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Thread: Article: Miss Victorious

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    Article: Miss Victorious

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    This car had a relatively brief career. It raced for just three seasons. Yet, it won the New Zealand Saloon Car Championship twice! For those who saw it race, who felt the ground shake beneath its 600hp Chevy, and watched owner/driver Jack Nazer drag it by the throat as he and arch-rival Leo Leonard pounded on each other, Miss Victorious left an indelible impression. Even today, more than three decades after it last turned a wheel in anger, its still a favourite among Kiwi race fans. Nazer would slug it out with the best of them, and his popularity reached its peak with Miss Victorious.

    For Nazer, this was to be his last tilt at the NZ Saloon Car Championship, and other than a couple of years running a speedway Midget car in the early ‘80s, the Victor was the last car he raced. Having launched his racing career in 1961, behind the wheel of a ’38 Chevy coupe, Nazer worked his way through a brace of Ford Anglia’s over the next few years, culminating in a Lotus-propelled example with heavily re-worked body, chopped top, droop-snoot beak, and fastback roof, taking full advantage of the liberal NZ Allcomer rules, with which he attacked the 1967 NZ Saloon Car Championship with gusto. Ultimately, his campaign came up short. After leading the championship early, his challenge ran out of puff, as did that of every other competitor, as Robbie Franicevic got into his stride in the 427ci Galaxie powered Custaxie, which swept to victory in each of the last four races of the seven race season.

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    With the stroke of a pen, the Allcomers were assigned to the scrap heap following the ’67 season, and New Zealand adopted international Group 5 regulations instead, which were already in place throughout other parts of the world. With this, Nazer ditched the Anglia, which had suffered heavy damage in a late season shunt at Pukekohe. But fortunately the Lotus twin-cam unit up front was salvageable, and transplanted into a MkI Cortina. The Cortina’s brief career ended dramatically in a ball of flames during a nasty shunt in an endurance race at Pukekohe.

    Following the Cortina fireball incident, Jack took some time away from racing until returning in 1969 with a self-built twin-cam Escort. Fords Escort TC had proven itself to be a pretty good weapon in British Touring Car racing, and Nazers rival Paul Fahey imported himself a race ready example from Alan Mann Racing, to replace his highly successful Ford Mustang. Several other teams also armed themselves with these giant killers, including young up-and-comer Jim Richards, at the wheel of a John Willment built version. With backing from mens toiletry suppliers Cossack, Nazer made an all-out assault on the NZ Saloon Car Championship over the next two seasons, initially with Twin-cam power, then with a larger FVA, but with the extra power came increased unreliability, which blighted his challenge. Following a frustrating 1971 campaign, Nazer again opted to hang up his overalls and concentrate on his business.

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    By 1973, with the business doing well and the money rolling in, Nazer decided to have one last fling at the championship that had thus far eluded him. With Motorsport Association of New Zealand having relaxed the saloon car regulations, teams now had many more freedoms than the old Group 5 rules allowed. They could now fit any motor into any car, as long as that motor didn’t exceed 6,000cc, and could be moved back or forward within the bodyshell to better improve weight distribution. Brakes were free, as were wheel sizes. The vehicle silhouette had to remain basically standard, but flares could be added to house wider wheels, and front and rear wings could be added to increase downforce. Thus far, most teams chose to evolve their existing vehicles, rather than start afresh with a clean sheet of paper, and here presented an opportunity for someone to get a jump on the opposition with a purpose-built racer, created to take full advantage of the new regs.

    It was during a meeting with Jim Stone that the concept for Nazers ultimate challenger took its first breath. Jim, along with brother Ross, has since gone on to become one of the most successful team owners in Australian V8 Supercar racing, with Stone Brother Racing team. But back in 1973, Jim was just another young bloke looking for work, and to make a name for himself, having just returned from a multi-year stint at team McLaren in the UK as chief engineer.

    Jim set about looking for a car with exactly 102” wheelbase, to gain a happy medium between nimbleness and stability. The unlikely FD Vauxhall Victor fit the bill perfectly. Jack also purchased Neil Doyle’s Begg FM2 from which the Chevy motor with quad-Webers, suspension components and McLaren wheels would make their way onto the Victor project. Jim Carlyle would rebuild the Begg motor. They also had a larger 355ci motor assembled at McLaren Engines in the US, which produced 540hp on the dyno. A GM gearbox and diff were used, and other parts came from Frank Radisich’s McLaren M10A.

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    Initially, the car was fitted with the 5.0 litre Chevy from the Begg, with the new engine arriving early in 1975 from the US. Some basic flares were added, following the radius of the wheel openings, to cover the big McLaren wheels, while beneath the nose sat a flat-pane apron spoiler with a ducting hole in the centre to supply gulps of fresh air to the radiator, and brake-ducting inlets either side. No rear spoiler was used. For its first season, the Victor was painted white and red, with matt-black hood.

    The Victor was completed in time for the start for the 1974/75 NZ Saloon Car Championship. With expectations high, the team were brought back down to earth with a thud at the opening round. In a 1976 interview with Motorman magazine, Jack was quoted as saying, “It felt like a lethal missile. It handled atrociously and was very unstable under braking”. The new machine threw up a myriad of problems, with front suspension issues creating the braking drama’s, and the Begg Chevy produced its power all at once with a bang, so Nazer must have felt like he was riding a wild horse. To top off the weekend, a rear axle broke. Despite its adventurous first event, Jack could see the car had potential.

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    In round 2, at Ruapuna in the South Island, the team arrived a couple of days early to get in some private testing, but broke another axle on the Friday before the meeting, and were unable to source a replacement in time. Further testing prior to Round 3 at the NZ International Grand Prix meeting at Pukekohe saw the cars handling improve in leaps and bounds, with new front shocks and springs fitted, but the car was still 3sec off Jim Richards’ pole time. But at least Jack didn’t feel so much like the car was trying to kill him now. Nazer struggled in the tricky wet conditions in the first heat, finishing well down, while in the second heat, run in the dry, he hassled Allan Moffat throughout, to finish fifth. Miss Victorious failed to reach the finish in either race at Wigram, although the first of these was due to Nazer colliding with Clyde Collins’ V8 Cortina. Its next outing at the tiny Levin venue rewarded Jack with a fighting fourth place, although again he was some way off front-running pace.

    That first season saw some stiff competition for the Victor Chevy, in the form of Paul Fahey, having his last season of motorsport before retirement, with his re-engined quad-cam Capri, reigning NZ Saloon Car Champion Jim Richards in the Sidchrome Mustang, Leo Leonard, having his first season in the PDL Mustang, Don Halliday in his self-built quad-cam Capri, and Red Dawson in his ageing but powerful Z28 Camaro. Additionally, the line-up of heavy hitters further intensified with Aussies Allan Moffat and John McCormack at the international events, Moffat having his final races in his beloved ’69 Trans-Am Mustang, and McCormack with his radical new Repco powered Chrysler Charger, in which the motor sat inside the cockpit, next to McCormacks left shoulder.

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    As the season progressed, so the Victor was developed and its performances improved. The fuel-injection system from Dexter Dunlops McRae GM1 was purchased, which produced a more even power delivery. The handling improved, as did the braking. The new big-power motor arrived for the big Easter Bay Park event in early 1975, and Nazer really took the fight to Fahey, who’d proven to be the bench-mark for much of the season. Richards didn’t contest the latter rounds, instead planning to take the Mustang to Australia to race, while the PDL team chose not to enter the North Island rounds. But even still, Nazer had genuine pace at Bay Park, and despite a scare in testing when a front tyre blew under braking, Nazer was wound up tight and blasted in a 59.4 to sit alongside Fahey on the front row, who’d turned in a 58.7.

    After a third place behind Fahey and Dawson in the first heat, Nazer punched the Victor off the line to lead Dawson and Fahey in Heat 2. Fahey disposed of the Camaro quickly and set off after Nazer, but Jack was fighting hard to gain the first win in the Victor. He blew Fahey away on the straights, but struggled under braking and through the turns, and eventually the Capri driver gave him a tap in the rear, pushing him off line, and Nazer dropped to second. In Heat 3 Nazer again got away well, but the ignition cut out, and he retired.

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    At the next round, at Pukekohe, the crankshaft broke in the new motor, and Nazer reverted back to the 5.0 litre unit for the final round at Manfeild.

    Manfeild marked not only the final round of the 1975 NZ Saloon Car Championship, but also the last race of Paul Faheys career. He’d already sewn up the title. Nazer wanted desperately to beat his old adversary before he retired. Jack planted the Victor on pole, and thundered away from Heat 1 to lead, while Fahey slipped behind Dawson in the early laps. Once past, he set off after Nazer, and began gradually reducing the gap, until the Victor began slowing with distributor problems, and Fahey burst through to take another win.

    In Heat 2, Nazer again stormed away, while Fahey slipped down to sixth, as he tried to preserve the delicate rear axles on the Capri. Nazer was off and gone, while Fahey picked his way towards the front, until finally getting back up to second, to set off after the Victor. Lap by lap, the gap was reduced, until, with one tour to run, he latched onto the Victors rear bumper. Then, the Capri suddenly slowed, one of its axles had cried enough, and Nazer swooped through to gain the first victory for Miss Victorious.

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    It’d been a trying season, and Nazer finished nowhere in the points. Even Leo Leonard had beaten him to third, despite the PDL team not contesting the latter North Island races. But now the car was fast, as quick as anything out there, and Nazer had momentum heading into the off-season. The Victor underwent a major transformation. One of its biggest problems throughout the 1975 season was that it had been designed for low profile tyres, to aid in both aerodynamics and low centre of gravity. But the car handled poorly with low profile tyres, the solution finally being found when taller rear tyres were fitted. This, however, messed up the weight transfer under braking, making the car unstable each time the anchor was thrown out. So the rear floor rails were raised 3”, thus lowering the rear of the car.

    At the other end, a new clip-on front was added. Alloy hood, boot lid, and door skins were fitted, while Robin Officer, who’d created a beautiful set of box-style alloy flares for the PDL Mustang the previous season, used the same molds to craft another set for the Victor. Nazer had McLaren Engines supply him a pair of engine blocks, while Cylinder Heads West provided the heads, for Jim Carlyle to assemble. Lyn Rodgers fabricated a beautiful set of headers and exhaust system, and a stonking 600hp was the result. The whole package was finished off in a handsome two-tone red with white stripe around the mid-section, and backing from Brambles NZ Freighters.

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    The 1976 NZ Saloon Car Championship kicked off on a soggy day at Pukekohe, on October 12, 1975. Nazers main competition would be Leonard in the ageing, but rapid, PDL Mustang, and the quad-cam Capri’s of Don Halliday, and reigning Formula Ford champion Grant Walker, Walker having purchased the Fahey machine. Dawson had sold the Camaro and had purchased one of the new-generation space-frame IMSA DeKon Monza’s in the US, but this car wouldn’t appear until late December.

    Walker went into the season as favourite, given the pedigree of both car and driver, but it was Leonard who blitzed everyone in qualifying. Nazer didn’t even run a lap in qualifying, he went to check the rear brakes just prior to the session, but one of the wheels had locked on!

    Leonard comfortably won the opening heat, after Walker threw the Capri off the track trying to get past him. Nazer struggled home in fifth, with fuel pump issues. In Heat 2, Leonard retired with a broken diff, while Nazers gearbox jammed in second-gear! Thankfully, the opposition were busy self-destructing, and the Victor scraped home with the win. The team later found the engine was only running on seven cylinders in this race also!

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    In Round 2 at Bay Park, Leonard again destroyed everyone in qualifying, and was over 3sec ahead of Nazer, who was struggling with understeer. Leonard blasted away to quickly pull a gap in Heat 1, until the big blue Mustang dropped on to six cylinders, and Nazer closed in, took the lead, and the win. Nazer again took Heat 2, despite smoke plumes trailing behind the car.

    The big annual Christmas event at Bay Park wasn’t part of the Championship, but it was always a high profile event, attracting all the big stars. For the 1975 event, the organisers had managed to secure Canadian born Australian Allan Moffat, who’d just purchased one of the new DeKon Chevy Monza’s from the US, and it took a slight detour to New Zealand, on its way to its new home. Dawsons DeKon Monza also made its NZ debut at Bay Park. Much interest surrounded these machines, as they marked the first sedan race cars to be seen in New Zealand built completely from scratch as a space-frame chassis onto which a bodyshell attached, rather than the traditional road car origins which had been heavily modified for racing, as had been the case up to that point.

    Jim Richards also returned to NZ from his new home in Australia, with the Sidchrome Mustang, while McCormack was back with the Repco Charger that had so dominated in its NZ races the season before. At this event Leonard put in an extra-ordinary effort to beat Moffat in what was clearly the fastest car at the event, in all three races. Nazer, having arrived at the track early for some testing, smacked the Victor up when he ran straight into Peter Hasketts spinning Formula Ford, and he missed qualifying as a result.

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    The organisers allowed him to start the first heat in sixth, from which he finished fourth, behind Leonard, Moffat, and Richards, while in Heat 2 he went one better. In Heat 3, he finished runner-up to Leonard, taking advantage of a half-spin by Moffat. He closed right up on the PDL machine at the end, ranging alongside as they charged for the flag, but just came up short.

    On to Pukekohe, at the NZIGP meeting, and the Nazer-Leonard rivalry began to heat up. Nazer won the opening encounter after losing the lead early, but regaining it when Leonard stuck a wheel on the grass and spun the big Mustang out of contention. In Heat 2, the elbows were out as the pair fought over the same piece of tarmac, neither wanting to concede, and through the Esses on the second tour they bounced off each other, Nazer coming off second-best and retiring on the spot with a broken wheel.

    At Manfeild in horrible conditions, Leonard took pole, but Richards splashed his way to wins in both heats from Leonard, while Nazer, with ancient wet weather tyres, finished well down.

    On to the wide open spaces of Wigram, and the return of Moffat in the Monza, who took pole, and Heat 1, despite challenges from Richards and Nazer. Nazer claimed fastest lap, as he crossed the finish line right in behind the Monza. Nazer withdrew from the second heat when water was discovered in one of the cylinders.

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    At Teretonga, the team fitted an older motor, as a crack was found in one of the heads on the main motor. Still, Nazer qualified fastest, and was leading when again he and Leonard bashed into each other as they dived for the Loop, the Mustang punting the Victor in the rear, spinning it, then collecting it, and both cars speared off the track. Leonard was out on the spot, Nazer barrelled into the pits, smoke pouring from everywhere, and the team tore bits of bodywork off a tyre, and he resumed, though well down. This was following a dramatic startline shunt in which Walker inverted his Capri! Dawson became the happy benefactor of all the chaos, taking his first race win in the Monza. Nazer chased Leonard briefly in Heat 2, before thundering past the Mustang down the back straight to take the win.

    At Timaru, Leonard qualified fastest, and was leading Heat 1 when he spun, gifting the win to Nazer, who had Dawson all over him throughout. Leonard won Heat 2, from Dawson, and Nazer, who took top points for the event.

    In the wet at Ruapuna, Nazer struggled home to finish the weekend in fourth, while the next round, at Pukekohe, ultimately decided the outcome of the championship. Nazer won the opening encounter, then, in Heat 2, he and Leonard again came to blows, this time the Mustang getting fired off the track at speed, suffering heavy damage and the PDL team withdrew from the remaining rounds. They instead focused on an all-new car for the 1977 season. Dawson won the round but was too far back in the championship to trouble Nazer.

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    Nazer finally clinched the championship he’d battled so long to win, at the final round, at Bay Park. Dawson had qualified on pole, but almost immediately broke a crankshaft, and was out. Nazer cruised to victory in both heats, and became the 1976 New Zealand Saloon Car Champion.

    It had been a hard-fought season, the big-banger sedans were fast and spectacular, and the crowds loved them, but they were chronically unreliable, Miss Victorious included. But while giving its fair share of troubles, it reached the finish first on more occasions than its rivals, and, perhaps more importantly, reached the finish more times than its rivals.

    Further improvements were made to Miss Victorious over the off-season, along with the return of Nazers old sponsor, Cossack.

    For the 1977 season, the PDL team built a new mega-Mustang II, constructed from the ground up around a space-frame chassis, with 17” wide BBS wheels, the alloy block motor from PDL I, and clothed in a Mustang II body featuring a body-kit from Charlie Kemp in the US, who’d built a similar car for IMSA. Dawson had gone away and rebuilt his DeKon Monza, now fitted with fuel-injection, while reigning Castrol GTX production car champion Art McKee had imported another IMSA Monza, this car built by Grant King in the US.

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    Sadly, big-bore sedan racing in New Zealand took a major blow when Dawson spun his Monza through the infield at Manfeild in a pre-season event, and barrel-rolled it after striking a ditch. The car was destroyed, and Dawson never raced again. This was the second of two events in which Australian Frank Gardner was over with his incredible Chev Corvair. Nazer beat the Corvair once from the four matches.

    Come the season opener, at Bay Park on January 3, 1977, and it quickly became clear the new PDL machine had upped the game. Despite the addition to the grid for the first portion of the season of Richards, Tony Edmonson in the ex-McCormack Charger, and Pat Crea’s very fast V8 Cortina, all visiting from Australia, virtually every encounter was a two-car battle between Leonard and Nazer.

    Leonard broke the saloon car lap record at both Bay Park, where he won, and at Pukekohe for Round 2. He won both heats, but clunked Nazer in a non-championship race, and the PDL team decided to forego Round 3 at Manfeild, and take the car home to Christchurch for repairs. Nazer wasn’t able to capitalise at Manfeild, due to being sidelined in Heat 1 with a broken axle.

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    Leonard was back for Round 4 at Teretonga, and broke the lap record in qualifying, then won both heats. At Wigram Leonard again took pole, but spun down the field in Heat 1 while battling Nazer for the lead. Despite dropping a full 30sec to the Victor driver, Leonard absolutely gunned the wild PDL machine back through the field, and passed Nazer for the win on the final lap!

    Nazer missed the next round at Timaru, due to business commitments. The Victor was there, but he wasn’t, and Leonard cruised to victory in both heats, and held a healthy lead in the championship. Nazer made up some ground at Ruapuna, when Leonard, after gaining pole and victory in Heat 1, retired in Heat 2 when the diff failed. But that was the last time the PDL machine was seen. Bob Stewart, the team owner, decided he wanted to take the car to Australia to race, and promote his new children’s Lego style playing blocks, Torro Toys, and Nazer sailed through to win the final rounds, and take his second consecutive championship.

    Whether or not Nazer would have had the Victor rebuilt and further modified for another tilt at the title will never be known. MANZ announced following the conclusion of the 1977 season, that, due to spiralling costs and dwindling car numbers in the big-bore sedan category, a 2.0 litre maximum engine capacity would be introduced for 1978. And with that announcement, Nazers Victor, the new PDL II, and every other big-banger sedan was suddenly deemed worthless, with nowhere to race.

    That may have been the final chapter for Miss Victorious, but for the creation in early 1979 of a special Open Saloon event to be held at Bay Park, Pukekohe, and Manfeild, combining the old NZ Saloon Car Championship cars, the South Island based Open Saloon Car Association (OSCA) cars, and a couple of Australian imports, in the form of ex-pat Kiwi Jim Richards’ magnificent Falcon hardtop, and John Briggs’ ex-Dawson Chevy Monza.

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    Nazer dusted off Miss Victorious, still in its Cossack livery, as it had finished its last race almost two years earlier. However, just prior to the start of the Open Saloon series, while Jack had the motor torn down, his workshop was burgled, and thieves stole several items from the Victor, including its fuel-injection system. He borrowed a unit from fellow-racer Greg Lancaster, but there was little time to get the car dialled in, and Jack was never in the hunt.

    Miss Victorious sat around Jacks workshop for a year or so, until he decided to place it on the market. Despite there being a ground-swell of new Sports Sedan type cars being built in the early 1980s, in which the Victor would have fitted in well and been competitive, it didn’t find a buyer. Throughout 1982 and into 1983 the asking price continued to drop, until it eventually found a new owner, but it never raced again.

    Jacks Victor sat in storage for many years, still in its Cossack livery as last raced, until being recently purchased by enthusiast Craig Stacey, who displayed the un-restored car at the Chris Amon Festival at Hampton Downs in early 2011. With Miss Victorious being constructed using a number of F5000 components, and with F5000 cars having become hugely desirable again over the last two decades, it’s a wonder the car wasn’t somehow purchased and pillaged for its parts. But, thankfully, it has survived and will make the ground shake once more, when it makes its long-overdue return to the track.

    My thanks to Gerard Richards for his help with this article. Photos courtesy Brett Young, Martin Derbyshire, Craig Stacey, Phil Robinson, Gavin Evitt

  5. #5
    Sorry folks, the photos don't quite match up with the timeline of the article, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

  6. #6
    Terrific article Steve

  7. #7
    Thanks Shano, I appreciate that. Been plugging away on that one for a little while.

  8. #8
    World Champion
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    Thanks Shano, I appreciate that. Been plugging away on that one for a little while.
    Brilliant job mate, I really appreciate your efforts - love this car. Iain Eggleton shot a lot of footage of this running privately at Puke a few months ago - I'll see if he can post some footage

  9. #9
    What a fantastic article Steve.
    When are these cool articles you create to be combined in a "coffee table book"? Can I have one of the first edition, limited run and signed please?

  10. #10
    Have never seen a photo of Jack Nazer with his helmet off - anyone help with a shot from the good old days? Thanks

  11. #11
    Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed it. Rhys, I'm not too sure about that coffee table book! Could be a bit of an expensive exercise. Sounds like a fun project though.

    I'm sure there is some old tv footage floating around of Nazer and the rest of those cars from the '70s. Some of these races were televised.

  12. #12
    WOW what a great article !!!!
    Thanks !!!
    Cheers
    Tony

  13. #13
    Thanks Tony, glad you enjoyed it. Its nice to bring all the info about that car together in one place.

  14. #14
    Great article Steve, (last photo) thats Jack standing in front of car with his usual hat on. I am certain Jack actually went on and played with Yatchs for a while, racing i believe one called "Jesse James" in Auckland and Coastal Classic stuff. Jack shifted to Mairangi Bay years back and believe he also likes to chase a little white ball around a bit.

  15. #15
    Journeyman Racer
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    I echo the above comments on your great article! A lot I didn't know until I read it. Many thanks!

  16. #16
    Weekend Warrior
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    Wow, that last photo is great! I'm not sure what the new owner has in mind for this beast but it almost seems a shame to repaint the body, it looks perfect how it is, in its 'as last raced' condition.....

  17. #17
    Agree ! At no stage in its' life did the car ever have a groomed, show-car finish, meticulously-aligned panels, or even a glossy, lustrous paint job. Purpose-built, thundering weapon, and great to see it has survived.

  18. #18
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    One little piece you missed in its history Steve. lol. Back in the day when I was just a teenager hanging out at the Stone Bros BP servo in Tuakau with my brother (where the car was based at the time) , my brother was regularly running his E49 down the Meremere drag strip and they were looking for someone to match race against Allan Lim in his Mk1 Escort/Chev drag car (Quartermaster) at their next street meet. My big bro is an old friend of Ross and Jimmy which is how I came to be there and he spoke to them about the possibility of Miss Victorious taking on Quartermaster. Not sure how long it took them to talk Jack into it but the result was that she was at the next street meeting for a 3 race match up. I remember her racing against QuarterMaster but not who won. I will ring my bro and ask if he can remember. Ok, rang Keith and he recalls that she won all her runs over the day as well as the match race with Allan Lims Quartermaster. Ran consistent 10's for the quarter. Monsieur Lim was not a happy market gardener that day.

  19. #19
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    Circa 76 at Pukekohe. Grant Walker in the ex Fahey Capri.




    The Lancaster Victor mentioned in the article

  20. #20
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