The terms, ‘eternal youth’ and ‘open book’ might well have been conjured up for Dennis Marwood. Now well into his eighties, Dennis Jack Marwood retains an almost boyish enthusiasm for motor racing and his memory is as sharp as the proverbial tack, able to haul career facts from the back of his memory with the speed of a super computer.

A small, dapper, handsome man, he carries those years well.

Dennis is one of the survivors of the so-called Golden Era of New Zealand motorsport, a time when drivers were hero-gladiators demanding mainstream media coverage, and spectators flocked in their tens of thousands to witness them in action.

Difference in attitudes! Again 1963 and Marwood ahead of the Paul Fahey Lotus Cortina at Levin. The Humber is up in the air, lots of body roll and tucking the outside front wheel under. The Lotus Cortina is understeering, but flat. This battle was rejoined years later

He was born into a Waikato dairy farming family at Morrinsville on the 25th day of July, 1933 and his upbringing was unremarkable, if tough, with his disciplinarian father demanding he put in long hours on the farm when he wasn’t at school.

When he left school he worked on the farm, but the rugby-mad Waikato was a hotbed of anarchy with a growing number of locals preferring action in cars to action on a muddy rugby field – and Morrinsville was at the centre of this.

Dennis fell in with the wrong crowd – like-minded blokes who wanted nothing more than to meet and talk about cars, and race them when and if they could.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, something must have got into the Waikato water supply because it seemed just about every young man was car mad and wanted to become a motor racing driver.

And many were successful.

Dennis in the middle of exalted company around the loop at Wigram 1963 – Archibald ahead followed by Dennis, Ian Dow’s 3.8 Jaguar and the Lotus Cortinas of Fahey and Kerry Grant. Ernie Sprague obviously out of sight

A study of race meeting programmes from that era will show that many drivers named Hamilton, Morrinsville, or some small town in the Waikato (that most of the rest of New Zealand had never heard of) as their hometown. The area seemed to breed racing drivers and successful mechanics in the same sort of numbers as the dairy farms bred calves.

Jim Palmer, Howden Ganley, Ivan Segedin, Pete Kerr, ‘Spinner’ Black, Terry Scott, Bryan Innes, Julian Tordoff, Len Gilbert and Colin Giltrap (probably New Zealand’s greatest motor racing enthusiast who started his business career in Hamilton) were all from Waikato.

And one of New Zealand’s best motor racing photographers Terry Marshall got his start by cadging lifts with Bryan Innes from Morrinsville to Pukekohe, armed with his Box Brownie.

The Hamilton Car Club was one of the most active in the country and was the flame that attracted Dennis Marwood where he mixed and mingled with like-minded, car-mad young men.

To read this and other articles on the Classic Driver website please click here to sign up for a membership. Once a member and logged in, you'll be able to read all the articles on the site. If you are already a paid up member, please log in, using the Log In link in the menu at the top of the page.