His­toric Mus­cle Bring­ing Back the Golden Age of Kiwi Sa­loon Rac­ing, Part One

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide News - Words Steve Holmes Photo Steve Twist, the Peter Hanna Col­lec­tion & Garry Simkin

New Zealand has a rich and quite di­verse his­tory when it comes to sa­loon-car rac­ing. Be­ing a small coun­try, and fairly iso­lated, we’ve tended to go off and do our own thing rather than amal­ga­mate with other nearby coun­tries, as is the case in Europe.

For the pe­riod from 1960 through to the end of 1967, the New Zealand Sa­loon Car Cham­pi­onship was mostly de­void of ac­tual rules. This to­tal cre­ative free­dom saw an ex­plo­sion of wild-and-wacky race cars that thus even­tu­ally ended up be­ing dubbed the All­com­ers. This class was out­lawed fol­low­ing the 1967 sea­son, but of in­ter­est was the fact Mo­tor­sport New Zealand ac­tu­ally started mak­ing plans to rein things in as early as 1965, when it in­tro­duced a sep­a­rate cham­pi­onship for FIA Group 2 cars for the 1966 sea­son.

Group 2 was a set of rules be­ing used else­where in the world, most no­tably the UK and Europe, as well as the US, where the Sports Car Club of Amer­ica (SCCA) used Group 2 as the ba­sis for its new Trans-am se­ries that be­gan in 1966. Group 2 rules were fairly strict, al­low­ing only a lim­ited num­ber of mod­i­fi­ca­tions to be made to the stan­dard pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cle.

For 1966 through 1969, the Euro­pean Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship, Bri­tish Sa­loon Car Cham­pi­onship, and var­i­ous Euro­pean do­mes­tic tour­ing car cham­pi­onships all switched to a new set of FIA reg­u­la­tions called Group 5. Th­ese rules al­lowed far greater free­doms than Group 2, which cre­ated more of an even play­ing field. But im­por­tantly, they also re­quired the car to still be pro­duc­tion based, and fit­ted with the same type of en­gine it left the fac­tory with, not al­tered in any way from stan­dard. In ad­di­tion, they had to carry all-fac­tory glass, all-fac­tory bodywork, and only light flar­ing of the wheel arches to fit wider wheels and tyres.

While Group 2 rules were used in New Zealand for the fi­nal two years that the All­com­ers still reigned, fol­low­ing the 1967 sea­son New Zealand ditched All­com­ers, and in­tro­duced Group 5 as our own set of reg­u­la­tions for the NZ Sa­loon Car Cham­pi­onship. While the SCCA in the US had drifted away from Group 2 and drawn up its own set of reg­u­la­tions by 1968, th­ese reg­u­la­tions were quite sim­i­lar to those of Group 5. So too in Aus­tralia, which raced un­der its own Im­proved Pro­duc­tion reg­u­la­tions, based largely on Group 5.

In­deed, Paul Fa­hey won the 1971 New Zealand Sa­loon Car Cham­pi­onship in his Alan Mann Rac­ing Es­cort FVC, beat­ing the V8s on both the small and big tracks. And other driv­ers of small­ca­pac­ity ve­hi­cles, such as Jim Richards, Jack Nazer, Brian Cros­bie, Stan Baird, Max Pen­ning­ton, Don Hal­l­i­day and Gary Sprague (all in Ford Es­cort twin-cams), as well as Alan Boyle (Viva GT), and Rodger An­der­son (BMW 2002), were al­ways in the fight. The very-small­est-class bat­tles were dom­i­nated in num­bers by Mini Coop­ers, but in amongst them were cars such as the Brian Pa­trick– owned Sid­chrome Imp raced by Jim Richards, and Roy Har­ring­ton’s sim­i­lar car. When His­toric Mus­cle Cars was formed in 2011, ini­tially the plan was to race pe­riod-cor­rect big-bore sedans that rep­re­sented those con­test­ing the NZ Sa­loon Car Cham­pi­onship, Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship, and SCCA Trans-am cham­pi­onship dur­ing the late 1960s through early 1970s. The growth of the cat­e­gory has been rapid, de­spite its strin­gent reg­u­la­tions, with new cars join­ing the group vir­tu­ally at ev­ery event, and sev­eral more cur­rently in the build.

Do you have a han­ker­ing to tick Targa NZ off your bucket list, but don’t have a car? Then it’s time you spoke to Peter Martin, Targa’s event di­rec­tor. From small be­gin­nings four years ago, Targa’s hire fleet of event- and tour-ready lease cars now num­bers four — rang­ing from a 1.3-litre Ford Ka, to a BMW 328i coupé and a clas­sic Ford Es­cort suit­able for the main com­pe­ti­tion event, as well as a late-model BMW 1 Se­ries M coupé that would be per­fect for those look­ing to join the pop­u­lar Targa Tour.

In 2014, to cel­e­brate the event’s 20th an­niver­sary, the an­nual six-day tar­mac road rally trav­elled to the South Is­land, but this year it is back to the North Is­land and, for the first time ever, the 2015 Targa NZ will in­clude over 1000 kilo­me­tres of closed spe­cial stages.

If that isn’t added in­cen­tive to turn the dream of com­pet­ing on the event into re­al­ity, Martin says he doesn’t know what is — and that’s the key to the ex­tra time and ef­fort he and his team have put this year into ex­pand­ing the line of lease cars.

“It’s about tak­ing the ‘buts’ out of the equa­tion,” says Martin, whose own in­tro­duc­tion to the event was as a com­peti­tor. “One, ob­vi­ously, we hear a lot is ‘I’d love to do Targa but I don’t have a suit­able car.’ The other, and this is one we’re hear­ing more and more, and not just from first timers, is, ‘I’d love do Targa this year but I don’t have the time.’”

As a re­sult, Targa NZ has put to­gether a range of lease op­tions that range from tak­ing the car away and run­ning it your­self, to the easy op­tion of sim­ply turn­ing up on the day to drive the car on the event, with ev­ery­thing else han­dled by the Targa NZ team.

Costs vary from car to car and pack­age to pack­age — and from event to event — but past feed­back from those who have leased a car be­fore is pos­i­tive.

“For some,” says Martin, “it’s a chance to dip a toe in the wa­ter, for oth­ers it’s the bucket-list thing. What we have seen from the Targa Tour though is that once you get the Targa bug, it is hard to shake it off.

This year’s six-day event starts in Auck­land on (Labour Day) Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 26, and fin­ishes in Palmer­ston North on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 31.

In-be­tween are 35 closed spe­cial stages com­pris­ing a to­tal of 1067km linked by 1431.7km of tour­ing stages with overnight stops in Hamil­ton, New Ply­mouth (two nights), Palmer­ston North and Have­lock North.

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