Paul Fahey flipped the establishment on its head when he imported a factory Group 2 Capri in late 1973. This pretty car with its radical box flares and screaming V6 appeared on the scene at just the right time to overwhelm the traditional V8 fraternity and win the 1975 NZ Saloon Car Championship.
Fahey and the Capri peaked at a time when V8 sedan racers were still learning how to tame their powerful monsters. While the Capri lacked the outright grunt of the V8s, it was significantly lighter and packed more sophisticated suspension and brakes.
But the V8 teams got their stuff figured out, and after Fahey had hung up his helmet in 1975, selling the Capri to Cran Judge for the brilliant young Formula Ford champion Grant Walker to drive, the big bangers had bridged the gap. The Capri V6 had just a very short window and by 1976 this had passed.
However, Saloon Car Championship regulations were nothing if not liberal. Indeed, under the new Schedule E rules introduced from 1974, it was possible to mix and match engine and body combinations that weren’t relatives from birth.
Jack Nazer was the first to fully engage himself in the freedoms that Schedule E offered, by contracting the talented young engineer Jimmy Stone to build him a Vauxhall Victor powered by a fuel-injected small block Chevy V8. It took the best part of a season to get the kinks ironed out, but ultimately Nazer’s Victor-Chev proved to be the perfect combination of size, weight, power and wheelbase. It went on to win two New Zealand Saloon Car Championships.
And while some competitors followed Nazer’s lead, others sought to achieve similar results using a different set of clothes. Ford’s MkI Capri was roughly the same size as the Victor, and about the same weight with a similar wheelbase. But the Capri sported a two-door body with a fastback roof, so was naturally more rigid and had better aerodynamics.
Although Motorsport Association of New Zealand stamped out the NZ Saloon Car Championship in 1977, so the South Islandbased Open Saloon Car Association (OSCA) was already well established, and within a couple of years, the new North Island based Sports Sedan Association more or less picked up where the NZ Championship left off. By the early 1980s, modified sedan racing was the most powerful crowd-pulling spectacle in New Zealand motorsport. A series of V8-powered Ford Capris, driven by a slew of tough campaigners, including Inky Tulloch, Wayne Huxford, John Osborne and Ian Munt, were all leading the charge.
At the annual Bay Park Easter event in 1975, one of the earliest Capri V8 modified sedans 1 2 made its race debut in the hands of Hasting’s Brent Bullivant. The little yellow Capri was as handsome as it was purposeful, sitting low on wide Ansen wheels housed within beautifully curvaceous flares, and a neat chin spoiler on the front. Beneath the skin, the Capri housed a 302ci Ford V8, backed by a four-speed Borg-Warner gearbox and a Ford eight-inch rear-end. But while the Capri was a delight to behold, and a great new addition to the big-bore sedan fleet, what really got peoples’ tongues wagging was that its owner/ builder/driver Bullivant was just 19 years old.
Impressive as it was, the Bullivant Capri clearly needed some development, which was typical of a new racing car, particularly one mashing together so many parts that weren’t designed to work in partnership. During the events that followed, Bullivant had the car at some impossible angles, and on more than one occasion found himself facing oncoming traffic. However, funds were tight and Bullivant put everything he had into building the car. Luxuries, such as new tyres, simply weren’t an option. He raced the car on used tyres, hand-me-downs from other teams...
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