NZ Classic Driver
HISTORIC MUSCLE & SALOON CARS
If you happened to be a race fan in the 1960s, you’d know that the diminutive and characterful Ford Anglia, affectionately dubbed the ‘Anglebox’, was an integral part of the Kiwi motor racing landscape. As well as being the boy racer car of choice on our roads, its popularity soared in circuit racing.
The Anglia was often the first step for many racers entering the sport. Jim Richards’ racing career began in his own Anglia, which doubled as his daily driver. He went on to achieve enormous success in New Zealand, winning the 4.2 championship in the Willment Racing Escort, as well as the New Zealand Saloon Car Championship in the Sidchrome Mustang, before departing Kiwi shores to go on to greater things, including seven Bathurst victories and four Australian Touring Car Championships. The underpowered but forgiving Anglia taught him the race craft and car control that would continue throughout his career.
Dave Simpson was the driver who took the Anglia to its highest accolades, by winning the 1966 New Zealand Saloon Car championship. Much like Richards, the Anglia was Simpson’s very first racing car. Initially, at least, it also served as his daily transport. Simpson’s accomplishment would be the only outright national title achieved by the Anglia in circuit racing. His example, of course, was not your regular factory Anglebox. It was Lotus twin-cam propelled and sported heavily modified bodywork, as the feral Allcomer rules allowed. Indeed, Simpson fought out the 1966 championship with the similar car of Paul Fahey.
These successes were the highlights, but during the Allcomer era, there were variations on the theme, including that of Jack Nazer, which went a step further to feature a heavily chopped roof, plus the terrifying V8 examples of John Riley and Neil Doyle. Prior to the arrival of the thundering Custaxie that propelled him to the 1967 championship, Robbie Franicevic also campaigned a radical Anglia Allcomer.
Just beyond the limelight of the big names fighting out top honours in national racing, Anglias were hugely popular club cars. Group 2 examples were also prominent when that category was introduced to contest its own championship in 1966. When Ford Britain launched the handsome new MkI Escort in 1968 as a direct replacement for the Anglia, racers followed suit, and the Escort became the vehicle of choice, both as an entry-level and championship campaigner. And much like the Anglia, it was enormously proficient at both.
But whereas the Escort has gone on to become one of the most popular models in all of Kiwi historic car racing, the Anglia has almost vanished. Sightings are rare, but fortunately, recent years have seen their numbers start to grow once more. The Historic Muscle & Saloon Cars grid at the 2021 Taupo Historic Grand Prix boasted the glorious sight of five beautiful and period-correct Anglias, including those of Clyde Walters, Ewan MacPherson, Grant Fitzpatrick, Pat Excell and Dennis Dowling. It was a truly excellent display, made even better when they all ran side-by-side on the cool-down lap following each race, to the enthusiastic applause of the punters. Theirs was probably the most popular aspect of the HM&SC outings that weekend.
At the end of the day, historic car racing is not about winning races and climbing the motorsport ladder. Its purely about owning and enjoying a particular make and model of vehicle that provides personal pleasure. And its nice to see this hugely significant piece of Kiwi racing history still has its champions.
More info on Historic Muscle Cars/Historic Saloon Cars can be found at the HMC website: www.historicmusclecars.co.nz or through the HMC online discussion forum at The Roaring Season: www.theroaringseason.com