Weekly Motor Fix: Mike Lowe’s new Targa Abarth

20 October, 2015

When veteran Targa driver Mike Lowe — and his co-driver Philip Sutton — line up to start the 21st annual Targa NZ next Monday (Labour Day, October 26) once again they will be in a small Enzed-backed Abarth sports coupé. However it will not be the same classic model in which Mike started and finished all 20 previous week-long Targa New Zealand events.

Now that Mike’s 1964 model Abarth Berlina Corsa — ‘Barty’ — has been retired from active duty, ‘Barty 2’ will take over as his Targa car. Despite its near-identical Enzed livery, the new car couldn’t be more different from its predecessor — and that’s because Barty 2 is a modern-day front-wheel-drive Abarth Assetto Corse works race car that has been converted to R3T tarmac rally specification. It is powered by a turbocharged, front-mounted 1400cc engine that produces 140kWs of peak power for a top speed of 225km/h — giving the Mike a big performance advantage over his older Fiat.

“In the 20 years of Targa we have seen the event get faster and with less older cars running,” Mike said. “In that time we had to push Barty way beyond its design brief just to keep up and it became clear that we needed to keep him for special or smaller events, and find something else to use for the next 20 years. When I saw the new Abarths (on a visit to the factory in 2012) I knew then we had to have one.”

This year’s six-day Targa NZ event starts in Auckland on (Labour Day) Monday October 26 and finishes in Palmerston North on Saturday October 31 — check out the current edition of New Zealand Classic Car for full details and route maps.

Photo credits: Fast Company / Mike Lowe and ProShotz

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.