I enjoyed the December issue as usual. I thought your readers might be interested in a couple of New Zealand-related snippets that articles in that issue raised.
The ex-works, ex-Roy James Brabham FJ lives in good hands just north of Wellington and is a solid and regular performer in historic events in the hands of John Rapley. Advertised for sale in ‘Autosport’ in February 1964 this very early car has been in New Zealand since the mid-1960s. Drivers here have included Ray Thackwell and Graham McRae (who apparently used its ‘corners’ for his McRae-Ford single seater!). It then lay unraced for 11 years until Rapley bought it in 1987 and began its restoration and commenced its new racing career.
The reference to the great drivers being great in a variety of cars (Jim Clark in the ERA) is borne out by the fact that the fabulous NZ-built Lycoming Special (an inverted flat four 5-litre air-cooled Lycoming motor, space frame, aluminium body built in 1956) was lent to Bruce McLaren for the Trophy Race at Wigram in 1960.
Despite never having sat in the car before, McLaren finished a good (and almost brakeless) 4th behind Brabham, David Piper and Ian Burgess. This wonderful special was registered for the road and was driven to race meetings over many thousands of miles. It was a frequent winner of the NZ sports car and hillclimb championships in the ’60’s. But one of the most memorable highlights was, in its creator Ralph Watson’s words “A notable event was when World Champion Jim Clark tried the Lycoming at Teretonga, going faster and faster; unfortunately Jim (Boyd, the car’s owner at the time) flagged him in before he broke any lap records”!
As your article suggests, the real greats were great in anything they drove.
All the best to the magazine for ’99.
I am, yours, etc. Mark Holman, Wellington, New Zealand
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