His­toric Mus­cle Cars up­date

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide News - Words: Steve Holmes Pho­tos: Phil Noble

The an­nual New Zealand Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing (NZFMR) at Hamp­ton Downs in Jan­uary is re­ally the big­gest event on the His­toric Mus­cle Cars (HMC) cal­en­dar. It’s also the event that HMC car own­ers make the great­est ef­fort to at­tend, and the 2016 oc­ca­sion didn’t dis­ap­point in this re­spect.

As it has been do­ing this sea­son, HMC com­bined with the fast­grow­ing His­toric Sa­loon Cars (HSC), now run un­der the HMC um­brella, which caters to Sched­ule / Ap­pen­dix K and T&C small-ca­pac­ity sa­loons built prior to 1978. The two cat­e­gories have en­joyed great suc­cess to­gether, and con­trol­ling the reg­u­la­tions in HMC has kept the cars pe­riod cor­rect and the over­all lap speeds down, which brings the smaller-ca­pac­ity HSC cars right into the pic­ture. Over the two week­ends, the com­bined HMC/ HSC boasted 30-car grids and pro­duced some in­cred­i­ble rac­ing.

Both HMC and HSC were cre­ated to build, race, and en­joy pe­riod-cor­rect his­toric-rac­ing sedans, but the cat­e­gories also cel­e­brate his­tory, and four very im­por­tant cars with im­por­tant New Zealand rac­ing his­to­ries took part. In the HMC group were Neil Tolich in the Ivan Segedin Fleet­wood Mo­tors Mus­tang, along with Nigel Macdon­ald in the Red Daw­son Mus­tang. Mean­while, the HSC group had Ray­den Smith in the Jim Richards Will­ment Rac­ing Es­cort, along with John Den­nehy in the Don Hal­l­i­day New Zealand Freighters Es­cort.

In ad­di­tion, there were two en­tries from the South Is­land — In­ver­cargill, no less. Rodger Cun­ning­hame (1966 Mus­tang) and Scott O’don­nell (Alfa GTAM) showed mas­sive com­mit­ment in haul­ing their cars all the way to Hamp­ton Downs to take part. Both not only en­joyed them­selves im­mensely but were also ex­cel­lent ad­di­tions to the grid and very pop­u­lar with the crowd.

Over the two week­ends, there were eight races for HMC/HSC, and, from those eight races, came five dif­fer­ent race win­ners. Per­haps the most pop­u­lar was Howard Wood in his BMW 2002, who fended off some of the big V8s for sev­eral laps. But, more im­por­tantly, the show was epic, with the V8s get­ting away on the straights, while the small cars closed up again through the twisty stuff. Each race had the big field run­ning vir­tu­ally as one group for the first half, be­fore the cars grad­u­ally broke off into their own smaller groups, usu­ally com­pris­ing six to eight cars, and within th­ese groups were fur­ther en­ter­tain­ing bat­tles in­volv­ing both the big grun­ters and the nim­ble small cars. This was re­ally the true mea­sure of suc­cess for the two groups — mo­tor rac­ing, be it mod­ern or his­toric, is about en­ter­tain­ment, both for the pun­ters and those tak­ing part, and th­ese were hugely en­ter­tain­ing races, bring­ing back mem­o­ries of the golden era of the late 1960s through to the early ’70s, when sim­i­lar fields were seen on Kiwi race tracks. More­over, the rac­ing was clean, peo­ple gave each other space, and ev­ery­one en­joyed them­selves. This is how his­toric rac­ing should be.

In ad­di­tion to the on-track en­ter­tain­ment, Kiwi mo­tor rac­ing leg­ends Paul Fa­hey, Den­nis Mar­wood, Alan Boyle, and Ray Stone were on hand at the HMC mar­quee sign­ing posters and other mem­o­ra­bilia and chat­ting with race fans about the glory days.

HMC/HSC doesn’t cel­e­brate race win­ners; it’s all about the cars and about en­thu­si­asts get­ting out and hav­ing fun both on and off the track. How­ever, there was a prize-giv­ing, with ev­ery driver and helper earn­ing a tro­phy of some sort, none of which re­lated to their on-track per­for­mances, un­less they were re­ally en­ter­tain­ing.

New Zealand nat­u­ral­health-sup­ple­ments com­pany Health House (health­house.co.nz) spon­sored HMC/HSC at the NZFMR, us­ing the event to pro­mote its fun new retropack­aged sup­ple­ment line Helfee. Mean­while, Segedin Auto Spares kindly spon­sored the Satur­day night BBQ on the first week­end.

HMC/HSC has its next event at the Leg­ends of Speed meet­ing, on April 2–3, to round out the sea­son. The growth and in­ter­est in the group con­tin­ues its mo­men­tum, with sev­eral new cars be­ing built or con­verted from other cat­e­gories, and the NZFMR in Jan­uary — and the huge suc­cess the group en­joyed — will only ramp up that mo­men­tum. This was his­toric rac­ing at its best.

More info on HMC can be found at the HMC web­site, his­toric­mus­cle­cars.co.nz, or at the HMC on­line dis­cus­sion fo­rum at The Roar­ing Sea­son, theroar­ingsea­son.com.

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