Well, I did once but that was because I forgot about Garry Rogers.
Unless you are a motorsport perv you won’t know Garry and that’s a pity not only because he’s just built a new 2002 Holden Monaro that will cost you more than a Feezer, Lambo and McLaren combined but because he’s been building cars in Australia for over 60 years that people have wanted to buy and race. I don’t know what a real Australian is any more, but Garry seems to fit the bill more than most.
He was born in born in East Melbourne, schooled mostly in Melbourne, but spent a lot of his childhood in Sulphur Creek (pop: 650) in Tasmania and started his working life breaking horses.
Then after his brother went off to university to do medicine his father told him to get a real job.
The real job was an apprentice mechanic doing up old autos for a backyard used car dealer. A backyard used car dealer is the same as a car yard used car dealer but without the balloons and the free BBQ. (As we always say here: there are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with a used car salesperson?)
Anyway, apart from learning how to fix motors Garry learnt how to sell cars which turned out to be a far better skill as he then went on to own and run new car dealerships for Nissan, Subaru and Daewoo.
Back to the back yard. Garry’s boss had an old racing car for sale. So he bought it and started racing in Appendix J Touring Cars which were the crème de la pavlova of racing from 1960 to 1964. His team was his girlfriend and roommates but despite that he had some success. Then he bought another car and another one until he was racing the ex-Leo Geoghan Holden Monaro and the ex-Bob Jane Holden Torana.
A distinct lack of sponsorship stopped that dream and it was bought by legendary Melbourne but born in Jacindaland playperson Captain Peter Janson.
Peter was the George Clooney of his time, without GC’s money but with more front than Myers in Bourke Street. The Captain had a luxury flat on top of the Windsor Hotel. He was the world’s first influencer.
One year at Bathurst Janson continually pulled his Cadbury Schweppes-sponsored Torana off the track onto the grass to throw Cherry Ripes to the crowd.
Naturally his diet reflected his lifestyle, with friend and co-driver Larry Perkins saying: “For a guy that lived on gin and tonic, and I never saw him have a meal in his life, he did a fantastic job.” Garry co drove with Peter in the 1984 Bathurst 1000. I personally think Janson was one of the best drivers of his time.
Fast forward to 1996 and Garry became one of the original Supercar team owners. Garry and his team actually build race cars that look like Holdens, Renaults or Mustangs. If you watch the Supercars it’s hard to get your head around the fact that these cars are actually hand-built just like Feezers and Porkers used to be. At the turn of the century (2000 not 1900) Holden asked Garry to build and race a Monaro 427 in the first ever Bathurst 24 against inferior makes like Lambos, Feezers, Porkers and Vipers.
The good folk at Holden (the company that left Australia completely) originally gave Garry 18 months but then decided to run it a year earlier so the car’s build and development time shortened to just nine months.
You won’t be surprised to know that Garth Tander, Steven Richards, Cameron McConville and Nathan Pretty drove the yellow car to a win over a Mosier, BMWs and a few Porkers and Feezers. Holden was pretty happy.
You know what we say in the trade: win on Sunday sell on Monday. Naturally they won the next year with Peter Brock leading an all-star cast in a red Monaro with the yellow a very close second.
So that original yellow Monaro is sitting in the Garry Rogers Motorsport Global HQ in Dandenong South and is worth a long way north of a million. “There was always going to be three yellow Monaros and that didn’t happen,” Garry says.
Then Covid hit and there wasn’t much demand for race cars. Most of his staff have been with him a long time so he thought up something for them to do. Build the third Monaro.
“We went out the back and looked at all our old containers where we had goods stored for many years and we found quite a bit of equipment we used to build the original cars. It was really satisfying to go back and get all the old bits and pieces we had stored away. We had to make some new bits, but it was just a really satisfying thing to do.”
Son Barry says: “One thing Gary is very good at is hoarding things.”
That’s good because to hand-build the new old car you need literally hundreds of parts: window trims, mirrors, headlights, tail lights and cigarette lighters. So Monaro 427 V2/GRM 03 – Australia’s latest Holden race car – was out for a test this week.
It’s white but apart from that it’s identical in every way to the yellow one. And it’s worth at least a million and you can probably buy it after I have a post Sydney lockdown drive.
Garry has not only built and raced a lot of successful cars, he has started a lot of racing careers for people like Steven Richards, Jason Bargwanna, Garth Tander, Jamie Whincup, Lee Holdsworth and Scott McLaughlin, but most of all he has built careers for hundreds of apprentices, men and women.
Garry hates the fact that trades and apprenticeships have been downgraded, replaced by university as the only path forward. And best of all he continues to build Australian cars in Australia.