The Begg FM5


IWe take a look at the FM5, one of the more strik­ing look­ing cars on the For­mula 5000 grid

n 1973, Drum­mond car-builder Ge­orge Begg and works driver David Ox­ton trav­elled to Eng­land with the lat­est cre­ation from the South­land work­shop, the Begg FM5, to take on the best of the Euro­pean driv­ers and man­u­fac­tures in the Guards For­mula 5000 Cham­pi­onship.

While they did not win any­thing, the tiny New Zealand equipe, trav­el­ling on a shoe­string bud­get, cer­tainly did not em­bar­rass them­selves, in­deed they did a fine job of show­ing just what could be achieved on a minis­cule amount of money.

When fel­low Drum­mond res­i­dent Allan McCully re­turned from a sea­son of Euro­pean For­mula 3 rac­ing, he was look­ing for a car and he con­vinced Ge­orge Begg to sell him the spare FM5 tub (chas­sis 16) which had been built by Begg as a spare for the Euro­pean cam­paign.

With the tub se­cured, it was sent to the PDL work­shop in Christchurch along­side the PDL Mus­tang where Fred McLean, no longer work­ing for Ge­orge Begg, built a car around the tub us­ing the en­gine and trans­mis­sion McCully had brought back from Europe.

Sus­pen­sion was McLaren, half-shafts came from a Sur­tees and the car was a de­vel­op­ment from the works FM5 with a longer wheel­base and a two piece al­loy cowl­ing in alu­minium, the work of Robin Of­fi­cer which, as well as look­ing bril­liant, made ac­cess­ing the pedal box a much eas­ier task. The com­pleted car, run­ning in the very dis­tinc­tive colours of PDL was ready for the 1973/74 Tas­man Se­ries.

High­light of the sea­son for McCully was an im­pres­sive se­cond place at Levin, only beaten by Aus­tralian Johnny Walker in a Lola.

Sell­ing the car to Gra­ham Baker be­fore the end of the 1974 sea­son, the PDL scheme was re­painted black and the car ran in his hands in both the Tas­man and New Zealand Gold Star se­ries un­til 1976, an ac­ci­dent at Rua­puna bring­ing about the need for a re­build. With For­mula 5000 in New Zealand be­ing phased out in favour of the smaller For­mula Pa­cific cars, the Begg went to Aus­tralia, swapped for a For­mula Pa­cific Bir­rana which he fit­ted with a BDA en­gine. The Aus­tralians stuck with For­mula 5000 much longer than New Zealand, ex­tend­ing the com­pe­ti­tion life of the big V8 sin­gle seaters and the car was ac­tive un­til 1985, do­ing hill­climbs (a par­tic­u­larly daunt­ing prospect) as well as rac­ing.

Now run­ning a Matich in the Aus­tralian For­mula 5000 se­ries, Bryan Sala made his F5000 de­but in the Begg as a 14 year old!

In the 1990s Ken Smith re­turned the car to New Zealand in a deal in­volv­ing the “Peanut Slab” group A Ford Sierra Cos­worth and for a time it sat on dis­play in the Cleve­don lounge of car fa­natic Gavin Hicks, along­side the rest of his im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of com­pe­ti­tion cars.

Lind­say O’Don­nell bought the car from Gavin in 2003 and had Eric Swin­bourn re­build it, its re­turn to the track be­ing at Sandown later that same year. Since then it has had reg­u­lar use, the high­light be­ing when, along with sev­eral of the New Zealand For­mula 5000 as­so­ci­a­tion cars, it went to the UK to race at both Brands Hatch and Sil­vers­tone.

Two years ago it was time to give the Begg a spruce up and Lind­say took the plunge to take the car from the blue which he had painted it, back to its orig­i­nal PDL colour, a pe­cu­liar pink­ish/ pur­ple hue, re­ferred to at the time as “Pos­sum Scro­tum Pink”! Hav­ing not been too closely as­so­ci­ated with the re­pro­duc­tive or­gans of that par­tic­u­lar Aus­tralian mar­su­pial, I will take their word for it. It does cer­tainly make the car very dis­tinc­tive on the track.

De­spite the fear­some rep­u­ta­tion of the For­mula 5000 car, Lind­say says the car is not a beast to drive at all. De­spite push­ing out just over 500hp, the Chevro­let V8 en­gine has a very wide power band and is one of the eas­i­est cars of its type to drive. The wide cock­pit is a com­fort­able size for his­toric 5000 driv­ers, who may not share the Whip­pet-like frames of the young-charges these cars were orig­i­nally built to fit. The seat is fit­ted with an orig­i­nal South­land sheep­skin cover and while Lind­say wasn’t so sure of its fire­proof qual­i­ties, have you ever seen a sheep catch fire?

While he has de­cided not ex­actly to re­tire the car, he has cer­tainly re­duced the num­ber of com­pet­i­tive out­ings it gets. It isn’t go­ing to run in the full For­mula 5000 se­ries this year but it will still be raced in se­lected spe­cial events and it was seen on track do­ing some demon­stra­tion runs as part of the High­lands 101 race meet­ing at Cromwell re­cently. Its eye-catch­ing PSP body is cer­tain to be seen on the race­tracks of New Zealand for some time yet.

Alan McCully came this close to win­ning the Tas­man In­ter­na­tional race at Levin in 74 from Johnny Walker's Lola

A pen­sive McCully on the grid at Wi­gram

Fresh from its 2003 restora­tion, fol­low­ing time served as a hill­climb car and a lounge exhibit!

Re­fur­bished in 2011 and put back to its orig­i­nal colour. From this an­gle, the dis­tinc­tive Coke bot­tle shape is ob­vi­ous, mak­ing this one of the most com­fort­able F5000 cock­pits around

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