If you’ve attended any GDM Group Central Muscle cars race meetings, you’ll have more than likely spotted a large red Renault tractor-trailer unit parked in the pits. The Renault and its fully enclosed, purpose-built race car transporter used to be owned by NZV8 Touring Car racer Paul Manuell, to haul his Orix Commodore around the country. These days, however, the transporter features giant artist renderings of three Commodore race cars, and a single Falcon race car, down each flank. Also clearly visible are several WPR Motorsport logos. WPR stands for Wilco Precast Racing. Wilco Precast is the Sinclair family business, which produces pre-cast concrete.
The Sinclairs are a tight-knit bunch. Not only do they work together, they play together. Under the huge side awning of that Renault transporter’s trailer there are usually five race cars to be found: three VK Commodores, a Falcon XA hardtop and a green Falcon XE. The XA is owned by Paul Urquhart (see NZV8 #31), while the XE is owned by Justin Butcher. One of the Commodores, painted as a replica of the Alan Grice ’86 Bathurst-winning Chickadee-sponsored car, is owned by Mandy Sinclair. The blue Commodore is owned by Paul Sinclair and the silver Commodore featured here is owned by Andrew Sinclair.
Just to clear things up. Andrew is married to Mandy. Paul Urquhart is Mandy’s brother. Paul Sinclair is Andrew’s younger brother. Justin is married to Paul and Andrew’s sister, Kelly. Clear as muck?
The Urquharts and Sinclairs met through powerboat racing. Peter and Glenn Urquhart (Mandy and Paul’s father and uncle) were running big block Ford-powered competition boats back in the ’60s. They also got involved in car racing by way of supplying a spare motor from their boat ” Miss Coventry, a big block 6997cc (427ci) Galaxie unit ” to family friend Robbie Francevic, who fitted it to a heavily modified ’55 Ford Customline, and went on to win the 1967 New Zealand Saloon Car Championship.
Both Andrew and younger brother Paul Sinclair did plenty of powerboat racing. Andrew’s boat racing debut was made as crew chief (co-pilot) to his father when Andrew was just 19. The pair won a New Zealand title together before Andrew purchased his own boat the following season to run in a 1.3-litre class, where he snared another title. He also attended the World Champs in Sweden as crew chief to Kerry Bowden, the pair also taking in the European Champs while they were there.
It Only Takes One
When his brother-in-law, Paul Urqhart, decided to try his hand at car racing in 2003, Andrew followed suit a year later. Coming from a staunch Ford family, Paul purchased an existing race car, a green XE Falcon (now owned by Justin Butcher). When Andrew decided to get involved he purchased a VK Commodore, also an existing race car. Although it was dark blue when purchased, Andrew had it repainted in HDT Mobil colours to work in with Paul’s Dick Johnson-themed Falcon.
Both drivers initially competed in the Auckland Production Muscle Car series, before moving on to the Central Muscle Cars Group 2 class. Andrew finished second in Group 2 to Paul in 2005, before turning the tables on him the following year. It was during the 2006 season that Andrew decided he wanted to make the move up to Group 1, where his brother Paul was now competing in a Bruce Robb-built VK Commodore.
Given there were now three Commodores in the Sinclair line-up, with wife Mandy having joined the action in late 2005, it seemed making the step up to Group 1 in a Commodore was the most obvious way to go. But rather than upgrading his existing car, Andrew chose to start from scratch by constructing a purpose-built machine from the ground up.
A Fresh Start
Andrew’s decision to build a Group 1 car really came about when Mike Anderson, who worked for Paul Manuell at the time, decided to set up his own company offering engineering, fabrication and restoration work on race cars, hot rods and classics. Called Sonic Race And Machine Ltd, it was based in Mt Maunganui. Mike is a Kiwi who moved to the US in 1998 to work for the hugely successful Riley & Scott team, which built customer and works team cars for TransAm, ALMS (American Le Mans Series) and Indycar. Mike held a dual role at R&S, as crew chief for the R&S works cars plus build manager for the customer cars. However, Paul Manuell managed to lure him back home in 2003 to build and run his Commodore V8 Touring Car. While at Manuell’s, Mike did some work on Andrew’s Group 2 Commodore. The pair got on really well but Andrew was also massively impressed by Mike’s knowledge and attention to detail. Having Mike build him a Group 1 car was a no-brainer.
Andrew found a VK Commodor from which to build the project and handed it over to Mike. He gave Mike a set of the CMC Group 1 rules to work from, as well as the Auckland-based Muscle Car Road Racing rules as he’d also run the car in that class. The main differences at the time were that the Auckland rules limited front brakes to four-pot, while the cars also ran on treaded Kumho tyres.
Mike started lightening the car by having the shell acid dipped and removing the sound deadening. It was then sent to Courtney Road Panelbeaters in Tauranga for a little massaging. He designed a chromoly roll cage that employs a combination of V8 Supercar and NZV8 Touring Car design (the V8 Supercar cages being substantially stiffer). It was 80 per cent completed by Herbert Fabrication then finished by Mike. Mike’s attention to detail is impressive, and beautiful fabrication work appears throughout. No stone is left unturned. For example, the boot lid is mounted to custom-fabricated, lightened hinges, is held open by a swivelling alloy pole, and rebounding spring-loaded rubbers at its base stop it moving from side to side and scratching the paint. It is a truly astonishing car and a real pleasure to just study. Thanks to the experience he has gained over the years, Mike puts a great deal of focus into building a car that doesn’t just go together easily, it also comes apart easily for quick repairs and easy maintenance. Beneath the car is just as impressive, featuring King Springs, Koni adjustable shocks in the rear and adjustable Bilsteins up front, with custom-fabricated adjustable anti-roll bars and Watts-linkage. The brakes are four-pot Stop-Techs with 330mm rotors up front, and four-pot Wilwoods with 305mm rotors at the rear.
As Mike was working on the body shell, Marsh Motorsport was building the killer Holden V8 to power it. The 304 Holden was stroked to its maximum 5817cc (355ci) and fitted with an Auscrank stroker crank, CP pistons, Scat rods, Yella Terra CNC ported heads, a March Motorsport custom roller cam, a BLP 750cfm carb (which were commonly used on the R&S TransAm cars), a Harrop intake manifold, MSD ignition and TransAm air filter with custom-made Sonic cold air box. All up, this fire-breathing Holden churns out 459kW (615hp), a most impressive figure. The motor is backed up by a Tilton triple-plate clutch, Tex Racing box and a Strange alloy centre section diff, with Sonic housing. The wheels are 17 x 10-inch Simmons.
Once the body fabrication work was complete, it was fitted with a Sonic-designed fibreglass bonnet and front spoiler, which were fabbed up by Impact Fibreglass. Then it was sprayed in a stunning coat of Quicksilver silver metallic by The Professional Touch in Tauranga. From go to whoa, this rolling work of art took just six months to build, and debuted at the second round of the 2007 Central Muscle Cars series. However, its debut season was cut short when the crankshaft broke at only its second meeting, and Andrew had to revert to his old car for the rest of the season.
The first CMC event for the 2008 season would actually be on the other side of the Tasman, at the 2007 Australian Muscle Car Masters at Eastern Creek. With Mike on hand, Andrew managed to get in plenty of off-season testing to dial the new car in. Lap times tumbled.
At Eastern Creek Andrew qualified fastest in the first session but had to sit out the second session with a cracked windscreen, and Richard Gatward bumped him from the top spot in his Mustang. Andrew was competitive throughout the five races, always running in the top three and finishing second in the final race.
He missed the opening round of the 2008 CMC Championship, as he and Mandy had booked seats for the Rugby World Cup final (bummer!). But on returning for round two he was well on the pace, and likely would have won the round had it not been for the battery going flat on the grid when the third race was red-flagged twice.
He and the Commodore took their first scratch race win at Pukekohe for round three, after a great early tussle with Aussie Paul Stubber, and took their first round win at round four in Taupo. At round five, the most recent round he’d competed in at the time of writing, his event was cut short in the first race. After narrowly missing out on pole to his brother Paul, Andrew was running second before a spin at the hairpin dropped him down the field. A great fight-back ended when the harmonic balancer broke.
The next time you’re at a CMC event, wander over to the big red Renault and check out the stunning silver Commodore parked under the awning. Andrew, like all the CMC competitors, is only too happy to chat. And, guaranteed, nearby you’ll spot a well-groomed guy with a moustache climbing in and around the Commodore, fussing over it intently, checking then double checking everything in a whirl of activity. That’ll be Mike Anderson tending to his baby.
1985 VK Holden Commodore
Engine: Holden 4982cc stroked to 5817cc (304 to 355ci), Auscrank stroker crank, CP pistons, Scat rods, Peterson four-stage dry sump, Yella Terra CNC ported heads, Marsh Motorsport roller cam, TransAm air filter, Sonic cold air box, Harrop intake manifold, BLP 750cfm carb, MSD ignition
Driveline: Tilton triple-plate clutch, Tex Racing 101R four-speed gearbox, Strange diff with Sonic housing
BRAKES: Four-pot Stop-Tech front callipers, 330mm rotors, four-pot Wilwood rears, 305mm rotors
SUSPENSION: King Springs all round, Bilstein adjustable shocks front, Koni adjustable shocks rear, custom-made anti-roll bar, Watts linkage
WHEELS/TYRES: 17×10-inch Simmons, Dunlop slicks or Kumhos (depending on the category)
PERFORMANCE: 459kW (615hp) at 7500rpm. Pukekohe: 1min 1.7sec, Manfeild: 1min 13sec
Andrew Sinclair (Roo)
Occupation: Company director
Previously owned Cars: Too embarrassing to say!
Length of ownership: 13 months
Thanks to: Mike Anderson at Sonic Race and Machine, Tony Marsh at Marsh Motorsport, Alan Green at Endeavour Engineering Tauranga, Lee Hyslop at Courtney Road Panelbeaters Tauranga, Gregg at the Professional Touch Tauranga, Greg Clarke (number one crew man)