One of the factory-backed Holden Commodores that dominated the gruelling 1979 Repco Reliability Trial has been discovered totally unmolested after a 28-year hibernation and is heading off ‘Round Australia’ again in September this year.
Leading New South Wales rally driver, Barry Ferguson, discovered the famous Commodore in which he, Wayne Bell and Dave Boddy finished second in the 18,885km, 14-day event in a time warp state, just 30 minutes from his New South Wales home.
“It was incredible,” Ferguson said, who is now totally rebuilding the famous car for the 2008 Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial from September 8-20.
“It was if we had just stepped out of it after the Repco. All the spare parts were still in place; the brand new spare tyre behind the driver’s seat still had the nibs on it; Harry Firth’s special external bonnet release – a piece of bent wire – was still in place!”
Ferguson, who in a stellar rally career won the New South Wales Rally Championship nine times, the Southern Cross Rally twice, finished second four times and also came second in the 1964, and 1979 Round Australia events, had been toying with the idea of entering this year’s Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial when the Commodore unexpectedly resurfaced.
“I wasn’t looking for the car, but we had always wondered what had become of it,” said Ferguson, who is now in his seventies, but still actively rallying.
“My eldest son, Peter, sold a rally car last year and found the phone number of the Commodore’s last owner in papers he was handing over. He insisted on ringing the number, even though we knew that the man had died about 20 years before. I said that I hoped the phone had been diverted to heaven if he wanted an answer!
“When he rang and asked whether the car was still there, the person on the phone said: ’Just a minute – I’ll go and look’
“He came back and said ‘Yeah mate – she’s down the back on stands!’
“It transpired that when the last owner died, his widow moved to a unit on the coast, but came to an arrangement with the purchaser of their home to leave her husband’s collection of old cars there, including the Holden.”
News of the discovery travelled fast and one of the first people to ring Ferguson and congratulate him on getting his old car back was Holden legend Harry Firth, who just said: “Gold, gold, gold!”
“The grapevine had been running hot for years wondering where the car was,” Ferguson added. “It’s probably the only prominent car from the 1979 Repco of the 13 that completed the whole course that is still in its original condition.”
Ferguson, Bell and Boddy led the event a number of times, but ultimately it was Peter Brock, Matt Phillip and Noel Richards who headed the 1-2-3 form finish, with team mates Shekhar Mehta, Rauno Aaltonen and Barry Lake third in an identical Marlboro Holden Dealer Team car.
“That was the toughest of all the Round Australia trials and most of the cars that finished were just scrap metal,” said Ferguson. “However we kept our car in very good shape so that we could challenge for the lead near the end, but that wasn’t to be.”
The three Commodores were specially built for the Repco event and featured alloy boot lids and bonnets, XU-1 spec six cylinder engines, M21 (V8-spec) gearboxes and 200 litre fuel tanks.
Barry Ferguson said that despite being out in the open for many years, the Commodore had very little rust and the rebuild to its Repco Trial form would be relatively straightforward.

“We’ve returned it to the exact spec that it ran in the event, right down to all the correct decals,” he said. “My old Southern Cross navigator, David Johnson, will be coming with me. It will be a lot of fun for two old Septuagenarians!”

Ferguson’s Repco Trial navigator, Dave Boddy, is also entered in the Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial, navigating for Mark Pickering in a Mazda RX7.
The Ferguson/Johnson Commodore is one of more than 80 confirmed entries in the 2008 Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial, which commences in Alice Springs and finishes on the Gold Coast after travelling via Mt. Isa, Normanton, Cairns, Birdsville and Bourke.
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