We’ve all read the race reports before and have all seen the cars (or photos of cars) out on the track, but there’s a whole lot more to the Enzed Central Muscle Car series than that. With the recent Thunder in the Park event taking place at Pukekohe Park Raceway, we decided to head on down to the track on the practice day on Friday, December 5, to get up close and personal with some of the cars and the people. The benefit of it being practice day was a lack of pressure, and a lack of crowds that would attend by the thousands the following day.

That’s not to say that there weren’t a few people wandering the pits; included in that were a few drifters from Japan, who had made the trip to New Zealand for the Red Bull Drift Shifters event held on Saturday, December 6.

While CMC driver Clarke Hopkins may not have known who Ken Nomura was, he wasn’t going to miss an opportunity for a photo, and Ken wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to check out Clarke’s Torana, although it was Steve Ross’s VK Commodore that had the Japanese guys really impressed.

It’s this willingness to talk to anyone that really makes the CMC pit area a cool place to hang out, as this young chap found out discussing the ins and outs of the class with Mustang driver Bruce Anderson.

While some drivers and teams were casually talking, others were thrashing, such as the head mechanic for Sean Fowler’s newly debuted Torana, who discovered an issue with a rod end. Thankfully there were replacements on hand and the car was good to go soon after.

Others, like Colin Meadows, were a bit more relaxed. He was simply taking the time to add another layer of shine to his already immaculate Camaro, a car that he would compete in both the CMC and Northern Muscle Cars classes over the weekend.

Speaking of immaculate, we soon discovered the just-completed (we’re talking midnight the night before) Camaro of Hamilton’s Mark Holland. Angus Fogg, who was responsible for a lot of the build, seemed pretty relaxed though, as did Mark, despite not having sat in the car with it running until he was in the pit heading for the starting grid for the first practice session.

We can only hope the car keeps this immaculate.

Just look at the detail in that Moselle Panel & Paint paint finish!

With Enzed sponsoring the series for the next few seasons, Dunedin’s Steve Scoles, who hadn’t competed since last season, was busy applying the new sponsor decals to his fluorescent Camaro to ensure he was in the running for points.

More on his mind though was testing out the extra 150 horsepower that the off-season switch to a SB2 Nascar motor had given the car. The motor confused us at first with its big block-looking rocker covers, but small block exhaust spacing.

Not far from Scoles’ Camaro was another great-looking Camaro: that belonging to John Mills, who informed us that while he tries to keep the car mint, it’s not as easy as it seems. Gravel rash alone meaning he has to replace the windscreen in the car after each race season!

Fellow Camaro driver Bruce Kett, who’s a force to be reckoned with in Group 2 of the class, was pretty relaxed, despite mechanical issues. Thankfully they were just of the trailer variety this time around, and he could sit back and enjoy his interesting mix of energy drinks and canned tuna. The food of champions, clearly!

Come time for the next practice session, the pits erupted to the sound of wild cam profiles, triple-plate clutches, and rowdy exhausts, bringing out a number of cars we hadn’t seen as yet, such as Grant Dalton’s gorgeous Ken Hopper-built second-gen Camaro. Yes, that Grant Dalton.

Ken was more concerned with the Pontiac Firebird of Paul Kelly, which after being completed recently had had a few teething issues with the imported 830hp SB2 engine. This is the result from the last time the car came out. Thankfully it seemed to be running well with its temporary engine, despite having ‘just’ 600-odd horsepower.

While guys like Paul and Grant take their racing seriously, others like Ross Graham in his road-legal Torana are happy to sit mid pack. Then again, his car had a few creature comforts most others don't!

Creature comforts for a few others are not limited to the cars though. How cool is this expandable bar coming out from John Mills’ (borrowed) transporter! Now that’s a team we’d like to be part of!

There’s a lot that goes into running a class like this, and for that some of the credit goes to ‘Camp Mother’ Sharon Cuttance. We caught her taking notes, or potentially writing a list of who she needs to catch up with and check they have the right decals on their cars.

She wasn’t the only one watching the action from the stands as we also caught Rodney Heads, of Heads Racing Supplies fame, watching the Torana he’s just built for Sean Fowler circulating. It was similar to a proud parent at their kid's first sports day!

Then again, how could you not be proud of a creation like this! (Full feature in Issue No. 117 of NZV8 magazine)

While the test session went well for Sean, it wasn’t so good for Greg ‘Cutty’ Cuttance, who was sidelined with fuel pump issues. Such is the nature of competition at this level, things like this are expected and he took it all in his stride.

Near the end of the day, it was time for the sponsor’s hot laps, where some of Enzed’s lucky customers were given the opportunity to go for a ride. With many never having been in a race car before they were in for a real treat!

Of course, that got us wondering about doing the same, and it wasn’t long before we’d sweet-talked Group 2 driver Tristan Teki into taking us for a few laps ourselves!

You’ll have to grab a copy of the next issue of NZV8 magazine to find out how that went, but let's just say that street-legal cars shouldn't be allowed to be that impressive, and that’s on the class-required Hankook tyres, which are thmselves street legal. Each car can use a maximum of four per round, so we were surprised when Tristan told us we’d been out there on his race tyres!

Come the end of the day, we headed back off to fight Auckland traffic, leaving NZV8’s resident CMC photographer, Lyall Chinnery, in charge to capture the rest of the weekend’s action for an upcoming issue.

Big thanks to the whole CMC field for letting us hang out and get in the way for the day. We can’t wait to do it all over again.

Todd Wylie

Todd Wylie has been involved with NZV8 magazine since before the first issue was printed, and has been the editor for the last eight years. Growing up in the heyday of the Jap-import scene, he's not adverse to Japanese vehicles, having worked for NZ Performance Car previously, as well as owning a few well-known examples. These days he cruises at a slower pace in a 1956 Cadillac Coupe and dreams of building a Model A tudor.