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His­toric Mus­tang Racer

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide News - Words: Steve Holmes Pho­tos: Peter Hanna Col­lec­tion and Mike Feisst

While enor­mous fields of V8 sedans raced in the US dur­ing the 1960s through early 1970s, New Zealand only ever had a hand­ful com­pet­ing at any one time. There­fore, even if it were pos­si­ble to gather up all the orig­i­nal V8 sedans that raced here in pe­riod, there wouldn’t be nearly enough cars for a full grid. So His­toric Mus­cle Cars (HMC), like most his­toric-rac­ing sedan classes around the world, is made up of newly built cars that rep­re­sent the type of ma­chin­ery that raced in pe­riod, rather than the ac­tual orig­i­nal cars them­selves.

How­ever, there is one no­table ex­cep­tion.

Red Daw­son’s Shelby Mus­tang

In 1967, the Shelby Rac­ing Team con­structed 26 turn-key SCCA A/sedan Ford Mus­tangs. Re­tail­ing at around US$6K each, they were all painted white. Shelby kept four cars aside to race, with the other 22 were sold to pri­va­teers. Not only did this boost its bot­tom line, it also helped Ford win the Man­u­fac­tur­ers Cham­pi­onship in the Trans-am se­ries — in 1967, there was no cham­pi­onship for driv­ers. Points were as­signed to the high­est­placed car from each man­u­fac­turer, whether fac­tory-run or pri­va­teer. And as Mus­tangs heav­ily pop­u­lated each race, there was usu­ally a well-placed pri­va­teer in the mix if the fac­tory cars fal­tered.

One of those 26 cars was pur­chased by a Kiwi. His name was Norm Barry, al­though he chose to race un­der the pseu­do­nym of Frank Bryan. He bought the car be­cause New Zealand had switched from All­comer rules to Fédéra­tion In­ter­na­tionale de l’au­to­mo­bile (FIA) Group 5 reg­u­la­tions for the 1967/’68 New Zealand Sa­loon Car Cham­pi­onship. Barry ac­quit­ted him­self well against tough op­po­si­tion — in­clud­ing Paul Fa­hey’s very fast 1966 Shelby Mus­tang, Rod Cop­pins in the ex– Pete Geoghe­gan 1966 Amer­i­can Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship (Atcc)–win­ning Mus­tang, Red Daw­son’s ex–ivan Segedin Mus­tang, and reign­ing cham­pion Rob­bie France­vic’s im­pres­sive new 427ci (7.0-litre) Ford Fair­lane — and he fin­ished se­cond in the Over 2000cc class be­hind the dom­i­nant Fa­hey in the 1967/’68 cham­pi­onship.

Af­ter that sin­gle sea­son, the Shelby Mus­tang was sold to Red Daw­son, who’d strug­gled with the ex-segedin ma­chine, which was fast but frag­ile. He had it painted a bril­liant metal­lic blue, with huge gold rac­ing num­bers (Daw­son raced as No. 35) em­bla­zoned on the doors. He took the car to Aus­tralia to con­test the ATCC at War­wick Farm, where he qual­i­fied ninth but failed to fin­ish.

Daw­son was a match for Fa­hey on pace for much of the 1969 New Zealand Sa­loon Car Cham­pi­onship, but he strug­gled to fin­ish races, do­ing so in just three of the nine rounds. With a sin­gle race win and two run­ner-up po­si­tions, he fin­ished se­cond in class be­hind the run­away Fa­hey.

How­ever, ev­ery­thing came good for the

1970 cham­pi­onship. Fa­hey had sold his Mus­tang to John Ri­ley, re­plac­ing it with an Alan Mann Rac­ing–built Es­cort FVA, and Daw­son notched up a string of vic­to­ries early in the sea­son to build a healthy points buf­fer. Things be­gan to come un­rav­elled, how­ever, when Rod Cop­pins started chal­leng­ing for wins in his new Camaro, hav­ing missed the first part of the sea­son, and to try and counter this new threat, Daw­son sought to squeeze more power from his mo­tor. That brought about a re­turn of un­re­li­a­bil­ity, and the ti­tle went down to the fi­nal race, at Levin, where the Mus­tang was side­lined in prac­tice with a failed pis­ton. Thank­fully Red’s good mate, John Ri­ley, loaned him his ex-fa­hey Mus­tang, and af­ter he con­vinced of­fi­cials to over­turn a jumped-start penalty, he and Cop­pins emerged tied on points. A count­back couldn’t sep­a­rate the pair, as they’d taken the same num­ber of race wins, and se­cond and third plac­ings, so they were awarded as joint cham­pi­ons, the first and only time this has ever hap­pened.

Back home

Daw­son con­tin­ued with the Mus­tang for an­other sea­son, but by now it was show­ing its age against new com­pe­ti­tion, and it was even­tu­ally sold in 1971 to make way for a new Z28 Camaro. The car raced briefly in the South Is­land Open Sa­loon Car As­so­ci­a­tion (OSCA) se­ries be­fore be­ing con­verted to a road ve­hi­cle, which is how it re­mained un­til it was pur­chased in the 1990s by Queens­land col­lec­tor David Bow­den, who, in one gi­ant buy­ing spree, also ac­quired the Fa­hey Mus­tang, the Geoghe­gan/ Cop­pins Mus­tang, and a sis­ter car to the Daw­son Mus­tang that came to New Zealand in 1970 with Dex­ter Dun­lop.

As a rule, Bow­den doesn’t sell cars from his col­lec­tion, but the Bryan/daw­son Mus­tang was an ex­cep­tion, as long-time Mus­tang en­thu­si­ast and clas­sic racer Nigel Macdon­ald man­aged to prise it from him and re­turn it home to New Zealand in 2008.

Over­all, the old Mus­tang was in de­cent shape, though it had sus­tained the usual back­yard re­pairs so typ­i­cal of the ’ 70s and ’80s. Af­ter some prepa­ra­tion work, Nigel was able to race the Mus­tang with HMC at the 2013 NZ Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing. At that time, it was painted white, as sup­plied by Bow­den, and, un­less told about it, many race fans may not have been aware of its sig­nif­i­cant New Zealand rac­ing pedi­gree.

How­ever, Nigel wanted to re­turn the Mus­tang to its fa­mous metal­lic blue with gold num­bers, as raced by Daw­son, and, while it was hoped that the body was good enough for some ba­sic prep work and a repaint, a lit­tle dig­ging soon re­vealed it needed to be brought right back to bare metal and prop­erly re­paired.

At the time of writ­ing the Mus­tang has had its bodywork re­stored, and new paint ap­plied, and — all go­ing well — it will make its re­turn in its fa­mous 1970 cham­pi­onship–win­ning colour scheme at the 2016 NZ Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing.

Watch this space.

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