Paddock-find VB Commodore rescue mission - Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens - Words & Photos

Presented by

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Glenn Torrens escapes to the country to collect his paddock-find VB Commodore

A few months ago, I mentioned a ratty old Commodore in a paddock… Smashed headlights, a broken window, no rear axle, plenty of dents and more surface rust than remaining paint. I agreed to buy it years ago but it’s taken until recently to collect…

So why the tardiness?

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Working in the paddock where it had sat on blocks for years, a couple of chillaxing hours were invested to get the Commodore rolling again

The car was owned by a mate, Paul, who lives on a couple of acres so he wasn’t in any hurry to shift it. With other projects keeping me busy, I wasn’t in a hurry to collect it. Being outdoors wasn’t much of a problem as the car was already a bit of a shitter when it was plonked in the paddock years ago. Paul is a pro paint/panel bloke who plays with hot rods and street machines – which is how I met him about 20 years ago through my work with Street Machine magazine – and he knew I was keen on the ol’ Commodore. There was no doubt, for either of us, about my intention to collect it… eventually!

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GTs iron lion looks to be all there including the spare

What I’ve bought from Paul is a 1979 VB Commodore Sport. Plenty of Holden enthusiasts would have never heard of this… so right now, like Miss Benita looking through her magic mirror on Play School, I can see all the kiddies jumping onto the internet and frantically typing: ‘There’s no such thing as a Commodore Sport ya dickhead…’

In fact, there is.

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There were plenty of encouraging comments when I put-up a picture and asked ‘wotsitworf?’ on Facebook: "Yard art…That’s about it." Absolutely nothing", "Coupla stubbies at best", "Pack of ciggies," etc

These days, it’s usually only veteran Holden staffers that recognise ‘Sport’ in relation to early Commodores. That’s because it was an option pack, not a distinct model like an SL/E. To help its salespeople sell the new Commodore, Holden offered what were known as Option Fast Packs that made the in-showroom sales process - and building the cars - easier by offering optional equipment, such as intermittent wipers, bumper over-riders and retractable rear seat-belts, in bundles like McHappy Meals.

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The original rear axle was pilfered years ago so I fitted one to get my paddock-find onto four wheels for the first time in two decades

The Commodore Sport Pack featured Holden’s 4.2-litre V8, four-speed manual gearbox and rear disc brakes. Inside, the instruments gained oil and volt gauges and the useless vacuum/economy gauge was swapped for a tachometer. The Sport pack also included Holden’s dual exhaust to help squeeze the little V8’s claimed power from 87 (for the single pipe version) to 96kW. Plus, the V8 motor’s fitment gave the base-model Commodore power steering.

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With its 4.2 V8, dual exhaust, four-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel disc brakes, alloy wheels and full instruments, it’s kind-of a VB Commodore SS!

The finishing touches to the Sport were a left-hand exterior mirror (wow!) the SL/E’s turbine-type 15-inch alloy wheels (gee!) and a 4.2 badge proudly displayed on the boot-lid (aww!). And although it’s not listed for the Sport, nor standard on the base Commodore, mine has SL/E-type painted black-outs around its tail-lights and window frames. Maybe someone added those later.

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Two tone rust and green

The Commodore Sport may not have the chutzpah of the later Brock/HDT or HSV cars but being a nice burbly V8 manual, I reckon it’s kind-of special! Being a VB, it’s also the first of the V8 Commodores those two performance empires were based on. And in contrast to the ridiculous ‘rare-limited-edition-race-special-production-turbo-factory-only-one-ever-made’ type claims some owners make for their cars, the VB Commodore Sport’s legitimacy is backed-up by Holden published paperwork.

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Homeward bound with another Commodore for the collection

After a tidy-up, this Commodore will be a fun cruiser… and that’s much better than it being ‘car art’ in my mate Paul’s garden!

 

From Unique Cars #444, Sep 2020

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