New Zealand's tuffest cars make a cloud of tyre smoke that can be seen from across the Tasman

Photographers: Alastair Ritchie

New Zealand’s tuffest cars make a cloud of tyre smoke that can be seen from across the Tasman

OVER the past few years, Aussie rego rules have been slowly moving towards making it a bit easier to keep your cool modified car on the road. But if the convoy of awesome rides heading south from Auckland to Hampton Downs for this year’s Chrome Expression Session was any indication, it seems that New Zealand is still way ahead in fighting the good fight for petrolhead freedom. We spotted everything from big-tyre Camaros and Mustangs with sidepipes and engines hanging through the bonnet, to hacked-up and cable-tied-together drift cars that would be taken off Aussie roads quicker than you can say: “I’m still gonna send it!”

Chrome NZBut nobody batted an eyelid as the mismatched but awesome convoy rolled down the Southern Motorway. Let’s not mince words, Chrome is an event very much in the mould of Powercruise: More than 700 entrants roll out of the pits and onto the newly renovated Hampton Downs circuit for some cruising with their mates that inevitably turns into an occasional roll race.

Hampton Downs is an enormous venue, which allows the action to be broken up across several areas that all run at the same time. Entrants have a choice of chucking laps of the track, getting sideways in the drifting area, testing their skills in the gymkhana or belting rubber from rim in the burnout competition.

The burnouts were a bit of an eye-opener, especially for an Aussie fan that lives and breathes the excitement of the Burnout Masters series. Sure, New Zealand drivers are stepping up their game with more dedicated burnout vehicles – they even sent a team to compete in Australia at Tread Cemetery and Summernats. But the clear majority of competitors at Chrome were still just regular guys and girls cutting loose in their street cars. One of the tougher vehicles in the line-up will be familiar to Summernats 30 attendees. SAMBOS, the black FD RX-7 with 6/71-blown LS1 driven by Ian ‘Sambo’ Smith, was in great form and did the finest impression of Aussie skids we’ve seen on NZ soil.

Chrome NZAnd then there were the rotors. Imagine any skid comp in Oz only with all the Commodores replaced by RX-3s or RX-7s and you’ll begin to understand the prevalence of the rotary in the NZ car scene. They were everywhere, and, to be frank, it seemed as if the rotor guys were having more fun than anyone else. There was even a rotary-only cruise session where the fans of Felix could roll around with the rest of their kind – a nod not only to the sheer number of triangle-engined entries, but also to the organiser, Azhar Bhamji of 4 & Rotary Nationals event fame’s own Mazda proclivities. When asked, Azhar said he was a massive rotor fan, but that Chrome was for everyone.

“It’s a very diverse event. It’s all about having fun and showcasing what you’ve got. It’s about getting the whole scene together – the V8s, the imports, the classics, the hot rods – in one place and having a good time.”

Chrome NZ1. It’s been eight years since Rick Brenchley of the Gisborne American Car Club brought his killer ’54 Chev in from Fresno to tow his vintage caravan. He made the trek to Hampton Downs in the car to watch his mates burn some rubber

Chrome NZ2. David Bea from Hamilton fronted at Chrome with this blown big-block-powered ’65 Chevy Impala coupe, and, while transmission woes cut his event short, he still had a beaut time. “It’s fun to drive and it’s a bit of a handful from time to time,” he said. “I’ll have to get the trans looked at, but what can you do?”

Chrome NZ3. Dan Turner’s 2003 Toyota Altezza was packing a Lexus 1UZ-FE with an M112 blower off a Mustang. “It started out as a naturally aspirated 1UZ, but a couple of years later I wanted some more power out of it,” said Dan. “I just bolted the supercharger on about eight months ago and had dramas with belt slip, but then I went to a Gilmer set-up and it hasn’t failed since. It’s pushing the limits of the engine and it’s at 280rwkW at the moment and 540Nm. It gets along all right. This is my first time at Chrome and it’s real good. Well organised, with a lot of track time and lots of different events to get into”

Chrome NZ4. Steven Conder has owned his VL for 17 years. It started life as a six-cylinder auto, but a lot has changed. “I put a standard 5.0L in it, but I keep wanting to change things every six months,” he said. “The motor is a VN 304 with H-beams, a stud girdle, Group A injection and two ProChargers. The ’box is a T56 six-speed and the diff is a 9in. The rear is mini-tubbed and it’s got the Walkinshaw kit – you either like them or you hate them, and I like them. It’ll never be finished; I’m always doing something with it”

Chrome NZ5. Stella and Steven Dean were the personification of cool kids in their SC Performance-prepared Kwikid Kustoms mini-rod

Chrome NZ6. Karl Ristic, Jason Curran, Leslie Ranger, Carl Lawson and Allan Morris made up the Mukka’s Inc Car Cub contingent at Chrome. The club had some serious metal on hand, including a V8 Cortina, a blown V8 EH and a tough XA Falcon

Chrome NZ7. Local legend Tony Marsh was kind enough to take our photographer for a couple of laps in his Mount Shop XF Falcon race car, but he had more than one toy at Chrome. “The XF is a Targa car and it has a 400ci Yates-headed Ford with a Jerico gearbox and a Ford 9in. The other car is a drift car, so they’re very different in the way they’re set up”

Chrome NZ8. This Mk5 Cortina looks like a well-maintained survivor riding on a nice set of wheels, but looks can be deceiving. Owner Christine Foster has jammed a 355ci small-block Chev between the rails, accompanied by a Turbo 400 trans and Detroit Locker-equipped 9in. “It’s just a mild motor at the moment,” Christine said. “I’ve got another one in the build, but it goes alright for what it is. It’s all legal and certified, and a lot of people think it looks stock-standard sitting in the car park – and that was the idea”

Ford XA FAlcon9. Karl Ristic’s XA Falcon is running a 408ci Clevo stoker, Top Loader, 9in and a couple of hundred horsepower worth of spray. “I bought it when I was 18 off my grandfather, who bought it brand new. I just modified it over the years,” he said. “It’s all shed-built – I panelled it, painted it and did the engine at home in the shed. The paintjob is about 10 years old now”

Mazda rotary10. Anyone who pulls a rotary out of a Mazda and replaces it with a V8 is alright by us, especially when it’s a blown and injected LS. Ian ‘Sambo’ Smith’s FD RX-7 took out the skid comp at Chrome with a stonking burnout. “It’s a dedicated burnout car, and it’s had the LS1 in it for about 18 months. Before that it had a small-block Chev. I didn’t want to be the same as everyone else, which is why I did it”

Chrome NZ11. You’ve got to love a bit of Kiwi ingenuity. Simon Bethune hauled his 1970 Triumph 2500 up from Napier. “It’s the first time I’ve brought it out since I finished it,” he said. “It’s been a 10-year project; my grandfather used to have one so I managed to get a chassis cheap and one thing led to another. I wanted to keep it British, so it has a 3.9L Rover V8. It has a Toyota W58 gearbox and a Quaife LSD rear end. I shaved all the seams and the fuel cap and painted it a nice subtle colour. I’m here just to get the car out of the shed and cruise”

Chrome NZ12. Zara Naidu of the Street Players Car Club fat-armed it through the pits in her R35 GT-R

Chrome NZ13. Jay Maka’s big-block Torana was a weapon to be reckoned with at Chrome, taking out both the drag racing and powerskid events. “It’s a little Torana that I run in Super Sedan,”

Photographers: Alastair Ritchie