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Wednesday, May 29, 2024


THE lineage of star drivers to race for Perkins Engineering is well known, but the proliferation of the team’s customer cars means some surprising faces have popped up in Larry Perkins-built cars over the years.

The history of all the touring cars built by Perkins is set to be covered by our upcoming release Perkins Engineering: The Cars, 1986-2008.

The officially licensed, limited edition, collector’s hardcover book will cover the over 50 Commodore race cars built by the team utilising Perkins Engineering’s official records, a collection of never-before-published photographs and insights from the key players.

It’s now available for pre-order in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop – click HERE to secure your copy!

Here are five big-name drivers that you might not realise have raced PE machinery.

Cam Waters made his Supercars debut in a Perkins-built car. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Waters’ Supercars debut came three years after Perkins Engineering’s departure from the championship, but the then 17-year-old nevertheless made his first start in a car built by the team.

The reigning Bathurst 1000 pole-winner’s maiden tilt at the ‘Great Race’ famously came with Kelly Racing as a prize for winning the reality TV show Shannons Supercar Showdown.

The Kellys had essentially taken over Perkins Engineering for 2009, and even by 2011 several of their cars had their origins in the latter years of Perkins’ squad.

Such was the case for the #77 Holden piloted by Waters and Grant Denyer in the 2011 Bathurst 1000: it was the same Commodore that Todd Kelly drove to Perkins’ team’s final win at Symmons Plains in 2008.

Brad Jones made a one-off start in a Perkins-built Pro-Duct Holden in 1994. Pic: Chevron

Brad Jones was the king of the Thunderdome and a leading force in Super Touring through the early to mid 1990s, but touring car drives outside of the Sandown and Bathurst enduros were few and far between.

One often-forgotten race drive came in one of Bob Pearson’s Perkins-built Pro-Duct Commodores at the 1994 Winfield Triple Challenge.

An AUSCAR round on the Saturday night in Adelaide meant Jones missed qualifying and started from the back of the grid, but he piloted the stunningly liveried car to a sixth and a pair of seventh placings over the three heats.

Richards made his solo Supercars Championship debut at the 2001 Clipsal 500 Adelaide in a Perkins-built car. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

The much-missed Kiwi began his Supercars career in Perkins machinery, even if it carried the colours of another team.

Team Kiwi Racing ran Perkins Engineering-sourced Commodores in its early years, beginning with the team’s debut at the 2000 FAI 1000 where Richards and Angus Fogg came home 16th in the rain-hit race.

Richards posted some impressive upset results for the minnow squad, including a fourth-place finish in the first championship race on New Zealand soil at Pukekohe in 2001.

The patched-up Gardner/Brabham car made it to the chequered flag in the 1999 FAI 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

‘Brabs’ only did one race in a Perkins-built car, but it gave him a moment he may never forget.

The sports car racing legend co-drove Wayne Gardner’s Perkins-built, Coca-Cola-backed Commodore in the 1999 FAI 1000 at Bathurst.

It was Brabham at the wheel when a tyre blew on the entry to the Chase, sending him for a wild ride across the sand.

Remarkably, the car was repaired and continued in the race, the #19 Holden credited with a 14th place finish.

John Bowe and Ian Love ahead of the 1994 Tooheys 1000; they’d share a Perkins-built Holden at the Wanneroo 300 later that year. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Yes, not only did long-time Ford racer JB race a Commodore, it was one built by Perkins Engineering!

Bowe co-drove Ian Love’s Holden on a number of occasions in WA Endurance Series events at Wanneroo in the mid-1990s.

The best finish they managed was a second placing in a round of the 1994 series, while they just missed out on a podium at that year’s Wanneroo 300.

In a twist of fate, Bowe nearly finished his Supercars career racing for Perkins – a story he told on the V8 Sleuth Podcast in 2019.

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