His­toric Mus­cle Cars Up­date

New Zealand Classic Car - - NATIONAWIDE NEWS - Words Steve Holmes Photo Dewi Jones

New Zealand may be in the depths of win­ter, with most rac­ers park­ing their cars up un­til the warmer weather re­turns, but for a hand­ful of His­toric Mus­cle Car driv­ers, an in­vi­ta­tion to head across the ditch and race in the warmer Aus­tralian cli­mate has meant the good times keep on rolling.

When His­toric Mus­cle Cars was first get­ting off the ground, a chance meet­ing at the Monterey His­torics event at La­guna Seca in the US be­tween one of the cat­e­gory’s di­rec­tors, Dale Mathers, and Ian ‘Woody’ Wood­ward of the Queens­land-based Aus­tralian Tran­sAm se­ries, brought about a friendly agree­ment for the two bud­ding cat­e­gories to help each other grow. To that end, ATA brought six cars to New Zealand to race with HMC at the 2012 New Zealand Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing, and seven cars in 2013.

Aussie rules

Back in 2012 when ATA made its first New Zealand so­journ, HMC was still work­ing to em­ploy a max­i­mum 15-inch di­am­e­ter wheel-size limit and com­pul­sory cross-ply rac­ing-tyre rule, as part of an ef­fort to make the cars truly pe­riod cor­rect. With clas­sic and his­toric rac­ing in NZ hav­ing shifted away from the con­cept of rac­ing pe­riod-cor­rect cars many years ago, the strug­gle to con­vince po­ten­tial com­peti­tors that big, heavy V8 sedans were safe, driv­able, and fun with this set-up was prov­ing an up­hill strug­gle. Un­like New Zealand, Aus­tralia (and other coun­tries such as the US, the UK, and Europe) has al­ways had its his­toric rac­ing sedans fit­ted with pe­riod-cor­rect 15-inch wheels and cross-ply tyres, sim­ply be­cause this is what they used to race on in pe­riod, and his­toric rac­ing should ul­ti­mately re­flect what was done when the cars were new. ATA came here in 2012, and beat all the HMC cars, de­spite hav­ing 15inch wheels (when most HMC cars at the time were fit­ted with 16-inch wheels), cross-ply tyres, and reg­u­la­tions lim­it­ing power to lower fig­ures than the Kiwi cars. Vir­tu­ally overnight, the New Zealand men­tal­ity did a com­plete U-turn, and all HMC cars must be fit­ted with 15-inch wheels and cross-ply tyres to be el­i­gi­ble. And this is now ac­cepted with­out ques­tion. Since then, other than the 2013 Aus­tralian Trans-am visit to the NZFMR, HMC took eight cars to race with ATA at Queens­land Race­way and Lake­side in 2013, with ATA then re­turn­ing to NZ soil once more for the 2015 NZFMR, this time bring­ing with them eight cars. And so, once more, a band of HMC teams headed to Aus­tralia to run along­side ATA at Queens­land Race­way, Lake­side, and East­ern Creek in Septem­ber, at the Aus­tralian Mus­cle Car Masters. Th­ese are rounds three, four and five of their se­ries.

The Kiwi con­tin­gent

The NZ teams to make the trip are Kevin Gim­blett (Camaro), Mur­ray Brown (Camaro), Glenn Alling­ham (Camaro), and Dale Mathers (Mus­tang). For Glenn, the Queens­land Race­way event marked the race de­but for his newly fin­ished 1970 Camaro, which was com­pleted only just in time to be loaded into a con­tainer and sent to Aus­tralia. Glenn com­pleted his first laps in the car dur­ing Fri­day prac­tice at QR. And straight out of the box, the beau­ti­ful new black Camaro was on the pace, and a real crowd favourite with the Aussies. Gim­blett’s Queens­land Race­way week­end was cut short due to en­gine dra­mas, but the rest of the Kiwi team ran al­most with­out a hitch, each car grad­u­ally get­ting quicker as the week­end pro­gressed. Aus­tralian Trans-am is go­ing from strength to strength, with new cars ap­pear­ing seem­ingly at ev­ery round. So too, it’s gain­ing sup­port from an in­creas­ing num­ber of hugely ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer long-time tour­ing car racer Char­lie O’brien who is, at the time of writ­ing, lead­ing the ATA cham­pi­onship driv­ing the very fast Pon­tiac Fire­bird owned by Ian Wood­ward. Mean­while, a sep­a­rate cham­pi­onship for cars boast­ing a max­i­mum 5000cc has also been in­tro­duced. While all the cars race to­gether in the same grid, they’re each com­pet­ing for their own cham­pi­onships. His­toric Mus­cle Cars doesn’t have a cham­pi­onship, and nor does the cat­e­gory cel­e­brate race wins in any way. HMC was es­tab­lished purely for peo­ple who have an in­ter­est in big-bore sedan rac­ing his­tory, and/ or are just mus­cle-car en­thu­si­asts want­ing to en­joy fun, no-pres­sure rac­ing against like-minded en­thu­si­asts. So the HMC guys will do their best not to in­ter­fere with the var­i­ous cham­pi­onship bat­tles go­ing on in ATA, and will in­stead fo­cus on hav­ing fun, and en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence for what it is. We’ll bring you a re­port from the Lake­side event in the next is­sue.

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