FINDING AN OLD FRIEND
When it’s been over forty years since you last caught up with an old mate with whom you used to have some great times, looking forward to meeting up once again after all that time is always going to be an exciting occasion.
That was kind of how I felt when the possibility of finding my first race car once again, at the speedway stand of the Australian National Show and Shine Euroa on October 7th.
It’s a long story, but back in the early 1970s, a friend surprised me by unveiling an FJ Holden race car that he had restored, and announced that he wanted me to co-drive it at speedway race meetings. The car was called GV99, bright tomato red and adorned with BP and WYNN’S stickers from our sponsors. He even had my name already painted on the car!
GV99 and I had a great relationship, as I joined the vast majority of speedway drivers at that time whose first race car was indeed an FJ Holden. We won our fair share of races around the Goulburn Valley, and at Bendigo Showgrounds, a location where my co-driver tried his best to destroy the car several times.
Eventually, I moved on to another car. GV99’s owner Ken McQualter sold the car and came to mechanic for me with my new steed, a modified EJ Holden called R13. We lost track of old GV99 somewhere about that time and in the early 1980s I went to work in Melbourne and left all things speedway behind.
Apparently though, GV99 had gained enough fame during our joint careers that another local historic speedway and early Holden aficionado, Tom James, decided to build a replica of the car, the original having long since been raced to death and assigned to the scrap metal dealer.
Tom did a brilliant job with the replica GV99, as can be seen from the picture and it raced competitively for a long time at the hands of several drivers with the “Humpy Holdens” a group which undertook “spirited demonstrations” with vintage speedway cars. (According to the rules, you cannot “race” vintage cars, you must only “demonstrate” them!)
Early in GV99’s life, Peter Cornelius from Corowa owned the car. Peter says: “I bought GV 99 from a guy called "Chugga" & ran it for about 4 years then sold it to Richard Damm. I ran a Methanol motor in it for a while. The tracks I attended were Wahgunyah, Wagga & Wangaratta. It also went on display at Winton Historics.”
Included in its “Hall of Fame” achievements was an appearance at the Holden 50th Anniversary celebrations with a run at the Holden proving grounds track, together with several other Humpys.
One meeting at Wahgunyah, driven by Richard Damm, GV99 broke a back axle, rolled and crashed heavily, necessitating a serious re-build. The car then later passed to another owner, and reportedly blew a motor, then spending some time languishing in a shed.
With the next Euroa Show and Shine close at hand, and the prospect of getting GV99 to our speedway stand, I undertook a painstaking process of trying to track down the car. Thankfully, with the immense help of a number of friends, and including Facebook searches, phone calls and Emails, we eventually tracked the car to Col Saville, at Corowa. I was absolutely delighted when, on my first contact with Col, he agreed to get the car mobile and bring it to Euroa for the show.
So when you come to the Euroa Show and Shine on October 7th, be sure to call by our speedway stand (it’s in area 5) and say “G’day”. Col will be happy to talk about the car, and I too will certainly have some old stories as well, about the much-loved FJ Holden, GV99.