A Type III Volkswagen would seem an unlikely weapon of choice if you were going into battle against the fastest sports sedans in Australia – unless you bolted a big fuel-injected 500 bhp V8 into the back of it and pulled the trigger!
Bryan Thomson did just that in the mid-1970s and created not only an insane-looking race car but an instant crowd favourite that even today remains vivid in the minds of many fans that witnessed its brief but brilliant career.
In just two thrilling seasons, Thomson (or ‘Thommo’ as the fans called him) in his wild German-American hybrid was Bob Jane’s nemesis in the 1974 and 1975 Marlboro Sports Sedan Series at Melbourne’s Calder Park Raceway.
The nail-biting gladiatorial battles between circuit owner Jane in his 6.0 litre V8 Holden HQ Monaro and Thomson in his 5.0 litre VW-Chev in those two seasons were must-see encounters that attracted huge crowds to each round.
The racing was so close between them that both series were not decided until the final rounds. Jane narrowly prevailed in both, but it was only through cruel luck in the closing laps of the 1975 winner-take-all-final that Thomson was robbed of the series win.
The story behind why Thomson and his chief engineer Peter Fowler decided to build such a car is a fascinating example of Aussie home-grown engineering skills and can-do attitude at their best.