The modern wellness industry has spawned countless online influencers and personalities eager to hawk supposed cures and lifestyle tweaks to millions of fans. But even before the dawn of Instagram, kale smoothies, and chakra cleanses, it was still treacherous for any public figure to hitch their wagon to less-than-scientific methodologies. Case in point: Australian racing legend Peter Brock.
For one of Australia’s biggest names in racing, the decision to go full New Age in the late 1980s proved so costly that it not only ended his longtime business partnership with the country’s largest automaker, it almost very nearly killed his motorsports career. But for a brief moment before the wheels came off, Holden performance honcho and multi-time touring car champion Brock had some crystals to sell you.
For your car.
Peter Brock (as distinct from the Shelby- and Datsun-affiliated American Peter Brock) entered the ’80s as close to a living legend as Australian motorsports had to offer. Known as the “King of the Mountain” for his dominance at the Mount Panorama Circuit—he notched nine wins at the Bathurst 1000, one at the Bathurst 24 Hour—Brock was fast in nearly anything he wheeled. A three-time Australian touring car champion, he also competed in European touring cars, at Le Mans, and in numerous other endurance events, but his heart and soul was firmly planted Down Under, where he became synonymous with the country’s high-performance scene.
Tied at the hip with Brock was Holden, the muscle-obsessed, ute-building Australian division of General Motors that was shut down just last year. While initially the link between the racer and the automaker was limited to his Holden Dealer Team racing outfit, Brock eventually parlayed his on-track success into a series of low-production, special-edition tuner cars assembled by his own HDT outfit as ‘Special Vehicles.’ These primarily took the form of Commodore and Statesmen sedans, produced in part to satisfy motorsports homologation requirements but also to help Holden one-up its domestic competition in terms of power, handling, and prestige on the street.
Roughly 4,000 or so HDT Special Vehicles were built by the mid-1980s and the Holden Dealer Team was doing quite well from a business standpoint. Unfortunately, Brock himself was having a harder time enjoying the fruits of his success due to a series of health issues that largely stemmed from a life spent overextending himself as a racer, car builder, and director of HDT.
Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, Brock was introduced to local chiropractor Dr. Eric Dowker, who also went by the Mötley Crüe-esque moniker “Dr. Feelgood.” Neither of those doctor titles came via medical training, a fact quickly borne out by his insistence that Brock complement a new, healthier lifestyle (fewer parties, less stress, more vegan food) with the use of crystals due to their supposed powers to heal.
If the racer had contained his enthusiasm for Dowker’s therapies to his personal life, this chapter of his life might have passed into forgotten history. Unfortunately for Brock, he was so excited by the revitalization associated with the chiropractor’s various beliefs and practices that he dove headfirst into a world he barely understood and brought an unwitting Holden along for the ride.
Can I Interest You in Some Rocks?
Trouble began to bubble to the surface in 1986. After a couple years of wearing crystals as jewelry in order to align his energy, Brock began to apply the questionable powers of these rocks to his food, his shop, and eventually the cars. Peter started outfitting his HDT race machines with Dowker-supplied crystals in secret, before forced to admit the rocks’ purpose once they were accidentally discovered by drivers during test sessions, having nearly caused an accident as they came loose and flew about the cabin.
With the cat out of the bag, Brock doubled-down on what he was calling the “Energy Polarizer,” essentially a small box containing crystals embedded in resin, which was then attached to the body of the car itself. Drivers were perplexed by rituals that involved brief forest sojourns with the Polarizer and a small antenna affixed to their vehicles intended to ‘align’ their molecules. Brock pushed for the box to be installed on each and every HDT race car, which led to a clash with popular driver Larry Perkins that resulted in the latter leaving the team.
It wasn’t long before Peter was also pestering Holden and its bosses at General Motors to put an Energy Polarizer in every street car it sold. While waging that campaign, he also took the executive decision to add the device to the latest HDT Special Vehicle, the HDT Director sedan, as a $480 option.
Dude, Where’s My Science?
How did the Energy Polarizer work? No one knew. Aside from something about long-debunked “orgone energy” being touted alongside the poorly defined concept of molecular alignment, the best Brock could come up with was a statement to Wheels magazine that declared, “It’s a magic cure. It makes a shithouse car good.” All that needed to happen, apparently, was for the box to touch the car and, after a suitable period of time, the vehicle was suddenly better in nearly every way.
Needless to say, the executives at Holden needed a little more to go on than wishful thinking if they were going to start adding features of questionable utility to any of the company’s models, and after finding the Polarizer on the HDT Director and slicing it open to discover its stones-and-glue innards, the company politely flipped out. Faced with the prospect of Brock, in his role as Holden representative, espousing the benefits of the Energy Polarizer to nearly any media outlet that would speak to him, Holden’s lawyers quickly sought to distance the company from the man.
In the blink of an eye, the nearly decade-long partnership between HDT and Brock was ended, with Tom Walkinshaw Racing taking over high-performance development for Holden as Holden Special Vehicles. Stunned by the loss of nearly his entire business, a chastened Brock found himself modifying Ladas and Fords for a handful of years to keep the lights on. He continued to race on a smaller scale for the next two decades, including another stint with Holden, before meeting an untimely end in a 2006 crash while competing in the Targa West Rally.
Ahead of Its Time? Or Ahead of Nothing?
Today, the Energy Polarizer has attained legendary status in Australian automotive circles. As much as the device tarnished Brock’s legacy in the eyes of the country’s race fans, examples also became sought-after collectibles among Holden aficionados who came to appreciate its whimsy through the distancing lens of time. Fewer than 150 HDT Directors were ever built with the crystal box, and the accessory changes hands among collectors for multiples of its original cost. There was even a brief run of tribute HDT VE-VL Commodores built in 2011 that featured the Polarizer as standard gear as a nod to the car’s heritage.
Would Brock have done better with his crystal schtick in our current age of networked astrologers, energy mavens, and industrial-strength holistic practitioners? It’s hard to say. The racing world is often cloistered, with its own rigidly held superstitions that are difficult to dislodge. That said, had Peter had had today’s media platforms at his disposal, his departure from Holden could very well have meant a lucrative second career in Energy Polarizer sales to legions of online followers instead of a decade wandering the wilderness looking for a steady ride at the racetrack.
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