36 Chev Coupe has story to tell

By Colin Smith

The lovingly restored, the radically engineered and relics ranging from racy to rusty.

Every car that's leisurely "raced" at the annual Jalopy Dust Up has a story. This is one of them.

Lining up with the hot rods and historic racing cars at the Waihi Beach Dirt Track Club for the fifth annual Dust Up last Saturday was a low slung and flame-painted 36 Chev Coupe with its wide staggered tyre providing obvious evidence of its oval track origins.

Restored 107R is a link to the beginnings of the Modified (then called Super Stocks and later Modified Sportsman) class of Kiwi speedway racing. Originally raced by the late John Parry, it was the first Modified to be constructed in Rotorua when the class was getting started, hitting the track at Paradise Valley in 1976.

Parry alongside Adrian Kaye and Ross Baker were among the early prime movers for early Modified racing in Rotorua. Parry's car used the Chev Coupe body - rescued from a swamp -with a 289 cubic inch (4.7-litre) Ford V8 and had the independent rear suspension from a Jaguar.

The inaugural New Zealand Modified champs were raced at Rotorua in the 1977-78 season and won by Baker with Parry driving his car to third place. The 107R coupe raced on until 1984 when Parry sold the car, which has been in storage for almost 30 years.

Rotorua's Grant Swindlehurst is Parry's nephew and several years ago set out to get the car running again. He says there's a simple reason for the unusual combination of Chevrolet body and Ford power. "There was no way John would have chopped up a Ford body to go racing," he says.

Swindlehurst was a modern era Modified racer at Rotorua until a couple of years ago. Now it's the restored racer once campaigned by his uncle that he drives for fun outings.

"Everything was pretty tired but we put it all back together. We got it going again about 12 months ago and this is its third event," said Swindlehurst.

"It's basically original apart from the wheels and tyres. The paint and signwriting has all been done from photos and newspaper clippings.

"We ran the car for the first time in Harrisville (near Ohakea) last year and John was able to see it run.

"But he passed away in early December and, unfortunately, didn't get to see it run when we did a demonstration with it at the North Island Modified champs in Rotorua just after Christmas.

"His wife is here today and lots of family and friends who have helped to get the car back together. We're going to have some fun with it at a few events like this - it's basically a tribute to John."

A growing number of 1970s era midgets, stock cars, sprint cars and modifieds are being restored by racing enthusiasts around the country and being fired up for some hot laps at low-key events such as the Jalopy Dust Up.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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