Someone bought an Alpine A110 race car from a guy in England and imported it to NZ. This car is a beauty. At the start of its 1st Targa Rally I stood at this car with my jaw hanging open. I think it is one of the most impressive cars I've ever seen. Unfortunately it only made it to the first Special Stage where it overheated and blew a gasket. The 2nd year I got myself involved by joining the service crew for this car. The motor was rebuilt by a Race engine builder but again it only lasted until the morning of the 2nd day when it ran bearings. We rented a car trailer and went back to this engineering works and helped them put a standard 16TS engine together and got the car back on the road the next morning after an all-nighter. The car finished the Rally but wasn't recognized because of the 5 or 6 stages that we missed. It wasn't competitive either because of the stock motor it was running.

The owner contacted me and asked me if I would build him an engine for the next year's Targa. Not knowing if this was an honour or opportunity I accepted the offer. This outfit is much more professional than I was used to. There is the car preparer, Brett, the engine builder, myself, and auto electrician etc.

The engine was delivered to my house and I started stripping the motor. I noticed many faults as time went on and was quite disappointed with what I came across. With all my tricks applied to this engine it was collected and went down to the engine dyno. When fitted I was called in to check for oil pressure, set timing and start the engine. It was instantly taken up to 4000rpm to work harden the new surface on the cut camshaft and left there for about 30 minutes, then 5000rpm for another 20 minutes and then 6000rpm for another 20minutes. The engine was now run in. Then we started with power runs to get the tuning right. Eventually it ended up at 175hp at the flywheel. I was happy with this figure because it is now 1800cc and the hp is just under 100hp/liter. A good figure for a 8 valve pushrod motor.

The 3rd Targa was started and the again the engine failed on day 5 when a valve head broke and destroyed the piston.

The 4th Targa was entered with all 8 valves replaced and the car ran faultless with the service crew almost bored.

The following Targa I calculated the lengths for a new exhaust and that was made up and installed. With more tuning the best result turned out to 190hp. I was really happy with that figure which was about 5hp better than the factory engines. However, that is 38 years later and technology has improved since then. The car ran faultlessly again and we got a 2nd in class and a 2nd on Index of Performance. The winner being a 5000cc Holden Torana. This was the Australian equivalent to our Chev Canam. Classes go by age and not engine sizes. I don't agree but that is how it is.

Last year another faultless run with 2nd in Index again but unfortunately the car had an off and more than 30 minutes was lost and couldn't be made up.

I drove the car on our local international race track and it has indeed long legs. Down the main straight I managed to get 7200 rpm in 4th before the brake markers appeared and the speed recorded on the calibrated rally trip meter was 207 kmh. If there were more road and 5th gear is selected I wonder what speed would have been achieved.

With some quiet time I acquired a R8 for myself and started my own racing car. I could not do it with my Gordini because that is the only one in NZ. We have heard of another one somewhere but nobody has seen it. So the next best thing was to do a Gordini replica. I got the car for $80.00 and it was still in a running condition although not registered. The process began and it was slow. About 4 years in total before I had it on a track.

First it was stripped to a bare shell without doors, fenders, engine or suspension. Then I scraped every little bit of underseal off with a putty knife and hot air gun. That was made easier by turning the car on its side and lying on old tyres.

The suspension was prepared with new “Nylatrol” bushes handmade by myself for the wishbones. I drilled the holes with an offset from center and now the front camber can be adjusted in minutes. The diff was locked by adding 2 extra planetary gears inside the casing and then the car was turned back onto its wheels.

I now started with the roll cage. In NZ a roll cage needs to comply with International rules and all roll cages has to pass an inspection and then it is supplied by a certification number that has to be displayed on the cage itself. With the help of Ross we built it and got it certified for just over $200.00. Compare that to a minimum charge of $1500.00 at engineering shops NZ wide.

The engine build was next and I prepared a Gordini race motor with all the spares brought in from SA. Eventually it was complete with 12.5:1 Compression Ratio, RA5 cam with variable valve timing (manually). A tailor made exhaust manifold to calculated specs and I ventured into the computer world by building a computerized ignition system for it. This allows me to jump into the car and program and download different ignition advance curves as well as rev limiter and shift light options with my laptop.

Painting began and I sprayed it Gordini blue of course! After that the final touches such as racing seats and a new steering wheel etc began to take shape and finally I got it roadworthy. This car is now street legal.

The 1st event (a hill climb) ended in a disaster when I spun and ended in a sandbank bending chassis, suspension and body. It took me about a month for the repairs and I then decided to do track events only. At least you have run off areas if your head loses you and you exceed your abilities!

After 2 years of fun and the last year racing in a series called ERC (European Racing Cars), I had one bad race where a blocked silencer and eventually a valve seat that came out caused me a DNF. Recently I modified the brakes and the fronts are now upgraded to 16TS brakes. What a difference that made! I improved my best lap times instantaneously with a whole second. There are a few pictures of the building process in the picture gallery.

At the same time I decided to start this project, Johan said that he would like to join me and we can have two identical cars on the track. What a pleasure! So he started work on his but with a difference. He already had a R8 that was road registered and it was basically an everyday driver. So his development started of as a road going car and gradually turning it into a race car.

His first change was a hotter engine and he managed to get hold of an old R12 motor. This was a 1300cc engine. We did a few calculations and increased the very low 8.5:1 compression ratio to a more respectable 10.5:1 and we used one of the RA5 cams we had brought with to NZ. He took the flywheel to work and cut it down to the bare minimum and found a single side draught Weber with an Alconi branch. This was a magic little car and for a few events he enjoyed it thoroughly. Then some more upgrading was needed as you would expect because man can never be quick enough. I gave him an old set of racing tyres I had and maybe not thinking it through well enough, he set of to the track again but this time with catastrophic engine failure. The sump wasn't baffled yet and with the increased grip the oil ran away from the pickup and oil surge cost him the engine.

In the meantime he had the makings of a Gordini engine lying in the garage that was a present from Harry. So the time arrived for him to build a Gordini engine for his car. In between all this we built a roll cage as well because it was going to be a full-on race car from now on.

This had some teething trouble but all was sorted in the end and we are now enjoying the cars with all the woes of racing thrown in as well. It is so much fun!

With my car completed we started doing the same events and although we do not always stay together in the races it is a nice sight to see the two cars on the track. Renault has always been much smaller in NZ and it is the first time in many years a Renault is seen on the track, never mind two of them.

My cars Reg no: FB 7210 and Johan's EN 7086