Rumblings, February 1972

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Driving a Holden.—In the December issue of Motor Sport we wrote, “We have never ourselves driven a Holden, although we once very nearly got hold of one which Jack Brabham had been using here”. This brought a very swift phone call from a reader, Mr. Dick Haymes of Derby, who happened to live not five miles from the Assistant Editor’s family home. Mr. Haymesoe
is the proud possessor of one of only a handful of Holden Monaro GTS coupés to have escaped from Australia, this model being the sporty one in this successful GM subsidiary’s extensive range. Over the recent months the car, which is similar in concept to the Chevrolet Camaro or Ford Mustang type of vehicle, has further been modified so that it is now an exceptionally potent piece of machinery which certainly would not disgrace itself on the dragstrip or at the local sprint.

The Monaro GTS coupé comes as standard with a straight-six engine but this particular car was fitted with the optional 308 cu. in. V8 Chevrolet-based engine and also with a manual four-speed gearbox and a limited slip differential.

General Motors brought the car to Britain when it was new in 1969 as a publicity exercise for Holden, which, of course, are not retailed in Britain, and finally disposed of it during 1970 to a dealer who sold it to Mr. Haymes. Since then he has had it resprayed to a fawn colour, it was a bright yellow; fitted Koni shock-absorbers, Minilite wheels and some American Goodyear tyres. Under the bonnet he has had Ian Harrington of OVAR Motors in Derby enlarge the cubic capacity to 327 cu. in., and fit various American tuning bits like an Edlebrock manifold and a TRW cam. This and cylinder-head work has boosted the horse-power to “over 300”.

The car is absolutely immaculate to concours standards and Mr. Haymes, formerly an Opel enthusiast, is delighted with it. He was quite happy to trust us to drive the car and we found this a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting experience until a chap in an old Borgward in front of us drove head-on into a tree. This somewhat curtailed our test but the few miles we covered in the car was enough to realise that Holden make an excellent product. The internal finish of the car was certainly better than the corresponding American vehicles and the whole car is quite obviously built a good deal more strongly. Mr. Haymes has an exceptionally rare piece of machinery which is undoubtedly much the superior of the Chevrolet Camaro with the added advantage that it is right-hand drive. It makes one rather sad that Vauxhall cannot come up with something similar either in styling or in performance.

Training for Group 1.—We had a look the other day at Mike Dashwood’s new venture, the Thruxton Racing Drivers’ School. We had seen Ford saloons dashing round the BARC’s Wiltshire circuit on non-race days or when vintage cars were awaiting practice sessions and undoubtedly they belonged to this newest of would-be racers’ kindergartens. So we sent a quick young woman down to see how it is conducted.

The main aim is safety-first training in getting a saloon car round Thruxton, a good beginner’s course, wide enough to encourage experiments but sufficiently tricky to call for skill and guidance. It is not entirely fair to say this is purely a saloon-car racing school, because pupils can graduate to Formula Ford. But it is primarily a good introduction to the Group 1 or more advanced closed-car branch of the sport and, as this should be popular this year, a sound investment.

Dashwood directs his school, with Burnell, Burbridge, Cutting and Shaw to instruct. A pupil is first required to drive round for a couple of laps in a Ford Cortina GT, without exceeding 4,000 or so r.p.m., accompanied by an instructor, to get the feel of things. This is followed by analysis of the pupil’s methods and instructions about how to go faster, with a discourse about flag signals. The pupil, suitably awed, is then let out on his (or her) own in a Mk. I Cortina, again to a pre-determined rev-limit. This is followed, maybe after lunch, which is included in the fee, by a conducted high-speed tour of the circuit with an instructor driving this time, pointing out the correct lines through the corners and test braking points before them. The pupil ends the day’s session with more (and it should be faster) lapping in one of the school’s Cortinas. An interesting exercise, from which our guinea-pig learner said she gained confidence even after one session which darkness made quite