Words: Chris Ralph
Following the first round of drivers recalling their first race cars, we’ve compiled another entertaining collection of HTCAV drivers telling us where it all began.
First Car: EH Holden
Current Car: 1964 Ford Falcon Sprint, Ford Mustang coupe
HTCAV sponsor, Barwon Timber’s Bill Trengrove has very clear memories of his first race. He’d bought an EH Holden from Geoff McInnes in the early 90s after Geoff’s son Andrew had turned it into a front runner. His first foray into historic racing was at Historic Winton. “It was in the handicap and I could smell victory! On to the back straight in second place on the last lap, closing fast on wily old Ken Zinner in his Humpy Holden. I make a pass on the right, run out of room, spin off wildly into the infield!” Covered completely in mud and dirty water, car and driver bonded.
Over nearly 30 years of ownership, Bill has run the Holden at all Victorian circuits, as well as Bathurst, Eastern Creek (as was) and Baskerville, twice.
Despite actually doing more racing in his ex-Clem Smith Mustang and latterly exploring the ex-Bill Meeke Falcon Sprint, it’s the EH that he slips on like an old pair of comfy boots. What’s more, it was the car that Bill’s son Brent drove on his debut at Historic Sandown in 2007.
The family now travels as a race team, with a choice of cars that includes Brent’s Camaro. “The Holden’s an heirloom now,” he says, “here to stay!”
First Car: FE Holden
Current Car: FE Holden
Faithful Eddie Dobbs. He’s always been true to his first love and continues to race her hard. (Wife Margaret’s eyebrows shoot skywards. But as pit manager, she’s as much involved in Eddie’s famous FE Holden as he is!)
Aged 14, Eddie saw Graham Blanchard (father of V8 Supercar’s Tim) battling former V8 Supercar team owner Garry Rogers on TV. Graham’s car was a blue FE Holden. Eddie fell in love. Fast forward 20 years and noted historic racer Gavin Sala had a blue FE sports sedan that had raced in hill climbs sporadically. Money changed hands.
After returning it to Group N specifications, Eddie’s first race was at the 1985 Sandown Historics. The results weren’t as planned – last. Worse, he was flagged off due to lack of speed! Much development then took place while maintaining the car’s originality – it’s one of the few cars in HTCAV or indeed any state-based historic competition with an original Appendix J history.
Two years later, with the FE now at an acceptably speedy level, Eddie won his class at the combined Calder Park Thunderdome and Circuit event.
Running at four Australian Grand Prix support races in both Adelaide and Melbourne has been a highlight, but more impressively - especially compared to the rest of the field - Eddie and Margaret have competed in every state in their beloved car.
An ex-HTCAV President and Life Member, Eddie echoes others’ thoughts on the best thing about historic touring car racing: “The people!”
First Car: EH Holden
Current Car: 1964 ½ Mustang coupe
Andrew Cannon had represented Australia in skiing and rowing; by 1994, driving at Bathurst was on his bucket list. Four problems: no car, only a P-plate CAMS licence, only a few laps’ experience at Winton and time running out. Scouring the motorsport ads, he saw an EH Holden (with Bathurst entry) for around $8,000 – in Perth. “I heard it running over the phone and said ‘Yep, I’ll buy it’. Amazed I didn’t haggle and wanting to help a novice, the seller threw in a trailer and spares.”
Some solid motorsport referees helped with Andrew’s early upgrade to a full licence. Car and trailer arrived just in time; the pilgrimage to the Mount began.
“People say they have no idea – I had absolutely no idea!” he laughs. Also, no tools, no spares - but there he was at his first race meeting in a car he’d never sat in before on the most daunting track in Australia. Finishing third in class, Andrew forgot to pull into the paddock after the finish. He drove a full circuit cool down lap, waving happily at the crowd. His name and car number came over the PA, he ambled up to Race Control. Officials, white with anger, tore strips off him for delaying the national telecast by precious minutes… Oops!
The EH was sold to Ballarat’s Mike Oliver, who added the silver livery that Tasmanian Phil Shepherd now has on it. Andrew then drove an ex-works, ex-Grice Creswick Motors Torana, before buying the 1964 Mustang the proud HTCAV sponsor still runs today.
First Car: Formula Vee
Current Car: Holden LJ Torana
Andy Williams is head honcho of A.W. Automatics and peddler of the very brisk #51 LJ Torana, now having a big birthday after a massive shunt at this year’s Phillip Island Classic. Turns out he’s a closet open wheeler driver - or was!
Sometime around 1989, Andy and his old man, Brian – former owner of the famous ex-Bob Jane Gloweave Sports Sedan Torana - campaigned a Formula Vee together.
Memorable experiences? “At a Calder twilight meeting, tin tops and open wheelers were racing under lights in the same event. Late braking dives got me positions but one slow guy braked too soon. Nearly stuffed the Vee under his boot for a real close hair cut!” Andy moved on to Formula Ford for a year before the lure of tin tops won.
The well-known #59 Torana arrived in 2000, with its first race in a state round at Phillip Island. The rest is history: car and driver are now known as possibly the fastest Torana combination in historic touring cars.
HQ racing provided Andy with one of his more bizarre racing experiences. “At the 2006 HQ Nationals the HQ qualified on the second row. My quality crew had mistakenly fuelled the car from jerry cans full of water holding the marquee down! Not being hydrogen fuelled, my HQ was last by the green flag! Fortunately, a first corner red flag resulted in an abandoned start in the Q and all was sorted prior to the next race.”