HISTORIC MUSCLE CARS
Historic Muscle Cars and Historic Saloon Cars was created to celebrate a specific period in New Zealand motor-sport history, after the advent of FIA Group 2 and Group 5 rules for our national saloon car championship from the late 1960s and early ’70s. HMC and HSC provide enthusiasts with well-defined and stable regulations from which to build their cars and have some fun.
But HMC/HSC have also been active in encouraging owners of genuine historic racing saloons to join the ranks. The HMC rules are based on those used in period, and more so, HSC rules are a choice of either MSNZ T&C, or FIA Appendix K. The FIA rules require the cars be exactly as they raced in period. The 1970 New Zealand Saloon Car Championship was the one and only time two people have been crowned joint champions. Red Dawson and Rod Coppins emerged from the campaign having scored the same number of points, the same number of race wins and podium finishes — therefore the only option was to award both drivers the championship. Coppins was driving the 1967 Cambridgesponsored Camaro first raced in New Zealand by Spencer ‘Spinner’ Black, while Dawson was driving his beautiful metallic blue 1967 Shelby A / sedan Mustang, originally purchased and raced by Norm Barry.
Jim Richards is one of New Zealand’s most successful racing drivers, having won the NZ Saloon Car Championship, both outright and the 4.2-litre class, before furthering his career by moving his young family to Australia in 1975. There he went on to win the Australian Touring Car Championship four times, Bathurst 1000 seven times — plus numerous other race wins and championships — and was eventually inducted into the V8 Supercars Hall of Fame. The car which helped springboard his career and raise his profile to national levels during his early racing days was a MKI Escort twin-cam that had been purchased by his mentor Jim Carney in 1969. This significant little car has been owned for years by Rayden Smith, and is a regular with HMC/HSC.
One of Jim Richards’ main rivals in the 4.2-litre class was Don Halliday, in the MKI Escort he and brother Rob built together using a road-car shell. Halliday and Richards fought numerous fierce battles, joined by the likes of Paul Fahey, Jack Nazer, Max Pennington, Gary Sprague, Roy Harrington, Brian Crosbie and several other Escort pilots, as well as Rodger Anderson (BMW 2002) and Alan Boyle ( Viva). The Halliday Escort evolved during its career, eventually ending up with a BDG motor. Jeff Claire tracked down the Escort after its long career, and restored it to its most famous guise, in dark orange with NZ Freighters signage. Claire fitted a BDA motor, but its next and current owner John Dennehy upgraded to a larger and more powerful BDG, and enjoys racing this very historic machine with HMC/HSC.
Another Escort that has been making regular HMC/HSC appearances is the MKI built and raced by Ross and Jimmy Stone, who later went on to enjoy great success in V8 Supercar racing. The Escort was built in the early 1970s to contest the 1300cc class in the NZSCC, against mostly Mini Cooper competition. This car was later rebuilt by Roy Harrington for the 2.0-litre Shellsport series that began in the 1978 season, sponsored by Auto Trader. It’s now owned and raced by David Thompson, still in its Shellsport guise. David’s son, David jnr, also races a historic Escort with HMC/ HSC. This is a twin-cam variant originally raced in the Castrol GTX series by Frank Radisich.
Although it’s not a car with early 1970s NZSCC history, Bob Hyslop has been rallying and racing his superb Mazda RX-2 since the late 1970s, and is now a regular with HMC/HSC. Still wearing much of its upgrades from its rallying days, the Mazda is one of the most popular cars on the grid, and a huge hit with younger generations.
More info on Historic Muscle Cars can be found at the HMC website, historicmusclecars.co.nz, or through the HMC online discussion forum at The Roaring Season: theroaringseason.com.