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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.

Continue reading in our January/February 2024 issue of NZ Classic Driver - out now!

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