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Thread: Willis Family Commodore Sports Sedan

  1. #1

    Willis Family Commodore Sports Sedan

    This is my version of events :

    Back in the mid 70s, Lindsay Willis went on a trip to the States. He visited a lot of speedway tracks and also meet up with guys who built speedway cars. What we called 'saloons' back then. Lindsay was a very good competitor in stockcars (NZ Champion, doesn't get much better) and was also building stockcars for other people. When he returned he had the knowledge and skills so built a space frame car for speedway the first here, it had a glass Torana body put on it. Lindsay built a lot of stockcars and a few saloons in between running a business.
    Lindsay and his son Brett who was also an accomplished stockcar driver were at meeting in early 1983 (believe at Bay Park) watching and looked at some of the Sports Sedans, and Lindsay decided he could build one of these. Remember back then Sports Sedans were mainly floor pan cars with some having fronts and/or rears framed but no all space frame cars were made then.
    So in August 1983 history was started in the construction of NZ Sports Sedans.

    These are some photos that Lindsay has given me to copy of some of the build of the Willis Commodore.

    Unfortunately Brett and Lindsay have hunted all over and tracked the car as far as they can but believe it has gone. They were keen to rebuild it and race in Classic Sports Sedans.

    Following are photos of the build etc.

    First photo is a well known one of car at Bay Park with rear spoiler etc more on that later.

    Second is what Brett raced before, and of coarse constructed by Lindsay.
    Note name on rear guards.
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    Last edited by Rod Grimwood; 03-29-2016 at 05:25 AM.

  2. #2
    The early work on the frame. Note the rear end which later changed.
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    Last edited by Rod Grimwood; 03-27-2016 at 11:22 PM.

  3. #3
    Starting to look like a weapon
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  4. #4
    Many hours of work starting to take shape. Dummy engine for fitment etc. The tube cover for carbs was replaced later with Perspex as modifications were done during racing and testing over couple of years.
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  5. #5
    This was a big project and a lot of hours went into construction and fabrication. New panels were used o make the body moulds and this was time consuming job.
    Lindsay on his knees painting frame, Brett on body sanding and thinking 'this is never ending' sanding, fill, sand, undercoat, sand.
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  6. #6
    Getting colour on, this is when you start to believe, 'we are nearly there'
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  7. #7
    Looking real good, nice new and shiny,
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  8. #8
    Just about ready to go and test
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  9. #9
    Thank you for posting this Rod.
    A really epic story that needed to be told...with lots of pix.
    Frank Gardners Corvair was the first space frame saloon I ever saw.
    But this,this is kiwi built
    Last edited by John McKechnie; 03-27-2016 at 11:59 PM.

  10. #10
    First meeting and first time on track, This was Pukekohe October 6th 1984. Exciting times and the car sure attracted a bit of attention, especially at scrutineering. They had never seen a full space frame car and it had them scratching heads a little bit, but Lindsay had done home work all was ok. Other competitors were very interested and after first couple of runs, became more interested.

    In 2nd photo with people gathered, I am having chat with Lindsay at back of car and Robert Connell (Chawfy) is standing beside door chatting to Brett in car

    3rd and 4th photos the tension is building,

    Note there is no rear spoiler or much aero gear yet.
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    Last edited by Rod Grimwood; 03-27-2016 at 11:56 PM.

  11. #11
    Waiting to have another practice run, with Brett watching his mate from Rotorua Ralph Mossman with his very quick Viva, Ralph had and still has a big involvement with Brett racing back then and now. They have done a great deal together over the years.

    That's another story.
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  12. #12
    Wow, EPIC thread Rod, and one of my favorite cars of the era.

  13. #13
    Good company to do first meeting with, and they soon were paying a bit of attention to the team and car as meetings progressed.
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  14. #14
    Photo from first race at Pukekohe and then couple months later on to Bay Park.

    Local paper write up.

    Only photo I have of myself and Brett, practice at Bay park.
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  15. #15
    Local paper report.

    You will see in write up about the rear being a little light, this was time for the rear spoiler and other aeros.
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  16. #16
    I am downloading more photos and resizing on later developments.

  17. #17
    Couple more photos from 1st meeting at Puke.

    This was a club day and look at the size of field.

    Second photo has Commodore in company on grid for practice with Mazda Of Hyslop that is still racing now, behind is Ian Knight in the V8 Escort and white 302 Capri was Terry O'Brien a real good bugger and it was quick.
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    Last edited by Rod Grimwood; 04-09-2016 at 11:37 PM.

  18. #18

  19. #19
    Yea saw that photo, good one. Post it on here if you like.

  20. #20
    Wouldn't the Graeme Addis charger be the first space frame sports sedan built ?
    That was around 1977 or '78 from memory

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