FEATURE: Heritage Touring Cars – HRT VL
The first Heritage Touring Car feature of 2015 profiles the ex-Holden Racing Team Commodore VL of long-time competitor Norm Mogg.
Norm’s Group A Commodore has an interesting history, being one of the Tom Walkinshaw Racing Commodores put together in England and initially running as a blue and yellow Herbie Clips car in the UK.
It was flown out to Australia and finished seventh at Bathurst in 1989 in the hands of Win Percy and Neil Crompton and it’s this livery under which the car races today in HTC.
While the car ran under the Holden Racing Team banner at Bathurst that year, it was very much a Perkins Engineering-run car with Larry Perkins having been sub-contracted by Walkinshaw to run Holden’s racing program while Holden Special Vehicles was in its infancy.
Straight after Bathurst the car was sent to Indonesia to be raced by Indonesian prince Tommy Suharto before it returned to Australia in 1990 and was given an upgrade by Perkins Engineering, which included changing a range of things to make it more like a Perkins car.
Gone was the single centre lock wheel nuts used by TWR, replaced by Perkins’ familiar five-stud arrangement while a few further bars were added to the roll cage.
The Commodore was then purchased by John Lusty, who raced it at the Sandown 500, Tooheys 1000 (retiring after 66 laps with engine problems) and Nissan 500 at Eastern Creek alongside Bernie Stack.
Queenslander privateer Warren Jonsson was next to buy the car and competed in both Lakeside Australian Touring Car Championship rounds in 1991 before tackling the Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst with brother Graham as co-driver. The duo finished a very credible 11th overall.
The Commodore would make two more starts at Bathurst in Jonsson’s hands with the late Des Wall, finishing 16th in the rain-soaked 1992 race and 13th in 1993 after the car was re-liveried in green and yellow colours.
George Ayoub purchased the car in 1994 and raced it at the Sandown 500 and then Bathurst alongside Mike Conway and Kevin Heffernan, who had transferred into the Group Motor Sport entry after his Price Attack Commodore crashed and caught fire in practice.
The trio would be the last classified finisher at the 1994 Tooheys 1000 and finished 26th overall.
It was bought by Conway with parts from it to be used on an ex-Peter Brock Mobil VP he had also secured.
Mogg purchased the VL in the mid 1990s and has been racing it ever since.
“It was at Amaroo Park in Rob Roy’s workshop when I went and looked at it,” he explained.
“It was incomplete. Mike Conway had bought it and it was being stored there. It was being shipped to Bob Jones’ in Melbourne, who took the pieces off that were needed for Mike’s VP.
“My friend Dave Harding said I should buy the Commodore. I said we were a low budget racing operation and couldn’t afford it. He pestered me until I went up to look at it. As soon as I saw it, I said yes. If it weren’t for his persistence we wouldn’t have this car today.
“We had done the deal before the car went down to Melbourne, so we already knew what parts were going to be taken from it. We drove down to Bob’s to pick it up and bring it back.
“We didn’t know the heritage of the car at that time. We knew by the log book it was a Perkins/HRT car but that’s all we knew. We really didn’t care back then, we just wanted to go racing.
“It took us a while, about four years, to get it back together. We rang Larry and he asked what we needed. We said we didn’t know and would tell him what we had! He was good with us. I used to go to Bathurst and get some parts from him and collect them – he helped us quite a bit.
“From memory I think my first race in it was at Oran Park in Sports Sedans in the wet. This was back in the late 1990s and we had put our own paint scheme on it and that was how it was going to stay.
“But Group C cars had started to get some momentum and were looking for Group A cars to join them. We needed to get the band together to have enough numbers. That started down at Winton, so I made contact with them and said I had a Group A car though not in original colours.
“This was before the category was Historic, which happened several years later for Group C and then later for Group A.
“Before Group A became Historic we started researching the car and knew it had been a HRT car. I had a meeting at Oran Park where there wasn’t a panel that didn’t have some sort of a mark on it. I thought we had to repaint it, so it was time to put it back into its original colour scheme.
“We were one of the first to bring a car back to its original colours and once the momentum started, well, here we are today!”
A nice part of the story is that Mogg himself was at Bathurst in 1989 when this car raced in the hands of Percy and Crompton. Little did he know he would one day own it!
“I have photos of that car from that weekend in the pit area!” he says.
“I actually went into the back of the paddock and stood beside this car and it just touched the front mud guard on my leg. They fired it up and it jerked and clipped me! Little did I know I would end up owning it!”
And finding a way to fund racing the ex-HRT Commodore also provided a boost to business.
“In the 1990s we didn’t have the money to go racing,” Mogg recalls.
“At the time we had a big sized job on the go that needed the help of a recruitment company to help us staff it. It was a light bulb moment – our company needed that service and we needed to fund the race car, so we started our own recruitment company to fund the race car!
“We never expected it to be successful. But as long as we could earn enough money to put fuel in and tyres on the car that would be fine – and it worked! Where there’s passion you become resourceful!”
The Commodore underwent a massive rebuild in 2009 after it was hit from behind at Phillip Island and looks as great now as it did back in 1989.
“We thought it was a throw away initially after that crash. But it got fixed in four months and it was as good as it’s ever been. We did a bare metal re-spray, re-wired and re-plumbed it.”
The car was last in action at the Sydney 500 V8 Supercar event late in 2014 and no doubt will be back on track this year giving fans a great thrill and bringing Group A racing memories flooding back.
The 2015 Heritage Touring Cars Championship kicks off at Wakefield Park on February 21/22.
This feature also appears on the Heritage Touring Cars website. Images courtesy of Coventry Collection and Bruce Moxon.