One year earlier, Paul Fahey had imported a genuine works Group 2 Capri RS2600, built at great expense by Ford Cologne to tackle arch-rivals BMW in the European Touring Car Championship. The heated contest between the two marques had begun with the reintroduction of FIA Group 2 regulations (replacing Group 5) in 1970, with both manufacturers making a full assault in 1971; Ford with its existing Escort RS1600 and newly introduced Capri RS2600, and BMW with its 2800 CS.
For 1972, Ford dropped the Escort to focus on the Capri, and blazed to victory in eight out of nine races, including the all-important 24 Hours of Spa. BMW came back swinging for the fences in 1973 with its ballistic 3.0 CSL, sporting a series of clever aerodynamic aids, including a monstrous three-piece rear wing. In order to homologate its new weapon and its aero appendages, BMW produced and sold a road-going variant, and such was the scale of that rear wing that it was illegal on German roads and was delivered in three pieces packed into the car’s boot.
It was a clever manipulation of the rules and it worked beautifully. BMW swept to victory in six of the eight races, including Spa. FORD RS2600 & RS3100 It was one of Ford’s 1973 challengers, with its spectacular boxed flares, that Paul Fahey acquired late in the year and imported to New Zealand. Despite its pushrod Cologne V6 engine pumping out around 320 horsepower (238kW), well short of its 6-litre V8 rivals, Fahey battled for outright honours at several tracks, despite running as a 4.2-litre Class car.
The Group 2 RS2600 engine was developed by Weslake, bored to 2900cc, dry-sumped, topped with Kugelfischer fuel-injection, and backed by a five-speed ZF gearbox. The whole package was homologated at a minimum weight of just 900 kilograms. Although it could out-handle and outbrake any of the V8s, Fahey’s Capri often ran out of puff on the longer straights. Really, all he needed was more power. And that would come in 1974.
Having been hammered by BMW in the 1973 ETCC, Ford Germany really stepped up its game for 1974. Its latest weapon featured better aerodynamics and more power. It was called the Capri RS3100, and it was completely uncompromising. Although the FIA Group 2 regulations allowed almost complete freedom for housing wheels and tyres, and providing front downforce, weirdly, only production car rear aero-aids could be utilized. And while the 3.0 CSLs were equipped with their outlandish three-piece rear wings, in 1973, the Fords had nothing to press the rear-end into the track.
All that was put to right, however, with the new Capri RS3100. Ford ditched the Cologne motor in favour of the Essex unit, which measured 3091cc in production guise. However, the racing version was further developed, transformed into a magnificent piece of motorsport jewellery by Cosworth Engineering. Dubbed the GAA, it was bored out to 3400cc and fitted with Cosworth-designed cylinder heads which sported four valves per cylinder and four camshafts.
To be eligible for Group 2 competition, a minimum 100 sets of the heads had to be produced. With Lucas fuel-injection, the sumptuous Cosworth GAA produced 440 horsepower (328kW). Naturally, Fahey ordered a new Cosworth GAA motor with which to tackle the 1975 New Zealand Saloon Car Championship. Surprisingly, however, his wasn’t the first to be shipped down under.
DON AND ROB HALLIDAY
The Halliday brothers were made aware of the new Cosworth GAA very early on, and decided to build a new car to house the unit. Indeed, the national saloon car championship switched to the locally-brewed Schedule E regulations in 1973, which allowed any production car engine up to 6000cc to be fitted to any production sedan. Some, such as Jack Nazer, went for a hybrid concoction by stuffing a big American V8 into a compact British saloon, but Fahey and the Hallidays opted for a more purist approach.
Given the successes the factory-supported cars from BMW and Ford were enjoying in European and British racing, the latest Group 2 machines were a smart option in New Zealand. Indeed, by 1974 reigning NZ Saloon Car Champion, Rod Coppins, was himself considering a BMW 3.0 CSL to replace his 1969 Pontiac Firebird. Whereas Fahey purchased a turnkey factory racing car, however, the Halliday brothers opted to build their own. And it was as impressive as it was ambitious. It would have been easier (and cheaper) for the Hallidays to simply power their car with an American V8. Fuel-injected Formula 5000 Chevrolet small-blocks were plentiful in the mid-1970s. But like Fahey, they’d always preferred sticking with a productionbased theme. The Hallidays purchased just the seventh Cosworth GAA built, and the first to be sold outside the UK.
Fortunately for them, Ford New Zealand chipped in to help cover the eye-watering $12,000 price tag. In 1974, $12,000 would have paid for a nice house. More exotica was imported in the form of a very clever suspension system supplied by Team Broadspeed, who were running a works Capri in Britain. It used an Atlas rear-end, the same as that used in the Cologne factory cars. The Halliday Capri project began in early 1974, with construction taking place in their cousin’s basement, to ensure secrecy. Custom Panelworks carried out the formation of the beautiful curvaceous flares designed to house the 15 x 10 (front) and 15 x 13 (rear) BBS wheels.
The flares sported ventilation slots at the rear of the front flares, and front of the rear flares. Although performing the same function, they differed in design to the factory cars, and were also fabricated from steel. Only the bonnet, boot lid and front spoiler were fibreglass. Feltex Carpets came on board as a sponsor, and the Capri was finished in a handsome red and white paint scheme.
Although essentially the same package as that being campaigned by Fahey, the Hallidays spent the 1975 season developing their new car, whereas Fahey already had a full season behind him with a car that was already a race-winning package before it even landed on Kiwi soil. Indeed, Fahey would prove the worth of the GAA Capri by winning the 1975 championship. Furthermore, despite its exotic drivetrain, the Hallidays were racing on a strict budget, which meant limiting revs to 9500 rpm, when the GAA could open its lungs well above 10,000rpm.
The beautiful new Halliday Capri showed early promise, although braking issues would become its Achilles’ heel. Indeed, it was brake failure that brought their 1975 season to a premature and violent end when Don went sailing off the end of the Bay Park backstraight at full noise. Such was the pace at which he was travelling, he shot straight through the safety fence and was launched into the air, eventually coming to rest in the nearby motor camp. The Capri suffered extensive damage, but more so, Don was left hospitalised with three broken vertebrae.
It was a full eight months before the Capri and its pilot were able to race again. The Halliday RS3100 was rebuilt and improved for the 1976 season. Outwardly, the most obvious changes were to the flares, and the addition of a rear spoiler. The team ran a limited campaign, choosing to contest the high profile events, such as the Bay Park epic in late 1975, with a star-studded entry including the Australasian debut for the DeKon IMSA Monzas of Allan Moffat and Red Dawson, John McCormack’s mid-engine Repco Charger Sports Sedan from Australia, Jim Richards in the Sidchrome Mustang, Leo Leonard in the PDL Mustang, reigning Formula Ford Champion Grant Walker in the ex-Fahey Capri, and Jack Nazer is his wickedly-fast Jimmy Stone-built ‘Miss Victorious’ Victor.
Halliday qualified fifth at Bay Park and spent the bulk of all three races battling Richards and McCormack, to underline just how well the brothers had developed the Capri. McCormack had been untouchable when he visited New Zealand the year prior. Following its 1976 New Zealand outings, the Hallidays took the Capri to Australia to contest selected rounds of the inaugural Australian Sports Sedan Championship, as well as the rich Marlboro $100,000 Series, held at Calder Park and owned by tyre tycoon and four-time Australian Touring Car Champion Bob Jane.
Against the immense Australian machinery, the best result was sixth place in the final round of the ASSC, and seventh in the final $100,000 event. The Capri made a couple of appearances in the ShellSport-sponsored 1977 New Zealand Saloon Car Championship, but the local V8s had evolved massively, and now finally displayed the handling and braking dynamics to match their brute horsepower. With Motorsport New Zealand dropping the big-banger sedans at the conclusion of the 1977 season in favour of a 2-litre ShellSport variant, the Capri was left high and dry, with nowhere to race. Ultimately, it was placed on the market, and eventually acquired by Danie Lupp, without an engine.
TRANSFORMING THE CAPRI
By the late 1970s/early 1980s, the newly established Sports Sedan Association provided a home for the orphaned big-bore cars that had once contested the NZ Saloon Car Championship. And with the similar (but different) OSCA series soaring in the South Island, track promoters saw a golden opportunity to kick-start this popular form of the sport back to life by matching the North Island Sports Sedans against the South Island OSCA teams. Danie, son of the famed Sybil Lupp, had previously campaigned the ex-Jack Nazer Escort Twin-Cam in the 4.2-litre class, but now stepped up to contend for outright honours. He set about transforming the Capri by fitting it with a fuel-injected Chaparral Formula 5000 engine, backed by a Muncie M-22. It also received a new colour scheme, of blue with red and yellow accents.
The transformation, however, proved short-lived. After a handful of races, the engine detonated when the dry-sump belt came off. With Lupp working to a very tight budget, his funds couldn’t afford another high-performance V8, so instead he dropped in a 5.3-litre Jaguar V12, topped with a quartet of Porsche carburettors. With his mother having been a successful Jaguar racer, the installation seemed fitting, but the V12 nestled in the front of the Capri enjoyed little development, and couldn’t foot-it with the V8s. Lupp was good friends with Christchurch OSCA racer John Osborne, and Osborne was a regular guest at the Lupp household in Wellington when travelling north to take on the local Sport Sedan contingent with his former Rod Coppins Camaro.
One night, the pair spent the evening drinking, and Osborne woke to discover he’d agreed to purchase the Capri! Naturally, when ‘Ozzie’ transferred the motor from the Camaro to the smaller, lighter British compact, he suddenly had a much more potent tool for the job. He also replaced the Atlas rear-end with a robust Ford nine-inch, and had Brian Friend repaint the bodywork in a similar livery to that chosen by Lupp, but with a better quality finish. Osborne quickly developed the Capri into one of the fastest cars in the OSCA series, indeed one of the fastest in New Zealand. But at a Ruapuna event during the 1983 season, and just prior to him taking the car to the North Island, the boot-mounted Bendix fuel-pump ruptured, creating a massive flame-back followed by a huge explosion.
Osborne quickly pulled into the grass (which also caught fire) and while fire marshals were immediately on the scene, the Capri was engulfed, and burnt to the ground. Fellow OSCA racer Inky Tulloch, who owned the ex-Fahey/Walker Capri (repowered with a small block Chevy V8), generously offered his car to Osborne for his trip north. Although John declined, he did ultimately purchase Tulloch’s car, and ran it the following season while building a new Mazda RX-7 for OSCA. New Zealand motorsport is littered with tragic tales of great cars that, for one reason or another, did not survive the sands of time, and the incredible Halliday brothers Capri is just one example. Rob Halliday has been slowly building a tribute car, albeit, one with 1974 Group 2 flares, which will hopefully see the track in the next couple of years. With the original car consigned to history, a tribute by one of the original builders is surely the next best thing.
As a side-note, John Osborne was the only driver to race both the Fahey and Halliday Capris. And he confirmed that the Halliday variant, built on New Zealand soil, boasted better corner turn-in than the Fahey factory car, itself renowned for its epic handling. As if further proof were needed that Kiwis are as good as anyone in the world.
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