International Connections: 2018 Holden ZB Commodore Supercar

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For decades, Australian motorsport has focused on sedan racing as its staple. Open-wheelers have never gained traction, except for the Australian Grand Prix and the Indycar round that used to run on Queensland’s Gold Coast. The premier category is known as Supercars, which draws some parallels with NASCAR in its rules. It is set for one of the biggest shake-ups in its history this year as new technical regulations come into force. This 2018 Holden ZB Commodore Supercar is historically significant on several fronts and also features strong North American links. It is set to go to a new home, with the Team listing it here at Lloyds Auctioneers and Valuers. Bidding has reached A$96,000 (US$68,700) in an online auction, although I believe the price will climb significantly higher before the hammer falls.

Australia adopted International Group A Touring Cars as its premier motorsport category in 1985, and after initial strong interest, it slowly withered to a point where it was on its deathbed. Part of the problem was cost, with some machines like the Nissan GTR leaving owners no change half a million dollars in an era when a family home in a desirable location cost around half that figure. Relevance was the other problem because competitors saw little point in fielding a local V8 Commodore, only to have its doors blown off by a GTR, a Ford Sierra RS500, or a BMW M3. Something had to change, so the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) developed a new category for home-grown V8s. The cars utilized production Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon bodyshells with appropriate safety equipment and enormous spoilers providing downforce. Although considered affordable during the early years, costs began to spiral, with the Category instituting ongoing changes to reign in expenses. The most significant occurred in 2013 when both manufacturers moved to a “control” chassis fitted with their brand’s panels. Both brands shared many standard components to cap costs and improve racing. Holden initially fielded its new VF Commodore, transitioning to its successor, the ZB, in 2018. That is where this car fits into the picture as the product of a team undergoing significant changes during that period.

The Holden Racing Team (HRT) had been the official factory outfit since 1990. It was formed by Tom Walkinshaw, who had significant success in many international racing categories. Walkinshaw’s empire collapsed in 2003, leading to a change of ownership of HRT to Mark Skaife. By 2008, Walkinshaw had recovered financially to the point where he again became the team’s owner. However, his death in 2010 saw it pass to his son, Ryan. After a slow start in 1990, HRT scored a surprise win at that year’s Bathurst 1000. Pickings were slim for the next few years as the Commodores remained a mid-field proposition in Group A. However, the transition to the new V8 Category in 1993 marked a change of fortunes. HRT snared six driver’s championships and six Bathurst crowns to add to its 1990 success. However, HRT began to experience hard times from around 2011, with wins hard to come by. As a result, it lost its factory status in 2017. It wasn’t all doom and gloom because the North American connections were waiting in the wings. As the new year dawned, it was announced that Zak Brown and Andretti United had acquired a significant share of the team, now known as Walkinshaw Andretti United (WAU). It emerged from its factory with a pair of new ZB Commodores, including this one for driver Scott Pye. After a tentative beginning, it scored a win at the year’s fifth race, adding a podium in the 2018 Bathurst 1000 to its tally. It achieved mixed results in 2019, 2020, and 2021 before becoming WAU’s spare car. With the change of regulations for 2023, the Commodore remains surplus to WAU’s needs. Therefore, they have restored the car to its race-winning livery from 2018, ready to find a new home. Surprisingly for a car of this type, it suffered no significant accident damage during its racing career and is in a ready-to-race state. It presents beautifully in its combination of Black, Orange, and Silver, wearing the appropriate sponsor decals and signs. The spoilers and aerodynamic additions help it look tough and aggressive, and the car rolls on a correct set of 18″ Team Dynamic centerlock racing wheels. It would stand out if someone wanted to place this classic on display. However, returning it to active duty would require little more than a possible change of paint color and sponsor decals. The rear wing and front undertray, which are one of the defining physical features of a Supercar, have also been a bone of contention. Downforce figures have increased with each successive model, and the disturbed air left in each car’s wake makes following and overtaking difficult. The new models for 2023 will still sport spoilers, but their design will reduce downforce by more than 66%. Hopefully, these changes will encourage closer racing, and official testing of two prototype vehicles shows promise.

When the grid lines up for the first Supercars race of 2023, the changes will be profound. Following the demise of Holden in 2020, the category soldiered on with the brand’s Commodore model but knew the day would come when this was no longer possible. Therefore, this year will be the first since 1980 that Australia’s premier touring car category will not feature a Commodore. General Motors teams will field Chevrolet Camaros, with both it and the Ford Mustang riding on a new control chassis. The other change occurs under the hood. Supercars have utilized NASCAR-derived V8s since 1993, with Holden bolting a fuel-injected 5.0-liter Chevrolet V8 into its Commodores. These engines have proved reliable, pumping out around 630hp. However, rebuild costs have skyrocketed, meaning that the new models will use motors requiring less maintenance. This ZB features a race-ready 5.0-liter motor that sends its power to a six-speed Xtrac transaxle. It rides on 18″ wheels that shroud enormous four-wheel disc brakes. Acceleration times are largely irrelevant, but with the appropriate drop gear in the transaxle, this Commodore will top 300kph (186mph) on Bathurst’s Conrod Straight. Although no longer eligible for main game competition, it is a turnkey proposition for aspiring drivers or teams considering entering the category’s second-tier competition.

It is safe to say that the interior of the ZB Commodore Supercar bares little resemblance to the road car, although it does retain the dash top from the production model. Otherwise, it is all business inside this classic. The driver settles into a body-hugging Racetech racing seat and is held in place by a six-point Sabelt harness. The suede-wrapped wheel features an array of buttons to control the two-way radio, onboard drink supply, fuel mixture maps, and pitlane speed limiter. A button also allows the driver to scroll through “pages” of information on the MoTec LCD display visible through the wheel. A shifter for the six-speed transaxle falls readily to hand, while there are various safety items like a sturdy rollcage and onboard fire-bomb for driver protection. This interior presents better than you might expect for a vehicle of this type, reflecting the team’s attention to detail. It is ready to use, although the new driver will need to adjust the seat and other controls to suit their physical build. I mentioned the upcoming changes that will face fans when the cars line up on the grid for this year’s first race, but I’ve left one of the biggest until last. In both WAU and HRT guise, this team’s identity has been closely linked to the Holden brand since 1990. Most people believed that WAU would continue that historic link by fielding Chevrolet Camaros in 2023. However, in mid-2022, WAU dropped the bombshell that it had switched camps and will roll Ford Mustangs out of its factory this year. Few people saw the announcement coming, but many die-hard Holden fans will need to choose whether to continue supporting the team or switch allegiances to another Camaro outfit.

I’m sure that Australian racing enthusiasts never thought they would see the day when a Supercars “main game” grid would not include a Holden of some description. That day has arrived, and so profound are the changes that one former factory team decided to jump ship to the opposition manufacturers. This 2018 ZB Commodore remains eligible to compete in Supercar’s second-tier category, which will probably be its fate. When those days end, its future will be uncertain. With a growing interest in historic racing machinery, I won’t be surprised if someone returns it to this form as a museum piece. There is a wonderful one situated at the bottom of the famous Mount Panorama race circuit, and I’m sure it will have a spot reserved there.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Mike

    The Holden vs Ford battles were worth seeing.

    Like 1
  2. Bruce Nancarrow

    A$96000 would be approx us$67000-00

    Like 4
    • Adam ClarkeAuthor

      Thanks so much for the heads-up on that, Bruce Nancarrow. I ran my conversion software incorrectly because I usually convert from US$ to A$. That’s my mistake, and I’ve corrected it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how long I look at an article before I publish it, I miss the most basic errors. I hope you enjoyed the article.

      Like 1
  3. Chris In Australia

    There’s no conflict of interest for this Holden and GM fan. They’ll get no support from me, and I’ll boycott any of their sponsors.

    Supercars have been going downhill eversince they forced “Project Blue Oval” on us, then took the cars away from a factory body shell.

    The final betrayal was when they took Poxtel’s 30 pieces of silver.

    Like 0
  4. Rod Clarke

    #2. That would have been Garth Tander’s car. He now does commentary for Supercars. And he was co driver for Shane Van Gisbergen, the winner in the Bathurst 1000 and series Champion.

    Like 0
    • Adam ClarkeAuthor

      That was my initial thought when I saw the race number, Rod Clarke. I checked, and Garth left HRT in 2017 to return to his roots at GRM. Scott Pye took his place at HRT/WAU after leaving DJR/TP. You’re right about Tander co-driving with Van Gisbergen, but it will be interesting to see how he goes now that he has changed camps to drive a Mustang with Grove Racing.

      Like 0

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