The late 1980s proved a turbulent time for Australian motorsport’s golden child Peter Brock as an obsession with a device named the Energy Polarizer lost him factory support, long-time employees, and friends.
The evening of 20 February 1987, just a week before the opening round of the Australian Touring Car Championship, was when Peter Brock’s world turned upside down.
It was the evening where Brock launched his much vaunted, yet highly controversial Holden Calais-based Director, featuring many components that were not Australian Design Rules (ADR) compliant, including a mysterious object we’d all come to know as the Energy Polarizer. It was a small black box mounted underneath the bonnet containing mystical crystals and magnets. During 1986, Brock had met Dr Eric Dowker, a local chiropractor based in Melbourne’s Diamond Valley area. His influence on Brock was almost immediate as lifestyle changes followed for Brock, who quit smoking, turned vegetarian, and stopped his heavy drinking.
Importantly, it was Dowker’s beliefs in mystical crystal energies where the influence was most felt as it impacted the very lucrative HDT business that had been built up since 1980.
Brock had purchased the team assets from John Sheppard after Holden pulled its support following the announcements by CAMS of new touring car regulations. Brock continued with support from Marlboro, Castrol, TAA, Bridgestone, and 3XY, as well as a group of Holden dealers — lead by Adelaide-based Vin Kean — and formed a deal that saw Brock (HDT) build limited-edition performance Commodore variants alongside their race program. As a result, revered models followed, such as the VC Commodore HDT, VH Commodore SS Groups One, Two, and Three, in addition to the VK Commodore SS Group A, also known as the ‘Blue Meanie’.
This was matched by success on the race track as Brock earned his ‘King of the Mountain’ title during these years with victories in 1980, 1982, 1983, and 1984. As 1986 rolled around, Dowker’s influence on Brock crossed over into the HDT business, and it wasn’t long before what would become known as the Energy Polarizer was offered in HDTs line-up. The first car was the ‘Plus Pack’ of the VL Commodore SS Group A. But it was the Director, through a combination of this device and other radical developments, that signalled the last straw for Holden.
So, what was the role of Brock’s Energy Polarizer? Well, it was claimed the Energy Polarizer when fitted to the bulkhead in a millimetre-perfect position re-aligned the molecules to transform a car’s dynamics. “A high-technology energy device which creates a ‘polarised’ or ‘ordered’ molecular arrangement, as distinct from the normal ‘random’ structure. This alters the characteristics of material and components in the vehicle,” said a statement. Holden, who was also sceptical, completed tests on the Energy Polarizer and it proved inconclusive, while the devices were placed in employees’ vehicles in the hope they would relate positive feedback about how well their car was running. Generally, these were removed by said employee very quickly.
Opinions of journalists were also split on whether the Energy Polarizer did what it was claimed to do. It was in fact a journo who jokingly coined the name, the Energy Polarizer — PR ace Tim ‘Plastic’ Pemberton (who has just recently passed away). The mysterious technology and the PR around it proved to be the major sticking point for GMH to dump its favourite son on the eve of the touring car championship in 1987.
The loss of Holden’s support after the launch of the Director was disastrous for Brock’s HDT team as the spare parts supply, technical alliance, and monetary support disappeared. Holden even went as far as preventing HDT from purchasing new Commodores from dealerships. This led to the team significantly downscaling its race operation and, as the supply of new Commodores to modify was stopped, the road car business turned to a trickle.
As a result, much of the team left immediately, led by long-time partner in crime John Harvey and star co-driver Allan Moffat, who through a middleman purchased HDT’s newly built Holden VL Commodore Group A to mount a mini challenge on the World Touring Car Championship. Gun engineer and driver Larry Perkins was an early casualty as he left HDT in the middle of 1985, and went on to form his own very successful racing operation the next year.
Despite such a disastrous situation, Brock not only competed at the Spa 24 Hour, but won at Bathurst in an against-the-odds scenario, before moving to BMW in 1988, then back to Ford to close out the 1980s.
He returned to the Holden fold in 1991, and re-joined the factory squad three years later, as from the outside all appeared to be forgiven•