OBITUARY Colin ‘Dawker’ John Dawson October 13, 1957 to February 24, 2017
Words and photos:
Many were stunned at the news of Colin Dawson’s passing on February 24, 2017, a few days after the last round of the Southern Festival of Speed at Teretonga Park raceway.
A huge crowd turned out to his farewell, which was held at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill on March 2, 2017 to celebrate a very full 59 years of life.
Known nationally, in particular, as an Open Saloon Car Association (OSCA) national champion and, more recently, for his involvement in Historic Muscle Cars (HMC), Colin, or ‘Dawker’, as he was more affectionately known, was held in high regard, not only as a successful Southland businessman but also as a talented race car driver.
Appropriately, the service began to the strains of the Beep, Beep by The Playmates, a hit song from 1958 about a race between a little Nash Rambler and a Cadillac. Those old enough to remember will recall Nash had a problem with its overdrive gearbox switches jamming the gearbox in one gear under certain conditions. A line from the song goes, “Hey buddy, how do you get this car out of second gear?”
Colin trained as an engineer and proved to be considerably talented in this field. At an early stage in his career, he started his own business in Invercargill. It was typical of Colin that he always worked to improve anything mechanical and got the best of his cars, so the song struck a chord with many.
Long-time friend and fellow racer Rodger Cunningham spoke at the farewell. “A very talented and fierce competitor … Colin, Dawkey, Dawker, Mr Doo — whatever you called him, he was a great mate to many of us,” Rodger said.
Along with Colin, Rodger enjoyed a number of years of building Toyota race cars in Colin’s workshop and close racing with fellow club members Bruce Jenks and Steven Kennedy, usually lapping around the 1min 15s mark for Teretonga.
“The competitiveness in Dawker soon came out, and he was off to Noddy Murdoch in Timaru. His car came back with a set of Dellortos, and the extremely close racing we had all been having started to go out the window. We were all looking at Dawker’s tail-lights. He eventually got his Toyota Torino down to 1min 10s — a huge achievement!”
Endurance racing was the attraction in 1994, but, in 2002, Colin purchased the ex–brendon Mason RX-7 and sold the Toyota to his nephew Bradley, who still races the car. Colin developed the RX-7 into a winning combination in OSCA racing, and, in the 2006–’07 season, he was New Zealand OSCA Super Saloon national champion, South Island OSCA champion, and South Island OSCA GT2 champion. In 2006, he achieved another milestone with a sub-one-minute lap of Teretonga of 59.3s in the RX-7.
In his 2007 book Going Round in Circles, Keith Douglas noted that Colin was second equal in having attended the most race meetings at Teretonga. The two competitors rated above him have since retired, so it was a record that they had not realized, Rodger said.
The 2008–’09 season saw a rebuilt car and him again South Island OSCA champion, South Island OSCA Group 2 champion, and come third in the New Zealand OSCA Championship. After a visit to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in 2013, Rodger convinced Colin that HMC racing was the way to go, and a suitable Chevrolet Camaro was found with HMC member Glenn Allingham in Auckland.
Glenn attended Colin’s farewell. The two had become very close friends, and their racing on the track was also close, especially recently at Timaru and Invercargill. Glenn drew a few chuckles recounting how tough the negotiations with Colin had been for the Camaro, along with his legendary frugality. “After Colin finally bought the Camaro, I felt like I needed some victim support,” Glenn said.
A large crowd gathered beside the Teretonga Park track to pay their respects to Colin ‘Dawker’ John Dawson as he circulated the track for the final time and saw his final chequered flag, dropped by long-time friend Bruce Jenks.
As the crowd gathered at the start/finish line, funeral officiant Judy Gregory stepped out of the hearse and remarked, “I’ve just had the word from Colin … that [that] was the slowest lap he has ever done of Teretonga!” Final flag — Bruce Jenks drops the chequered flag for Colin’s final lap of Teretonga Park
Colin Dawson’s funeral photo (supplied by the Dawson family and Avenal Funeral Services)