MCLAUGHLIN ‘LOVED’ DRIVING GRM’S SUPERCARS-SPEC UTE

Left: McLaughlin ahead of his first drive of the Ute in 2013, Pic: Instagram. Right: Paul Gover at the wheel during a track test at Calder in 2002. Pic: an1images.com

ACROSS a career that features V8 Supercars-spec Fords, Holdens and Volvos, a Team Penske IndyCar, Porsche and McLaren GT3 cars, Scott McLaughlin told the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Timken that he still has very fond memories of one of the more unusual vehicles he’s driven so far.

Garry Rogers Motorsport’s V8 Supercars-spec Holden Ute.

In 2001, Holden Motorsport came up with the concept of building a VU model Ute with V8 Supercar running gear to be used as part of its marketing program as a ride and display car.

Given GRM was a Holden-backed team at the time – the squad was also responsible for the Holden Monaro 427C Nations Cup program – Holden gave it the gig of creating a very unique beast.

Garth Tander made sure the rear tyres were up to temperature before handing over to Paul Gover for his test laps. Pic: an1images.com

The Ute – dubbed ‘Thunder’ – used a lot of components from one of GRM’s old Supercars – in fact an ex-Gibson Motorsport Commodore VS that had been raced by GRM in 1997 and 1998, and had given both Jason Bright and Garth Tander their Supercars Championship debuts.

The striking silver Ute featured the Supercars’ engine, suspension, drive line, roll cage (albeit modified), brakes and electronics and made its first public appearance in September 2001, and was demonstrated at the Bathurst 1000 the following month.

The V8 Supercars-inspired Ute is one of many Holden machines pictured in our upcoming release, Racing the Lion: An Illustrated History of Holden in Australian Motorsport, a 400-page hardcover book paying tribute to the marque’s rich competition history spanning over seven decades.

Don’t miss out and pre-order it now HERE!

‘Thunder’ has remained with GRM ever since, serving for many years as one of its most popular machines on team ride days with most of the its star Supercars drivers and co-drivers – see video and pics of Michael Caruso and Jack Perkins below – spending time in the cockpit.

“I loved the Ute! I jumped in that thing all the time, it was good fun,” McLaughlin told the V8 Sleuth Podcast.

McLaughlin drove the Ute at the team’s ride days throughout his 2013 rookie ‘main game’ season, taking passengers for a unique spin aboard one of the most unusual V8 Supercars in existence.

However, it marked the final year of Thunder’s presence in GRM’s ride day program with the Ute parked at the end of 2013 in deference to the team’s new deal with Volvo.

Photos of it can still be found on social media if you scroll far enough – including the below shot of McLaughlin wearing an old school open-face helmet!

“Yeah, that was the token GRM ride day special when we’d run the old open-face helmet, the goggles and stuff like that,” he told the V8 Sleuth Podcast.

“The only bad thing was that it ran off unleaded and (it) would fume out the whole cabin! I always had watery eyes and stuff, it was unbelievable.”

Listen to the episode in the players below!

Will Dale began his media career as a breakfast radio newsreader before joining SPEED TV Australia and FOX SPORTS Australia in 2012 as its Digital Editorial Lead - Motorsport for the next six years, covering all forms of motorsport both in Australia and internationally. He became part of the V8 Sleuth team in 2018.