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Mount Panorama
Wednesday, May 29, 2024


THE long-running saga of two ‘Big Banger’ HDT Holden Commodore VK Bathurst Group C race cars carrying Peter Brock’s #05 on their doors is over.

Long-time Australian race car enthusiasts, the Bowden family, have recently acquired the ex-Peter Champion car and taken the first step toward returning it to the track.

They’ve peeled off the #05 and, instead, replaced it with John Harvey’s #25 racing number.

The pair of day-glow Marlboro HDT race cars are Holden muscle car classics, however disagreements between various industry figures and fans, as to which car was indeed the Bathurst winner, had somewhat soured the ‘Big Bangers’ story.

Until now.

The #05 race-winning car driven by Peter Brock and Larry Perkins was donated to the Bathurst City (now Regional) Council in 1985 and sits in the National Motor Racing Museum at Mount Panorama, complete with original paintwork and period stone chips.

The #25 second-placed car driven by John Harvey and David ‘Skippy’ Parsons, was sold to John Farrell in Western Australia and then onto Bill Cleland, for son John to race in the United Kingdom.

Returning to Australia it was beautifully restored and spent many years in Champion’s Brock car collection (and was driven by Brock at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed in 2005), however with the #05 on its doors.

That the car in the Museum is, and always has been, the 1984 Bathurst-winning car, is a view shared by the new owner of the #25 car.

“The comprehensive investigative cover story that Australian Muscle Car Magazine published some years back and the work that the guys from the Bertie Street online forum did, made it crystal clear to us as to which car was which,” Chris Bowden told V8 Sleuth this week.

“I always thought that if we could acquire the car, we’d put the 25 numbers back onto it and love it to bits, which is exactly what we’re going to do.

“John Harvey will forever be a legend of Australian motorsport and we had a lot of great times with him over the years. His part of that famous 1-2 form finish now gets to be really celebrated.

“I can understand how some people may have arrived at the conclusion that our car was 05. I understand in the period there was some notes made in paperwork that make it appear the original intent may have been to sell the race winner to Western Australia, but that’s certainly not what ended up happening.

“I can only presume that it was this line of thinking of the original intent of which car was going to go where, that may have led even Brocky himself to think the car we now have was 05.”

With the help of former HDT members, Bowden fully intends to return the #25 Commodore to the track too, in Group C Historic competition in the Heritage Touring Cars category.

“It’s an original chassis that you can see has had a few hits, then perfectly restored, which in our opinion is the right recipe for a historic racer,” says Bowden.

However, prior to that there is a little work to be done and a missing distributor that needs to be sourced.

“The Holden Dealer Team ran a unique, modified twin coil distributor with a mechanical tacho, because they wanted as much spark as they could possibly get,” he says.

“You can see period photos of the car that show one red coil pack on either side of the firewall.

“You can also see them in the car in the video and photos from when it was part of the auction at Bathurst back in 2018, but between now and then, it’s disappeared from the car.”

The ‘Big Bangers’ term was coined by long-time Brock PR man Tim ‘Plastic’ Pemberton for the pre-enduros 1984 team poster. The former Holden Motorsport media manager passed away in recent weeks.

The cars only raced in period four times in 1984 at the Sandown, Bathurst and Surfers Paradise endurance races and the Calder Australian Grand Prix support race.

Brock and Perkins won the Sandown and Bathurst double (with Harvey and Parsons third and second respectively), Brock won the Surfers Paradise enduro (with Harvey sixth) and the Calder race was the only race a ‘Big Banger’ didn’t win as George Fury’s Bluebird beat home Brock’s Commodore with Harvey finishing fourth.

John Harvey tackles the tight corners at Calder in 1984, the last appearance of the ‘Big Banger’ Commodores together. Photo: an1images.com / AUTOPIX
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