B&H Returns to Pukekohe (Part 3)



Cigarette advertising was the name of the game back then and Will’s Tobacco Company certainly saw a good thing when they fronted up to back the long distance enduro on the hallowed asphalt of Pukekohe circuit from 1964 to the mid 80’s. The B&H 500 mile race for locally assembled auto’s was divine timing and really ignited the public’s interest in how their favoured brands fronted up to the opposition. More than any other period in local motor racing, the punter in the street could relate directly to machinery that was racing on the track in front of them, as being the closest to what could be purchased off the showroom floor.

The hard-core motor racing addict aside, your average bloke in the street with an interest in cars, rather than racing per say, enjoyed this race. If they didn’t always turn up in droves at Pukekohe - though crowds were inevitably good, they certainly followed it in the other mediums available in the day, barracking with their mates for their preferred auto make. Brand loyalty had a lot to do with it even then.

The hot rod Vauxhall Victors were the “top guns’ of the first two B & H 500’s. They looked quite sexy yet were very compact. With their swoopy waistline and with an ideal wheel base they handled well, despite the weight of the cast iron 3.3 litre six cylinder donk. A fact that later didn’t escape the legendary Jimmy Stone, when he chose the FD Victor as the basis for Jack Nazer’s legendary Miss Victorious Victor Chevy modified saloon in the mid 1970’s, for this reason… By the 1969 race, the 5.2 litre Chrysler Valiant Regal V8 had appeared and was faster, but Leo Leonard and Ernie Sprague, tactically outfoxed them to win a great race - more about that later. The Valiant was an impressive runner and would have its day in the sun very soon, but the body shape looked like the result of a bad day in the Chrysler styling department….

I guess you’re getting the picture, the race was a big deal, because it really did capture our imaginations. The ultimate reason being as previously mentioned, these were standard production cars, being flogged within an inch of their life over 7 to 8 hours, with all the drama that it brings. It’s not hard to imagine the “challenges” the entries in the 2019 races will face - racing for hours on a slippery oily track surface, with fading brakes, gearboxes and clutches half operable and little rubber on the road, all on N.Z’s most demanding race circuit….


Photo Credit - Terry Marshall