ES­CAR­TUS (1978-1982)

NZV8 - - SPECIAL FEATURE -

The next car on this list rightly de­serves the ti­tle of New Zealand’s first home­grown su­per­car, beat­ing the Saker to the pro­duc­tion line by more than a decade. Pow­ered by a Ley­land P76 4.4-litre V8, the Es­car­tus was an amaz­in­glook­ing car for the time. The fi­bre­glass-bod­ied car and steel chas­sis were de­signed and built in Hast­ings by Graeme Ross and his father, Don. Graeme had al­ways dreamed of own­ing a su­per­car but knew that he could never af­ford one, so he de­signed and built his own twoplus-two in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the genre. Some have crit­i­cized the front as be­ing too bul­bous, but this was nec­es­sary to ac­com­mo­date the light al­loy V8 that drove the rear wheels. One of the key in­flu­ences in the car’s de­sign was the wind­screen. A big wind­screen was de­sir­able, but Lam­borgh­ini-style wind­screens were too ex­pen­sive even to be con­sid­ered. Graeme even­tu­ally set­tled on the far more af­ford­able Alfetta GTV wind­screen, be­cause it was the deep­est one avail­able for a rea­son­able cost. As the Es­car­tus was go­ing to be an up­mar­ket car, it had elec­tric pop-up head­lights, elec­tric seats, and elec­tric win­dows — all pow­ered by wiper mo­tors, as fac­tory-made equiv­a­lents were just too ex­pen­sive; re­mem­ber, this was the ’70s. As Graeme had a young fam­ily at the time, there was no point in build­ing a twoseater su­per­car, so he made it a two-plus-two. Un­for­tu­nately, the tim­ing was to­tally wrong, with the car com­ing into be­ing at a time when the Mul­doon Gov­ern­ment was load­ing a huge sales tax on lux­ury items. The flat 20-per-cent sales tax ap­plied to cars was bad enough, but any­thing with a V8 en­gine at­tracted an ad­di­tional 60-per­cent tax, which bumped the car up into the same price range as the av­er­age fam­ily home; con­se­quently, only eight of these amaz­ing cars were built.

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