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Great New Zealand Specials from the '40s '50s '60s and maybe '70s


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#1 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 01:30

I will start with the "Stanton Corvette"

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 02:51

I certainly hope you don't have to begg...

Thanks for starting this, it will be interesting alongside the Aussie one. And if we could get the Yanks to start one too, it'd be great!

#3 GD66

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 06:40

Tell you what. Whenever this subject comes up, aside from the Lycoming, the Beggs etc and all the allcomers saloons, one sports car is constantly overlooked which defied description but flew, Jamie Aislabie's SID Mk 1, with IIRC, a Jaguar engine. The details elude me now, but as a young bloke, this beast opened my eyes a time or two.... :eek:

#4 Vicuna

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 17:48

Was the Jag supercharged at some point?

In any event, I believe it was eventually replaced by a 289 ci Ford Mustang engine.

What about the Heron-Daimler? A car so low it was nearly flat!

#5 David McKinney

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 18:10

My personal Top Ten would be based on each car's competitiveness in major national races, so ignores sportscars. Not surprisingly, most of the cars on my list are from the early ’50s, when homebuilt cars had only production sportscars, and a handful of those pesky little 500cc cars, as opposition. In terms of success at the national level the NZ-built cars suffered along with everything else once people started to import pre-war GP cars.

1) Taken chronoloigcally, first would be Hec Green’s Wolseley Special, the car to beat for the first two or three years of national motor racing after the war

2) The Jackson Special, winner of first NZ Grand Prix (Ohakea 1950) and a familiar competitor in a variety of guises throughout the remainder of the 1950s. McMillan later built a rear-engined car but this was not a great success

3) The V8-Chevrolet, which first appeared at the same time as the Jackson. Built by George Smith, it was more successful in the later ’50s - and through several upgrades - in the hands of Frank Shuter

4) The GeeCeeEss. The winningest NZ car of the early ’50s, with a string of titles not only in road racing but also in beach races, hillclimbs and sprints in an era when such events were as important as anything else. Could run wheel to wheel even with the P3 Alfa Romeo until that car passed into the hands of Ron Roycroft

5) RA Vanguard. Another Hec Green/Jack Brewer creation, a rear-engined car of advanced specification which first appeared in 1951 and proved capable of winning even against the pre-war GP cars

6) RA. Next in the line. An improvement on the RA Vanguard, dating from 1954 and also rear-engined, but in this case constructed almost entirely by Green and Brewer - the engine, gearbox, suspension, even the wheels. The engine and gearbox later went into a new RA in 1960, but this car was never nationally competitive.

7) The Stanton Special. Also from 1954. Also rear-engined - by 6-litre DeHavilland Gypsy. Not much chop on the circuits, but sucessful at a national level in hillclimbs, and internationally in straight-line sprints as holder of several Commonwealth records

8) Thomas Special. A bit of a cheat, in that it started life as a 1923 Brooklands Marlborough-Thomas, and was never a top contender in national races, but has a fascinating history during which it went through many changes of engine (Chevrolet 6, various Ford V8s) and more body changes and name changes until it was finally retired from action 40 years after its birth

9) Lycoming Special. More than any of the above, a match for the leading imports in NZ races, in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Won the national sportscar-racing and and hillclimb championships three times, and further demonstrated its versatility as a comfortable means of getting to and from venues all over the country.

10) The Stanton-Corvette. The only car apart from the Lycoming which could consistently run with the best, in its case 2.5 Climax-powered cars. Built as a circuit racer, and actually several different cars. First appeared (in 1960) as a front-engined single-seater, then as a rear-engined single-seater and ultimately as a sportscar, in which form it was a contender for national honours for several years

Without specifically trying to avoid parochiality, I have ended up with five North Island cars and five from the other side of Cook Strait.
Just outside the list, again in terms of the impression they made in national road racing, would be the Chevrolet-powered Normac Specials (especially the first and the third), the CJ Sapphire, the Citroen Special, both Ransley-Rileys and two more Green/Brewer babies, RA II (which used Singer Le Mans, Vauxhall 14 and Zephyr engines in turn and ended its life as the 260M Zephyr Special) and RA III (Fiat 1100, Chevrolet, Fiat again, Vauxhall and Lycoming). Although first raced in 1950, both these cars were still effective in the ’60s.
The V8 specials built by Tucker, Roper, Jacobsen and Stuart never made much impact in national road racing, though the last two especially were pretty much unbeatable in beach racing into the ’70s, as was the newer Stuart-Corvette.
A definitive list could also contain some of the 500s and sportscars (notably the Herons and, of course, the Beggs) and among the scores of Ford 10 specials I would single out the RAL.
And yes, Vicuna, the Sid Mk1's engine was supercharged at one point

#6 Michael Clark

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 20:15

My favourite wouldn't meet David's criteria but there is something about the Capella that I love. It is another Zephyr (I guess 2553cc straight 6) powered car - like the ACE and 260M - but came much later.

Like over 10 years later. Grant Clearwater, formerly of Gorrre, owns it and races it and if it ever comes up for sale...

#7 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 20:25

Of course this thread is showing how dreadfully deprived Kiwis were in those early times...

Not enough money in the economy for anyone to take any photos, despite how interesting some of these cars sound.

#8 Michael Clark

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 20:28

Iguess the McRae twin-cams qualify.

They hit all the right buttons - kiwi made, beautiful and successful

#9 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 21:07

Can you really count a car that was something like what a Rennmax was in Australia, except a one-off?

With attributes simply copied from Brabhams, Lolas and Lotuses of the day, I don't see these as Specials at all. But I do see a good need to go into further detail of the RA. Engine, gearbox etc made by the builders?

#10 onelung

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 21:42

With acknowledgement to Warbirds Over New Zealand - the Stanton Special: but enlighten me please ... is that a supercharger I see lurking in the background? What an exciting device this must be!
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#11 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 21:49

I have to agree! That's a Special!

Something to raise the hairs on the back of the neck... to hear thundering through the distant parts of the circuit and to imagine sliding around the hairpin on full noise. Give us more!

#12 onelung

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 22:08

And again, acknowledgement to Warbirds Over New Zealand - cropped from a grid shot. If all that Gypsy Major (and supercharger?) behind isn't enough, we have the dreaded Schwingen Axles? ... mein gott!
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#13 David McKinney

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 22:16

Originally posted by Ray Bell
to hear thundering through the distant parts of the circuit....

Not so much thundering as chuffing - one exhaust stroke per lamp-post, they used to say :)

#14 David McKinney

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 22:17

Originally posted by Michael Clark
I guess the McRae twin-cams qualify

Only the first one was a contender at Gold Star level, and then only for one season
Although I didn't say so, I tend to factor in length of national-level competitiveness

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 22:32

Originally posted by David McKinney
Not so much thundering as chuffing - one exhaust stroke per lamp-post, they used to say


But still noisy...

I'll let John Medley tell you about a car we had here called 'Puff'!

Do we have more details on that home-brewed engine and gearbox?

#16 David McKinney

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 23:05

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Do we have more details on that home-brewed engine and gearbox?

Not easily accessible - I'll see what I can find tomorrow

#17 Michael Clark

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 23:52

Originally posted by David McKinney

Only the first one was a contender at Gold Star level, and then only for one season


The second one (the black car) assisted it's builder to 2nd in the 1969/70 National Formula championship. OK the first one (the red car) won that championship in 1968/69 but the black car did well once it was finished.

Also, the capacity increased from 1.5 to 1.6 but because Graham was overseas, he never knew. Did the competiton all have 1600cc in 1969/70?

And would the black car have gone that much quicker with 1600cc anyway?

Who knows but I still think the black one was pretty good.

It wasn't used much at Gold Star level because the driver, who won the 1969/70 Gold Star, had some F5000s at his disposal.

#18 onelung

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 00:49

Just had a thought re the Stanton Special .. if it's a Gipsy Major donk, then it has been inverted for the car, as in aircraft the Majors were "sump up" ... from the Gipsy III onwards the engines were crank up to give a higher thrust line, more prop-to-ground blade clearance, and improved visiblity.
I see, BTW, that there is a newish suburb of Christchurch "Stanton Park", named after the two brothers.

#19 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 09:55

Still not able to post photos yet but for a look at some of the Stuart Specials go to

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#20 Ray Bell

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 10:34

Originally posted by Peter Leversedge
Still not able to post photos yet but for a look at some of the Stuart Specials go to http://peterleversedge.blogspot.com


Why can't you post photos, Peter?

#21 David McKinney

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 12:27

Another shot of the ‘Cropduster’
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#22 maoricar

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 14:53

A very evocative shot of the early Stanton Special, illustrating the instinctive, rather than educative efforts of most NZ ( and I imagine Australian) builders. However 'back in the day' motor mechanic apprentices learned to weld and were trained on a variety of small machine shop equipment.

Few 'special' builder had any formal engineering/design credentials, yet they managed to produce reasonably competitive vehicles by using what they had access to--scrap metal, war surplus parts and whatever seemed to fit from their local wreckers yard.....a veritable hotbed of Bert Munros in fact

If you wanted to race cars in NZ, you seldom had to go far. Most weekends during the season one could compete, seldom having to drive more than 100 miles. There were numerous chances to put one's vehicle ( and driving ability) to the test.

The number of 'specials' must have been quite extensive., . I'm unsure if Doug Bremner's Corvair powered VW would qualify, but certainly another's VW, powered by a Zephy 6cyl ,where the back seat should have been, might. But I think that a Papatoetoe used car dealer's all wheel drive 'Humpy' Holden, Jaguar powered with a modified Vitesse rear end in place of the steering assy, might also qualify. It's a fine line between a car, extensively modified from its factory configuration, but using original looking chassis and body, to a ground up creation....the Lycoming probably being the arch typical example of the latter.

Bill Stone used to put the fear of God into his neighbors in Pukekohe East, with an early 20's based Fiat bare chassis, invertes bath-tub as a bonnet and wooden spacers for the Chevrolet wheels, although I'm unsure if this was actually ever raced.....legally.
His cousin, Colin Lea managed to procure a DeHavilland Moth type engine too. There were plans for a 'special' based upon this engine, but again, I doubt that it came to fruition.

#23 David McKinney

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 16:45

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Do we have more details on that home-brewed engine and gearbox?

Can’t tell you much more...
Green had the block for the RA engine cast locally in Christchurch, and built his own DOHC head and camshafts. The only bits he didn’t make were the crankshaft and pistons, which were Vanguard. Twin ignition and four SU carburettors were used.
Front suspension was by a system of rubber bands in tension, and there was a fairly high-pivot swing-axle arrangement at the back, which by all accounts made handling truly evil. The car ran 13in wheels - smaller than was usual at the tim - and used aircarft drum brakes.

#24 Ray Bell

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 18:40

Just goes to show...

People had a lot of time on their hands before the introduction of television!

Thanks David, if you or anyone else can find more on it I'd be delighted to know.

#25 David McKinney

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 20:12

The problem with displaying photos of NZ’s greatest specials is that most of the images I have from the time they were in their prime are copyright, though I have some taken more recently.

The Jackson Special
The image below was taken in 1985 when any resemblance to the original had long been built out of it
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The V8-Chevrolet
The picture below is again a more recent one (1966), and the car is again in vastly different form from the original
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#26 Ray Bell

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 20:27

We've just got to get Donn and Roger on here...

Surely they would have plenty of pics?

#27 David McKinney

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 23:12

I know who Donn is - he doesn't have many old photos (if any)
But who's Roger?

#28 Huw Jadvantich

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 00:06

Terry Marshall has a book of his photos out this year ready for christmas; I think its called 'Looking back'

#29 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 00:06

David the photo of the "Edelbrock Special" taken in 1966 looks to me to be taken at Raupuna and if it is 1966 it would be Frank Shuter in the NZ Specials Feature Race [ which I was in myself ] and was most likely the last race Frank drove in. If taken at a later date it would be Rod Shuter. If taken before 1966 it would most likely be Frank Shuter Jnr.

#30 Ray Bell

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 00:20

Originally posted by David McKinney
I know who Donn is - he doesn't have many old photos (if any)
But who's Roger?


Or is it 'Rodger'?

Donn's brother, who raced a Mini and accompanied him on at least one of his trips to Australia for the Tasman.

#31 Michael Clark

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 02:13

Originally posted by Huw Jadvantich
Terry Marshall has a book of his photos out this year ready for christmas; I think its called 'Looking back'



In fact the Auckland book launch is this evening!

#32 David McKinney

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 07:27

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Or is it 'Rodger'?

I wondered if that's who you meant
Don't think I ever saw him with a camera though
Donn's magazine had the benefit of an excellent photographer in the form of the late Jack Inwood, so could leave the that side of things to him and concentrate on the reporting. Jack's archive was sold many years ago

#33 Ray Bell

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 07:30

I think it was the '65 series, though it might have been the '66 when I spent a lot of time with both of them...

Donn, of course, I met at other times. But it's now at least 40 years since I last saw him. Surely he'd have accumulated some pics, however?

You Kiwis have a responsibility to get him onto this forum.

#34 hatrat

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 10:40

Here are a couple of photos of the GeeCeeEss

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One of the A40 Special

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#35 David McKinney

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 10:47

Nice stuff :up:
In spite of what I said earlier, I have several shots of the GeeCeeEss but didn't want to post them as they were all with that non-original nose as in your last photo
When does the A40 pic date from? And who's the driver?

Returning briefly to the Cropduster - it also ran with a fibreglass body on occasion
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#36 thunder427

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 10:58

David, New zealands "build your own Sports Car" the Mighty 'Mistral' fibreglass kit car,the concept was introduced into NZ from England,(My uncle was a salesrep for the original Importer,I think the may have sold Fibreglass product in the South Island out of Christchurch) How many of these would Qualify as "Specials",My buddy in the 'Teen Years' Dave Lester (RIP) from Christchurch had a 'Super Quick 1600 Humber 80 powered Mistral,probably the 'cause of my Hair lose !!!...................I would pretty much bet that photo was at one of the 'Flying Kilo' events at Tram Road at the Back of Wigram Airforce Base..........Am I Close ??

#37 fines

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 11:06

Originally posted by David McKinney
Returning briefly to the Cropduster - it also ran with a fibreglass body on occasion
Posted Image

I NEVER thought I would hear myself saying something like this, but it looks much better this way!!! :o

#38 thunder427

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 11:33

fines,I totally agree,lets see more of this configuration...I was aprox 10/11 years old when it first appeared in this disguise.....to me it was like something straight out of my 'Eagle' comic,something that 'Dan Dare' would drive...real 'Space age'...I wrote on some other 'Thread' the 'Joy' of standing half way down 'Tram Road,in an empty paddock waiting and watching for the Stanton Special to go by,plus after the meeting my Father would Take me in 'Tow' and do the 'Rounds' talking to the 'Drivers' as they were 'All' in the "'Car Game' so to speak, ........the funny part in my previous'Thread',when discussing 'Tram Road',I was suddenly reminded of one of 'Life' simple pleasures from the past...My Mums 'FRESH', Egg and Bacon Pie, hidding under a 'tea towel',in a 'Cane' basket with a bottle of 'RED' cordial ,in the Boot of my Dad's car, Hot days were 'Hell'..warm Red Cordial............no vendors in those day's,most meetings were over by aprox 2o'clock,as the road had to be re-opened to the 'Public'...........plus the 'Pub's' shut at 6o'clock...................when was this !!??

#39 275 GTB-4

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 12:05

Originally posted by David McKinney
In spite of what I said earlier, I have several shots of the GeeCeeEss but didn't want to post them as they were all with that non-original nose as in your last photo


David..please don't even, ever (for a minute) think about not posting such an evocative image :evil: :wave:

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#40 thunder427

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 12:49

Peter leversedge, may remember the 'Exacts',Frank Shuter was a Christchurch 'Character'/folk hero ( a lot like australias Stan Jones)whom opperated a mechanical Garage/Service Station, owned a 4 door Cord and from memory used to go to the 'States' on a Regular basis bring back the latest ' Flathead' speed equipment from the likes of 'Isky..Edelbrock' etc he then would make patterns of the 'NEW' parts and cast them locallr with SHUTER cast in them (I still have my 'polished' twin carb SHUTER manifold) he also cast a lot of v8 60 parts for the 'Speedway' guys.............his Son (RIP)Franky Jnr took up Speedway 'solo' bikes to some success both in NZ and 'overseas', his other son Rod Shuter ( better Known as 'Sod Ruter',boys will be boys !!) and I were 'great' mates.......so one night we have a 'party' at the 'Shuter' family home (Frank had passed away at this point in time) we had the 44gal drum with the Bonfire thing happening when we ran out of 'wood'...there's stacks of 'wood' on the shelves in the back shed somebody subjested, you guessed it ,in went all the paterns for the 'Speed' equipment..............top night!!......................last heard the Rod was still living in Seattle/ USA, would love to catch up if any body has an adress the could 'Pm' me...............regards427

#41 David McKinney

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 12:56

Originally posted by thunder427
How many [Mistrals] would Qualify as "Specials"

Impossible to say.
The trouble was you could buy a Mistral chassis and body and put your own bits in which would not qualify as a 'special' in my book. It would be a Mistral.
Or you could buy a Mistral body and put on your Ford 8 (or whatever) chassis - still not a pukka 'special', but a Ford 8 (or whatever).
But some people built their own chassis with whatever engine and a Mistral body, and I'd say they were specials.

I would pretty much bet that photo was at one of the 'Flying Kilo' events at Tram Road at the Back of Wigram Airforce Base..........Am I Close ??

Sorry, Thunder, you just lost your money - you're not even within 200 miles :lol:
The photo was taken after the brothers had sold the car to Charlie Bensemann, and was shot at the Renwick road races (near Blenheim)

#42 David McKinney

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 12:59

Originally posted by 275 GTB-4
David..please don't even, ever (for a minute) think about not posting such an evocative image

Sorry, 275, I can't bring myself to do it
Perhaps if no-one else had come up with the real thing my arm could have been twisted, but to my mind the last GeeCeeEss picture is not the GeeCeeEss :)

#43 275 GTB-4

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 13:08

Originally posted by David McKinney

Sorry, 275, I can't bring myself to do it
Perhaps if no-one else had come up with the real thing my arm could have been twisted, but to my mind the last GeeCeeEss picture is not the GeeCeeEss :)


David...counciliing...counciliing..it is avaliable...wander down and get some :smoking:

#44 thunder427

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 13:10

David; OK where do I send the money,just that the 'wire' fence in the background looked pretty simular to those running along Tram Rd..."a fool and his money" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#45 David McKinney

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 13:15

I know
And the foothills of the "Southern Alps" in the background wouldn't have helped you either
But it's not Morrie Stanton's crash-helmet, and the driver is clearly much younger ;)

#46 David McKinney

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 15:53

Two of the Lycoming, the first in 1963, when it was still in close to original form, the second in sportscar trim (and with wider wheels) in 1966
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#47 David McKinney

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 15:54

Three Stanton-Corvette manifestations
First in rear-engined single-seater form (1962)

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As a sportscar (1966)
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In final sportscar guise (1969)
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#48 Rob Miller

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 18:10

Re the Cropduster and the Stanton-Corvette

It seems that you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear after all. :love:

#49 David McKinney

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 18:20

The Stanton Special (Cropduster) and the Stanton-Corvette were different cars

#50 hatrat

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 19:15

David, the A40 Special photo was taken around 1964 during the John Curtis ownership period. Photo location is unknown but I presume it is in the Auckland region - it doesn't look like a hillclimb venue.

It is just after the front suspension was converted from a solid beam to split beam. In this configuration it was before John Curtis' re-build so apart from the front suspension and lack of a Bugatti gearbox (which Chris replaced) it was very similar to when Chris Amon had it. This was basically the style it was in for the period 1956 (following Bruce McLaren's re-build for Dave Litchenstein after Herb Gilroy's crash) until the early 1970s when it fell into disrepair.

Both the GeeCeeEss and A40 Special still get regular workouts (although the A40 is still a bit of a "dog" to drive).