Historic Muscle Car Update: The Future of Historic Racing New Zealand
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, as interest grew in building and racing classic and historic cars in a more relaxed environment than that provided by modern motor sport, a group of enthusiasts from Motorsport New Zealand (MSNZ) set about drawing up regulations to suit these needs.
Schedule K rules, much like FIA Appendix K rules, allow for competition use of either an original car, or an accurate replica, to race in the same mechanical and aesthetic specification as that same make and model raced in period. Using saloon cars as an example, many MKI Ford Escorts competed in period fitted with ‘forest’ flares, for fitment of wider wheels. Schedule K allows an owner to build an Escort to that same specification, but the car must be accurate in all areas. For example, it must be fitted with the same diameter wheels (invariably 13-inch) as those raced in period.
To complement Schedule K, MSNZ also drew up a home-grown set of classic and historic regulations — Schedule T&C — with a cut-off date of December, 31 1977. So while T&C rules allow various freedoms that Schedule K does not, such as the fitment of wheels one inch in diameter larger than standard equipment, at the same time these rules also have other limitations. Using the Escort once more as an example, T&C rules don’t allow for non-factory bodywork such as forest flares. Working in conjunction with one another, Schedule K and T&C complement each other, creating a somewhat equal playing field when combining cars built to either set of regulations in the one race. The Schedule K Escort fitted with the forest flares can use wider wheels, whereas the T&C Escort without forest flares has narrower wheels, but those wheels are larger in diameter, allowing for larger brakes.
Since the formation of T&C, over the years a large number of people wanting to go classic and historic saloon-car racing have opted to build cars to these rules, and to T&C in particular. Overall, they’re an excellent set of regulations that have stood the test of time.
In Europe, and other countries such as Australia and the UK, historic racing events sanctioned by the motor-sport governing body require all cars to comply with the rules drawn up by that governing body. To prove cars have been built correctly, they then undergo an inspection, for which they gain a technical certificate. This certificate remains with the car, and is checked with the car during scrutineering at events to ensure it hasn’t been modified outside the regulations. This system has provided stability, which has allowed the sport to grow in those countries.
In New Zealand, no such stipulation has ever been put in place. However, many cars built to Schedule K and T&C regulations
have gained a Certificate Of Description (COD), which is designed to work in a similar way to the systems used in other countries.
But where New Zealand has differed is that there is no stipulation that cars must be built to the regulations drawn up by MSNZ. While this relaxed system has resulted in the introduction of some quite creative vehicles, it’s questionable how much these vehicles have in common with those which shaped our motor-sport past.
This very subject has been the topic of much debate over the years. Whereas in other countries historic racing has been clearly defined as the segment of the sport that celebrates and replicates history — with the philosophy, ‘as it was, so it shall be’ — in New Zealand this has been much less clear-cut. While many feel classic and historic racing should be about building and racing cars that represent those from our past, many others feel the sport should simply focus on having fun, with much less emphasis placed on exactly what it is people are driving. And inevitably, the two cultures have clashed on occasion.
In recent years classic and historic racing in New Zealand has slowly become more defined, with growing support for the concept of racing cars that truly represent those of our past. Growth in classes such as Formula 5000, historic Formula Ford, historic Formula Atlantic/pacific, Historic Sports Sedans, 1980s Group A touring cars, etc, have shown there is strong support for celebrating and honouring history, as other countries have done for many years.
Perhaps in some ways we now have the best of both worlds. There is a place in classic and historic racing for all types of cars and people.
However, mixing the two together in the same race has not always produced a popular outcome. There are still many people who have committed to MSNZ, by building cars to T&C or Schedule K rules, and attained a COD. But placing these vehicles on the same grid as cars built well outside any rulebook, and are significantly faster as a result, has led to obvious frustration for many owners of T&C or Schedule K cars.
The MSNZ T&C and Schedule K rules have many supporters, among them, Historic Muscle Cars. HMC rules are actually based on T&C rules, with a few additional tweaks, such as compulsory 15-inch wheels. More recently, HMC has taken over the running of a class for pre-1978 T&C and Schedule K (mostly under 3000cc) saloon cars, called Historic Saloon Cars. Like HMC, HSC requires all cars have a current COD. Often these two groups race together, recreating the glory days of New Zealand saloon-car racing, with the big-banger V8s battling the nimble small-capacity machines.
The future of historic racing in New Zealand is unclear. Maybe one day we’ll see MSNZ intervene, as is the case in other countries, and stipulate that event organizers set aside a specific grid for MSNZ Schedule K and T&C cars, carrying a COD. For now, however, Historic Muscle Cars/historic Saloon Cars have taken it upon themselves to provide a class for owners of such cars to race in a fun environment against like-minded enthusiasts — and that concept is gaining huge support, and growing.
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.