Clas­sic cars fundraiser pro­posed

Waipa Post - - News - BY DEAN TAY­LOR

Te Awa­mutu man Craig Ben­son is look­ing to com­bine two pas­sions to es­tab­lish a char­i­ta­ble en­ter­prise for rais­ing money for can­cer suf­fers.

Craig is a clas­sic car afi­cionado, and owner of a 1972 Fiat 125 T, the his­toric early 1970s model only avail­able for the New Zealand mar­ket.

And af­ter an early ca­reer in New Zealand be­fore work­ing over­seas for many years, he has re­turned home and is keen to be in­volved in char­ity work and give some­thing back to New Zealand.

Through his Fiat con­nec­tions, Craig has iden­ti­fied a col­lec­tion of four Fiat 125s in the North Is­land, and an­other from the South Is­land, that are avail­able for pur­chase.

Three are the highly sought af­ter Fiat 125 T vari­ant and all are wor­thy of restora­tion.

He has es­tab­lished The Ben­son Foun­da­tion and is seek­ing sup­port through Givealit­tle to pur­chase and re­store the five clas­sic cars.

The 125 T was mod­i­fied in New Zealand by the lo­cal im­porters for rac­ing du­ties in the 1972 Ben­son & Hedges 500 endurance race held an­nu­ally at Pukekohe. To ho­molo­gate the car, 200 were sup­posed to have been made and sold in New Zealand, but ac­tual num­bers are be­lieved to be some­where be­tween 80 and 90. It is also be­lieved only about 20 still ex­ist.

The en­gine was given larger valves and ei­ther twin We­ber or Dell’Orto car­bu­ret­tors, a mod­i­fied camshaft and higher com­pres­sion. Sus­pen­sion was low­ered and stiff­ened and they ran Ward al­loy wheels.

“They’re fun cars and in hot de­mand by col­lec­tors,” says Craig.

“In Europe these par­tic­u­lar Fi­ats — the Ts — are con­sid­ered so rare they’re thought of as myth­i­cal.”

Ev­ery 125 T was painted bright yel­low — a colour Craig im­me­di­ately as­so­ci­ated with the Can­cer So­ci­ety.

His con­cept is that, once re­stored, the three Ts will re­main fac­tory yel­low in sol­i­dar­ity with the work of the Can­cer So­ci­ety of New Zealand. An­other will be painted blue in sup­port of the Prostate Can­cer Foun­da­tion of New Zealand and Ron­ald McDon­ald House, while the fifth car will be painted red in sup­port of Can­Teen New Zealand.

Bud­get for the project is ex­pected to be $350,000.

Funds con­trib­uted via Givealit­tle will also fa­cil­i­tate the de­sign and pro­duc­tion of fund rais­ing mer­chan­dise, such as cloth­ing and other life­style prod­ucts, and a web based store as an out­let for sell­ing the prod­uct.

Craig’s con­cept is that the cars will be avail­able at mo­tor sports fa­cil­i­ties and car and life­style events, where they’ll raise money for those af­fected by can­cer through the sale of the mer­chan­dise, plus they’ll be made avail­able to pro­vide unique ex­pe­ri­ences — rides/cruises, driv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, track ex­pe­ri­ences, hireage for cel­e­bra­tions and events . . . and more.

Craig plans col­lab­o­ra­tions with Ter­tiary De­sign Schools and De­sign Labs to cre­ate unique branded mer­chan­dise, mak­ing the foun­da­tion wholly in­clu­sive and com­mu­nity based.

He says can­cer touches all cor­ners of so­ci­ety, with many fam­i­lies left bereft by its dev­as­tat­ing after­math.

“We want to do our bit to al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing it causes and these dis­tinc­tive cars are a per­fect ve­hi­cle.”

■ More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able by search­ing Ben­son Foun­da­tion at givealit­tle.co.nz

Flashback to Pukekohe Race­way 1972 when Fiat 125 Ts com­peted in the Ben­son & Hedges 500 against ev­ery­thing from Dat­sun 1200s to Valiant Charg­ers and Ford Fal­con GTs.

Ben­son Foun­da­tion founder and Fiat 125 T en­thu­si­ast Craig Ben­son with one of the iconic cars cur­rently un­der­go­ing restora­tion.

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