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Racing legend Peter Brock drove many race cars in his long and successful career. And with his passing late last year, the value of his classics increased dramatically. So it's not surprising that what could be the most important car of his life, where he first began his racing passion, has been valued at a massive $400,000. Or is it surprising?
It's not a vehicle from the muscle car family and there's no V8 power under the bonnet. The only race track it's been on was a self-made dirt course on the Brock family farm.
It has no brakes and has been sitting in pieces for more than 50 years.
But now, the 1929 Austin 7, the car where the racing legend learned to drive at the age of 12, is driveable once again.
After six months of hard work, restorer Peter Denman has returned the car from Brock's childhood to its original form.
As a friend of Brock's and with his wife as the director of the Peter Brock Foundation, Denman put his hand up for the job.
He used four photographs that were taken at the time by Brock's older brother Neil, to help in the restoration process.
The photographs of the engine, chassis and rear end allowed him to recreate the car as closely as possible.
“The car was remarkably complete except for a few items,” he says.
“The original engine was on it and the chassis was the original. It needed quite a bit of cutting rust out and so forth.”
Denman says that despite its small size, there was considerable work involved, including a rebuild on the front and rear ends, the gearbox and repairing the engine.
The engine was in a poor state and was split in half, so Denman had to call on the Austin 7 club to help weld it together so the original engine could remain in the car.
Another obstacle Denman faced was the flooring. As the original had rotted away, he used wood Peter had collected to make his own furniture in recent years.
Brock's younger brother, Lewis Brock, last weekend re-enacted the image of Brock racing around the family farm in his first car.
He says the image of Peter and his dad working on the car is etched in his memory.
“I won't forget it, all the boys were involved in varying degrees, but it was Peter's car. He did the work on it,” he says.
Lewis fondly recalls Peter getting into trouble from their mother for cutting the body of the car with an axe. He says she was more concerned about the damage to the axe.
Lewis believes he and Peter were the only two to have driven the car as youngsters and the one time he got behind the wheel, he ended up in a palm tree.
“I was struggling to get my legs down to the pedals,” he says.
Lewis says his brother had to fine-tune his skills of going down through the gears and putting it into a slide in order to stop.
Brock drove the car until he was 16. Although many decades have passed, Lewis says the noise of the engine is still identical from their childhood.
“It's fabulous,” he says. “When we started the engine, my uncle Sandy was there ... we looked at each other when the car fired up and said that's the same noise.”
Both Lewis and Denman describe it as interesting to drive, Denman claiming it feels like a “rocket ship”. “It only weighs probably 200kg.
“It's very, very low to the ground, it's something that you couldn't describe,” he says.
Lewis is concerned over the lack of brakes and says he won't be driving it again until brakes are installed.
The previous owner bought the car from Sandy Brock 45 years ago and had it sitting in the roof of his factory for most of that time. About 10 years ago he discovered it was Brock's first car.
Lewis says Brock knew about the car, but didn't have any plans to reclaim it. But after Brock's death last year, the owner decided to sell it and it was purchased and donated to the Peter Brock Foundation by a supporter.
“Peter would be rapt,” Lewis says. “He would think it was a hoot and he was probably sitting on the back axle watching me drive it. That's what it felt like.”
If Brock's history was taken out of the picture, Denman says the car would be worth a lot less.
“The car itself is probably worth $2000 if you wanted to buy one, for the chassis, the engine, that's what you'd pay,” he says. “It's the history of the car, the car is complete.”
The Peter Brock Foundation will now display the car at different shows and racetracks around the country and it's likely to end up in a museum.
“When Peter signed signatures he'd put on posters `follow your dreams',” Lewis says.
“That's where it started for him, he turned it into something to hone his skills in.”
And Lewis says Peter would want everyone to see it. While this might have been his first, there are many more cars where Brock mastered his driving skills. According to the fans and collectors, Brock would have raced more than 100 cars during his time on the track. The most valued and important of those would have been his victories at Bathurst.
Queenslander Peter Champion has a collection of 32 Brock cars, both ones he raced and road registered models.
He's collected the cars over the past 15 years and believes they would be worth between $6 million and $7 million.
The collection includes a replica of the Austin A30 Brock raced in 1967, a project Brock's step-son James Brock completed for Champion. The first Bathurst car Brock raced, the 1969 Monaro is also in the collection, as well as the 1974 L34 Torana and the 1982, 1983 and 1984 Bathurst-winning Commodores.
He also has the Ford Sierra and the 2002 Motorola-sponsored Commodore that he raced at Bathurst. And Champion this week said he and his team are currently rebuilding the car that claimed Brock's life.
“I'm guessing they're worth from half a million to a million each, that's what people say. I don't get involved, they're not for sale.”
As Brock's friend, navigator and competitor, Champion wants to share his collection from Brock's career with the public.
“I'm building a museum which I have been doing for a number of years. Peter was involved in with me for quite a few years. A lot of the personal stuff, he gave to it,” Champion says.
“The reason he was an icon was because he always had time for people, he always stood there and signed autographs, he stayed well after dark.”
Champion says the museum should be opened in Queensland by the end of the year.
Fellow Queenslander, David Bowden, has his own slice of Brock history. He owns the Bathurst-winning A9X Torana's from 1978 and 1979, as well as Brock's 1987 VL Commodore. He says that although the value of the cars has increased with Brock's passing, Bowden's not comfortable talking about what they're worth.
“It's so hard, he was such a good mate to everyone, that I hate talking about things like that,” he says.
The value is not important, Bowden says, as he wouldn't consider selling them at this stage. He says he's spent too much money building up his collection to sell them.
“I don't expect to jump on for a quick profit,” says Bowden, who often sends his cars to Bathurst so the public can see them.
“Brocky” did his last hot lap at Bathurst in the 1979 A9X Torana.
Where are they now? Brock's classic cars