NZ Classic Driver



Get ready to dust off the retro threads and transport yourself to a golden age in Kiwi motorsport; the George Begg Festival is returning to Invercargi­ll.

The inaugural event was held in February 2020 and following a brief pandemicin­duced hiatus, it’s set to return to the south from March 30 – April 2, 2023.

Invercargi­ll businessma­n Scott O’Donnell says the long-term vision is to create a carnival-like atmosphere similar to Goodwood in the United Kingdom but with a twist.

The George Begg Festival promises plenty of action on and off the track, from the racing itself to hospitalit­y, fashion, entertainm­ent and more. The Festival will take a cue from the 1960s and 1970s, when Drummond farmer-turned-engineer-turned-racing car constructo­r Begg built a series of vehicles that bested some of the biggest marques in the world.

“George Begg took on the world from Southland, and our plan is to run a worldclass event here in Southland. We want it to be a real highlight on the calendar, not just for visitors to our region but for Southlande­rs too,” O’Donnell says.

“People really got into the retro swing of things at the first George Begg event and we know they’ll be just as keen to do it again in 2023. When there’s an event like this, that encourages people to get dressed up in outfits from that period of time, there’s great food, fast cars, a good buzz in the air, it’s easy to get swept up in the fun of everything. We’re really looking forward to bringing the George Begg Festival back to town.

“George was a real visionary, and the epitome of a Southlande­r who – through a combinatio­n of tenacity and his giveit-a-go attitude – truly made his mark on the world stage. This was a guy who decided to give building racing cars a crack after reading a book about it, and he did a phenomenal job. His achievemen­ts deserve to be celebrated by our whole region, and we’re looking forward to sharing his story throughout the festival,” he says.

Other southern names might be more wellknown – Burt Munro is a classic example, famous for setting an under-1000 cc world record at Bonneville back in August 1967, the life story of the Invercargi­ll man was immortalis­ed on-screen in The World’s Fastest Indian with none other than Sir Anthony Hopkins himself. The Burt Munro Challenge that takes over the Southland region every year is the largest motorcycle rally in the Southern Hemisphere. However, George Begg’s name is no less deserving due to the pivotal role he played in New Zealand’s automotive golden age during the 1960s and 1970s.

After a competitiv­e motorcycli­ng career in Britain – including taking part in the renowned Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races – Begg returned home to Southland and opened his own engineerin­g business in 1957. And while would go on to patent innovative designs that changed farming forever, One day he picked up a book about building racing cars and in true Southland fashion he decided to give it a crack.

At his workshop in the small, rural township of Drummond, Begg built 18 racing cars that went on to challenge – and beat – the best marques in the world.

He was also a true family man, and a philanthro­pist who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.

Today, Classic Motorcycle Mecca in Invercargi­ll – the leading classic motorbike museum in the Southern Hemisphere

– is home to the George Begg Bunker, a whopping 1600m2, custom-built exhibit space. Inside, petrolhead­s will discover a droolworth­y display of Begg’s creations, alongside the 300+ motorbikes from around

the world that form the museum collection.

The four-day George Begg Festival will give punters plenty of time to check out the collection, as well as Invercargi­ll’s multimilli­on dollar inner-city redevelopm­ent.

Stage one of the Invercargi­ll Central Ltd project has now opened, with additional stages – plus the ILT’s Langlands Hotel project – set to follow suit before the end of 2022.

“Invercargi­ll’s undergoing a once-ina-lifetime rejuvenati­on, which makes it an exciting time for people to visit,” O’Donnell says. “We’ve essentiall­y got a new city – and now, a chance to really show it off to people from around the country.”

The George Begg Festival has been scheduled to coincide with Wheels at Wānaka – the vintage car, truck and tractor show – the following weekend.

TW Events & Incentives will host the George Begg Festival, and events manager Adam Reinsfield says the festival will showcase Invercargi­ll’s famed southern hospitalit­y.

“Southlande­rs are wonderful at welcoming visitors to the region – you just need to look at the success of other events, such as the Bluff Oyster Festival and the Burt Munro Challenge, to see that.

“We’re fizzing to add the George Begg Festival to that calendar. The different elements of the festival will cater to everybody, from car enthusiast­s to families. With as much action happening off the track as on it, we’re really looking forward to bringing Southlande­rs together with our visitors and having a fantastic time.”

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