I first met Warwick Mortimer in October 2003 while supervising a photoshoot at Sylvia Park in Mt Wellington. At that time 16 years ago, the maze of ex-Army storage buildings (built on the site during the 1940s) were earmarked for demolition, with work on the present-day shopping mall due to begin a few months after that photoshoot.

The cars we were photographing that day included Don and Melissa Bell’s Ford Capri 3.0S, Gerry Hodges’ BMW 635CSi and Warwick’s 1972 Holden Torana GTR XU1 – all three cars would be competing in that year’s Targa NZ.

Talking to Warwick on the day of the photoshoot, we learnt a little about his long-time involvement with motorsport and his passion for collecting classic cars, with an emphasis on old racing cars. At that time, he owned quite probably the only genuine AC Cobra in New Zealand.

Warwick’s Targa Torana, a genuine XU1, was powered by a modified 3.3-litre Holden straight-six sucking air and fuel through an impressive array of twin-choke DHLA40 Dell’Orto carbies – a major change from the standard XU1’s triple Strombergs.

The 2003 Targa NZ would be Warwick’s second go at the event, having finished fifth in class the previous year with his old friend and fellow racer Dr Jack Drummond in the co-driver’s seat. For 2003, Warwick had a new co-driver, Paul Thomson. Alas, he was unable to improve on his 2002 showing.

Followers of Targa NZ will also recall that, with Warwick being the owner of Brightwater Ridge artesian water, the team handed out hundreds of free samples during the events in which he took part. In 2008, Warwick would sell his bottled water business, using the proceeds to establish Mortimer Motorsports.

However, we’re getting a little ahead of the game. It’s time to wind the clock back to the 1960s to find out how Warwick’s motorsport career began.

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