Once upon a time people raced cars for pleasure, the adrenaline rush and comradeship. Winning was a bonus. And those who didn’t win, raced for the satisfaction of doing their best and, hopefully, finishing.

As we discovered when we visited New Zealand’s fastest MG, that attitude is still alive and well in this modern age of myopically focussed professionalism and huge money racing.

When I asked Marvyn Towers why he races, his reasons included the pleasure he gains from developing and driving his car, and the strong social life that goes with this level of racing. There was no mention of trophies, prize money or fame, although he’s been happy to accept the McIntyre Trophy for fastest MG numerous times.

Marvyn is one of a group of racers who live South Taranaki or have links to the area, whose main focus is enjoyment. That doesn’t suggest a slack attitude to car preparation or development – those things and safety are critically important, but it must be enjoyable; otherwise there’s no point in doing it.

Brutal Machine

Marvyn’s MG bears little resemblance to the green 1976 ‘rubber bumper’ GT he bought back in 2005. That pleasant, inoffensive sporting hatchback has been transformed into a brutal machine designed for one purpose – to get around racing circuits as fast as possible. For a couple of years he was happy enough to race it as a more or less standard car in the Whittakers MG Classic meeting at Manfeild: Circuit Chris Amon, but he knew that wouldn’t last.

He lived in England for a time and nearly bought an MGBGT V8, until the reality of having nowhere to store the car sank in. Back in New Zealand, with the 1976 GT in his shed alongside a Leyland P76 4.4-litre V8 engine that he’d hoarded for 20 years, it wasn’t hard to work out how that was going to happen and the process of evolution soon began.

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