Gavin Andersons 1979 Z28 Camaro has been in and out of my brothers shop for a little while now as it was prepped for racing and when I heard he was taking it down to the 4andRotary Nationals at Meremere Dragway this year I couldn’t help but tag along.
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We made plans to leave the New Lynn workshop around 7am and typically I was late. That didn’t seem to have had any effect on Gavin’s smile though as he warmly shook my hand on being introduced.
I asked how he was looking forward to the day. “It should be good, weather looks fine and I enjoy the event. It’s a different scene to the V8 nationals. There it’s just the bogans that come out but here the girls come too.” He laughed, “No, its a good day really friendly group and fun racing.”
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With the car securely fixed to the trailer we were off. The warm light from the early morning sun gave the scene a picturesque yellow glow as we made out way south of Auckland to the famed drag strip.
I had been a little worried that my lateness would mean getting stick in a queue to the gate but we made good time and simply cruised in though the gate with little delay.
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The ’79 Z28 took its small block V8 from a Chevrolet Dart and was then built and tuned by Magnum automotive in Kingsland, with custom heads and cam profile topped off with an Edelbrock carburettor. Baillie Autoelectrix supplied and fitted the full custom dash and gauge set up along with battery cut off and isolation switch to comply with competition rules. Not to mention last minute late night painting of the roll cage.
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Gavin last dynoed the car at 535 hp with this engine which is soon set for retirement to make way for a new motor currently in the build stage. It will still be a small block although stroked right out to 440 ci which Gavin hopes should push 750-800 hp.
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I hadn’t heard the Camaro run yet so it was nice to hear her 400 cubic inch Chevrolet small block roar into life before being gently guided off the trailer and readied for scrutineering. While the prep work was being done and Driver briefing called, I took the opportunity to wander around the paddock and check out the other competitors.
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As the name of the event suggests, there is no shortage of Rotaries here. Though most of the traditional four cylinder turbos have had engine swaps for to get more horse power, it as nice to see a good showing of some very nice four pot Mitsubishi Evo’s and the like.
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Racing is split into multiple classes C1 Turbo 4 Wheel Drive, C2 Turbo 2 Wheel Drive, C3 All Motor_rotary N/a, C4 Quick V8s DYO which Gavin’s Z28 qualifies to run, C5 Motorbikes, C6 Dial Your Own, C7 Rotary Turbo, C8 King Of The Street and finally the Exhibition classes, Pro Import and Sports Mod which are the real draw card to the event as it is a chance for spectators to see some seriously fast quarter mile passes.
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Over the course of the day practice, qualifying and elimination rounds are worked through. Which makes for a very busy track that sees, but for a few oil dumps and blown diffs, an almost continuous run of action thought all classes.
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Gavins Z28 was solid from the start pulling consistent 11.5 second quarter mile runs toping off his day with an 11.44.
As the day progressed it was clear that Gavin’s main competitor was Mark Thomas in his 73 Falcon but a false start saw him knocked out early on in the elimination round and unexpectedly left Gavin up against Samuel Sen in a Lexus V8 powered 1978 Toyota Corolla.
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It was stiff competition but the Camaro with it’s silver sculls and classic Westie Matt Black paint job was simply too consistent over it’s runs and took the day for the the C4 class on points, thanks to the Corolla pulling a slightly faster time than it’s DYO qualifier and bowing out it’s reaction time in the final run.
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Despite the beating hot sun the event was a fantastic day out on track and for the fans. For more info on future 4&Rotary events be sure to go to4androtary.co.nz and on FaceBook or head to premierevents.co.nz.
Roger Baillie (@Rojn8r)
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Brought up in a world of Mini's, road trips, rallying and tinkering it is unsurprising that among my passions, since I can remember, cars have been something very special to me. The way they look, the way they smell and especially the way the sound.This passion has grown over the years from a spectator's seat at Formula 1 and WRC events to active participation in events such as the Cannonball Run NZ and Stance Off Events. My current love affair is with a slightly tuned Mk4 Golf GTI which brings me nothing but joy on the road.This love for driving and cars has led me start a Podcast dedicated to my love of driving called Drive Life NZ where I hope to share my story while exploring the varied stories of other enthusiasts. Dispelling the myths surrounding car people and celebrating our diversity.

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