One cold and frosty day during the winter of 1996, I found myself settling into the leather-lined cockpit of a locally built T Car in preparation for a road test of the Kiwi-built roadster. Russell Hooper, the main driving force behind Alternative Cars – the Auckland-based company that had designed and developed the T Car watched on as I fired up the Nissan-powered sports car.

Over two decades later, towards the end of last summer, I once again met up with Russell to drive one of his cars – his personal Swallow 100, the end point of a line that stretches back to 1984 and the first Triumph Herald-based sports car built by Kit Kars Ltd, the company founded by Russell.

The Swallow’s Origins

Kit Kars Ltd eventually became Alternative Cars, and those early sports cars modelled after the MG TF gradually outgrew their early Triumph origins, with donor parts now being taken from the Vauxhall Viva and Holden Torana LC and LJ, and Nissan Z-series 1800 or 2000cc engines were the preferred choice over the smaller-capacity Herald motors initially used. Over time, the T Car became more sophisticated, acquiring a purpose-built chassis and moving into the modern era by utilising suspension and driveline components from Mazda’s MX-5 sports car.

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