His­toric Mus­cle Car Up­date HMC Pro­file: Gary Raiti

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide News - Words by Steve Holmes Pho­tos by Phil Noble

Right from the out­set, the em­pha­sis of the His­toric Mus­cle Cars race se­ries has al­ways been on the cars them­selves, on cel­e­brat­ing mo­tor-sport his­tory, ed­u­cat­ing race fans and cre­at­ing a fun, low-pres­sure en­vi­ron­ment for en­thu­si­asts to en­joy their rac­ing.

One very pos­i­tive out­come of HMC’S main ob­jec­tives is that the class has also at­tracted some fan­tas­tic peo­ple, who make it a bet­ter place to be for ev­ery­one in­volved. One of th­ese peo­ple is Gary Raiti.

In many ways, end­ing up at HMC means Gary has gone full cir­cle. “My in­tro­duc­tion to mus­cle cars came in my late teens,” he ex­plained, “when I pur­chased a 1967 Ford Mus­tang GT fast­back. I be­came an ac­tive mem­ber of the Auck­land Mus­tang Own­ers Club, a club in which I held var­i­ous po­si­tions, in­clud­ing pres­i­dent. This is where I got into drag rac­ing. I then got a 1969 big-block Mach 1 and then a 1970 Boss 302. It was about then I found out about cir­cuit rac­ing. I dis­cov­ered that hap­pi­ness was not around the cor­ner. It WAS the cor­ner. Along with a few other lu­natics, I was one of the found­ing mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Mus­cle Car Club.”

Aside from his love for Amer­i­can mus­cle cars, Gary has an­other pas­sion. “As a young boy, I al­ways had a pas­sion for 911 Porsches. My first Porsche was a 1985 3.2 Car­rera. Then I had the op­por­tu­nity to ful­fil my dream and buy an ab­so­lute dar­ling 1983 930 Turbo, and joined the Porsche Club of New Zealand, and that was where the mo­tor sport thing stepped up some­what. Through the Porsche club I have made some amaz­ing true friends, in­clud­ing my men­tor He­len Nott, who taught me the pro­cesses to be­com­ing a Mo­tor­sport New Zealand clerk-of-course. I also had the plea­sure of as­sist­ing her to run the Bridge­stone race se­ries.”

Even­tu­ally Gary coaxed his son Ja­son into mo­tor sport, and Ja­son turned out to pos­sess bags of pure nat­u­ral tal­ent, be­ing both light­ning fast and ex­tremely level-headed be­hind the wheel. Soon, a Sierra RS Cos­worth joined the fleet for Ja­son to race.

V8 Mus­cle

The even­tual re­turn to V8 mus­cle came about some­what by chance. “Ja­son and I were at a Pukekohe round with Porsche when we saw the Pro­duc­tion Mus­cle Car race se­ries, and we both agreed this would be a cool thing to do.” In early 2005 Gary found a beau­ti­ful, orig­i­nal 1973 XA Fal­con hard­top road car in Tau­ranga.

The Fal­con, as pur­chased, had 36,000 miles (57,936km) on the clock, it had orig­i­nal paint, and was in stunning con­di­tion. Not a GT, rather a Fal­con 500, it was orig­i­nally a six-cylin­der four-speed car later fit­ted with a 351ci (5751cc) V8. “Through my own­er­ship of the Sierra I had the plea­sure of meet­ing Roger Ed­wards,” Gary ex­plained, “and we de­vel­oped the car through baby steps.” PMC rules re­quire many of the orig­i­nal road-car parts be re­tained, which meant the Fal­con didn’t need to be heav­ily mod­i­fied to be com­pet­i­tive. In fact, PMC rules don’t even re­quire a roll cage. In that first sea­son, with Ja­son at the wheel, the team fin­ished third over­all, and Ja­son was rookie of the year.

Ja­son and Gary have run the Fal­con with PMC, North­ern, and Cen­tral Mus­cle Cars, and it was with CMC they took the car to Australia, for the 2007 Mus­cle Car Masters, where they were re­quired to fit a roll cage.

“I moved to the Mount in 2012,” Gary said, “and started spend­ing a lot of my time with my long-time friend, Dale Mathers, who I’ve known now for 36 years. I liked what he was do­ing start­ing His­toric Mus­cle Cars. The Fal­con was so close all I had to do was put it on 15-inch wheels and run the Hoosier tyre. The HMC se­ries is just a bet­ter place for the car to run. Ev­ery­one likes see­ing th­ese old dinosaurs run­ning around the track, there is no cham­pi­onship, peo­ple are rac­ing the cars be­cause they want to. Plus, we race against pe­riod-cor­rect cars, so you can’t keep on throw­ing money at them to get more speed, as the tyres are the true lev­eller. And they’re a good bunch of guys, it’s like four gears and grey hair.”

Gary’s Fal­con is a true pe­riod-cor­rect car. It has a wet sump, Ford top-loader gear­box, and pro­duc­tion parts through­out. He still uses the orig­i­nal keys to un­lock the doors and start the car. Es­sen­tially it’s still a road car, never hav­ing made the full tran­si­tion into a race car, and that is its beauty, and one of the rea­sons why it’s so popular. Gary grips the orig­i­nal 1973 Fal­con 500 steer­ing wheel, all the trim is in­tact, car­pet, full in­te­rior, badges, etc. Sure, it’d go faster if it was turned into a full-blown race car, but that isn’t the point.

The Fal­con is a credit to Gary, and he’s be­come an in­te­gral part of HMC. “The coupé has now trav­elled 42,000 miles [67,592km] and still has 98-per-cent orig­i­nal paint. We’re get­ting Glen Jen­net of En­gine Spe­cial­ties to freshen the en­gine for more fun both on and off the track, as it’s done 40 hours. It could be said that I’m part of a drink­ing team with a rac­ing prob­lem, but the one thing that is true, the older I get the faster I was!”

More info on His­toric Mus­cle Cars can be found at the HMC web­site, his­toric­mus­cle­cars.co.nz, or through the HMC on­line dis­cus­sion fo­rum at The Roar­ing Sea­son, theroar­ingsea­son.com.

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