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Allan looks back at the evolution of the Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Elegance and checks out the two fully restored, rotary-powered RX-7s that took out second place in the Team’s Event at the 2023 concours.

Words and Photos: ALLAN WALTON

Just over four decades ago I visited the Ellerslie Showgrounds in Auckland for the very first time, to check out the Porsche-Martini Intermarque Concours d’Elegance. The event had originally started out as an initiative from the MG Car Club with the first show being held in the Sunken Gardens at Cornwall Park on December 21, 1972 and the main prize was the Inter-Club Challenge Shield, with MG winning first time out. Over the following years, the shield was dominated by MG and Jaguar but, in 1981, the Porsche Club of NZ took out top honours.

Over time the event had grown significantly and the Porsche Club, with sponsorship from Martini, shifted the event to Ellerslie. So, on February 21, 1982 I found myself wandering around the showgrounds checking out a mouth-watering collection of classic cars. As well as three car Porsche, Jaguar and MG teams, there were no less than 27 clubs vying for the Inter-Club Challenge Shield, the majority representing British and European marques. After the judging was complete, the Jaguar Driver’s Club won the shield, with the remaining top five spots filled by Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and MG. Geoff Hall’s Jaguar E-Type S2 was judged top car of the event.

Looking back through my faded event programme, it’s interesting to note that the only non-British/European cars were a team of three Holden Monaros (HK, HQ and HX) and three Holden Toranas (GTR XU-1, 1900SL and SLR 5000); perhaps they had been given a ‘pass’ by the organisers due to their Australian heritage? Most notably, US and Japanese marques were not even on the radar back in the early ‘80s, although the Holden would soon be joined by Aussie Falcons.

However, slowly the old guard gave way as the event became more inclusive. Mustangs first showed up in the results listings in 1990 and, after scoring top honours in 2006, they would win multiple times over the coming years.

In 1982 Japanese marques were not deemed collectible or classic by the majority, and it would remain so until the Datsun Z Club made their presence felt with a top five placing in 1992.

Since those days, the event has become much more inclusive and at the 2023 event, snuggled up alongside European, British, Australian and US marques were a host of Japanese cars that are now widely regarded as classics in their own right. Cars such as the world’s best-selling sports car, the Mazda MX-5, the Mitsubishi Galant GTO, Toyota MR2 and a smattering of Hondas – including an award-winning Honda City.

As well as these, it was notable that two Mazda RX-7s were entered into judging for the team prize. These two cars were entered by Japanese Nostalgic Car NZ, an informal club first formed in 2013. The brainchild of the late Gavin Hicks and his son, Myles, the club was formed to allow those with a passion for Japanese cars to join together for social events and shows.

The Japanese Nostalgic Car NZ team consisted of Tim Wood’s beautifully restored Series One car and David Higgins’ extremely rare Series Three Type RZ Limited Edition. With a final joint score of 1072 points against the winning Porsche team’s final score of 1180, the RX-7 duo scored a well-deserved second place in the teams competition.

Looking at the individual points, David’s S3 car scooped up 521 points while, with a final score of 551, Tim’s S1 RX-7 was a mere three points behind the top scoring car in the winning Porsche team – Wayne Marmont’s 1970 Porsche 911E (as featured on the cover of NZ Classic Driver, September/October 2023). The points difference came down to the Porsche scoring more for its engine bay – although, having now inspected Wayne’s 911E and Tim’s RX-7, I’d be hard pressed to decide which car I’d score as being the best in the engine department; they both look truly magnificent!

The standard of these two RX-7s is well up there with the best of the more traditional concours cars and with many more Japanese car enthusiasts preferring to restore or maintain their cars to original specifications rather than going down an extreme modification route, it is probably only a question of when rather than if a team of Japanese classic cars takes out top honours at the Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Elegance or, indeed, scores the top car slot.

Until that happens, let’s take a closer look at Tim and David’s Mazda sports cars.

Tim Wood’s 1979 Mazda RX-7
Painted in its original Aurora White, Tim’s car was imported into New Zealand from Japan with only 42,000km showing on the odometer. Totally complete and original when purchased, the RX-7 was subsequently restored by Myles Hicks – one of the founders of Japanese Nostalgic Car NZ and the owner and restorer of several rotary-engined cars. The Mazda’s seats, door trims and carpet remain original and unrestored, luckily for Tim, seat covers had been used during the car’s entire life, so the original hound’s tooth trim was still in perfect condition.

Prior to purchasing this RX-7, Tim’s love affair with rotary-engined cars began when, as a 15-year-old boy, his father took him to the Ellerslie Intermarque Concours during the early ‘90s. By that time, as previously mentioned, Japanese cars were slowly making inroads into the show’s previously traditional offerings of more traditional British and European classics, and Tim was immediately drawn to the display put on by one of these newer clubs to the Intermarque Concours – the Mazda Rotary Enthusiast’s Club.

Here were collectible cars that, unlike high-end Jaguars, Ferraris and Porsches, were within the reach of young enthusiasts such as Tim and not long after that day at Ellerslie, he became the proud owner of a 1974 Mazda RX-2 coupé, purchased for the princely sum of $1800. Over the following three decades, over 35 rotary-powered cars would pass through his hands, including the four cars that currently make up his collection – an original 28,000-mile 1973 RX-3 coupé with a numbers-matching 10A engine; a modified 1973 RX-3 coupé with a 13B injected peripheral port engine; a 2002 Mazda RX-7 Spirit R, the last of the RX-7s and 1 of only 1500 produced. This car came from the factory with the Kevlar Recaro seats as well as many other one-off features, and is next in line for a full restoration in 2024 with Tim hoping that Myles can find time to handle the project. Tim’s collection is, of course, finished off with our featured 1979 RX-7.

David Higgins’ 2000 Mazda RX-7 Type RZ Limited Edition
David’s limited-edition Type RZ is based on the top-performance version of the RX-7, the Type RS, and is equipped with a number of sporty custom accessories. Additionally, it is approximately 10kg lighter than the Type RS, resulting in a power-to-weight ratio of 6.17kg/kW (4.54 kg/PS). Mazda originally only planned to build 175 examples but heavy demand for the car meant 325 in total were made, all to identical specifications.

Special features included red, full-bucket carbon/Kevlar Recaro seats; unique ‘gun-metallic’ coloured alloy BBS wheels; custom Bilstein dampers; red stitched Nardi steering wheel with matching leather shift knob and parking brake lever boot; driver’s side knee pad; passenger side aluminium footrest board and a rear storage box.

Painted in Snow White Pearl Mica, David’s car is #146 of 325 and tips the scales at 1270kg, while its 13B-REW Sequential Twin Turbo Rotary engine thumps out an impressive 206kW.

David purchased the car in Japan in late 2021 and when it arrived in New Zealand there were some issues with the turbochargers and a rebuild was necessary. However, this soon snowballed into a full bare metal restoration which took 14 months. Every part of the car was rebuilt and restored with the correct finishes and correct OEM parts. A fresh coat of the car’s unique and original shade of mica paint was applied by Flow Line Customs in New Lynn while the engine long block was rebuilt by Green Brothers Racing in Tauranga. The gearbox was rebuilt by William Green and everything else was restored and rebuilt by David who has previous experience with restoration having been involved with the Porsche Club his whole life. David’s father won the Teams Event and Best Car twice at Ellerslie with his fully restored 1973 911 Carrera RS 2.7, and the Higgins family collect and restore classic cars and race cars.

David fell in love with Japanese JDM cars as a teenager during the ‘90s. At that time a fellow student at his high school owned a FD3S RX-7 with, looking back, an awful Veilside body kit. That must have been brand new back then and that car - and the Mark Porter car that his father raced against in the ‘90s in the Allied Finance GT Series (the car that David is now restoring) - sealed his passion for these cars.

“The shape of them, their performance and their unique rotary engines are what I love about them and to me the Series 8 Type RZ is the ultimate rare collectable edition of the model,” he said.

Other cars in David’s garage include three vehicles currently undergoing bare metal restorations – as already mentioned, the ex-Mark Porter JGTC GT300 Mazdaspeed RX-7; his wife’s 1985 Honda City Turbo 2 and a Honda Motocompo folding scooter. Previous cars owned by David include a Junior 2/3 scale Sunoco liveried Porsche 917/30 go kart that he built and subsequently sold through RM Sotheby’s at Amelia Island in 2022.

(You can see more photos of David’s RX-7 restoration on his Facebook page – Classic Revival -

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