Mike Lowe’s trusty steed heads into retirement

10 November, 2014


After finishing 20 years' of Targa, Mike Lowe's Fiat Abarth will be retired to the New Zealand National Motorsport Museum

After finishing 20 years’ of Targa, Mike Lowe’s Fiat Abarth will be retired to the New Zealand National Motorsport Museum

All racers have to hang their helmets up some day, and Mike Lowe has announced that that day has come for his trusty steed. After participating in, and finishing, every Targa event for the last 20 years in his 1964 Fiat Abarth, Mike has decided to retire the iconic vehicle — it will be relocated to its new home in the New Zealand National Motorsport Museum.

According to Mike, “the time is right … she was telling us something when the clutch failed just three corners from the end of the last stage.”   

Mike kicked off the inaugural 1995 Targa with co-driver Steve Cannon, seeded 22nd following the prologue stage at Pukekohe Park Raceway. As an indication of the little Abarth’s performance, it was clocked at 142kph on the circuit’s back straight — barely any slower than a Dino 246 GT.

The Targa debut would be marked by a high-speed crash after hitting a puddle of oil at around 160kph, putting the Abarth in no condition to continue. However, the car was repaired to drivability, and completed the event. These on-the-fly repairs would become a staple of Mike and his team’s Targa involvement, with every event requiring impromptu repairs of varying intensity, from broken axles, oil leaks, a blown head gasket, through to full-on crashes. As Mike has said, “We came, we broke, we repaired, and we finished!”


Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.

Super Leicht Gullwing

It’s fair to say that nothing much in the classic Mercedes world gets past Mercedes-Benz Club stalwart Garry Boyce so it wasn’t surprising to learn that around 15 years ago he had sniffed out an extremely rare 300SL lightweight Gullwing as well as a 1958 300SL Roadster hiding away in the Waikato. The cars were not for sale but Garry eventually managed to persuade the owner to allow him and his restoration team to take a look at the Roadster. They discovered a very distressed but largely unmolested car. The car was so original that the body had never been off the chassis, meaning most of the parts and fittings were still present and correct, as they had been fitted by the factory.