SATURDAY SLEUTHING: THE STOLEN BROCK HOLDEN

The debut of the Team Brock Torana at Sandown in 1976. Pic: an1images.com / Ian Smith

THIS week’s edition of Saturday Sleuthing looks at a car that played a significant role in Peter Brock career … and then it got stolen.

That’s right, the Gibson Motorsport Commodore we recently profiled isn’t the first Australian touring car to be pinched later in its life.

The car we’re looking at is the Torana that Brock moved to in the wake of his upset Bathurst win in 1975 with Brian Sampson in the privateer Gown-Hindhaugh L34.

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Two years removed from his axing from the Holden Dealer Team, Brock truly went out on his own for 1976 by starting a new team under his own name.

His focus on that season was largely on racing overseas with an appetite for international competition that needed whetting. He secured a BMW sportscar that he took to the Le Mans 24 Hour and raced in other events in Europe.

The problem was, Team Brock didn’t have a car for him to race at home.

A deal was quickly done with young Victorian privateer Wayne Mitchell – father of future Hawthorn AFL premiership player Sam Mitchell – to purchase his L34 Torana which became the distinctive red, white and blue Brock entry for the remainder of the season.

It debuted at the Sandown round of the Australian Touring Car Championship on the back of the grid; so late was the car’s preparation that it wasn’t finished until the Saturday night after practice was complete.

Undeterred, Brock charged through the pack and finished second to Colin Bond in the race that counted for ATCC points, before repeating the rise from the rear to win a subsequent non-championship race over the same distance.

Its next major appearance at a major event was at the Sandown 400 – which Brock won.

Brock leads eventual winner Morris into McPhillamy Park early in the 1976 Hardie-Ferodo 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

The result augered well for Bathurst where he’d share the Torana with brother Phil, but a bent fuel pick-up pipe caused the #5 Holden to grind to a halt at the top of Conrod Straight while Peter investigated the issue.

Eventually the brothers Brock came home third but, given the problems that struck the Bob Morris/John Fitzpatrick and Colin Bond/John Harvey Toranas that finished ahead of them, it was a potential win that got away.

Holden dealer Bill Patterson took over the cash-strapped outfit for 1977, and Brock and later Phil raced the now-blue, yellow and white Bill Patterson Racing machine during that season, though it was not converted to A9X specification and appeared at Bathurst with Doug Chivas and Tony Roberts at the wheel.

Brock alongside Moffat at Sandown in 1977. Pic: an1images.com / Ian Smith

Patterson wound up the team in early 1978 and, having been upgraded by the team to A9X specifications, this car was sold to privateer Gary Cooke who raced it in Citizen Watches colours during 1978 and 1979.

With the new Commodore becoming Holden’s touring car for 1980, this Torana was sold minus engine and gearbox to an owner intending to compete in Sports Sedans, though they eventually turned it into a road car.

Reportedly a 355 cubic inch Chevrolet engine was dropped into the Torana and it was on-sold, and was eventually stolen from a car park outside the Lithgow RSL Club and never recovered.

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.