NEW ZEALAND CLAS­SIC CAR AUTOMOBILIA Col­lectible Mod­els / Life­style / Book and DVD Re­views – Edited by James Black TIME­LINES

Once again, Graeme Rice looks back on the mo­tor­ing worlds of 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago For an ex­panded ver­sion of this month’s Time­lines, visit www.clas­s­ic­ and search ‘Time­lines’

New Zealand Classic Car - - AUTOMOBILIA -

March 1915

Fran­cis Bir­tles, cham­pion cy­cling and long-dis­tance trav­eller, left Syd­ney for his over­land trip to Port Dar­win. His first sup­ply de­pot was in the north-west tip of New South Wales. That took him across to Alice Springs. Half­way be­tween Ay­ers Rock and Port Dar­win he was met by a camel team with fresh sup­plies. In to­tal his trip was planned to take two years … by car?

March 1940

Wartime des­per­a­tion for iron and steel threw up a novel sug­ges­tion from the New Zealand Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion. “Why,” asked its spokesman, “are we the only coun­try out­side Great Bri­tain cur­rently ra­tioning petrol, when we im­port iron at around £33 a ton from Great Bri­tain and £40 a ton from the USA, then waste around 100 tons of it mak­ing new num­ber plates for the 307,000 ve­hi­cles on our roads? Why are we forced to go with­out petrol yet are the only coun­try wast­ing iron on re­plac­ing per­fectly good num­ber plates with new ones?”

Enzo Fer­rari’s work­ers were on the verge of com­plet­ing what would, in nor­mal cir­cum­stances, have been the first Fer­rari sports cars to take part in a race. Un­for­tu­nately, af­ter Enzo’s dis­missal by the Alfa Romeo bosses in 1939, al­beit with a gen­er­ous sev­er­ance agree­ment, he was pre­vented from build­ing cars in com­pe­ti­tion to the 29-year-old Mi­lanese firm. How­ever, Enzo didn’t take too much per­suad­ing when ap­proached in De­cem­ber 1939 by 21-year-old motorcycling cham­pion Al­berto As­cari, and his friend the March­ese Lo­tario Ran­goni Mac­chi­avelli di Mo­dena, with the idea of build­ing a new Ital­ian car to com­pete in the 1940 Mille Miglia. The deal was done on Christ­mas Eve 1939 and the re­sult­ing cars, named Tipo 815, were fin­ished ahead of sched­ule, ready for testing prior to the race on April 28.

March 1965

Tri­umph re­worked the Spit­fire, re­launch­ing the popular lit­tle rag-top as the MKII. Ba­si­cally noth­ing much had changed, but the num­ber of al­ter­ations and re­fine­ments made the new car a far more ef­fec­tive ma­chine. Over two sec­onds was sliced off the time to ac­cel­er­ate from rest to 100kph, and the stand­ing start quar­ter mile took a sec­ond less. Two op­tional ex­tras im­pressed the testers, the Dun­lop wire wheels and the over­drive stalk pro­trud­ing from the right side of the steer­ing col­umn.

Sup­ply of 3.0-litre en­gines for the new For­mula One cars was prov­ing some­thing of a headache. Coven­try Cli­max showed its im­pres­sive FWMW 1.5-litre flat 16 en­gine said to de­velop 220bhp (164kw) at a fear­some 12,000rpm. It was just 2.5cm longer and 4.5kg heav­ier than the old V8, but though Lo­tus and Brab­ham de­vel­oped chas­sis that would take the new en­gine, they stuck with the old and still suc­cess­ful V8 de­sign. De­spite the in­ter­est, Jag boss Sir Wil­liam Lyons hinted that 1966 would see an end to Coven­try Cli­max Grand Prix en­gines.

Most po­ten­tial en­gine builders were hint­ing at prices as high as £10,000, so BRM sug­gested it would make its en­gine avail­able to other GP teams for £7000.

March 1990

It was a strange sen­sa­tion, ap­par­ently, road testing a four-wheel-steer car, as the Otago Daily Times tester Graeme Purches found out when testing the Honda Pre­lude with four-wheel steer­ing. Ini­tially the steer­ing felt far too di­rect and too skit­tish, even the small­est move­ment of the steer­ing wheel caused the car to gen­er­ate an al­most in­stan­ta­neous repo­si­tion­ing of it­self on the road. Turn­ing the steer­ing wheel through 13 de­grees put the front wheels on nine de­grees with the rear one on two de­grees in the same di­rec­tion. You kept turn­ing the steer­ing wheel to the point where the front wheels sat at 18 de­grees, and then the rear wheels were par­al­lel. When the front wheels were on full lock the rear wheels turned to 18 de­grees, but turn­ing the op­po­site way. This mode was ideal for par­al­lel park­ing, or turn­ing in tight cir­cles al­most within the car’s own length!

Ford’s new drop-top Mazda 323–based Capri had been seen here in limited num­bers, the ba­sic ver­sion sell­ing at just $32,995 and nicely un­der­cut­ting the Mazda MX-5 and Peu­geot’s de­light­ful 205 cabri­o­let. Just as it was gain­ing a foothold, with the ba­sic model look­ing a very at­trac­tive propo­si­tion at just $32,995, about $6000 less than the MX-5, Ford an­nounced it was chang­ing over to left­hand-drive pro­duc­tion for the rest of the year. So the 101 parts sup­pli­ers needed to achieve the Aussie re­quire­ment of 70 per cent lo­cal con­tent were go­ing to be fully oc­cu­pied mak­ing bits for the Capri to suc­ceed in the Amer­i­can mar­ket.

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