IN THE COURSE OF MORE THAN 61 YEARS AND 742 ISSUES, ONLY ONCE HAS THE WHEELS COVER BEEN DEDICATED TO A PORTRAIT. PETER BROCK, HIS SHINY BLACK EYES FOCUSED STRAIGHT AHEAD, STARED FROM THE COVER OF THE APRIL 1987 ISSUE.
The coverline, “Brock: Countdown to catastrophe”, summarised the brutally tragic story of Brock’s fallout with Holden. After a hugely successful 18-year association, Brock chose to believe in a mysterious device that “creates harmony in the molecules of a car” over all Holden’s objective testing that proved his Energy Polarizer was worthless.
In a remarkable story, superbly reported and brilliantly written, that stretched to more than 10,000 words, Phil Scott (soon to be the editor, and contributor of some of the magazine’s greatest features) took readers behind the glitz and three-year drama as he attempted to explain what was, even to Brock’s friends and colleagues, unexplainable.
Against all logic, and advice from old mates including loyal lieutenant John Harvey, Holden engineer Ray Borrett and Tim ‘Plastic’ Pemberton, his PR-man, Peter Perfect knowingly allowed the mutually beneficial relationship between his Holden Dealer Team (HDT) and Holden to sour to the extent that Holden was left with no alternative but to sever its relationship with the Australian sporting hero. At the time, it seemed inconceivable that Brock could be so naive.
Brock and Wheels went way back, and we watched in dismay, unable to convince Brock of his folly, knowing that somehow he had come to believe in a new force in physics.
In the lead-up to the breakdown, and with Holden’s and HDT’s help, we took a Polarizer-equipped Calais Director to Europe and America on a Commodore-versus-the-world shootout. Brock, unhappy with the resulting anti-Polarizer publicity, boycotted the idea of a final leg in Japan. Wheels had left things “understated and with less impact than we expected,” he complained.
Scotty’s story created a storm, splitting the readership and those journalist mates who had also been convinced that the device worked: “I don’t know how the Polarizer works, but I know that it does,” wrote Paul Gover in The Canberra Times.
Ironically, in October, and without Holden’s backing, Brock won Bathurst in a Commodore after the first two finishers were disqualified. Weeks later, Tom Walkinshaw signed a joint-venture deal to create HSV and build high-performance Commodores. Almost 20 years later, on September 8, 2006, 61-year-old Brock was killed while competing in Targa West.
Donald Campbell’s 1964 attempt to break the world land speed record on Lake Eyre was dangerous and difficult right from the start. Wheels’ reporter Evan Green watched it unfold.
BROCK’S HDT Calais Director trounced the American cars in a Wheels shootout at Willow Springs raceway in California, despite being slower in a straight line. For David Whitehead, HDT’s young marketing manager, it was more proof of the value of the $478 Energy Polarizer.
Trouble was he also believed the “tyre pressures must be lowered to maximise the effect of an Energy Polarizer”. I’d pump the tyres up to 35psi, and he’d drop them back to 22psi. We repeated the routine so often it became farcical.
The fastest laps were achieved on the higher pressures.
PETER Brock was convinced his Polarizer was “a magic cure. It makes a shithouse car good.”
How did it work?
“The Polarizer is a transmitter that sends out an ultra-high frequency that’s … a form of energy called orgone energy,” he told Scott. “Physics doesn’t recognise that this energy exists or that it can do these things.”
FERRARI 275 GTB driven; turbo adds spice to Toyota’s Supra; Mazda enters supermini territory with the 121 Canvas Top; TN Series Mitsubishi Magna impresses with its refinement; Ford’s Falcon ute takes on Navara, Rodeo, Triton rivals
American Motors Corp, maker the cars like the AMC Gremlin, Pacer and Hornet, merges with US rival Chrysler.
In Heppenheim, Germany, a boy by the name of Sebastien Vettel is born.
He will win four Formula One world championships.
Peugeot’s $29,500 205 GTi goes on sale in Australia with a 88kW/153Nm 1.9-litre engine, and a five-speed manual gearbox.