STAGE WRITE

MILLIONS TUNED IN TO WATCH THE HOLDEN AND FORD SUPERCARS COMPETE, BUT WHATíS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THAT BRAND LOYALTY NOW WE NO LONGER MANUFACTURE CARS?

BOB KOTMEL

WHEN I grew up, we didnít have much money, so I had to go around to my mateís place to watch Bathurst on a blackand- white TV. I pedalled my pushie off to Fishermans Bend (Riverside), Calder and Sandown to watch cars race. Later on in life, Bathurst used to be a sacred day Ė the TV was all mine until the great race was over.

When V8 Supercars racing replaced Group A, millions of people tuned in to watch the Holden and Ford bodyshells competing against each other, and were very passionate about their brands. The V8s were brilliantly engineered, evenly matched by the rules, and the winner really was the best driver and team on the day.

Motor racing is big business, and for TV stations to make money, they need to sell airtime to advertisers, and to do that they need viewers to tune in. So the V8 Supercars format has been very entertaining, and a major part of their high ratings is attributable, in my view, to the Ford-versus-Holden rivalry and the brand loyalty that exists.

Itís a win-win from a car sponsorís point of view; the sponsorís name gets a lot of exposure on the side of a car during a TV telecast, especially when a race goes on for hours like Bathurst. Then thereís the secondary advertising of their product in the still photos in magazines after the event. Iím sure the takeaway food companies advertising on race day see a big spike in sales that Sunday night.

But Iím wondering whatís going to happen to brand loyalty now Holden and Ford are no longer manufacturing cars here? I guess the next generation will grow up watching Mercedes, BMWs, Volvos, Hondas, Nissans, Mazdas, Toyotas and Hyundais battle each other on the track. Maybe at Street Machine we might have to become more diversified as well? Still, until some new players on the block become evident, Iíll continue writing about tough street cars based on Holdens, Fords, Chevys and Mopars. And maybe an occasional Harley story.

That reminds me: Harley-Davidson executives bought the company back from Aermacchi in 1981 and itís still going strong today. It would have been good to see the same happen for Holden or Ford. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Polaris all make V-twin bikes, but failed to take a slice of the Harley pie, as theyíre all missing a key ingredient: passionate brand loyalty.

Thinking about the future, the prices of our favourite Aussie-built V8 Holden and Ford models might have gone up, but there are still plenty of six-cylinder models around that can be converted into tough street machines. I did a search on Carsales.com.au for Holden V8s from 1960-1990 under $10K, and there were

only nine, but when I did the same search for six-cylinder Holdens there were 33! For $1950 you could get a VC Commodore that could be turned into a quick streeter, just like Garry Huntís low nine-second VB Commodore, which started life as a humble pale-green six-cylinder old-ladyís car.

There were also just as many Ford sixes that came up with the same search parameters.

They included a 1978 XC panel van for $8750, several XEs and XFs, and a matching-numbers 1974 XL 250 Cortina for $8K that would make a killer street machine with a late-model Barra turbo six or V8 conversion.

One of the things Street Machine does is inspire people to build cars, and our coverage of Hot Rod Drag Week and our own Drag Challenge has captured peopleís imagination.

Iíd love to see a street-registered and driven, 2000hp big-block Barracuda I know of in Rockhampton raced at Drag Challenge, and hope to do a story on it. Other locals have sold their race cars and are building hot streeters with Drag Challenge in mind.

Not all the cars being built or driven around here are all-out street weapons. Several of our locals have really clean naturally aspirated small-block Fords and Holdens that run superconsistent times; I reckon theyíd have a good shot at the Dial Your Own class. And some of the hot rods that run 11s all day could easily be driven to and from Drag Challenge and be competitive in DYO.

One of the things I like about Drag Challenge is that there are no rules apart from being streetregistered and ANDRA safety-compliant. It means you can build anything provided the car is engineer-approved and legally registered. All going well, I really want to try and get there this year.

Like the Holden and Ford workers, Iíll be unemployed and put out to pasture this year.

Iíve watched many people retire and die within a few years because theyíve got no interests.

I donít have any plans at this stage, but I have been watching the restoration, custom and rat rod shows on TV and wondering if I should start doing up old cars. They seem to make a lot of money in the US, and Iím intrigued as to what sort of market there is here. Iíve also been thinking maybe I can get old Holdens and Fords, strip them and sell the parts online. The wreckers here charge $100 just to pick an old car up.

It would also be great to take my old Nikon to events like Drag Week in the US, Drag Challenge, car shows, hot rod runs, engine buildersí shops and the like, and write stories from any part of the globe. Mightnít make much money, but Iíd sure as hell enjoy doing it. So if youíve got a car or event coming up you think is Street Machine-worthy, contact the magazine or message me on Facebook. s

MILLIONS TUNED IN TO WATCH THE HOLDEN AND FORD SUPERCARS COMPETE, BUT WHATíS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THAT BRAND LOYALTY NOW WE NO LONGER MANUFACTURE CARS?