Holden HK Monaro GTS 327: The inside story of how McPhee mastered The Mountain
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Holden HK Monaro GTS 327: The inside story of how McPhee mastered The Mountain

By MarkOastler - 30 January 2015

Bruce McPhee powers through Forrest’s Elbow on his way to a memorable win in the 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500.  Clever car preparation and disciplined driving ensured he was able to complete the race without losing crucial time changing tyres or brake pads. Note how skinny the standard 14 x 6-inch black steel wheels and treaded road car tyres were in those days. Standard wheel covers were always removed for racing as they had a tendency to fall off, so these cars never looked as flashy as they did on the street.

The muscle car wars of the 1960s were all about making cars go. Bruce McPhee, though, was more interested in making them stop. It was this single-minded approach to the preparation and driving of his HK Monaro GTS 327 that delivered one of the most disciplined and finely-judged victories in the Bathurst 500. 
Released in June 1968, the new Monaro even in base specification was a stunner, but the high performance GTS 327 model added menacing intent to the coupe’s swoopy lines. And beneath those special badges and racy stripes beat the heart and soul of an American muscle car, with a big 25 gallon (114 litre) long range fuel tank and fully imported engine/transmission package designed with Bathurst in mind.
The GTS 327 was powered by Chevrolet’s 327 cid (5.4 litre) V8 engine with a big Rochester four barrel carb and 8.75:1 compression ratio. The small block V8 had power and torque to burn, with 250bhp (186kW) at 4800 rpm and a bulldozer-grade 325 ft/lbs (440Nm) serving of torque at a relatively high 3200 rpm.
There was also a tough Saginaw close-ratio four-speed gearbox and Positraction 10-bolt LSD rear axle assembly with anti-tramp rods. This was a ‘hybrid’ special order for the Monaro, as it used the imported 3.36:1 US diff centre with Holden axle shafts to meet cost and local content requirements.
On release Holden claimed its fire-breathing GTS 327 supercar could do 16.4 secs for the standing 400 metres and 0-100 km/h in just 7.6 seconds, with a scintillating top speed of 125mph (200 km/h). However, the feeble brakes provided to stop this hefty 1494 kg projectile from such high speeds were woefully inadequate. 

Bruce McPhee was in his element at Bathurst in the 1960s.  He relished the mental and physical challenge of racing standard road-going production cars for 500 miles (800 kms) on a circuit as demanding as Mount Panorama. His approach was always to stroke the car along while others raced harder and destroyed their cars in the process. In 1968, all the stars aligned for McPhee.

Particularly when required to do it 130 times at the end of Conrod Straight in one day. And given that a radar gun checking top speeds on Conrod proved that Holden’s claimed 125mph (200 km/h) was a little conservative.
The solid non-ventilated front discs were just 10.6 inches (270mm) in diameter and barely 0.5 inches (13mm) thick, clamped by non-floating twin-piston callipers. Under the tail were even smaller 10-inch (254mm) drums. These tiny stoppers would prove to be the new Monaro’s major weakness under racing conditions. 
Only someone who thought outside the square like McPhee would focus most of their pre-race preparations on what was happening beneath the brake pedal rather than under the bonnet. It would prove to be a decisive strategy, in what was a cracker race.
With eight new Monaro GTS 327s facing nine of Ford’s latest 302 cid (4.9 litre) V8-powered XT Falcon GTs, the 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500 was officially the start of Bathurst’s multi-decade muscle car war between Holden and Ford. 
Three Monaros were entered under the name ‘Holden Dealer Racing Team’ and run by David McKay Scuderia Veloce team. These were factory entries in everything but name, due to GM’s corporate ban on motor racing involvement at the time.
Three of the nine Falcon GTs were also considered to be works cars, entered under the Ford Motor Company of Australia banner. Two (including an automatic version) were prepared in Melbourne and run by Harry Firth with the third race-prepped in Sydney and driven by racing greats Leo and Pete Geoghegan.

The Bathurst-winning Monaro GTS 327 roars up the back straight at Melbourne’s Sandown Park on its way to sixth place in the 1968 Datsun 3 Hour race. McPhee knew it was crucial he took part, to iron out any potential problems in the new car to ensure he had a trouble-free run at Mount Panorama only three weeks later. Lessons learned at Sandown proved invaluable.

With McPhee’s Monaro sitting on pole position, a record crowd of more than 28,000 turned up to see the fastest Monaros set a ferocious pace in the early laps, just ahead of the top Falcon GTs which were taking a wait-and-see approach.
The story of the race began to unfold as the big guns started making their scheduled pit stops. The Monaros with their big tanks were planning to make only two fuel stops to Ford’s three, but many of the new Holdens were displaying a big appetite for not only fuel but also tyres and particularly brake pads.
Bruce McPhee was the only leading Monaro contender not to change tyres or brake pads, which  saved him vital time in the pits. He also had the best fuel economy and was assured of making it through with only two refuels.
With less than 20 laps to go, the works-entered Falcon GT prepared by Harry Firth and driven by Fred Gibson and Barry Seton was leading until cruelly forced to retire after its engine’s radiator was holed by a stone.
This elevated the second-placed Bruce McPhee into a lead he would not relinquish. In taking the chequered flag, McPhee not only recorded a dazzling debut win for the new Monaro in Class D ($3001- $4500) but in doing so gave Holden its first outright Bathurst win.
McPhee also recorded the highest official top speed on Conrod Straight at a sensational 128.57mph (206 km/h), clocked the fastest lap of the race, lowered the previous year’s race record by 11 minutes and became the first driver to win the 500-mile classic outright from pole position.
It was a historic result for the 41-year-old, who combined fast but mechanically sympathetic driving honed from previous Bathurst campaigns with an intelligent approach to car preparation that produced the greatest victory of his career.

You can sense the urgency and almost feel the ground shake as the huge 60-car field erupts towards Hell Corner at the start of the 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500. Second fastest qualifier Des West just got the jump on pole sitter McPhee off the line. Note the white works-entered XT Falcon GT right behind McPhee, driven by Leo and Pete Geoghegan. It was a potential winner, but a fateful decision not to change pads at the second stop resulted in a front brake meltdown and many laps lost in repairs.

Harry Firth, a multiple Great Race winner as both driver and team manager, said Bathurst in those days was all about winning at the slowest possible speed, in cars that needed to be nursed and driven with a great deal of restraint to get them home. 'H' provided a typically blunt summation of McPhee’s 1968 Bathurst win for Australian Muscle Car magazine in 2005:
“The Holdens were quick but most suffered brake problems and excessive tyre wear as expected. I knew Bruce McPhee would do well based on his past record at Bathurst. He used Michelin tyres and was very easy on the car, whereas the HDRT (Holden Dealers Racing Team) drivers all had something to prove and raced each other into the ground.
“McPhee was a very practical engineer/driver who had the right feel for endurance events. He used the low down torque of the Chevrolet engine to good effect, with peak revs of around 4000 rpm and only revving it in top gear on the straights so his car went further than anyone on a tank of fuel.
“He did no tyre or pad changes and his co-driver only did one lap, so McPhee was always in the groove and completely in control of his own destiny throughout the race. He just bided his time and conserved the car and the brakes; he was always going to finish in the top three.”
An early school leaver, McPhee held no formal qualifications yet his innate skills as a driver and self-taught mechanic/engineer ensured that results achieved in a very quick FE Holden in the early 1960s would lead to greater things.
Based at Wyong on the NSW central coast, his Bathurst 500 results prior to 1968 speak volumes about the guy’s ability. He finished third outright in a Cortina GT on debut in 1963, second outright in a Cortina GT 500 in 1965 and third outright again in 1966 driving a Mini Cooper S. 
McPhee relished the challenge of preparing and driving a stock standard road car for 500 miles (800 km) of racing at Bathurst. The 1968 race was when it all came together for him. It tells a story of a typically pragmatic and clever approach, with some lessons that are still relevant today.

Holden racing star Des West was in stunning form in this dealer-entered GTS 327 shared with Ron Marks, here leading the three HDRT works cars and McPhee’s Monaro in the early laps of the race. West/Marks finished second but were disqualified when scrutineers ruled that the car’s ‘over the counter’ replacement cylinder heads had oversized valves. That explained why the Lorack Motors Monaro set the highest top speed on Conrod Straight, being clocked on radar at 135mph (216 km/h). That result was erased from the official race records, though, after the car’s disqualification.

Bruce McPhee: How to win Bathurst on a budget 
Weapon of choice
Having missed the 1967 race, McPhee was on the hunt for a car to run in 1968 that could give him a decent crack at the class and outright win that had narrowly eluded him in previous Bathurst campaigns.
Phil Levenspiel, a good mate of McPhee’s who ran the local Holden dealership (Wyong Motors), had just taken delivery of a new HK Monaro GTS 327 and suggested Bruce should come and have a look at The General’s new supercar. 
After a close inspection, McPhee knew that he was looking at a potential Bathurst winner. Sleek and rugged with a powerful V8, strong drivetrain and big fuel tank, the new Monaro ticked all the boxes except one - it had no brakes. 
Bruce was astonished that such a fast and heavy car could be equipped with such small discs and drums. However, he rightly figured that every other Monaro runner would be in the same boat and that most would likely be focused on chasing stronger engine performance.
McPhee though figured that if he could make those tiny brakes last for 500 miles (800 km) without pads or linings needing to be changed during the race, it would save him several minutes in the pits that could mean the difference between winning and losing. And he was right.

Factory wars. One of the three HDRT Monaros shared by Bill Brown and Aussie international sports car ace Paul Hawkins leads the works-entered Fred Gibson/Barry Seton XT Falcon GT through Murray’s Corner. Monaro No. 23 D qualified third and was fastest of the HDRT entries in practice. However, according to race reports it was disqualified during the race for receiving outside assistance to get back to the pits after a wheel collapsed. The Gibson/Seton Falcon GT succumbed to overheating and a blown piston on lap 113, after a stone punctured its radiator while leading. Note the sheep grazing in the background - not muscle car fans obviously.

Back in the 1960s, a bloke of humble means like Bruce McPhee could still afford to mount his own outright Bathurst 500 challenge. Most funding came from his back pocket, aided by supplies of product and incentives ($50 or so) paid by various trade suppliers if he used their products. 
McPhee’s Bathurst Monaro had Wyong Motors displayed prominently. The level of dealer support to justify that signage though extended only to mate’s rates on the purchase price of the Monaro and any Holden spares required, plus use of the dealership’s workshop for its pre-race preparations. 
Bruce also had to cover all food, accommodation and other sundry expenses for himself, wife Alma and pit crew. However, his fuel was supplied free by Shell, tyres courtesy of Michelin and cash incentives paid by Bosch to use its spark plugs and Lucas to fit one of its big lead acid batteries further eased the burden.
McPhee found another useful sponsor in Bardahl, which produced an oil additive claimed to reduce engine friction and increase power. After thorough investigation of the product and the company’s claims, McPhee blended the oil additive with very thin (low viscosity) 10-grade oil which he ran not only in the engine but also the gearbox and diff. 
Doubts have often been raised about the effectiveness of these oil additives over the years. However, McPhee’s car ran like a Swiss watch and claimed pole position, fastest race lap, highest top speed on Conrod Straight and outright victory, so it certainly didn’t hurt!

The best performing HDRT Monaro (24 D) shared by Scuderia Veloce rising star Phil West and Kiwi Jim Palmer reportedly stopped twice for front brake pads but finished third and on the same lap as the first and second-placed Monaros. Third place became second, though, when the West/Marks car was disqualified. The works XT Falcon GT (behind) shared by Jim McKeown/Spencer Martin was equipped with an automatic transmission, which Ford tuner Harry Firth thought could be a better race package than a manual if driven to his instructions. However, severe rear axle tramp during high speed downshifts from ‘D’ to ‘2’ caused an axle to part company and with it any chance of a good result.

Car preparation – them’s the brakes
In the 1960s, the top racers would often take a new car off the showroom floor, pull it apart and then blueprint, balance or hand-finish every working part to find an edge in performance and durability.
Not Bruce McPhee. He had unshakable faith in the new Monaro’s engineering and figured that a global automotive giant as large and well-resourced as General Motors knew how to put a car together.
Therefore his low-cost approach to Bathurst preparation was simply a careful run-in period on the road to allow everything to gradually bed-in together. If any problems emerged during that time they would be easy to identify and repair. But he had no problems with the new Monaro. It felt strong and capable, but McPhee knew he had to get the brakes sorted before Bathurst.
Like other Monaro drivers, he only had his new car for a few weeks when he competed in the 1968 Datsun 3-Hour race at Sandown Park in Melbourne on September 15, which was only three weeks before Bathurst. 
Although Holden and Ford works teams did not attend, it was a crucial first test for the new Monaro in competition. As expected, the GTS 327s were mighty fast but quickly ran out of brakes. The winning Monaro driven by Bob Watson and Tony Roberts crossed the finish line with its middle pedal on the floor. 
McPhee, who finished sixth, had also battled with inconsistent braking. After a thorough examination back in the workshop, he figured out that the aluminium hydraulic piston in the master cylinder was binding at times in the cast iron cylinder bore, because aluminium expands at a greater rate than cast iron when hot. 

The third HDRT Monaro (25 D) shared by Aussie international Brian Muir and 1964 Bathurst winner George Reynolds leads the other two HDRT cars as they thread through slower traffic at the end of Conrod Straight. By 1968, the closing speeds between Australia’s new breed of high performance muscle cars and the smaller class cars on Conrod were becoming a safety concern. Muir/Reynolds finished fifth after a lengthy stop for brake repairs.

Sometimes when braking at Sandown, the spring-loaded pedal would return but the piston wasn’t going with it. So when he pushed the pedal again, it went straight to the floor, which explained why he had brakes at one corner and then none at the next. By hand-finishing the piston with various grades of emery paper to give it more clearance, he eliminated the problem. 
McPhee also had to work out how long the brake friction material was going to last at Bathurst. After some detailed measuring, he found that the rear drum linings had 30 percent more material than the front pads, so decided to put more of the hydraulic braking emphasis towards the rear of the car.
To do that he would also have to brake slightly earlier approaching corners to avoid locking the rear wheels. Although this approach would lose a bit of time, towards the business end McPhee figured he would have great track position by not having to stop for a pad change (this was long before Safety Cars remember) and would still have brakes when others didn’t.  
He noted that the friction material on the Monaro’s standard rear brake shoes finished about 20mm short of the steel shoe facings at either end. Although the race rules required all cars to use brake pads and linings supplied by race sponsor Hardie-Ferodo, he kept within those rules by purchasing shoes made by UK parent company Ferodo instead. 
Crucially, the friction material on the Ferodo shoes covered all of the steel facings, which increased the total friction area of the rear brakes. And the rock hard sintered metallic linings he specified worked better the hotter they got. Up front he used Hardie-Ferodo’s equally hard DS 11 disc brake pads.
As it turned out, even with this brake-conserving strategy, McPhee’s front pads and rear shoes were almost down to their steel backing plates at the finish.

No room for error. This is how McPhillamy Park and Skyline looked in 1968, with a grassy embankment on the right and a steep, unfenced drop-off on the left. Here race winner McPhee is lining up his yellow Monaro for the blind approach to the Esses, ahead of a Class B Datsun 1600 and the Hawkins/Brown HDRT Monaro. Looks like the flaggies had plenty of faith in the strength of the old post-and-rail ‘safety’ fence.

Fuel economy
As Harry Firth observed, McPhee’s Monaro had superior fuel economy to the other top GTS 327s at Bathurst. This became clear after the 9am race start, when McPhee sat in a freight-train of Monaros at the front of the field for the first hour and a half before the first pit stops commenced.
According to race reports, the first of the HDRT Monaros pitted at 10.40am, but McPhee didn’t make his first stop until 11.30am – almost one hour later. A remarkable 2.5 hours of racing on one tank of fuel and a guarantee that he could make it through with just two fuel stops.
This was down to a number of factors. One was McPhee’s disciplined driving approach, not revving the engine beyond 4000 rpm between gear changes and using the Chev V8’s massive 325 ft/lbs (440Nm) of torque at 3200 rpm to pull the big Monaro up the hill with great effect. 

The HK Holden entry at Bathurst in 1968 wasn’t restricted to the Monaro GTS 327s in Class D. This Kingswood 186S shared by Sib Petralia and motoring journo Jim Sullivan ran in Class C for cars costing $2251-$3000. With 145bhp from its 186 cid two-barrel six, the 1.26 tonne sedan was no threat to the dominant S-type Mini Coopers. It did finish the race though, 10th in class and some nine laps behind the class winner.

During pre-race preparations, McPhee also decided that there was no need for a car to idle at Bathurst. They were either stopped or flat-out. So in a bid to save every drop of fuel, he shut-off the idle jet’s butterfly valve and turned the mixture screw right down on the big Rochester four-barrel carb. Both were legal adjustments, but no one else thought about doing it.
Stopping the small amount of fuel trickling through the idle jet may not have amounted to much during one lap, but over 130 laps and a distance of 500 miles (800 km) every drop saved was an advantage.
An added benefit of shutting of the idle jet was the surprising amount of engine-braking the big V8 generated each time McPhee got off the throttle, easing strain on the marginal discs and drums beneath him.

After delivering a debut win for the new Monaro GTS 327 at the Sandown 3 Hour, Tony Roberts and GM-H engineer Bob Watson drove a well-judged race to finish third outright at Bathurst in 1968 with backing from Sydney Holden dealer, Pat Cullen. The Brian Foley/Laurie Stewart Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV also seen here finished sixth outright behind Kevin Bartlett/Doug Chivas in fourth place. Although considered pre-race threats for an outright win, the little Italian cars were monstered by the fastest V8s, qualifying almost six seconds slower and suffering numerous wheel failures caused by the increased grip of new Goodyear race tyres.

McPhee was renowned for racing with new Michelin XAS steel-belted radials running rock hard pressures and buffed down on a Bandag tyre shredder so that only 2mm of tread depth remained.
This unique approach was first noted during his FE Holden racing days. McPhee was adamant that it minimised wear, sharpened handling response and produced faster lap times, because the shallower tread sat nice and firm on the bitumen and didn’t “walk around” like deeper tread patterns could.
The proof, as they say, was in the pudding. The one set of buffed-down Michelins fitted to McPhee’s Bathurst-winning Monaro did the interstate trip from Wyong to Melbourne, qualified and competed in the Sandown 3 Hour race and then did the return trip, after which they were checked and rotated diagonally. Three weeks later the same set of tyres did the road trip to Bathurst, completed practice and qualifying, won the race and then completed the drive home again. Remarkable.

Bruce McPhee takes the chequered flag to win the 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500, after a masterful display of tactics played out over six hours and 44 minutes of racing. Note the unusual pin stripes on the headlights, primarily to make the car easier to identify by his pit crew. Others used more elaborate means, with heavily striped bumpers and even different grille colours (see Monaro and Alfa in previous image).

Weight was always a concern in a Monaro weighing almost 1.5 tonnes, so McPhee was always on the lookout for anything that could reduce it. 
Although he was paid by Lucas to use one of its heavy duty 12-volt batteries, the big lead acid unit weighed a hefty 20-30 kgs. McPhee stumbled across an ingenious solution that would save a lot of weight and allow him to keep his Lucas incentive money.
After visiting a motorcycle shop, he had been impressed by the tiny 12-volt batteries they used, which were only a fraction of the size and weight of traditional car batteries. After doing thorough tests with one fitted to the Monaro, in which the big V8 was stopped and started dozens of times without a problem, McPhee was comfortable that it had enough zap to do the job at Bathurst.
So how did he use it and keep Lucas happy? He just hid the small battery inside the empty casing of a large Lucas battery! It was bending the rules, sure, but that was all part of the fun back then. How much difference it made to the car’s performance is unknown, but in motor racing less weight always equals more speed.

McPhee and Mulholland enjoy the spoils after their Bathurst win, during celebrations that were a lot less formal than today. Mulholland wrote one of the most interesting chapters in Bathurst history when serving as McPhee’s loyal co-driver in five races between 1964 and 1969. He only drove five laps in total, yet scored an outright win, two seconds and one third with a worst result of seventh. Hard to imagine such a miraculous strike rate will ever be beaten.

Although it seems hard to believe today, McPhee’s Monaro was tampered with on the night before the race when parked in the motel car park.  
The petrol cap was removed, a handful of gum leaves were stuffed down the filler neck and the cap replaced. This sinister act was only discovered the next morning when the tank was being topped up prior to the race. 
Fortunately all the leaves floated to the top of the filler neck and were carefully removed. It’s dreadful to think of what could have happened if (as intended) the petrol-soaked leaves had gone soft like wet paper, found their way to the base of the tank and got sucked into the fuel pump pick-up. 
McPhee had his suspicions about who was responsible, but obviously could not point a finger without evidence. The mind boggles.

Another famous HK Monaro GTS 327 was the Improved Production version raced by Norm Beechey. Holden hoped it could deliver the company’s first Australian Touring Car Championship and the first for an Australian-made car (note the big ‘Australian Made’ logo on the rear quarter panel). Although it won two rounds of the 1969 ATCC, Beechey was hampered by a rushed development program, small brakes, narrow tyres and a full-house 475bhp (354kW) race version of the Chev V8 that was marginal on reliability. It was, however, a useful test bed for the HT GTS 350 that followed in 1970 and duly won the title.

Driving to win
McPhee was more surprised than anyone when told that he had secured pole position. His first reaction was that the time-keepers had got it wrong, because he didn’t feel he was really stretching the car during qualifying.
When the result was confirmed, McPhee knew he was in with a real shot of winning the race. If the car had been so comfortable to drive at those speeds, he knew he could easily push harder during the race if need be and the car could take it. 
McPhee kept a detailed log of each year’s Bathurst race, which showed that past winners had averaged race laps that were at least five seconds slower than their fastest practice laps. He also knew that most drivers attacked the race too hard and destroyed their cars in the process, so his plan was to hang back a little, conserve the car and whittle down the opposition.
McPhee loved the mental and physical challenge of endurance racing, particularly the Bathurst 500, which allowed him to get fully in tune with the car and the changing track conditions throughout a race that ran for about seven hours. 
He would have driven the entire distance solo but the rules at the time did not allow it, so McPhee had a typically single-minded solution. Although a driver change was compulsory, the rules didn’t stipulate the minimum number of laps required by the relief driver. So in 1968, as he had done in three previous Bathurst races, McPhee allowed Barry Mulholland to drive only one lap of the race.
The short time out of the car allowed Bruce to have a quick stretch, go to the toilet and have a cool drink before jumping back in again, thereby staying right in the groove with his car and the track.
It was also a dream gig each year for Mulholland. McPhee could not have expected a big name driver to tolerate only driving one lap of the race, so Mulholland - an enthusiastic club racer from the NSW central coast - was an ideal choice as there was no king-sized ego to massage. He was just thrilled to be there and drive a single lap in Australia’s biggest race each year.

Bathurst wasn’t the only important competition outing for the HK Monaro GTS in 1968. David McKay also oversaw a three-car entry in the London to Sydney Marathon that year, backed by the Packer-owned Daily Telegraph newspaper he wrote for. These cars started life as standard GTS Monaros with 307 cid (5.0 litre) Chev V8s and automatic transmissions, which were fully prepared in-house by Holden’s service garage at Fishermen’s Bend. They had a few misfortunes though and only two of the three cars finished in 12th and 14th places. It should be noted that a privately-entered HK sedan crewed by rally veterans Jack Murray/John Bryson/Bert Madden also finished, coming home 54th out of 56 survivors.

Having never driven the new Monaro for long periods at Bathurst, McPhee was also concerned about engine temperatures. So he drove with the heater on full blast all day. Why? Because it enlarged the total volume of the engine’s cooling system and introduced a second fan-forced radiator to get rid of some of the engine’s heat. 
The winning Monaro cruised along just fine and the temperature gauge never budged. The side-effect was that it made the driver’s zone uncomfortably hot. The obvious solution would have been to lower all the side glass, but as that would have caused too much aerodynamic drag at high speeds he ran the entire race with only the driver’s window down and just sweated it out.
To cope, McPhee made sure he was fully hydrated before the start and consumed several salt tablets throughout the race to avoid the stomach cramps he’d first experienced driving a Mini Cooper S at Bathurst two years’ before.
His Monaro’s white-coloured steering wheel rim really stands out in photos and was another idea he developed for racing. Bruce was never comfortable wearing the cloth-backed leather driving gloves of the era, so to allow his sweaty hands to maintain a good grip on the narrow rim he wrapped it tightly in a product called Cuttyhunk. 
This was a hard cotton cord about 2mm in diameter, which was often used on cricket bats and tennis racquets. It not only soaked up sweat but also legally increased the thickness of the steering wheel rim, so it was nicer to use.

Another HK Holden worthy of honourable mention was the V8 Kingswood that Bob Watson and navigator Jim McAuliffe drove to victory in the 1968 Victorian Rally Championship. It was one of two identical cars built (the other for Tony Roberts and Mike Osborne) in Holden’s service garage at Fishermen’s Bend. Powered by specially tuned 307 cid (5.0 litre) Chev V8s with two-speed Powerglide auto transmissions, Watson/McAuliffe prevailed in a fierce inter-team battle with Roberts/Osborne, winning five of six rounds to wrap up the 1968 VRC in convincing style.

HK Holden’s greatest win – sort of
Holden’s lukewarm reaction to McPhee’s win was unexpected, to say the least. The battler from Wyong delivered an emphatic result for The General and was followed across the finish line by two more Monaros to make it a 1-2-3 clean-sweep. The stuff of dreams really.
Holden representatives though were less than ecstatic, as the company clearly expected one of its own HDRT cars to win. Perhaps McPhee’s success had caused a major embarrassment for GM-H, given that with limited resources a lone privateer had clearly outsmarted the ‘factory’ team in both car preparation and race strategy. 
There was no formal letter of congratulation from Holden and according to McPhee no offer of assistance to get him into another Monaro (HT GTS 350) the following year. That’s why he switched brands and drove a Falcon GT-HO instead. Even so, his 1968 Bathurst win was unquestionably the HK Holden’s greatest triumph in motor sport.
Protect your Holden. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.