If there’s one car that defines the legacy of Peter Brock – the Aussie motor racing legend who won the Bathurst 1000 nine times – and the Holden Dealer Team (HDT), it’s the VK Group A SS. A true racecar for the road, the Blue Meanie wholly represented Brock’s desire for a car free of compromise.
During the time between the VK range entering production and Brock finalising specifications for the Group A SS, however, as well as the standard SS and Group 3 models, it allowed HDT to work on some more unique products in the interim.
The 1984 Holden Commodore VK Berlina 5.0 Wagon you see here is perhaps the greatest example of just how unique these early HDT VK builds could be.
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Fortunately, the history of this car and story of its ownership is particularly well documented as the current seller of it, Michael Dontas, is indeed its original owner.
At the time he ordered it, Dontas owned a VH Group 3 and was quite involved in the Brock community, having even built up a relationship with the famed driver himself through association with United Motors in Adelaide.
That was where he ordered the base vehicle from in January 1984, even watching it come down the production line at Holden’s Elizabeth factory before it was sent over to HDT’s original workshop in Melbourne.
Why a wagon? Quite simply, Dontas had young children at the time and ordered the vehicle with the intention of it being for his wife, but none the less ensured that it “was very high-spec for its time and state of the art.”
As such, the base Berlina wagon was ordered with cruise control, central locking, power windows, and a limited-slip differential, and was finished in stunning Cerulean green metallic paint.
Given there were no off-the-shelf specifications for a Brock wagon at the time – it’s estimated only around 10 were ever made – the vast majority of the upgrades fitted were mechanical, particularly as Dontas opted to have a Calais body kit finished in Spindrift rather than Group 3 body mouldings.
Principally, a high-output 5.0-litre V8 engine featured at the heart of the build, with Dontas noting he personally met with race engine builder Larry Perkins to order the specs for.
Bilstein suspension, a Momo steering wheel, Scheel bucket seats, an HDT stereo bearing Brock’s name on the tape deck and speaker grilles, Centra alloy wheels, an HDT Big Bore exhaust system, and a long-range fuel tank also featured. It even still features the original Energy Polariser aerial in the rear window.
Given the very high level and uniqueness of the wagon’s spec, Brock took particular interest in the build, even featuring it in advertising material from the time and giving it a special build number, 1205, to incorporate Dontas’ racing number.
Thanks to this association, Steve Ward, the vehicle’s original salesperson at United Motors, notes that “right from the time it was built, this became the most famous Brock wagon ever made and is known throughout the Brock community.”
After changing hands several times, Dontas eventually tracked the vehicle back down, still wearing its original registration, and set about fully restoring it in 2016 as its condition had deteriorated, with the long process that involved tracking down many hard-to-find components finally completed in late 2021.
The restoration job that’s been done truly has the wagon feeling factory fresh, and it’s certainly a stunning thing to behold with its bluey-green finishes from end to end and headliner to carpet.
It’s easy to see why Dontas specified it as he originally did, as the Scheel bucket seats feeling incredibly supportive and the Momo steering wheel the perfect size and with ideal grip points.
It must be said that the interior quality feels a step above your average Holden of the time as well – unsurprising, given the high initial price tag of nearly $30,000 which equates to around $97,500 in today’s money.
Of course, performance was the real focus of any HDT product like this, with the 5.0-litre V8 engine’s outputs of 196kW and 418Nm being particularly potent for the time.
What’s perhaps most surprising from behind the wheel is just how smooth this engine’s power delivery is. There’s a little bit of lumpiness on idle, reminder you it’s a V8, but the way it revs up is surprisingly linear for what was a muscle car of its day.
This smooth and surprisingly relaxed character is perhaps most greatly owed to its three-speed automatic transmission. It might not sound that impressive on paper, but the fact it’s been fitted with a quick shift transkit does make its upshifts particularly crisp.
Although the V8 comes to life more in the upper half of the rev range, the auto’s tendency to quickly make its way to top gear means this Berlina still feels more like a cruiser in a sense, rather than something more raucous.
Indeed, this isn’t a car that really garners the sort of attention you may expect for what is one of just 4246 HDT vehicles ever produced, with this wagon being much more of a sleeper than a head-turner.
Where Brock’s touch can most clearly be felt, though, is when it comes to the way this wagon handles. The average Commodore of this time felt a bit doughy and soft; not so here.
The steering feels tight and direct, and is perfectly weighted for a vehicle of this more compact first-generation Commodore’s size. It remains incredibly flat through the corners as well, and the ride finds the ideal balance between rigidity and comfort. Truly, the HDT difference can be clearly felt.
At the time of writing, this wagon is being offered for sale through Richmonds in Adelaide with an asking price of $149,900. With Holden’s death sending the value of used examples – particularly HDT and HSV models – skyward, six-figure price tags are a very common sight these days.
With this being one of perhaps merely 10 HDT wagons ever built, and the one with the greatest level of recognition, I feel the asking price here is more than justified. Some Facebook commenters even considered it underpriced, one of Richmonds’ salespeople told me.
This is a truly unique slice of Australian motoring history, and one car I came away from feeling very honoured to have driven. One of the most individual vehicles ever produced by HDT, this wagon is one that deserves its place in the history books.
My thanks to Michael Dontas and Richmonds for arranging a time for me to review this vehicle. If you have a well-maintained classic that you think would be worth us documenting, drop us a line on the Drive Section Facebook or Instagram accounts as we’d love to feature anything noteworthy from across the automotive spectrum, including cars like this HDT.
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