Fahey’s RS2600 had proven its capabilities against the American muscle cars throughout the 1974 season but lacked the power of the big V8s. Although a Cosworth GAA at 328kW (440bhp) was still at least 75kW down on the best local V8s, as a package weighing less than a ton the Capri possessed a huge weight advantage.

However, the V8 contingency had also been evolving. After the startling appearance of the Fahey Capri the year before with its radical box-flares, several of the V8 teams were also sporting these by the start of the 1975 season, including the PDL and Sidchrome Mustangs. A prominent new challenger arrived in the 1975 season in the form of Jack Nazer, with a Jim Stone-built Chevrolet V8-powered Vauxhall Victor.

Red Dawson returned with his Camaro, while Don Halliday would debut his new Cosworth GAA Capri. But the 1975 New Zealand Saloon Car Championship would be won by Paul Fahey. Combined with the fine handling of the ex-works Capri, the new Cosworth engine all but eliminated any power deficiencies the car was suffering.

Fahey, during his championship winning season, battles with the Camaro of Red Dawson at Levels (Photo Terry Marshall)

Season Highlight

The highlight of the season for Fahey came at Wigram. Following his dismissal by Bob Stewart in early 1973, and having made the decision to retire from the sport at the end of the season, Fahey was eager to slay the PDL machine in front of its home crowd. But the addition to the grid of Allan Moffat and John McCormack from Australia would make winning here a much greater challenge.

Wigram was to be the very last race for Moffat in his still very competitive Kar Kraft Mustang, while McCormack had set new standards in the Sports Sedan ranks throughout Australia with his newly constructed lightweight Chrysler Charger fitted with a fuel-injected Repco V8 engine mounted inside the cockpit. The Charger had blitzed the opposition in its debut season back home, and was now here to do likewise to the Kiwis.

There was to be just one main race at Wigram, in which 50 cars would take part, with start positions based on lap times recorded during preliminary heats. Both Fahey and Halliday were forced to contest the 4.2-litre class in the preliminaries, while their main opposition were in the 6.0-litre class. Fahey won the 4.2-litre race from Halliday, while McCormack romped away in the 6.0-litre race. But the two had recorded similar fastest laps and shared the front row for the main race.

A new season, and a new driver. Grant Walker was reigning Formula Ford Champion when he stepped into the reigning New Zealand Saloon Car Championship Capri for the 1976 season (Photo Ross Cammick)

At the drop of the green flag, Fahey and McCormack squabbled over the lead as they dived into the first turn, with the Capri on the inside. Side-by-side they went, but the Charger got squirrelly as it skated across the loose rubber offline, left from the day’s racing, and went into a half slide. McCormack recovered quickly, but by now Moffat, Leonard, Richards, Dawson, and Halliday had all gone past, headed by Fahey.

Through the first lap Moffat and Leonard stayed close to Fahey, and under braking for The Loop Moffat dived down the inside. The Mustang made heavy contact with the Capri, and Fahey, fearing his race was over, slowed briefly to assess the damage. Moffat lost time and dropped several positions, as did Fahey, who now had the front left fibreglass flare partially hanging off. This left Leonard in front. Richards was second, followed by Dawson, and the recovering Fahey and Moffat.

As Fahey sped down the main straight the next time, the entire front left flare parted company with the car, leaving the wheel completely exposed. Although the Clerk of Course took a close look at the car with its damaged bodywork and broken brake duct hose, he took no action.

Inky Tulloch and Trevor Crowe battle at Pukekohe (Photo Ross Cammick)

Up front, Richards soon moved past Leonard for the lead, while Fahey moved ahead of Dawson and closed up on Leonard. Moffat was fast, but the Mustang began trailing smoke. McCormack had got past Halliday and Dawson, and began closing on the leaders. Then Richards began to slow as his engine also started smoking heavily, filling the cockpit with smoke, and Leonard moved back to the front. Fahey was next to pass the Sidchrome Mustang, followed by Moffat.

Fahey began closing in on Leonard, with the Capri scintillating through the fast high-speed bends, its inside front wheel regularly lifting several inches off the ground. With three laps to go he’d reined Leonard in and, with speed to burn, managed to slingshot past. Moffat was chasing, but his race was about to finish as his smoke trail got heavier. Once in front, Fahey began to ease out a small lead, until, with two laps to run, his brakes started to fade. The lack of cooling to the front left had caused overheating, and now Leonard was closing in again.

With the brake pedal travel getting longer, Fahey overshot a corner under braking and Leonard got closer, and with one lap to run the Capri was barely ahead. But Leonard had his own problems, with the PDL machine now beginning to smoke. Leonard attempted to get by on the last lap, but Fahey held him out to the end. Meanwhile, McCormack had also closed up to finish third.

Walker at Bay Park, December 1975 (Photos Phil Robinson)


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