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Peter Brock’s brother’s emotional farewell to Holden

Peter Brock’s younger brother, Phil Brock, says the impending loss of Holden from Australia’s motor racing landscape will leave a gaping hole in the country’s iconography.

Holden has been part of the motoring industry since the mid-1980s and became a prominent part of motorsport in the 1960s.

In 2020, parent company General Motors announced that it would be pulling out of right-hand-drive markets, bringing about the demise of the iconic Australian brand.

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The Detroit manufacturing giant has since brought General Motors Speciality Vehicles to Australia and New Zealand, and with it a selection of Chevrolet-branded cars.

This year’s Adelaide 500 marks the last time Holden will appear in the Supercars Championship before being replaced by the Chevrolet Camaro in 2023.

Although Holden race cars will still grace circuits around the country, Supercars is the last bastion for the brand at the highest level domestically.

It’s the end of an era, and one which brings with it some emotion for Brock Jr, who has known Holden his whole life.

“I don’t have the emotion with that racing that I used to have, and that’s probably logical, but in essence, I mean, just talking to you now, it brings back a lot of memories and a lot of things pop up in your head,” Phil told Wide World of Sports.

“It is emotional because it affected so many people around this country – and for most of the time in such a positive way, whether you were fighting with Ford or not, or Allan Moffat and Dick Johnson. It was all great theatre.

“It was always Holden and Ford, but Holden initially was by far the most popular. Then it became that rivalry the whole way through.

“It’s one of those things in history that you look at going; it’s a silly thing to lose that bit of history.

“I know, a lot of that tends to happen nowadays, where history is sort of put aside, but in so many ways it is because it’s part of people’s DNA.

“And I think we’ve learned a lot from history. And with what’s happened to Holden, you will learn something from it, but it won’t be good what we learn.”

In many ways, the Brock family were rebels.

Holden’s parent company General Motors had very little in the way of factory-supported motorsport activities, let alone outside of Australia.

Holden wanted to promote its road cars and did so via motorsport, namely with the 500-mile race at Mount Panorama now known as the Bathurst 1000.

“With my family, motorsport was very important,” said Phil, who raced twice in the Great Race with Peter.

“It sort of grew out of a group of people who actually defied what General Motors were doing. 

“General Motors initially didn’t go motor racing at all worldwide. Holden, in a very backdoor manner, went motor racing. 

“That spurred a lot of people not only to get involved in motor racing but they earned a living out of it. 

“It was just a great time when some fantastic people around you are very clever and were so passionate about being successful, it was great.

“[Peter] was given the opportunity to build road cars involving Holden. That was actually organised by what they called the Holden dealer group. 

“The Commodore had just been released in Australia and it was in a lot of way, a bit of a failure because they were working on the premise that it was going to be very high fuel prices and that sort of stuff. So they wanted to use a smaller car, which didn’t quite work out.

“At that stage, the dealer consortium got together and said, ‘We’ve got to be able to work out a way to sell these motor cars’ – and they decided that the only person who was capable of selling these cars, in his own way, was Peter Brock and do it via motorsport. 

“That then became HDT (Holden Dealer Team) special vehicles and what have you. I and John Harvey were fortunate enough to work for Peter in those days building those cars. It was just the greatest time of my life.”

Such was the secrecy of what Peter and his cohort were doing that the upper management at Holden knew little of what went on behind closed doors at the Holden Dealer Team.

“The head Holden design group, they had a separate little area, which was walled off, and that’s where they designed the original HDT Commodore because they weren’t supposed to be doing that,” he said.

“Little things like that, that went on where everyone was so keen to make this work. Every day, it was just like a day when you get there and everyone was trying to do a better job than what I did the day before, which I’m not kidding by saying that it’s just amazing place to be at.”

It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows for Peter and Holden.

After splitting with the car company in the mid-1970s, Peter went solo and entered a car privately in the Bathurst 1000.

Despite any animosity within the Brock camp, Peter made sure there was to be little to no public bad-mouthing of the brand that had made him a household name.

A year after failing to finish the race with Holden’s support, privateer Peter won the 1975 Bathurst 1000 with Brian Sampson.

Eventually the iconic duo reunited, winning the 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1987 editions under the factory umbrella – earning him the ‘King of the Mountain’ nickname.

“Even when he had that big split with Holden, he would not let us say, or do anything, either verbally or in print or whatever, of trying to fight for Peter’s name as such,” said Phil.

“It surprised the hell out of me. I was really angry at a lot of things and I just had to hold my tongue.

“Peter said ‘we don’t do that, we don’t go there. We just get on with our day and just keep moving forward’. 

“When they got back together again, that was part of the reason they got back together. Holden went through a bit of a management change, they were happy to get Peter back and Peter was happy to go back and what have you. 

“And it was Brock and Holden again. It was great stuff.”

Even after Peter’s death in a tragic crash in 2006 while competing in Targa West, he and Holden have remained synonymous.

His legacy continues on with the Peter Brock Trophy, given to the winner of the Bathurst 1000 every year since 2006.

Earlier this year, Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander became the final pairing to win the Bathurst 1000 in a Holden.

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