Te Awamutu man Craig Benson is looking to combine two passions to establish a charitable enterprise for raising money for cancer sufferers.

Craig is a classic car aficionado, and owner of a 1972 Fiat 125 T, the historic early 1970s model only available for the New Zealand market.

And after an early career in New Zealand before working overseas for many years, he has returned home and is keen to be involved in charity work and give something back to New Zealand.

Flashback to Pukekohe Raceway 1972 when Fiat 125 Ts competed in the Benson & Hedges 500 against everything from Datsun 1200s to Valiant Chargers and Ford Falcon GTs.
Flashback to Pukekohe Raceway 1972 when Fiat 125 Ts competed in the Benson & Hedges 500 against everything from Datsun 1200s to Valiant Chargers and Ford Falcon GTs.

Through his Fiat connections, Craig has identified a collection of four Fiat 125s in the North Island, and another from the South Island, that are available for purchase.

Advertisement

Three are the highly sought after Fiat 125 T variant and all are worthy of restoration.

He has established The Benson Foundation and is seeking support through Givealittle to purchase and restore the five classic cars.

The 125 T was modified in New Zealand by the local importers for racing duties in the 1972 Benson & Hedges 500 endurance race held annually at Pukekohe.

To homologate the car, 200 were supposed to have been made and sold in New Zealand, but actual numbers are believed to be somewhere between 80 and 90.

It is also believed only about 20 still exist.

The engine was given larger valves and either twin Weber or Dell'Orto carburettors, a modified camshaft and higher compression.

Suspension was lowered and stiffened and they ran Ward alloy wheels.

"They're fun cars and in hot demand by collectors," says Craig.

"In Europe these particular Fiats — the Ts — are considered so rare they're thought of as mythical."

Every 125 T was painted bright yellow — a colour Craig immediately associated with the Cancer Society.

His concept is that, once restored, the three Ts will remain factory yellow in solidarity with the work of the Cancer Society of New Zealand.

Another will be painted blue in support of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand and Ronald McDonald House, while the fifth car will be painted red in support of CanTeen New Zealand.

Budget for the project is expected to be $350,000.

Funds contributed via Givealittle will also facilitate the design and production of fund raising merchandise, such as clothing and other lifestyle products, and a web-based store as an outlet for selling the product.

Craig's concept is that the cars will be available at motor sports facilities and car and lifestyle events, where they'll raise money for those affected by cancer through the sale of the merchandise, plus they'll be made available to provide unique experiences — rides/cruises, driving opportunities, track experiences, hireage for celebrations and events ... and more.

Craig plans collaborations with Tertiary Design Schools and Design Labs to create unique branded merchandise, making the foundation wholly inclusive and community based.

He says cancer touches all corners of society, with many families left bereft by its devastating aftermath.

"We want to do our bit to alleviate the suffering it causes and these distinctive cars are a perfect vehicle."

More information here.