Words: Chris Ralph
Photos: Phil Wisewould
What is this racing class?
The Group N (Historic Touring Cars) category was introduced in the early 1980s by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS, now known as Motorsport Australia) to reflect the pre-1972 ‘Golden Age’ of touring car racing.
All but a handful of the original race machines from that era have disappeared, so today’s cars are mostly replicas built to strict CAMS/MA rules, which you can read at motorsport.org.au.
Old, older, oldest…
We’ll start with the oldest cars first.
- Group Na (pre-1957): For cars available in Australia - ‘Humpy’ Holdens, Ford Zephyrs, Jaguars, Austins, Simcas and Volkswagens, for example.
- Group Nb (1958-64): For makes and models with a proven overseas or Australian competition history - early Mustangs and Falcons, Cortinas, FE to EH Holdens, Minis, Alfa Romeos, Hillmans, Volvos, Triumphs, Jags, Valiants and more.
- Group Nc (1965-72): For cars with an Australian competition history - Boss and Fastback Mustangs, Camaros, Monaros and Toranas, big Falcons, Valiant Pacers and Chargers, as well as smaller Ford Escorts and Capris, Datsuns and BMWs, among others.
It’s not all about crossing the line first.
The magic of this class lies in its different shapes, sizes, weights, engines, drivetrains, braking and handling - from one of the most diversely interesting 20-year periods in automotive history.
As such, competition results are split into age and capacity classes. While roaring 600hp muscle cars lay rubber out the front, competition is just as intense down through the field as evenly-matched cars fight for trophies among themselves.
Older or less developed cars sometimes need more skill to carry speed around a circuit. The smiles are just as wide among the dueling “slower” drivers after a race, though; often the Club Championship is won by a driver from a smaller capacity class.
What sort of car should you think about?
Some competitors want a make and model they’ve loved all their life, others look for a competitive car in a popular class. If you know a particular make intimately and have access to competition parts, then that might be the one to build, for an extra sense of satisfaction. But it’s a long road and many half-built cars languish in sheds.
It’s always quicker and more economical to buy an already CAMS-logbooked car after someone else has done the hard work! You’ll find suitable cars advertised with JUST CARS, on specialist websites such as my105.com.au, or directly through the Historic Touring Car Association of Victoria (HTCAV) at htcav.com.au, or on the HTCAV Facebook page.
Traps for the unwary? Budgets?
When 45+ year-old cars are modified beyond their original intent, care is needed. Every make and model has its strengths, but weaknesses can become more pronounced under racing conditions. However, the HTCAV or your local state historic touring car club has a bank of knowledge - often there’s a good, known car for sale.
Historic touring is a welcoming community and you’ll never be short of advice. But there’s one golden rule - “don’t leap before you’ve listened”. Read the rules and talk to the experts first! You’ll be on the track sooner and for less money if you do.
Motor racing is expensive (so are boats and horses!), but it is possible to get started with a competitive car for between $20-30,000, depending on the make and class you want to run in. Being classics, values are also more likely to go up than down...
Where to from here?
Whatever you choose to race, you’ll need membership of an approved club to start the process of getting your CAMS/MA licence (motorsport.org.au/membership/licence). If you don’t have one, the HTCAV will be delighted to help. Then you can enter a couple of sprint meetings to get your eye in and shake the car down before climbing into your suit and helmet.
Being part of the JUST CARS historic touring car tribe is a really satisfying way to enjoy life and release you from the travails of the everyday world. C’mon!