In the sixties, the annual trek to Blenheim for the season-opening motor race meeting was always an adventure. The circuit was around the streets of the nearby township of Renwick – and it was always a matter of argument whether the ‘w’ was silent.

David Simpson and the Twin Cam head off, possibly the Escort he ran in Team Lexington colours.

There were three Renwick (or was it Rennick?) circuits, the first a triangular affair that was so short, fast drivers in fast cars risked seeing their own tail lights; the second was marginally longer and rectangular with just enough room for those fast drivers in fast cars to maybe get into top gear; while the third was twice as long, sort-of square in shape, but with the fourth leg being a long sweeping left-hand curve followed by a sharpish hairpin. It was the latter that was the most used for the annual season opener, organised by the Marlborough Car Club.

It wasn’t all that demanding, but it was narrow in places, really narrow in others, and single lane across the bridge over the culvert at the end of Alma Street.

There were ditches and hedges and lampposts and houses and straw bales – dangerous, a typical New Zealand temporary road circuit of the day.

And it was the start of the season, so all of the rumours we’d heard over the previous six months would either be proven to be right, or a figment of a feverish imagination.

The November 1965 Renwick meeting was the season opener for the 1965/1966 season and, as usual, there were plenty of rumours. In single-seaters, Jim Palmer and his family had purchased the ex-Team Lotus 32B, the best car in Australia or New Zealand, so he was expected to have an easy domination of that category.

And the saloons?

Allcomers were nearing the end but there were plenty on offer. However, the really big news was that Hamiltonian Ivan Segedin had imported what we all thought was a full-race Mustang, the only question was who was going to be second? There were plenty of candidates.

Paul Fahey was using an Anglia with twin-cam power, defending the title he’d won the previous season in his Lotus Cortina. He and ace mechanic Ray Stone knew the engine, the running gear and the suspension, so, more of the same – only in a smaller and lighter form – made sense.

Meanwhile, Fahey’s Lotus Cortina was in the capable hands of Ron Rutherford and Ran Macdonald (sharing the car) and it had monster power after Ron, a capable engine builder, increased capacity to nearly 1900cc.

November 1965 and from out of nowhere David Simpson appeared in his Anglia Twin Cam and pretty much won as he liked. Opening lap here, and Rod Coppins is leading with Simpson tucked in behind and already a gap has opened up on Ivan Segedin opposite locking the Mustang, with Kerry Grant’s A40 and a quick Mini Cooper completing the picture. Simpson was getting the feel of racing in such company, and once past Coppins he cleared out. Nobody had been expecting it (Photo Euan Sarginson)

Rod Coppins was back for his second year in the Mk II Zephyr-Corvette with more power and chassis tweaks, Lindsay Neilson was building a Mk III Zephyr-Corvette using the running gear from the ex-Red Dawson Willys coupe.

Frank Radisich had built the Jaguar-engined Humber 80, while Neil Doyle’s Anglia-Corvette looked like the Beast from the Black Lagoon with its scoops, bulges and stack exhausts.


To read this and other articles on the Classic Driver website please click here to sign up for a membership. Once a member and logged in, you'll be able to read all the articles on the site. If you are already a paid up member, please log in, using the Log In link in the menu at the top of the page.