fuel injectors through to tailshaft joints coming under the crew’s critical eye.

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Perhaps almost as important as the car, is the paperwork. There’s a massive folder of period shots of the car being built and tested – Brock of course features – along with the CAMS log book and Brock’s own competition licences from the period.

George has decided it might be time to let go of the car, now he’s got it back into shape. "I have plenty of other memorabilia," he explains and figures it would be good to see the car go somewhere where it might be appreciated. It’s coming up for auction through Graysonline over July 26-31.

 

THE RESTO:

Build 'em tough

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-5.jpgThe shells were escorted down the line then moved to Qld.

Caged

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-20.jpgCustom-built cages helped to stiffen up the chassis.

Fan club

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-7.jpgThe crew was pretty happy with George’s work. They signed this Stoney memento.

Big effort

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-3.jpgIt’s easy to underestimate how much gear is required to support a few rally cars.

Race licence

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-8.jpgBrock’s competition licence is part of the paperwork.

Race paint

peter-brock-rally-vr-commodore-15.jpgIt’s got all the warpaint - though this was always the test car.

ORIGINAL CAR: 1995 Holden VR Commodore

LENGTH OF RESTORATION: Two years

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1995 HOLDEN VR COMMODORE ROUND AUSTRALIA MOBIL 1 TIME TRIAL

Engine:  3.8lt V6
Power & torque:
130kW @ 4800rpm
295Nm @3200rpm
(factory stock specs)
TRANSMISSION: five-speed manual
SUSPENSION:
Front: Coil-springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar.
Rear: Coils springs, telescopic dampers, modified arms brakes Discs (f/r)

 

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