Almost 20 years ago, Garry Rogers Motorsport built a couple of Monaro race cars. One of them for a man named Peter Brock. The Holden Monaro 427C would go on to win two Bathurst 24 Hours races and numerous races in the short-lived Nations Cup, upsetting some and delighting others.
But the current lack of motorsport happening, specifically TCR and S5000 for GRM, has the race team on the path to building another Monaro 427C.
MOTOR spoke with Barry Rogers, son of the team’s namesake and close 2IC to his father, about the build, how it came about, and what the plan is.
“It was a bit of a result from the whole coronavirus situation,” Rogers begins.
“After the Grand Prix didn’t occur and we returned to work with everything closed down, we utilised that time to go through some old containers.
“We moved to our current site in 2006 after being at Glen Waverly since the early ‘70s. Over that time we’d bought and sold a fair bit of gear but also gathered a bit as one model went to another in the 2000s. We used to put the old stuff in containers, like when we went from VT to VX for Supercars, all the VT stuff goes in a container.
“The Monaro was part of that whole generation of motorsport for us, and we built the yellow car first,” Rogers says he usually refers to the car by colour to keep it easy, “and then Holden wanted a car built for Brock.”
That car was red, of course.
Brock Monaro recently auctioned by Gray's Online
“Ross Palmer who owned the Nations Cup series funded the build so we built the Brock car for him. We also built a third body, but at the time Nation’s Cup went defunct so we put all the bits and pieces we had into a container.
“As I said we decided we needed to get out the back and tidy up some of the containers we’ve got here at Dandenong, obviously we’re not in Supercars but we’ve got a whole lot of stuff we need to put into storage."
GRM announced at the end of 2019 its withdrawal from Supercars after more than 20 years of racing Holdens, save for the few Volvo years in the mid-2010s. The team now builds and races TCR cars and S5000 open-wheelers.
“Lo and behold, we open one of the containers and it’s got the Monaro gear in it which we half forgot about. Garry said “I always wanted to build another Monaro… the plan was always to build another car.”
Garry Rogers Motorsport is now focused on the TCR and S5000 series in Australia
“Brock and Garry were racing against each other through the ‘70s and into the ‘80s, and Brock would later [in the Nation’s Cup years] often say to Garry: “You need to get one of these so we can race each other again.”
“It was sort of a half-joke but Garry took the idea and it sat in the back of his mind as a plan to build one. When we found all the gear here, we thought we could nearly build a car with what we’ve got.
Rogers says most of the parts that haven’t been kept in containers are still able to be built to the same specifications as they were originally.
“A number of items will still need to be made, but we’ve got all the original drawing and everything there so that’s how the rebuild began.”
The Rogers both decided to unofficially dedicate the build to Holden, as a celebration of the brand and a sort of send-off with the Lion leaving by the end of 2020.
“It was probably a bit inspired by the fact Holden is finishing up in Australia this year. Garry’s a bit sentimental about the fact his first race car was an FX Holden.
Not Garry's: This FX race car was actually Peter Brock's... the number kind of gives that away!
“As much as our last Supercars were Holdens, he said “I’d like to build one last Holden” and we’d have the last ‘brand new’ Holden come out of our workshop here in Melbourne. That’d be something to be pretty proud of.
“One thing led to another, and we got the original VX bodyshell back from Perth, from a man named Mario over there, we know him as Apples because he’s an apple farmer, he became a bit of a friend of ours.”
Following the 2002 winning race, ‘Apples’ rang and wanted to buy an engine from GRM in the same spec as the race car, though Barry Rogers says the team didn’t take it too seriously at first.
To GRM’s surprise ‘Apples’ appeared in pits six months later at Barbagallo after phoning ahead, and the team had a spare 7.0-litre engine packed with the V8 Supercar parts just in case. He came back later with a cheque and left with the engine.
Rogers says he ended up fitting it to a Clubsport which he still owns.
Recently, ‘Apples’ new VX bodyshell was picked to be the body GRM would build its Monaro with, but Dean Lillie from Ravage Raceworks rang and offered up an as-new VZ Monaro shell he has sitting in his workshop. “Do you want to use that for the last Monaro?”
“We thought, if it’s going to be the last one, yeah, we’ll build it as a VZ,” Rogers says.
Holden Motorsport designer Peter Hughes has already submitted a couple of design ideas in terms of the car’s final look, but Rogers says there’s a little way to go before everyone agrees on a livery.
Rogers says his father is keen to celebrate Holden but also to make it a GRM car with a bit more flair.
“We don’t want it too lairy, but we don’t just want it black red and white like a standard Holden livery.
“Garry’s very first race car was in Magenta, so we wouldn’t mind having a bit of Magenta on the car. If his first and last cars share that there’s some bookend significance to it.
“We’ll see what Peter comes up with for that. If any of your readers have good ideas we’d love to hear them.”
In terms of mechanicals, and obviously aside from the body being VZ instead of VX, Barry Rogers says the last Monaro 427C will be identical to the others built.
“It’s going to be built 100 per cent to the same specifications as those two cars built back in the early 2000s. We’ve spoken to Ron Harrop since there are parts he’ll need to make, thankfully some engineering companies including Horner Engineering which made a lot of original parts, are still around.
“If you look underneath they’ll be exactly the same as the red or yellow cars. We want to celebrate that era which was fantastic for us as a team, and a peak for Holden in Australia. The Monaro certainly iconic when it was reintroduced made it a really celebratory time for Holden.
Rogers adds that although the car won’t be raced it will be registered with Motorsport Australia, formerly CAMS, in case the team ever sells the car and its buyer wants to put the car on track.
“It may be something we would sell, but only to the right person who really understood the significance.”
“It’ll be special to us, but we hope it’ll be special to Holden owners and dealers too. It’s a tough time for them and it’d be good to put a smile on some faces.
Rogers says the build is set to be finished by the end of August, though it likely won’t be shown in public until the round of TCR and S5000 currently set for November at Bathurst.