Iconic Gippsland drag car on show at the GVC

Simon Ward’s 1976 Gemini Drag car, fitted with a turbocharged 202 Holden Red Motor.

If ever you could see the physical manifestation of innovation, ingenuity and the act of making something great from what you have at hand, Simon Ward’s 1976 Holden Gemini drag car is it.

The vehicle is a feature of the new “Red Alert – A Tribute to the Holden Red Motor” display, which will be launched this Sunday, 12 March at Maffra’s Gippsland Vehicle Collection, 1A Sale Rd, Maffra, from 9am.

A regular on Gippsland’s drag tracks between 1993 and 2010, the car won 42 first place and five runner-up trophies, and with a vehicle weight of 1004 kilograms, recorded times of 6.4 seconds and 175km/h for the standing 1/8 mile.

“This will be the first time in over six years the car has been displayed and it will give the public an inside look at the inner workings of the car and how it was made and developed. I can do that now that I have retired from racing – it’s certainly not the thing to do while you are in competition,” Mr Ward, from Bairnsdale, said.

After buying the Gemini from his nephew in 1992 for $50, Mr Ward fitted it with the engine out of his HJ Holden ute, which was used (and still is) on the road as his daily work vehicle. It was a 202 Holden red motor, which Mr Ward had turbocharged, and that was refined from its years of use on the road.

“I put that in, along with a three-speed Holden gear box and a Datsun differential from a very old Datsun, a 260c from the 1960s, which I found at the tip,” Mr Ward said.

“In those days, I sourced most of the parts I needed from the Bairnsdale tip. All the wheels, shock absorbers, fuel lines and other small odd things like relays and electrical wiring.”

Mr Ward also paid a visit to the local paint shop and bought a range of unsold mixed up paints that were on hand. He mixed three or four together and came up with the unassuming maroon colour that the car has been ever since.

“I took it to a drag track in Bairnsdale in 1993 and it was runner up in its first outing. The drags were running a lot slower then, of course, but it was still a tough competition, whichever time bracket you were in,” Mr Ward said.

“After the car had been racing for a little while, people saw the potential of the vehicle and I picked up some good sponsorship. That’s when I started putting some real effort into it – some expensive parts and a lot of time.”

The expensive parts included a lenco four-speed American gearbox that “gave the car a lot of reliability”.

“The car became so fast I had to modify it to meet a new set of safety requirements, which added a lot of extra weight to it. I then had to bring the horse power up to compensate for that weight and keep the car running at those speeds,” Mr Ward said.

“I can’t remember being beaten in the last five years of competition with the car. But in the early days, the trophies were mainly runner ups, more so because of my driving faults. It was very rare that the car let me down.”

Along with his handmade and modified parts, Mr Ward’s home workshop also included a number of handmade machines and tools that he designed so he could do all the work on the vehicle himself. These included a turbocharger balancer so he could modify and change the turbocharger to his own specifications.

“Everything on the car, I made, and it has been my design,” he said.

“It’s been my love, and it turned out to be a successful combination.”

Mr Ward said a lot of people will have fond memories of his Gemini, as it was a popular vehicle on the track.

“The car is very non-descript; funny looking even. I was never fanatical about the look. I was fanatical about the performance. People liked my car because it always looked like the underdog compared to the vehicles it was competing against. But once it got out on the track, it performed well.”

The GVC will also be displaying a replica turbocharged Holden engine from Mr Ward’s first drag vehicle, a blue LC Torana GTR, which he began racing in 1975, and which Mr Ward has just finished building. The original Rajay turbocharger has been repaired, and accessories from the original engine have been included.

Red Alert – A Tribute to the Holden Red Motor, will be launched at the GVC in Maffra from 9am to 2pm on Sunday, March 12. There will also be a display of vehicles in the grounds of the GVC, and everyone is welcome to bring along their special vehicle, all makes and models. Entry to the grounds is by gold coin donation and entry to the museum is discounted to $8 for the day. Kids under 15 are free.


Ransomes gets its first outing in 10 years for GVC exhibit

1963 Ransomes MG40

1963 Ransomes MG40

When Gary Linard decided to show his 1963 Ransomes MG40 crawler tractor in the Gippsland Vehicle Collection’s current Gone Farmin’ exhibit (on show until the end of June), he thought he better give it a bit of “polish”.

“I restored this beast around 17 years ago, but it hasn’t seen sunshine in more than 10,” Mr Linard said.

“But it’s all up and running. It had some very old fuel, but once it was drained and the lines, pump and carby were flushed, it was chugging along quite nicely.”

The Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies Co MG series single-cylinder four-stroke engine crawler tractors were designed to operate on small orchards, vineyards and market gardens. Mr Linard’s Ransomes features the optional power take-off drive and hydraulic three-point linkage.

It is also a stand out green and red colour. Traditionally, the MG series was blue and red, but some were specially made in green and red for the UK Forestry Commission. When demand in Australia outstripped supply, some of those special orders were diverted here.

The first Model MG2 was released in 1936, with the small tracked design proving popular in the UK. A total of about 15,000 Ransomes MG series tractors were built, including about 1370 of the later MG40s. In Victoria, the Ransomes crawler tractors were imported by Ruston & Hornsby Ltd.

There are plenty more reasons to have a good look around the Gone Farmin’ Display as well, so make sure you come along and have a look before the theme changes over in July. And if farming vehicles aren’t your area of interest, there are also plenty of other vehicles and memorabilia on show to get your nostalgia levels peaking.

A princely passion.

Skyline Prince 2

“I’ve got quite a few cars, but I’m not attached to any of them except the Prince. I’ve told my kids, if ever this house catches on fire just make sure you get the Prince out – nothing else matters, just get the Prince!”

Such is the devotion of Melbourne’s Stephen King, who says his Skyline Prince is the only vehicle he owns that he couldn’t just go out and replace.

“You can’t buy them; they aren’t for sale. There are about 30 of them on the road in Australia and another 30 in various states of bits and pieces that you could probably do something with,” he said.

Mr King’s 1967 Skyline Prince BE2 is on show as part of our Japanese Vehicles Display, along with two others owned by his mates – Stan Waters’ BE3 and Jason Quigg’s A Model – one of every model made.

“There were only 320 brought into Australia – 30 A models and 290 BE2s and BE3s. The BE2s and 3s were the race versions and they came with triple webers as standard and were optioned with a 100 litre fuel tank and limited slip diff,” Mr King said.

Mr King’s BE2 is in original, unrestored condition. It has had four owners, and came with its full history, from the day it was delivered, when he bought it in 2002. His love for the Prince began in 1969 when he started work at Chequered Flag Motors in Doncaster.

“One of the first cars I drove and worked on was a Skyline Prince, and I decided then and there that I wanted to own one,” he said.

“I bought my first one in 1986 and I’ve had five of them. When you drive them, they sound like a race car should sound.

“For its era, there was nothing else that was anything like it. They were good for 200 km/hr when they were built, and there wasn’t much else that could do that. They had disc brakes when pretty much everything else had drums. They were a pretty unique car for the day.”

Mr King also also has his original condition Datsun 1600 and R31 GTS on show at our Maffra Motor Museum, 1A Sale Rd, Maffra, until the end of February 2016.


Isuzus a feature of Japanese Vehicle display.


Isuzus have claimed much of Brett Wild’s attention and time over the last three decades.

Three of his Isuzus – a 1965 Wasp, a 1968 Bellett 1600 GT and a 1969 Bellett Deluxe Sedan – are on show as part of our current Japanese Vehicles exhibit. The Wasp is one of 122 from the only shipment ever imported to Australia, in 1965, with approximately 10 or 12 still in existence.

“They are basically unknown in Japan as very few were sold there too. Even Isuzu has no records of them as they were so scarce,” Mr Wild, of Lilydale, said.

The ‘69 Bellett Deluxe was a genuine one owner car until he bought it in September 2014.

“It’s one of the very last Bellett’s imported here – 16,000 came here between 1964 and 1969 – and was a special order. Its metallic blue colour isn’t normally available on sedans. It’s original and unrestored, with only 124,000 miles on the clock since new. I bought it for my daughter Belinda,” Mr Wild said.

The Bellett 1600 GT is one of 290 GT’s imported in total between 1966 and 1969. There are approximately 50 still in Australia, “but they are a cult car in Japan”, Mr Wild said.

“I originally got into Isuzu because when Mum first moved to Melbourne from Brisbane to be with my Dad and needed a car she wanted a Mini, but Dad refused because he reckoned they were impossible to work on,” Mr Wild said.

“He looked around and found her a Bellett, and we’ve had them ever since. When I was 15, in 1989, I was cashed up from working a couple of jobs and I wanted to find a car to muck around with. Dad said ‘we’ll get you a Bellett, I’ve still got parts in the shed’.”

Mr Wild also has a 1980 Honda H100 (A model) motorcycle in the display.

“It’s a rare thing with very few sold, and it’s even rarer as most were a 4-speed, but this one is an optional 5 speed. I’ve seen about half a dozen other H100s but never another 5 speed.

“I found it in 2009 with only 4,600kms on it, from new. It hadn’t been used since 1985.”

The Japanese Vehicles exhibit runs until the end of February 2016 at our Maffra Motor Museum, 1A Sale Rd, Maffra.

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