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Author Topic: New Zealand/Australian Camaros And Firebirds  (Read 31599 times)
Steve Holmes
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« on: July 16, 2011, 06:20:43 PM »

Hi guys, this is an amazing forum you have going here. My good friend Bruce Thompson (Bruce302) informed me of it. I am really impressed with some of the rare photographs you've managed to unearth, particularly of the many privateer cars which didn't enjoy the level of exposure the factory cars did.

I hope you don't mind me muddying the waters a little here by starting a separate thread on the Camaro's that raced 'down-under', but I thought some of you might find this interesting. Jon, if you feel this in inappropriate for this forum, please feel free to delete or move it.

This Camaro (sponsored by Lexington cigarettes) was built for and raced by Spencer (Spinner) Black for the New Zealand Saloon Car Championship. It debuted in 1968. It was built from a road car, it wasn't an imported race car as many were in NZ. The engine was 327ci, as New Zealand had a 5,500cc engine limit until 1971, when it was changed to 6,000cc.

Apologies for these images being a little smaller in size, I have copied and pasted some of them from my own historic racing website.



This photo was supplied by Mike Feisst

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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2011, 06:46:58 PM »

This is the same car, one season later, now being driven by Rod Coppins. Coppins won the 1969/70 (New Zealand racing season takes place during its summer months from around October through to around April) New Zealand Saloon Car Championship, tied equal with Red Dawson, in a Shelby Mustang. This was the one and only time two drivers shared the championship, as both had taken the same number of points, the same number of race wins, and the same number of 2nd and 3rd placings during the season.



 Mike Feisst photo
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Sixteen Grand Sedan #56
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« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2011, 06:56:18 PM »

Hello Steve and Welcome,

I love seeing the Camaro's from your part of the world.

I have been watching the discussion about the "Bob Jane" 69 Camaro on your website as well. Cool

Robert
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Robert Lodewyk
Steve Holmes
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« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2011, 07:37:55 PM »

Thank you for the kind words Robert, much appreciated. I'll post some details about the Bob Jane ZL1 Camaro on here soon.
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2011, 12:18:41 AM »

Red Dawson's Shelby Mustang (#35) suffered piston failure at the final championship round in practice, so Dawson's good friend John Riley loaned him his own Mustang for the race. Dawson then jumped the start, and was later penalised, but used his persuasive powers to eventually overturn the decision, and thus he and Coppins were joint champions.



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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2011, 12:33:37 AM »

During the New Zealand summer racing season, as the rest of the racing world was have its off-season, New Zealand event promoters would often pay to have one or two international drivers bring their cars down to race. They'd pay all their costs, and the driver would usually manage to sell his car to one of the locals, so he'd fly back home with a suitcase full of cash.

In late 1970, the promoters of Bay Park Raceway in Tauranga, in the North Island, who knew the pulling power a good field of sedan racers would have for pulling in the punters, brought American Trans-Am privateer Joe Chamberlain out to race, with his '69 Camaro. Chamberlain wasn't quite on the pace of the front running Kiwi drivers with their bigger engines, but he fared pretty well. He raced at Bay Park and Pukekohe (near Auckland), then sold the Camaro to Ian Rorison, who had local hot-shoe Dennis Marwood drive it for the next couple of seasons. It was fitted with a 355ci motor in late 1971.

Chamberlain had a great time racing down-under, enjoying the summer weather and the laid-back Kiwi approach to racing, as did the international open wheeler teams when they'd come here to race each year.

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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2011, 12:45:19 AM »

At the same Bay Park event that Joe Chamberlain raced at in late 1970, the organisers also brought out two Australian Camaro's to race. Now while New Zealand had a 5,500cc engine limit, Australia had a 7,000cc engine limit at this time. Allan's was fitted with a 396ci big block, Thomson's a 427ci big block. Straight line speed wasn't a problem, but slowing these things down on the tight Bay Park layout proved challenging. Look at the understeer Allan is fighting.

I forgot to mention, New Zealand had a wheel width limit of 12" at this time, and this would go out to 14" within two years, while Australia had a 10" wheel width limit.

The car in front is Terry Allan's '67, which was the first Camaro to race in Australia. The second car is that of Bryan Thomson. Both cars ran quad-Webers, which was also common down this part of the world.

Note that the Thomson car is right hand drive.

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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2011, 12:53:37 AM »

Here is Thomson's Camaro in its home land. Photo courtesy of Ellis French.

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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2011, 02:58:41 AM »

Rod Coppins raced the ex-Spinner Black '67 Camaro for 3 seasons, the last of which it was painted Winfield gold. Here he is with team mates Barry Phillips and David Oxton.

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Jon Mello
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« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2011, 06:54:23 PM »

Steve,

I appreciate the compliments. I don't have a problem at all with what you posted. I do think it is nice to have them organized in their own thread however. I really enjoy seeing your historical photos, especially since they are in color. I don't recall seeing any of them other than the one of the Joe Chamberlain car. I have heard that the Terry Allan car may have been race prepared by Bill Thomas in Anaheim before going to Australia. Any truth to that?
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Jon Mello
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2011, 08:46:16 PM »

Jon, many thanks. The Terry Allan Camaro is one shrouded in mystery, and nobody seems to know for sure the true story. Or, at least, nobody has come forward with the true story. Allan himself died a few years ago. It was said to have originally come from Nickey Chevrolet, and apparently was going to be built for the Trans-Am. But to me that doesn't make sense, as I've also read it was a genuine big block SS396 car, so would have required to have the engine replaced. The story goes that Allan was in the US on a business trip in very early 1967, and bought the car, then had Bill Thomas prepare it with the big block for racing. When it arrived in Australia it had all the SS badges.

The current whereabouts and fate of the car are also unknown, it vanished during the 70s.

Here is an ad placed in a New Zealand magazine in mid-1971.

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Jon Mello
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2011, 10:47:47 PM »

Steve, that's a shame nobody got Terry's story before his passing. The '67 Z-28s that Nickey Chevrolet ordered for Trans-Am racing are also shrouded in mystery. They pulled the plug on that program after ordering the cars. I can't find anybody that knows if they were actually race prepared or not before being sold.
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Jon Mello
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2011, 03:16:07 PM »

Yes, I agree Jon, a shame nobody got Terry Allan's story when they could. The interest in these types of cars in Australia is a relatively recent thing, believe it or not. Its probably only been the last 10 years that interest has grown from a very small core of historic enthusiasts, to becoming more widespread. The media, through specialist magazines, has been the real catalyst for the education and interest in touring car history in this part of the world. And, of course, it starts at the top, with the more celebrated, more successful cars, and filters down to those that didn't enjoy as much success. 

Terry Allan's Camaro probably falls into the latter category, as although it was the first Camaro to race anywhere in Australasia (Australia and New Zealand), and although it gathered plenty of interest when it made its race debut, it didn't enjoy a very successful career. Big block race cars just weren't agile enough to be able to outrun small block cars, despite their power advantage. In fact, Terry Allan was interviewed on one of the 3 occasions he raced the car in New Zealand, and said he was considering fitting the car with a small block. But he sold the car shortly afterwards.

Also, Terry Allan himself was an unknown driver when he first appeared with the Camaro, and vanished quickly after he sold it in 1971. So the project wasn't as high profile as many. Its only been in the last couple of years an Australian magazine ran a small article on Allan's Camaro, asking if anyone knew its fate, or details of Allan himself, and thats when a reader wrote in informing that Allan had died a few years ago.
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2011, 03:37:08 PM »

OK, not a Camaro, but something you might find of interest. This is a 1970 Holden Monaro HT GTS350. Holden is the Australian arm of General Motors, and Holden Monaro's were designed and built in Australia, and sold throughout Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Their underpinnings were similar to those on American GM cars, mostly the Nova and Camaro. They were made available with several different engine options, beginning with a 6-cylinder, but, importantly, they were also available with a small block Chevy V8. Initially a 327, then, from mid-1969, a 350.

Norm Beechey had this particular car built, with support from Holden. Beechey was a flamboyant driver and a real hard-charger. He won the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1965, with the first Mustang to race in Australasia. This was replaced by a gorgeous Chevy Nova. In 1968, he briefly raced a Camaro, then built an earlier HK GTS327 Monaro for 1969, before this car was built.

It was a big-budget car for its time. It was lightened as much as possible, fitted with 15" x 10" Minilites, and the 350 was fitted with four 58mm side-draught Webers. Beechey used this car to win the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship (the Australian equivilent of the Trans-Am). Fortunately, after Beechey sold the car in 1973, it wasn't chopped up and remained largely intact for much of its life, and has now been restored as below.

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Jon Mello
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« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2011, 11:39:26 AM »

Steve,

I do like the Monaros. They are an attractive car. I knew they had the availability of the Chevy V8 in them. To my understanding, they were only available with the 10-bolt rear axle although many racers put in a 12-bolt. I'm not certain about what 4-speed transmissions were factory available. Was a Muncie tranny available or did they rely on a Saginaw (or something else)?

For 10" wide wheels, those are really modest flares. Very tasteful. I like them. When the Trans-Am series here in the US went to the wider wheels sizes beginning in 1973, the flares started getting ridiculous and this was when cars really started getting cobbled up.

I am impressed with your www.theroaringseason.com website. Lots of work to put something like that together and you have done an extremely nice job with it. I wish you much continued success.

For Camaro and Chevy enthusiasts reading this, check out the above website for a neat article on the restoration of the Bob Jane ZL-1, the '70 Trans-Am season, the Bill Thomas Cheetah and much more...
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Jon Mello
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