NEW ZEALAND CLAS­SIC CAR READ­ERS’ WRITES Ro­tary Rush I

MAIL: very much en­joyed your Au­gust ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled Ro­tary Con­nec­tion about Tim Wood’s su­perb Mazda RX-3 ( NZ Clas­sic Car, Au­gust 2015). Back in the 1970s I owned two Mazda RX-3S — one red, one yel­low. At­tached is a pho­to­graph of our old drive­way in Napi

New Zealand Classic Car - - Readers' Writes Letters -

NZCLASSICCAR, PO BOX 46020, HERNE BAY, AUCK­LAND 1147

One mi­nor de­tail in your ar­ti­cle that needs cor­rec­tion is your ref­er­ence to ac­knowl­edged ro­tary guru Bill Shiells, who first cham­pi­oned the mo­tor-sport cause for th­ese cars in New Zealand. Bill was in­deed the first per­son to rally the ro­tary Mazda in this coun­try, but not in an RX-3. Bill pur­chased a Mazda Capella RE coupé (later known as the RX-2) from the first con­sign­ment to ar­rive in 1971, and it was in this car that he toured the coun­try with his wife, Bry­den, demon­strat­ing it to ea­ger Mazda deal­ers. The fol­low­ing year, he en­tered the 1972 Heat­way Rally — the first en­try of a ‘chicken cooker’ ro­tary in a New Zealand rally. Bill’s car was also prom­i­nent in the pop­u­lar GTX cir­cuit-rac­ing se­ries.

The at­tached photo was taken a cou­ple of years be­fore Bill’s pass­ing in 2007, so here’s some­thing to re­mem­ber him by. I stopped off to see Bill and Bry­den just out­side Cam­bridge, on the way to Auck­land, on this oc­ca­sion driv­ing the Mazda Capella. As I was about to leave I could sense Bill was itch­ing to get be­hind the wheel, so gave him the keys and let him take it for a solo quick spin around the lo­cal coun­try roads. I could hear him wind­ing the en­gine out through the gears some dis­tance away, when Bry­den came out the front door onto the drive­way. “Where’s Bill?” she asked, to which I ex­plained he had taken the car. She looked quizzi­cally at me, and asked, “Chris, do you re­al­ize how many of th­ese cars Bill has writ­ten off do­ing just this kind of thing?” Sud­denly my car seemed very frag­ile, scream­ing away in the dis­tance, but Bill brought it back un­scathed, and sport­ing a huge smile! So we posed for this pho­to­graph (Bill wear­ing his cus­tom­ary white shirt), shook hands, and I de­parted to fin­ish the drive to Auck­land. It felt nice that I had made Bill’s day.

You also re­ferred to the RX-3S com­pet­ing for hon­ours in the B&H [Ben­son & Hedges] 500 (later the B&H 1000) pro­duc­tion sa­loon car race, but th­ese cars were never el­i­gi­ble for this event. El­i­gi­bil­ity for the B&H rested on be­ing New Zealand–as­sem­bled, which means only the Mazda RX-2 could com­pete in this race — Mazda RX-2S were as­sem­bled in Otahuhu from 1973 to 1975.

But the RX-3 was cer­tainly a con­tender in New Zealand ral­ly­ing for many years. Rod Millen con­vinc­ingly won the New Zealand rally cham­pi­onship ti­tles in 1975, 1976, and 1977 — a feat which I be­lieve is still a sore point with many Ford fans, whose fan­cied teams and highly de­vel­oped BDA Es­corts were sys­tem­at­i­cally un­rav­elled year af­ter year try­ing to catch the fly­ing Millen in his ro­tary RX-3 rocket ship!

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