Precious Metal: Kiwi Classics’ Big Day Out

Precious Metal: Kiwi Classics' Big Day Out

A polished affair

Despite the fact that summer’s coming to an all too quick end down here in New Zealand, the event season has only really just got into full swing. Right now it seems like there’s something big happening every other weekend and if you’re into cars, that’s a very good thing.

Following on from the Kumeu Hot Rod Show I attended back in mid-January and the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing that played out over the two weekends after, this past Sunday I decided to head along to the third big classic car-oriented event on the Auckland summer calendar – the Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Elegance.

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It would have been at least two years since my last visit to the annual Concours, but given that this event regularly attracts more than 700 cars and 70-odd car clubs from around the country, I knew there would be lots of good stuff to see.

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Like the local rod and custom, and historic racing movements, there’s a lot of love for classic cars in New Zealand – and it feels like the segment is growing. I guess a lot of that comes down to that fact the pool of cars is self-regenerating, and any car still around that was brand new at the time of Auckland’s first Concours d’Elegance in 1972, is now a bonafide classic itself.

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With so many different clubs in attendance, you’re guaranteed a diverse mix of machines at an event like this one; from those that almost everyone can relate to – or at least appreciate – to those that are more of an acquired taste. There’s no one style or type of car that defines the New Zealand scene.

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Every year the Concours has an underlying theme, and for 2014 it was ‘Back to the Future’. For most of the car clubs that attended, that translated to displays that featured both classic and current versions of the same model.

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Of course, no theme bearing that name would be complete without at least one flux-capacitor-equipped DeLorean DMC-12.

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Although it was a privately owned and built replica, not an actual Back To The Future movie car, it didn’t really matter as the detail was truly amazing. The DeLorean was modelled off the car that took Michael J. Fox (as Marty McFly) to the year 2015 in the sequel and everything was accounted for –  Mr Fusion Home Energy Reactor in the rear, and even a bunch of reproduction accessory props – Nike MAGs and Mattel Hover Board included. Who else can’t wait to ride one of those next year?

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Given the sheer number and demographic of spectators and entrants that attend the Concours, a few exotic and luxury manufacturers use the event as an opportunity to showcase their latest models.

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But for the most part it was an opportunity to get up close and personal with some amazing classic and collectable cars in a relaxed atmosphere. What I wouldn’t give for a Ferrari Dino in my garage!

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And that included everything from showroom showpieces, to cars that are obviously put to good use on a regular basis. Misleading licence plate aside, this 1973 Maserati Bora certainly wasn’t a trailer queen. I’m not totally sold on the cardboard roof though…

The potent mix

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I don’t think any classic car event in New Zealand would be complete without at least a couple of Rallye Sport Escorts, and the Ford RS Club of New Zealand didn’t disappoint with its line-up. Many models were accounted for, beginning with a pre-RS Mk1 Escort Twin Cam and finishing with an Escort Cosworth RS. This Maize Yellow, BDA-powered RS1600 on Minilites personified perfection.

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Of all the RS-grade Fords on display, this Mk2 RS2000 was my favourite hands-down. I actually met this Escort back in 1996 when we featured it for NZ Performance Car magazine and now, more than a decade and a half on, it still looked superb.

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Pampered life aside, it has everything to do with the dealer-fitted ‘X-Pack’ upgrade, which among other things added box flares and 7.5-inch wide RS wheels when the car was brand spanking new. The options extended to Group 1-spec engine tweaks, but the 2.0L Pinto motor in this particular car missed out on that aspect.

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Instead, it found itself on the receiving end of a then state-of-the-art aftermarket turbo upgrade. The Janspeed kit utilises a single SU carburettor in a suck-through configuration, pushing air and fuel through the turbocharger and straight into the engine. Who else loves old school early turbo tech besides me?

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Not far away, this BDA-powered Mk1 – built, owned and now run in classic events by New Zealand rallying royalty, Neil Allport – was the subject of much lust. Despite being regularly thrown around in the gravel, every time I see this car it’s always immaculately presented – much like the Group 2-spec TA22 Celica (which was also built out of his rally prep workshop) that I featured last year.

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On the subject of rally, how cool is this this ’79 Ford Transit service truck – complete with period Masport Rally Team livery, Hella Rallye spot lights and Minilite wheels! Normally fitted out with a wheel and tyre rack on the roof, it still gets put to its intended use too.

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The next best thing to owning a famous rally car is building a faithful replica, and I spotted a few decent examples around, like this immaculate 1977 Fiat 131 Abarth with Group 4 works/Walter Röhrl livery.

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At the extreme of rally recreations you’ll find this car – the Carteroni 037. Modelled off the real thing, this is probably as close as it gets to owning a bonafide Lancia Delta 037 Group B gravel basher without actually doing so. Sure, it only has one serving of forced induction rather than two – a supercharger, not a supercharger and turbocharger – but given how much it would weigh, I’m pretty sure it would still be more than a handful at the limit. 

Made in Japan

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Although I had hoped there would be a few more old school Japanese cars on display, there were some nice examples all the same. This series one RX-7 is owned by the same family restoring the ex-JTCC/ex-IMSA Mazda Savanna RX-3 that I wrote about last week.

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It’s hard to believe from looking at it, but this SA22C hasn’t been restored though. It was imported to New Zealand from Texas back in 2010 with just 80,000 miles on the clock and only one fastidious previous lady owner on the paperwork.

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The Z Club of New Zealand was well represented with a bunch of cars spanning from the original S30 – represented by this pristine NZ-new 240Z from 1974 – through to the latest 370Z iteration.

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Although the Datsun 1600 Sports, aka Fairlady, was also sold new in New Zealand, they’re an extremely rare sight. Age is one reason of course, but more so the very small number that were purchased during the era. It’s not that people didn’t want the compact convertible from Japan – I’m sure many did – but the fact that any make and model that didn’t originate from the British Commonwealth meant that it was subject to a whopping 45% duty, making them totally unaffordable in comparison to the MGs and Triumphs of the day.

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When the taxes were lifted and local production began however, Japanese cars became a far more common sight. It might not be as nearly as collectible as the 1600 Sport, but this ’72 Toyota Corona Deluxe Hardtop Coupe – as presented in totally original condition with just 61,000 miles on the clock – is a great survivor.

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My friend George turned up with his very cool S1 Exige, and as per usual it was attracting loads of attention on the Club Lotus NZ display. It’s fair from stock, having been stripped right back down to its bare bones and rebuilt with some top-shelf gear, including a fully forged and MoTeC M800-controlled 1.8L K16-VHPD engine, Quaife six-speed close-ratio gearbox internals and custom-valved Nitron race suspension. The wheels – Podium FSL002 forged numbers from TMR Engineering in Japan – are the icing on the cake for me though.

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While most people were showing their cars for fun, a few were there to have their’s properly judged. This ’94 BMW 850 CSI was the range-topping 8 series car in its day, featuring a 5.6L V12 good for 375hp. Despite being 20 years old, it honestly looked like it had just rolled off the production line.

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The 850 was one of many desirable machines that were polished up and brought out to bask in the summer sun. This ’95 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 993 was another.

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As far as rarity goes though, an XJ220 has to be up there, right? Although it banked on making 350 examples in conjunction with Tom Walkinshaw Racing, Jaguar only ended up producing 275 of the 340km/h-plus capable supercars  – which I’m sure is fine by anyone lucky enough to own one.

Different strokes

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Along with the static displays, a small gymkhana course was laid out in one of the car parks. This little ’74 MG Midget with the licence plate OPL0CK looked super-quick negotiating the cones, leading me to believe that its original BMC A-series motor had either been race-prepped, or swapped out completely.

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It’s the latter, as it turns out. Not only was there a Rover DOHC K-series motor in the hole (a pretty decent upgrade for one of these cars on its own I would guess), but it had been supercharged to boot. That’s kind of neat, don’t you think?

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I didn’t expect to see many slammed cars at Ellerslie, but this Citroën SM was a nice surprise. Of course, it came that way from factory – its hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspension, able to be adjusted through five different height ranges via a manual control lever. This is the lowest setting I would guess, and the normal ride height.  

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Not far away, and sticking with the French theme for a moment, I found a bunch of Renault Alpines. Most were GTA (A610) variants from the late ’80s/early ’90s, but also in this mix was this A310 Alpine V6 from 1982. Renault used this model as the basis of a Group 4 rally car in the ’70s, and it was actually pretty successful. Mind you, it was designed and built for performance, and featured a tube chassis wrapped in a fibreglass body and a rear-mounted 150hp 2.7L V6 engine.

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Considering the Auckland Mustang Owners Club hosted the event, there were no shortage of the iconic Fords – and everything from stock standard first generation cars through to the latest high-horsepower offerings from aftermarket tuners like ROUSH. This stunning ’68 Shelby GT350 sitting out the back of the American Muscle Car Club of NZ display was my personal favourite.

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New Zealand’s VW/Audi Group movement might be small by international standards, but the quality of cars is right up there. There was a nice selection of standard and modified examples on show, including this ultra-tidy and suitably-slammed MkII Golf GTI.

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Despite its amazing condition, I probably wouldn’t have given this ’78 Volkswagen Scirocco a second look had it not been subtly dropped on a set of vintage aftermarket alloys. It’s amazing what the right set of wheels can do, and in this instance the BBS E30s on all four corners – and looking particularly staunch at the rear I might add – are absolutely on point.

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Older VWs were well represented as well – especially in Type 2 form. Original looking in every respect, this ’61 split-screen T1 Kombi complete with a matching trailer was very cool.

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So too was this line-up of R/T (Road/Track) model Chrysler Valiant Chargers. Despite their early ’70s muscle car looks, 265ci Hemi straight-six engines (with triple Weber carbs on ‘Six-Pack’ models) were given the nod on these now classic, Australian-built high performance coupes.

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The car that piqued my interest the most? I never thought I’d be answering that question with the name Vauxhall Viva, but this classic race car is pretty sweet. There was quite a neat story behind it too, having originally been built from a crashed ’68 GT chassis for New Zealand’s 1971 Bank of New South Wales Saloon Car Championship. The car raced two seasons in that series before it was outlawed by rule changes, and subsequently sold minus its motor. It ended up being powered by a Mazda rotary engine and then a 350ci Chevy V8 and competed in hill climbs and rallycross events, before being purchased by its current owner and restored back to its ’72 circuit racing specification.

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Making the job a whole lot easier was the fact that the original owner still had the original Blydenstein-built and Tecalemit-Jackson mechanical fuel injected 2.3L Vauxhall engine at home under the bench in his garage, and was happy to see it reinstated back in the car. I love stories like this!

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Despite not applying enough sunscreen on my neck and paying for it dearly afterwards, the 2014 Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Elegance was a nice way to spend a Sunday. Of all the cars put up for judging, only one could drive away with the top honour though and the deserving winner of that prize in the Masters Class Event, scoring 567 points from a 590 maximum, was this delectable 1958 Porsche 356 Speedster. I’m definitely going to make a point of getting back to this event next year, and hopefully with my old Toyota in tow this time too.

Brad Lord
brad@speedhunters.com

Precious Metal: Kiwi Classics' Big Day Out

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Author: Drifting Ailve

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