His­toric Mus­cle Cars

Words: Steve Holmes

New Zealand Classic Car - - NATIONWIDE NEWS - Pho­tos:

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.

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