50 years of Ford in New Zealand motorsport

This year the Taupo Historic Grand Prix celebrated the blue oval and their 50 years of involvement in NZ motorsport. I am a big fan of historic race machinery so decided to head along and see what was on offer.

Escort, Anglia, Falcon, and Mustang…It was like being taken back in time to the 60s’ when the David and Goliath battles took place out on track.

For a classic race meeting the cars were certainly not being driven in a meek and mild manner, the grudges of the 60s’ came back to life in spectacular fashion.

High-revving engine notes and plenty of 3-wheeling through the turns was the order of the day for many.

There was something for everyone, whether it was a Ford production chassis, or even a homebuilt special powered by Ford. This example above was sporting a Mexico engine that sounded superb!

A walk through the pits also revealed a raft of superb race cars. One notable thing was the distinct lack of aero which seemingly adorns all modern machinery. Pure mechanical grip, and classic unspoiled lines was super refreshing.

It wasn’t only the race cars garnering attention either, the spectators brought along a few golden oldies as well which were worthy of a photo!

At the event was a ‘legends pavilion’ which housed a few extra special cars. Many know the Kiwi rally driver Possum Bourne for his ties to Subaru, although earlier on he was indeed pedaling a Ford.

This particular example was a crowd-puller. JB780 as many commonly know it, is the car run by Hannu Mikkola in the 1979 Motogard Rally of New Zealand. One of the most original examples of the works Escort in existence, this was a true stunner.

Just down the line from the Masport was the 1968 Willment Ford Escort Twin Cam.

The Willment Escort has been a race car its entire life, and if you would be hard pressed to find a curvier, prettier race car from the good ol days!

As per a previous blog, a big drawcard for me at the Taupo Historic GP was the two Zakspeed cars. Both in the same place together was definitely worth the early morning wakeup.

Out for display demo laps only, these two enjoyed stretching their legs together. The Capri is one of two genuine remaining examples, and the Escort is the last surviving genuine car. Talk about an incredible experience seeing both sitting side by side as well as enjoying a run in the sun.

Little ol New Zealand has become somewhat of a haven for classic, top-shelf classic race cars, another example is this beautiful Cologne Capri that has called NZ home for many years now.

Another drawcard of the Grand Prix was the Formula 5000 class, which has a loyal spectator base that travel around the country to see these monsters race.

While not strictly ‘Ford’ related nobody was complaining when the beautiful sound of the grid powered up the front straight. This is one class that never fails to empty the pits of spectators as the sight and sound of these cars still sends shivers up your spine.

Lunchtime provided another spectacle as well. The fans were able to saddle up and head out on track for a cruise session. There are some stunningly tidy examples of classic Ford’s lurking in garages that came out to enjoy the summer sun.

Ready to head out for a bit of lunchtime cruising in style!

Two other notable machines spotted at the event were the Shelby Family Ralt RT4, and the Group A Mustang race by Ken Davison & Wally Kramer at Bathurst in 1986 and 1986.

Also making an appearance was this Monte Carlo rally replica from 1964 – the original was piloted by Graham Hill.

I have always been a sucker for an Escort, and there were so many beautiful examples to capture. No wonder I came home with way more RAW images than needed…

I am still going through all the snaps from the event, although these ones jumped out at me and it seemed impossible to fit everything into one post. Keep an eye out for more classic machinery with real pedigree coming real soon!

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