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Historical

Aspen Siris — A roadster for the wrong time

When I visited George Spratt’s workshop in Auckland, I was impressed with the number of vehicles he had tucked away, mostly hybrid or fully electric. Many of them had started life being petrol powered but George has been tinkering with converting conventionally powered cars to electrical propulsion since the mid ’70s.
The Horizon was George’s first attempt at building a car; it was an evolution of ideas about what was considered to be ideal for a car at that time. The shape and style were governed by the choice of running gear and power plant. The size of the garage restricted walk-around viewing, and it was not until it was almost finished that George was able to push the car out of the garage to get the full picture.

Leonardo’s lighting legacy

Ferrari owner and enthusiast Roger Adshead got to wondering where the simply beautiful twin tail lamps that are a signature of many Ferraris came from and what inspired them. It led him on a fruitful journey…
There are no more defining or memorable Ferrari design cues than a pair of twin circular tail lights, which find their echo in the rear valance in two pairs of circular exhaust tips.
Introduced fifty years ago by Pininfarina designer Leonardo Fioravanti, this charismatic Ferrari identifier has more than stood the test of time.
They first appeared on the Dino 206, and then on the 365 GTB/4 Daytona, two of Signor Fioravanti’s most revered designs.
Unlike Pininfarina’s trademark slim vertical tail lights of the 1960s, which subsequently found their way onto the mass-produced Austins, Morrisses, and Peugeots of the period, the twin circular tail lamps remain emblematic of Ferrari supercars and sportscars.
Some earlier Corvettes copied them, and they have been partially mimicked by Golf Mark V and Honda Civics of similar vintage, and it’s probably no coincidence they added some visual flair to Nissan’s high-performing Skylines, but they have been a recurring theme on Ferraris right through to its latest designs.

Motorsport Flashback – Kiwi rallying in the 1970s

Rallying arrived in New Zealand in 1973 like a tsunami. It had been only a few years since the sport was introduced here and shortly afterwards Heatway came on board as the sponsor to take rallying to a new level. The 1973 Heatway would be the longest and biggest yet, running in both islands with 120 drivers over eight days and covering some 5400 kilometres. The winner was 31-year-old Hannu Mikkola — a genuine Flying Finn who had been rallying since 1963 before putting any thoughts of a career on hold until he completed an economics degree. The likeable Finn became an instant hero to many attracted to this new motor sport thing. I was one of them.

Romancing the automobile and motor racing in art

The glamour and excitement of the automobile first had an impact on me through car advertisements. Growing up on Auckland’s North Shore in the conservative early ’60s, there wasn’t much dynamic stuff going on. Everything was pretty bland and socially constrained, but there were glimpses of a world beyond that lay just out of our grasp. One of these early influences was a pile of late ’50s National Geographic magazines. We received these on subscription from a generous uncle in North America. It wasn’t the articles we were poring over though, it was the advertising, particularly the art-styled American car adverts.
The evocative, lusciously coloured and boldly styled auto adverts hit me like a juggernaut.

TR7 — legend or lemon?

Stuart Bladon, a long-time motoring journalist who spent 25 years at Autocar magazine in Britain, owned one. He rose to deputy editor before he left in 1981. He likes open air driving but was perturbed by high insurance costs for his modest Peugeot 205 CTi convertible. A friend suggested he swap to a classic car with a much cheaper limited use insurance premium and thus he became the owner of a 24,000 mile TR7 convertible, first registered new in August 1982, a year after production ended.
Bladon was the European correspondent for New Zealand Car magazine and Stuart and his charming wife Jenetta kindly invited my family to lunch at their home in Radlett during our time in Britain in 1987. Later that day Stuart simply had to take me out in his prized red TR7, top down, of course.

On the road with a GT40

Riding in a genuine Ford GT40 with Geoff Manning is like living a slice of automotive history, as Donn Anderson found out over three decades ago …
The phone call in 1990 was dead easy to accept. Geoff Manning was ringing to ask if I would like to spend some time with the only genuine Ford GT40 to have driven the roads of New Zealand. There was little time to ponder since the car was destined to return to England and new owner Ted Rollason.
My answer, of course, was positive and immediate — and what a rare and fleeting experience a few days later to be driving around Auckland streets in such a stunning and wonderful machine.

Croz: Straight up

During the COVID lockdown, Michael Clark had to forego lunches with motorsport celebrities but he interviewed motorcycle racer Graeme Crosby on his direct route into the Grand Prix ranks via Zoom.
“My first actual race was at Porirua on a circuit set up around the shopping centre. I was riding a little 350cc Kawasaki, an Avenger, which was a little two-stroke 350 rotary valve with something like 10hp. Suddenly, I found myself in third spot and I’m thinking this is actually pretty good. Anyway, I think I got in second spot and we only had a couple of laps to go and I overcooked a corner and ran wide. Health and safety back in those days required you to keep the crowd back, so they got a piece of rope and tied it around a 44-gallon drum, then a 10-metre gap, and another 44-gallon drum, and so on — and I went over the kerb at great speed. I still finished second — with one of those 44-gallon drums following behind in third place. Yeah, it was a bit of an experience.”

Zakspeed cars light up Taupo Historic GP

It was at the Historic Grand Prix meeting organised by the HRC in January 20021. The focus make for the meeting was Ford, so it was no surprise to see a huge range of Ford cars everywhere, but to see these two ex-DRM cars here — the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft is the German sports/touring car championship — was an eye-opener.
Turns out that the Escort was brought to New Zealand by Kiwi Gary Wilkinson, who discovered it in a very sorry state in Malaysia while he was working over there. He could see it had a lot of genuine Zakspeed equipment on it so was sure it was a special car. Research of the chassis number — ZAK-E23/75 — identified it as the car in which Hans Heyer won the DRM championship in 1975. Gary shipped the car home to New Zealand and gave it a thorough restoration over a seven-year period, painting it in the livery it wore when it won the championship.

Slot car racing — part two

No story reflecting on the history of New Zealand slot car racing would be complete without a nod to the amazing resilience of the Henderson Miniature Motor Racing Club. Started in 1962 in a barn in Swanson, the club then leased land from New Zealand Railways by the railway tracks on the western line approach to Henderson, Auckland, and club members built their clubrooms. The club has never stopped, nor has it left this venue. In the early days at Henderson, Russell Philpott was a revered stalwart of the club. Frank Hellawell remembers him as a great organizer and leader.
“There was racing five days a week for juniors and seniors — fabulous times,” he said.
Sure there have been many barren times in later years, when support has dropped to bedrock, but somehow the club has kept going and continues to thrive. It is also one of the few in the country to boast a permanent drag strip along with its challenging main track.

When slot cars ruled the room

To this impressionable youth, the entrance to Aladdin’s çave was the ‘Pit Stop’, two floors above the Regent Theatre on Auckland’s Queen St. It was an oasis of multi-lane wooden slot car raceways, the walls emblazoned with motor racing art and adverts, with hypnotically attractive model race cars in brightly lit glass cases blasting out in the subdued ambient lighting.
The Pit Stop was a mecca for boys and young men in the mid to late 1960s. A twilight wonderland, it attracted us like moths to a naked bulb, glittering with state-of-the-art dayglo/metalflake sleek racers and hot on-track action.

Viva Pescara

Denny Hulme’s victory in August 1960 wasn’t the only reason I was drawn to Pescara, Italy — though it was a contributing factor. There’s not another country that better combines my wife’s love for art with my mild obsession with the motor car; add in our shared fondness for history, architecture, beautiful scenery, food, and wine, and it isn’t hard to see why this Italian town is on the list.

The one and only – The Sierra Cosworth

For most car-conscious folk of a certain age the sight of a whale tail still has its own magic.
No mere spoilers, these excessive peacock-fan displays signal a car with too much power to be held on the road by the weak fundamental force of gravity. Porsche 930 turbos needed them to correct the wrong-headedness of having all that power thrusting from behind the rear wheels and Sierra Cosworths also needed them for genuine road-holding reasons.
When Ford launched the bravely rounded Sierra in 1982 to replace the boxy Cortina, its blobby shape and expressionless face wasn’t universally loved.

The greatest American hero

There won’t be many people of a certain age who haven’t seen an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard — in the US its popularity was second only to Dallas — and fans of car stunts will surely have seen quite a few of them.
It’s fair to say that ahead of James Bond’s Aston, Bullitt’s Mustang, and even the talking Pontiac Firebird also featured in these pages, the General Lee is the most famous film and TV car of them all, not least because of repeated exposure over 147 episodes in seven series, two films, and, of course, every episode’s signature stunt — the General Lee hitting a ramp and flying free as a bird, accompanied by triumphant driver Bo Duke’s “Yee-haah!”

Cat Scratch Fever

Jaguar’s iconic 3.8-litre Mark II saloon provides stunning performance and comfort for four, and its tuneable engine made it a favourite in saloon car races around the world. By Quinton Taylor,

The British Aussie Battler

The P76 is another of Leyland’s near misses. When it was introduced in 1973, the Leyland P76 was a genuine threat to the established order over the ditch, having acres