There's another Peter Brock.
I've spoken about the BRE Hino Samurai and the Triumph TR-250K, two cars that flaunted American Peter Brock's natural engineering and design talents.
The other Peter Brock was Australian, and as much a public figure as Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in the U.S.—but for different reasons.
Born in Richmond, Victoria, Australia in 1945, Brock learned to drive an Austin 7 with no bodywork…or brakes. The body was hacked off to save weight, and it's said a lack of brakes helped him better anticipate what was ahead; he was perhaps unknowingly learning how to be a smooth, momentum-focused driver.
His first race at Australia's biggest race, Bathurst, was in 1969, in which he finished third. He won in 1972, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1987…often by setting the fastest lap of the race on the last lap.
He raced abroad, too, but he was loved most in Australia; his race number, 05, was in reference to wanting fans to keep their blood alcohol levels below 0.05 per cent.* He was a big supporter of road safety, and in his years racing in the V8 Supercars series, he was a rock star.
Driving for Holden, and as a business man, he entered into a special partnership with Holden to create HDT (Holden Dealer Team) Special Vehicles—hotted-up road cars personally designed and developed by Brock and sold through the dealer network.
Like Ferrari, the sale of HDT vehicles directly benefitted the race team—Holden had pulled its factory support in 1979 and the running of Commodores was down to the HDT outfit and privateers. Holden helped covertly where they could, but HDT vehicles can be looked at as a largely independent operation.
Only 4246 HDT vehicles were ever made, and today they command a hefty price for Australian enthusiasts. Today's Car of the Day is the last-ever Brock-developed Holden, the VL Director.
Last? It's all down to one stupid little box that was fitted to HDT vehicles in 1987, the DB Energy Polarizer. Brock was distraught after an accident at the 1984 Le Mans that killed a marshal, lapping continuously under yellows past the wreckage.
Months later, in September, he mentioned to a Holden executive that he'd been exorcised of the demons from that crash—he wasn't a part of it, by the way—by a Dr. Eric Dowker.
Some say it's just because Dowker got Brock to stop chain smoking, but Brock thought there was something more to Dr Dowker's methods, including his use of healing crystals. Through 1985, Brock was testing the Polarizer, even sending it to independent labs for testing…but nobody knew what, if anything, it did.
Holden got a hold of a box, cut it open, and found magnets, tin foil, and epoxy resin. Brock said, officially, that it was, "A high-technology energy device which creates a 'polarized' or 'ordered' molecular arrangement as distinct from the normal 'random' structure. This alters the behaviour and characteristics of material and components in the vehicle."
A row was brewing by late 1986 between Holden and Brock, and shit hit the fan in February 1987 after invitations were sent to the unveiling of The Director.
It's hard to believe now, but Brock had developed an all-new, Commodore-based car, the HDT Director, without Holden's knowledge. It was to be fast and luxurious, the equal of a BMW M5, but with one crucial part fitted as standard equipment: the DB Energy Polarizer.
Holden was clear: launch the car and we're done. Brock said the car was a Brock design, not a Holden, and unveiled the car underneath a United Nations flag in place of an Australian one.** Before the arguments or perhaps because of it, Brock had become convinced the car could be exported and sold around the world—which makes the United Nations flag almost fitting.
The car itself, bullshit aside, had a few other issues: it had no Australian Design Rules, crash test, or compliance plate certification. It also had an available fully-independent suspension developed without Holden's help (but lifted from the Opel Senator.)
Beyond that, though, you can't help but wonder what would have been. VL Directors were produced, and came with the choice of a 300 horsepower 4.9 or 443 horsepower 5.6-litre V8 engine, Tremec 5-speed manual or General Motors 4-speed automatic transmission, Corvette brakes, Momo or Simmons alloy wheels, Recaro seats, and 21-piece body kit. Weight was a very reasonable 1412 kg (3112 lbs.)
Without the support of Holden or its dealer network, this high-performance machine that was in the style of a Mercedes-Benz 500E was a tough sell, and only 12 Directors were produced.
Holden's next collaboration, to fill Brock's absence, was with TWR. But that's a story for another day.
Sources / Recommended reading
- Brock VL Director: HDT, YouTube, brockcommodores.com, Hemmings, Wikipedia, Facebook
- Peter Brock: Hemmings, Wikipedia
- Holden: Wikipedia
- DB Energy Polarizer: beaterblog.com, Facebook, Hemmings
Reader Jeff wrote in with two corrections, both of which have been made above:
- * A BAC of 0.5 would kill anyone (should be 0.05 or .05)
- ** The UN flags were added not removed