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Thread: New Zealand ShellSport Saloon Series 1978 - 1985

  1. #1

    New Zealand ShellSport Saloon Series 1978 - 1985

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    In early 1977, Motorsport New Zealand announced there would be some major upheavals taking place within the New Zealand ShellSport Saloon Car championship, in which an engine cap of 2,000cc would be introduced. As popular as the big-banger V8s and screaming quad-cam V6s were with the punters, car numbers since the early ‘70s had been a problem, and there was a heavy reliance on international teams bolstering the grids. The 1976/77 Saloon Car Championship had just two cars which entered every round, in Jack Nazers Victor Chevy, and Bill Leckie’s V8 Capri. There was a fuel crisis happening, fuel restrictions, and these cars had become too expensive to build and maintain, and there was a dwindling number of people prepared or able to make the commitment to them.

    Shell Oil continued their support through their ShellSport brand which had been in place since the 1976 season, but almost everything else about the 1978 ShellSport series would be different to what had gone before, including the drivers competing at the head of the field. There was a maximum engine size limit of 2,000cc, but there would also be a complicated sliding scale allowing the smaller capacity cars to run lighter than those nearing the maximum limit.

    Several of the small capacity cars from the old unlimited ShellSport championship would continue on, but there would also be a number of new cars built for the new series. The look of the ShellSport series was fitting for the period; wide, small diameter wheels bulging from within heavily radiused guards that were housed by neat wheel-arch flares, tinted perspex windows, belly-rubbing ride-heights, large front and rear spoilers, colourful paint schemes, and the frenzied racket of dozens of high-pitched, high-revving small capacity motors.

    The ShellSport series was notable as being something of a breakthrough in the popularity of Japanese cars in New Zealand motorsport, as a large number of Datsuns and Toyotas, plus a few Mitsubishi’s and Honda’s, waged battle against the traditionally popular Ford Escorts.

    Bryce Platt, driving an Escort, won the inaugural ShellSport championship, after a season long brawl with Reg Cooks Datsun Cherry in which just 2 points separated the pair at seasons end. Cook won the first of three ShellSport championships the following year, using three different Datsuns to gain the title. He won again in 1980, and ’81, before reducing his involvement in the series. Escort driver Roy Harrington won the 1982 championship, after clawing back the early season points leader Warren Burt, in a 1,300cc Toyota Starlet, while Harrington again won the championship in 1983 despite Cook being in charge early on. Tony Marsh, driving a Datsun 1200 coupe, won the 1984 championship, while Warren Steel took the title in 1985, with a four door Datsun Bluebird.

    Following the ’85 season, ShellSport withdrew from the championship, to be replaced by Total Coolwool, and along with the new sponsor came a change of engine rules, with a new 2,500cc maximum capacity limit. Geoff Burrows built up a Mazda RX7, and Kieran Wills imported a Group C RX7 from Australia, and these two cars proceeded to dominate what was left of the older ShellSport cars which found themselves quickly running out of breath. The new-look series didn’t catch on. Burrows won most of the races, which were usually predictable drawn-out affairs, and within 12 months the whole thing crumbled.

    Fortunately though, racing enthusiasts are gaining an appreciation for the old ShellSport cars, and more of these are being found and restored, and racing once again at historic events.

    Photo by Nigel Watts

  2. #2
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    Fabulous close racing, remember well Tony Marsh in the beautiful Black 1200 coupe, was that the ex Cook/Grant Aitken car? Vaguely recall and I think its shown in one of Nigels pics an Avenger cannot remember who was driving it. Think it was from the South though.

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    Also remember Reg Cook winning Ashley Forest in that Sunny, 83 or 84? maybe both

  4. #4
    Good memory. Wayne Murdoch had the Avenger.

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    Name:  Pukekohe - 84.jpg
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    Oh and this is Cook in the Cherry and Aitken in the 1200

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    Not only jappers , escorts and avengers , but the occasional BMC too . This is the ex Brian Hartley shellsport clubman GT that l owned for a number of years after l purchased it from him ( the less said about that deal the better too ) . l only ever did one shellsport race with it at baypark and this is a picture of me and some helpers changing from wets to slicks in the pits . Possibly taken during 1981 or thereabouts , car was fitted with an arden 8 port engine that l had built myself but it only lasted one race before blowing a head gasket . This particular weekend the engine had only been fitted the night before we left Taranaki ( some things never change ) and we'd left the wheelnuts for the wets behind in our rush to get away . Ended up going to a garage where a friendly mechanic let us use his workshop to modify the wheels so we could use them . The nearest drill bit we could find in his drill assortment was a masonry bit * rolls his eyes @ the thought * but it worked . The car was very light and had some trick stuff done to it , l used to use it in hillclimbs and sprints and l think l still might have the 0 to 1300 record at the Kaipikari road hillclimb up at Urenui in Taranaki with it .
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    John, you will know. After Collingwood sold the AMCO Mini to Warren Reid at the end of 1972, Warren converted it into a Shell Sport with a 1300 engine. We know he did some driving himself but also had Rex Hart and the Australian professional Lakis Manticas also driving. We dont know how long he continued, and he may have retired the car by 1978. Would like to know, and any pictures of that era as well would be good. We have tons of pictures of the Collingwood/Panckhusrt days 1969--1972 and lots from 1984 when we purchased the car form Jim Maud, but there is a big gap of 10 years in the middle between about 1973 and 1983 that is missing. Can you fill any of it in, ie it's Shellsport days.

  8. #8
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    Hi Gerald , unfortunately no l can't help you . My motor racing only really started mid
    70's with my doing club events and driving my cars down to Manfield to compete in club days , was never into national events that early unfortunately . l did own one other ex shellsport mini that had originally been run l believe by Fred Bailey engineering from Auckland . That car also was fitted with an arden 8 port engine and Fred sold it to Hoss Waswo from New Plymouth who campaigned it for a while in Shellsport l think before removing the crossflow engine and selling the car to a car painter named Wayne Gray from Waitara as a rolling shell . Wayne turned the car into a mini 7 ( 850 cc ) and used it for a couple of years before l bought it from him . l did several mini 7 meetings including one at baypark ( even suffered the indignity of running out of petrol in one race DOHHH ! ) but mainly l used it as a club race mini before buying the ex hartley machine . This is a pic of that car at baypark in a mini 7 race , probably about 79 or 80 .
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    Is there any film of thes in action? or is it all locked away by TVNZ with Tony Palmer dribbling nonsense, sorry commentating

  10. #10
    Tony had a passion for motorsport and we would most probably not have seen half of it if it was not for his passion. Yea he used to get excited and make comments, but I have heard worse from other tv people. Actually spent a bit of time with Tony a couple of months back at a birthday weekend, and he still looks the same. We actually talked about some off the older days and how the coverage was done with 1 or 2 cameras.
    Quote Originally Posted by seaqnmac27 View Post
    Is there any film of thes in action? or is it all locked away by TVNZ with Tony Palmer dribbling nonsense, sorry commentating

  11. #11
    Name:  Lyn Hatton Big Bertha.jpg
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    Here is a couple of Shellsport cars that I have had a bit to do with that are still racing in current South Island Classic meetings.

  12. #12
    Hello Carl, is the Escort that McNaughton ran still around.

  13. #13
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    My apologies Rod and to anyone I may have offended.

  14. #14
    No apology needed, he was excitable, but ate motorsport as much as he could, only time i can remember him not saying much was when he went for ride one day that works most times. He would have made a great politician with some of his statements.
    All good

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Carlo View Post
    Name:  Lyn Hatton Big Bertha.jpg
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Size:  192.3 KBName:  Allan Farr's Escort.jpg
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    Here is a couple of Shellsport cars that I have had a bit to do with that are still racing in current South Island Classic meetings.
    Carlo, thanks for posting these. Whats the history on the Escort?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by seaqnmac27 View Post
    Is there any film of thes in action? or is it all locked away by TVNZ with Tony Palmer dribbling nonsense, sorry commentating
    I was talking to Murray Deaker at a function for the launch of the Jackie Stewart book. He is not interested in motor sport as such, but has a tremendous respect for the sport and what it has achieved internationally, and its coaching of the young and talented. One of the things he said was that we need to be training a young presenter to help promote the sport nationally. He wondered why Tony Palmer had given up because he considered he had done a good job and liked his enthusiasm. An interesting conversation with a very interesting bloke. And what he said made a lot of sense.

  17. #17
    How many known survivors are there from this series? I know a few ended up being raced in the early years of the SS2000 series in the '90s, but now I expect people are gaining an appreciation for their ShellSport history.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by seaqnmac27 View Post
    Name:  Pukekohe - 84.jpg
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    Oh and this is Cook in the Cherry and Aitken in the 1200
    I don't know if my memory is playing tricks with me, but I thought the two CMR Datsuns were driven by Reg Cook and Robbie Francevic.

    I certainly remember my mate displaying a sign on the Hill Stand which read; 99 - 100 Change Hands.

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  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    Carlo, thanks for posting these. Whats the history on the Escort?
    Built and run by Fred Bailey then run by John Armstrong (Lombard Finance) and Allan Farr (Auto Performance) brought the car off Army in 1981 and has run it ever since, Shellsport, OSCA, South Island Endurance Series, put it away for a few years then has brought it out again to run in Classic events. I have been known to have to odd run in it too as that particular photo shows.

    Timaru was a bit of a hotbed as far as Shellsport went, Kevin Ryan with Big Bertha which a I assisted him with, Warren Burt with a selection of Corollas and Starlets, Wayne Murdoch and the Avenger along with Faraway and the Escort.

    Currently there are a few more cars or replica cars around the district, plus Grant Aitken has his car sitting above his office and John Gobbe has found and brought up somewhere around 11 -12 old Shellsport cars and is restoring all of them.

    It sure was great highly contested racing with no quarter either given or expected
    Last edited by Carlo; 07-26-2011 at 05:43 AM. Reason: stupid typing error

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Carlo View Post
    Timaru was a bit of a hotbed as far as Shellsport went, Kevin Ryan with Big Bertha which a I assisted him with, Warren Burt with a selection of Corollas and Starlets, Wayne Murdoch and the Avenger along with Faraway and the Escort.

    Currently there are a few more cars or replica cars around the district, plus Grant Aitken has his car sitting above his office and John Gobbe has found and brought up somewhere around 11 -12 old Shellsport cars and is restoring all of them.

    It sure was great highly contested racing with no quarter either given or expected
    Steve, sounds like a great article in there for the next NZCC South Island Special

    Cheers
    Lee

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