First published 2011-04-07
While we’re all for affordable machinery in our Gleaned section, this one was too good to pass up. Peter Brock was, broadly speaking, the most Awesome Man in Australia. He could drive the wheels off anything you put him in, ran a hugely successful, factory-endorsed business selling new cars through authorised Holden dealers and maintained the best hair on the Australian motor racing circuit, regardless of his age:
His warm public demeanor meant that women wanted him and men, even the most staunchly heterosexual, would have gladly turned gay for him (see 1990s photograph above). I would have. And admit it, you would have, too.
He was as Australian as football, meat pies and picking on Adelaide and managed for a generation, to be at the forefront of Awesome, but by the mid 1980s, he was sick. His capacity for Marlboros was only equaled by his capacity for tea. Sound a bit gay? He could slam down 40 cups in a day. It’s a surprise he didn’t have a catheter. Perhaps he did. He was a busy man but something had to change.
Brockie’s chiropractor, Eric Dowker, extolled the virtues of crystals and alternative medicines to The Man. Now, most Aussies rarely tolerate bullshit, especially namby-pamby, touchy-feely, new age bullshit, but within weeks, Brockie went from a Marlboros-sucking, meat-eating, tea-swilling icon of Aussie-do-it-yourselfness; to a non-smoking, vegetarian, crystal-loving, herbal-tea-sipping weirdo.
In those pre-Internet days, it was entirely conceivable that the Great Unwashed would never hear of his transformation, until he started applying the same attitudes to his vehicles.
With the HDT Commodore SS Group A homologation special of 1987, he started fitting an ‘Energy Polariser’. Holden, the ‘H’ in HDT, sensed a fair amount of bullshit in his claims. The device, which was sealed and contained crystals and magnets, along with an external aerial, was purported to align the molecules of the vehicle at an atomic level, giving unheard of levels of handling, road holding, comfort and fuel economy. 60 Minutes reporter George Negus had Brock fit one to his Mercedes Benz and swore by it. Others thought it was, well, pursuant to unbelievable levels of bullshit.
Holden requested Brock cease and desist. He responded by refusing to put his famous signature on any Group A that did not include his device. Holden told him that wasn’t part of the deal. Brock told them, politely, to go fuck themselves. A stoush was brewing…
Peter Brock, now rejuvenated on a diet of weird beans and herbs, had the energy of 10 men and the hair of a God. He felt that HDT (Holden Dealer Team) vehicles were being held back by the very vehicles they were based on. He sought to improve the breed so markedly, so as to put them in an entirely different league altogether.
His company worked hard on a new car, based on the 1986 VL Commodore Calais. The ‘Director’ was to be the ultimate driving machine. He was going to offer the car with a stroked 5.6 liter version of Holden’s own V8, a 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic from the Chevrolet Corvette, his Energy Polariser and Opel-based IRS (Independent Rear Suspension). Holden drew the line with a MASSIVE ‘What the Fuck?’
There were those in Holden that felt that the Polariser had merit, but was hard to offer a warranty on. However, it was the IRS rear end that was the actual breaking point. The Opel-based equipment was not a hard fit; the Commodore had originally been based on the Opel Rekord after all, but no Commodore had been crash tested with the system and, worse still, Holden had their own version in the pipeline, to be made ready for the new, larger Commodore-based Holden VQ Statesman and Caprice range, due for release in 1990.
Rather than say to the public that they were crushing Australia’s favourite racing driver because he was snatching their idea for rear suspension, they blamed the box of crystals and promises, because it was the easiest thing blame.
The story doesn’t end there. Just when you thought that it would and that you’d get to read a write-up-on the actual car in question. Holden suggested that if he release the car, he could tell his story walking. Brock, with business balls of rock (as strong-as, but as dumb-as, too), essentially told Holden that his business, HDT (uh, HOLDEN Dealer Team) could live on without Holden’s help BY RELEASING THE CAR AND NOT TELLING THEM.
The car he launched was the Brock Director. Not a Holden, nor a Commodore nor a Calais (aside from the fact that, you know, it was a Calais), the Director was an impressive piece of work. The fore-mentioned features were included, the hand-built stroker V8, the 4-speed auto, the IRS suspension and the car cost AU$87,000. In 1987. When Holden’s top-of-the-range Calais Turbo was AU$31,000. Plus by this stage, Brock’s operation was sourcing new cars through the few dealers that remained loyal to HDT, at pretty much full-tote odds rather than the discount, factory-endorsed deals he was enjoying earlier in the decade.
Just 12 were built before HDT became unviable and Brock bailed out.
This is one of those cars. Build number 10.
If you want a car that makes the later, HSV-designed Commodore SS Group A SV ‘Walkinshaw’ look restrained, this is your car.
The Brock Director’s 21-piece body kit has been a nightmare for the longevity of these cars; with panels often warping horribly over the last couple of decades. The parts are bespoke and hard to get, however this car appears to have everything it should and all of it pointing in the right direction. The interior almost looks too good to be true and may have been replaced at some stage, but if so it has been tastefully done and to the period.
The advert says it is the high-output version and therefore presumably the hand-built 5.6, however the eBay specs table shows the engine size as the stock-Holden size of 4.9 litres. This could be a default field for all VL-model V8s in eBay’s advertising structure, but some clarification in the ad would have been good.
These are a good car with a good story and given their rarity, you could probably assume that the late, great Peter Brock was personally involved with every one of them.
Find this awesome piece of Australian motoring history on an
eBay classified ad that has been running since 2010, but is due to finish in 24 hours. At $150k it’s no bargain, but find another one.