Historic Muscle Cars Update
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.
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.