Historic Muscle Cars
Words: Steve Holmes
WNigel Watts and Phil Noble
ith the annual New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing (NZFMR) now done and dusted once more, Historic Muscle Cars (HMC) is winding down towards the end of the 2015/’16 season, with only the Historic Racing Club’s Legends of Speed event still to run in early April, prior to engines going silent for winter.
The Legends of Speed event is a popular one on the calendar, thanks to its early April date, which is still in the Daylight Saving period but without the fiercely hot temperatures more common during January and February.
For HMC and Historic Saloon Cars (HSC), the focus is already turning towards the 2016/’17 season. As the two groups have continued their growth, so the search for new venues has persisted as well. And, for the first time, HMC and HSC will race at the annual MG Classic, to be held at Manfeild.
The MG Classic is one of the longest running events on the New Zealand motor sport calendar. HMC and HSC will race as a combined group, which, for many, has produced the most popular racing. Combining the big V8s slipping and sliding, struggling to put their power to the ground, with the nimble small-capacity cars has proven a big hit, both with race fans and drivers alike.
Howard Wood, in his popular orange BMW 2002 — which has been built to FIA Appendix K rules — has regularly taken the fight to the V8s, but, in addition, there have been other very quick small-bore combinations, such as John Dennehy in his ex–halliday brothers BDA Escort. And, as the ranks in both HMC and HSC have continued to grow; so, too, more new cars have been coming online, including a MKI Escort BDG Group 2 car, built to Appendix K rules.
Indeed, right throughout the field, new small-bore cars are joining the HSC ranks. Some are existing cars that are currently competing in other groups, while others are being scratch built. This is also the case in HMC, in which several new cars are currently being built, others are being converted to HMC spec from other groups, and more still are being imported as fully built up Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) A/sedan race cars, needing only minor changes to comply. We’ll share news of these cars that are coming on during the winter months.
With the success of combined HMC/HSC at the NZFMR still being enjoyed, there is plenty of buzz surrounding both groups. This is historic car racing, and the emphasis is placed purely on the cars themselves, not the drivers or race results. There are no rewards for finishing first; this is simply a category that focuses on motor racing history and on building, racing, and enjoying periodcorrect race cars with like-minded enthusiasts. This message has always been pushed to the forefront of HMC/HSC. Those looking to have their egos stroked and be involved in a group where they think they’ll be rewarded for winning races should look elsewhere, as HMC/ HSC is not that group. However, for those who are genuine car enthusiasts, want to have fun both on and off the track with fellow enthusiasts, and want to drive their car onto the trailer at the end of the weekend just as they drove it off at the beginning, HMC/HSC will have a lot of appeal. As such, both groups are generating a lot of interest from all the right people.
This also means that the emphasis of HMC/HSC has always been on building what you love, not what will win you races, and this message has been getting through. Thus, being what it is — taking the rewards away from on-track performances and placing them on the cars themselves — people are building and racing the types of vehicle they themselves have a genuine interest in. This, in turn, results in the most popular, the most unique, and the most charismatic cars generating all the attention in the pits, regardless of what they cost to build.
One of the most popular cars currently competing in HMC/ HSC is Pat Excell’s Ford Anglia GT. It’s not the fastest car in the field; indeed, it’s one of the slowest, but it’s a car that already enjoys a strong fan base, because it’s unique, full of character, and people can relate to it. For many Kiwis who were around in the 1960s and ‘70s, Ford Anglias were a common sight both on the road and on the track. The Anglia was the entry into motor sport for many drivers. These days, however, they’re rarely seen on race tracks, and, as such, Pat’s example has a popular following. The fact that it’s a rare factory GT makes it just that bit more special.
When all is said and done, it should be remembered that historic car racing is purely a celebration of history. That history has already been made, and, despite what some people may think, winning races in modern-day historic racing will not re-write it, so enjoyment of the cars themselves becomes the priority. This is the ethos around which HMC/HSC is built.
More info on HMC can be found at the HMC website, historicmusclecars.co.nz, or through the HMC online discussion forum at The Roaring Season, theroaringseason.com.