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A taste for vintage classics: Doug MacDonald and Murray Frew

8 March, 2017


Classic motor racing is all about fun and camaraderie, and Doug MacDonald has been enjoying motor racing at his favourite racetrack —  Teretonga Park Motor Race Circuit — since the very first meeting in 1957.

It was 60 years ago when Doug competed in his MG TD alongside a bunch of dedicated enthusiasts from the Southland Sports Car Club, who helped create the popular southern race track.

“It’s my favourite track [Teretonga Park Motor Race Circuit] and it’s why I decided to come back again this year for the 60th anniversary year of the track,” Doug said.

Now living in Marahau near Motueka, the 85-year-old had also been back for the 25th and 50th anniversary meetings the latter also with an Alfa Romeo built in New Zealand.

Created by Herb Gilroy in 1968, the Alfa Romeo 750 Competizone 1750 was built as close as possible to the original car.

“I saw this lovely little Alfa Romeo for sale alongside another Alfa on the side of the road and after talking to the owner, I got together with some friends and we got it home,” he said.

The Alfa Romeo was modelled on two development cars that the Italian company had built in 1955 but never raced.

“I believe Herb contacted Fiat, who owned Alfa Romeo, and Cisitalia, who had developed the car, and they forwarded the blueprints to him so he could build it. It’s a lovely little car and so forgiving on the track. It’s very comfortable too,” he said.

Doug was now the car’s third owner and he had decided to keep the 1750cc twin-cam engine pretty much standard.

“We decided to keep it that way for reliability rather than go for more power, and it has been very reliable with 22 races and hill-climb events completed in 2015 with very few problems,” he said.

Doug enjoyed the atmosphere of classic racing, and the Evolution Motorsport Classic Speedfest 2017 event reminded him of the first, back in 1957 when temperatures were very similar.

“Those fellas on the Formula Junior Jubilee Tour will be enjoying this weather. They will be thinking they are in the South of France in this heat,” he laughed.
He was thrilled with the way the club had developed the circuit.

“It really is a very good circuit and I love driving around it. It’s just a great atmosphere,” he said.

Enjoying the heat with Doug, and sharing the same tent to shelter from the summer heat, was fellow vintage racer Murray Frew from Ashburton, parked up with his big orange Chrysler 62 Special.

Murray has owned his race car for some 20 years, and it was originally built in the Methven area.

“It was built pre 1950, and the fellow who built it knew what he was doing,” Murray said.

Based on a 1929 Chrysler 62, the 250ci (3769cc) side-valve six-cylinder engine provides deceptively quick performance for such a big car. Murray had competed in many circuit races and hill climbs with the car.

“If you look carefully you can see that the fellow who built this cut the rear of the chassis off and welded it onto the front of the chassis, resulting in a long wheelbase and a very well-balanced car. It’s great to drive,” he said.

Typical of New Zealand specials of the day, the car made use of what was available, he said.

“It runs through a Vauxhall gearbox, and if you look carefully at the fuel tank above the rear axle, you can see that the tank is made from two kitchen sinks bolted together,” he said.

Both MacDonald and Murray had thoroughly enjoyed the Southern Classic series of meetings with the good weather adding to the enjoyment.

Becoming fond of Fords part two – happy times with Escorts

In part one of this Ford-flavoured trip down memory lane I recalled a sad and instructive episode when I learned my shortcomings as a car tuner, something that tainted my appreciation of Mk2 Ford Escort vans in particular. Prior to that I had a couple of other Ford entanglements of slightly more redeeming merit. There were two Mk1 Escorts I had got my hands on: a 1972 1300 XL belonging to my father and a later, end-of-line, English-assembled 1974 1100, which my partner and I bought from Panmure Motors Ford in Auckland in 1980. Both those cars were the high water mark of my relationship with the Ford Motor Co. I liked the Mk1 Escorts. They were nice, nippy, small cars, particularly the 1300, which handled really well, and had a very precise gearbox for the time.
Images of Jim Richards in the Carney Racing Williment-built Twin Cam Escort and Paul Fahey in the Alan Mann–built Escort FVA often loomed in my imagination when I was driving these Mk1 Escorts — not that I was under any illusion of comparable driving skills, but they had to be having just as much fun as I was steering the basic versions of these projectiles.

Fear and loathing the blue oval – part one

The slogan went something like ‘There’s a Ford in your future’. ‘Bugger off!’ were always the words that sprung to my mind. Ford and I have never really got on in the manner of many of my friends, so I’d say my relationship to the brand was distant. The accelerating blur of passing time has helpfully blanketed memories of a few Ford encounters which I probably wanted to forget but I have to admit, now I look at them, they are re-appearing through the mists of time. What comes to mind more readily, to quote some uncharitable wit, is that the letters Ford could stand for ‘fix or repair daily’. Still, I have to ’fess up, there were several Fords in my past.