1. Hot Rod Blowout — Avondale
Traditional rods, nostalgia, newstalgia, old drag cars, trade displays, and plenty of cars with no shine make this event different to anything else. Add a bunch of pin-up girls, a live auction, great music, a cool location, and a minimal entry fee; it’s an awesome way to spend a day. Get there early to make the most of it.
2. National Hot Rod Show — Varies
It’s your one chance each year to see the latest and greatest hot rods on display, and all looking at their best. Not restricted to just hot rods, but kustoms, a handful of muscle cars, and everything in-between, the event is run by a different car club each year, so the location and cars on display always vary.
3. Kumeu Classic Car & Hot Rod Festival — Kumeu
The big one! Grab a tent and some mates, and make a weekend of it, or head along for the day — either way there’s plenty to see and do. The paddock area is an ever-changing sea of cars, while the indoor shed contains the latest cars unveiled and a range of interactive displays. There’s a swap meet for bargain hunters, and a massive area for the kids too. Don’t forget the sunscreen, as there’s not a lot of shade.
4. The Targa Tour — Auckland to Taupo
Imagine being able to drive some of the most challenging roads in the country at speed, without the fear of oncoming traffic or the law … The Targa Tour offers exactly that, a non-competitive version of the well known Targa. It doesn’t matter what type of car you’ve got, but make sure it’s something with decent handling if nothing else.
5. Thunder In The Park — Pukekohe Park Raceway
One of the biggest and best-promoted local circuit race meetings of the year, Thunder In The Park incorporates a wide range of classes ranging from Minis through to muscle cars and everything in-between. If you’ve never been to watch a circuit racing event before, add this to your list.
6. Father’s Day Drags — Meremere
Dedicated solely to street legal cars, this event decides the title of New Zealand’s quickest street car each year. With over 200 cars racing — all V8-powered of American or Australian origin — and massive crowds, it’s a great way to spend the day with the kids. Take some cash to buy some merchandise while you’re there.
7. Nostalgia Drags — Meremere
If you love front-engined dragsters, gassers, and racing like it used to be, there’s no better event than the annual Nostalgia Drags. With overseas vehicles competing as well as plenty of locals, there’s always a great turnout of cars and spectators alike. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
8. New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing — Hampton Downs Motorsport Park
Because you simply can't fit this much motor sport into one weekend, the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing spreads itself over two weekends. It’s a real celebration of motorsport in New Zealand across the ages, so it goes without saying that the cars include the incredible Formula 5000s, historic muscle cars, historic saloons, and heritage touring cars among many other variations of bone-rattling, not to mention rare and expensive, vehicles.
9. Cambridge Charity Car Show — Cambridge
One of the most relaxed events on the calendar, and held in the perfect location, this event sees hundreds of cars pack out Lake Karapiro Domain. Bring a picnic, kick back and enjoy, but make sure you get there early to get a park!
10. Beach Hop — Whangamata
With nearly 1000 registered entrants, plus a few thousand cars that aren’t entered, Beach Hop turns the usually sleepy seaside town of Whangamata into a week-long petrolhead’s heaven. Great location, brilliant scenery, plenty of things to see and do — it’s a must-attend, regardless of if you’ve got a car of your own or not. Be prepared for extreme heat, and extreme cold.
11. Jalopy Dust Up — Waihi Beach
Think of it as hot rodding meets speedway: a bunch of cool old cars cutting laps around a dirt track that looks out over a beautiful part of the country. Cars range from rat rods, trad rods, to ’50s sedans, ’30s coupes, and everything in-between. Take your togs and go for a dip after to wash the dust off before heading home — you’ll need it.
12. Rusty Nuts Car Show — Waihi Beach
Where else in the world would you find a car show below the high tide mark? Being held on the same weekend as the Jalopy Dust Up, there are plenty of cars in town, which creates a spectacle like no other when they’re all parked on the beach.
13. Leadfoot Festival — Hahei
The Leadfoot Festival is the result of one man's ultimate motorsport dream. Rod Millen, known best for his Pikes Peak records, bought a farm in the picturesque town of Hahei and set about creating a racetrack as a driveway. All that was needed was a few mind-blowing cars, some insane drivers, and a few car nuts, which Millen easily got hold of, making this event one of the greatest all-encompassing motor sport events in the country. Dress in vintage fashion and make a weekend of it.
14. Powercruise — Taupo
This event is best described as the one place you can do everything in your car that you’ve always wanted to, but usually can’t. The weekend-long event incorporates plenty of track cruising, burnout comps, power skids, flag-drop drag racing, a show and shine, and, of course, a bikini contest too. Grab the lads and make a weekend of it. It’s good as a spectator, but for maximum enjoyment, enter as a competitor.
15. Americarna — Taranaki
Plenty of scenic cruising and community support make Americarna what it is. The laid-back atmosphere and local involvement makes for a great few days. Open to cars of American origin only, there’s plenty of late-model muscle as well as early classics and everything in-between.
16. Wanganui Street Drags — Wanganui
Eighth-mile drags right in the heart of the city see a wide range of vehicles competing, and plenty of locals coming out for a look. The event is open to all types of vehicles; so don’t be surprised to see a Japanese car versus an American car in the finals.
17. Palmy Swap Meet — Manfeild
Not only is the Palmy Swap Meet one of the biggest swap meets on the calendar, the indoor area of the venue has become one of the largest indoor shows too. More aimed at local street cars than outright show cars, the hall contains something for everyone, including plenty of local traders.
18. Stock Car Teams Champs — Palmerston North
Speedway racing doesn’t come any more brutal than Teams Champs. The final event of the year where drivers will stop at nothing to win, regardless of the damage their cars incur along the way. Expect big crashes and plenty of action. Dress warm, as it’ll get cold before the night is over.
19. Port Road Drags — Petone
The longest running street drag event in New Zealand, Port Road Drags has run for over four decades without a single rainout! Both street and competition cars take part in the eighth-mile event that runs right alongside the Wellington harbour at Seaview.
20. Muscle Car Madness — Rangiora
The name says it all … madness. A massive, ever-changing car show, combined with a burnout comp, trade displays, live bands and plenty of night-time cruising — camping on-site is the only way you can take in everything that’s going on. You’ll need a few days off work afterwards to recover.
21. Waimate 50 — Waimate
Once a year, the Waimate 50 hits town and the place is quickly filled with thousands of people, and cars of all make and model. The event has been running off and on for over 50 years and incorporates the best of all worlds: a gravel rally sprint, a tarmac drag race (with burnouts right outside the Police station!), a gravel hill climb and a tarmac street sprint.
22. Jet Boat Ride — Various
While they may not have wheels, any car guy who’s been for a ride in a competitive jet boat will rave about it. The sound of a highly-strung V8 revving away right behind your head as you experience g forces like nothing else, is one that you’ll never forget. The tourist-style boats that take multiple passengers at once have nothing on race boats, so settle for nothing less.
23. Watch Nitro Drags — Various
Until you’ve seen two nitro drag cars run full side-by-side passes, you’ll never understand what the fuss is all about. Better yet, head to America or Australia and watch a full field of them. The way the ground shakes has to be felt to be believed, regardless of if you’re a fan of drag racing or not — every car fan needs their nitro cherry popped. Mark down January 9, 2016 for The Rock FM Nitro Shootout at Meremere Dragway.
24. Go Drag Racing — Various
It doesn’t matter if you drive a 20-second Corolla, a 15-second Commodore, or something even faster — have a go on the strip at least once. Events such as Night Speed Drag Wars, Winter Drags, or private club events are the perfect place to try your skills on the lights, as you’ll get the maximum number of runs in front of minimal crowds. Don’t forget, Dial Your Own (DYO) classes are all about consistency, not speed, so more often than not it’s the slower cars that win.
25. Attend a Track Day — Various
You’ll learn more about car control from a few laps on a racetrack than you will in years of street driving. Every race circuit in the country has low-cost track days that see you getting plenty of track time in a non-competitive environment. Once your brake pedal goes soft from the brake fluid overheating, call it a day, before you end up in strife …
26. Attend Race School — Various
Regardless of how good a driver you think you are, spending a day getting tuition from the pros will give you valuable skills you can use on the road. It doesn’t matter what type of vehicles the driving school offers, as the lessons learnt are invaluable. The perfect gift for those overconfident teenagers!
27. Compete in a Demo Derby — Various
Finally, a chance to release all that built up road rage! Smash and bash your way into other vehicles, but try and keep the damage to your own car at a minimum. Some describe it as the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Careful, it can become addictive.
28. Ride with a Pro — Various
Until you’ve been strapped into the silly seat with a pro-driver — be it circuit, drift, rally, or even drag racing — you’ll never understand the thrills they get out on track. Chances are you’ll come out of the car with a smile so wide your face will hurt.
29. Go Off-roading — Various
Steep climbs, impossible-looking mud bogs and sheer vertical drops. Being a passenger in an off-roader will scare the crap out of you, yet offer a slow speed adrenalin rush at the same time. Don’t wear your good clothes, as chances are as a passenger you’ll be getting out to hook up a winch, or dig your way out of trouble.
30. Compete at a Grasskhana — Various
It may be low speed, but the amount of sideways fun you’ll have is hard to match. As is the amount of mud and dust you’ll likely get through your vehicle — make sure that you’re not attending any shows with it in the near future.
31. Drive a Midget — Various
No gears, no fears. After driving a midget you’ll have a newfound appreciation for just how skilled the pros are. With one-on-one instruction you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to keep a Midget sideways for a whole lap, and what keeps the pros coming back.
32. Watch Professional Drifting — Various
Sure, it’s mainly Japanese cars competing, but the level of talented drivers in New Zealand needs to be seen up close to be appreciated. You’ll be blown away by the speeds the cars are going sideways at, and just how close they are to each other on the track. The promo girls generally aren’t all that bad to look at either …
33. Hit the Skidpan — Various
Slippery skidpans, such as the one found at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, are a whole lot of fun. You’ll be amazed at just how slippery they are, and at the level of driver input required to complete the simplest of tasks. Don’t bother washing your car before you attend, as it’ll come back dirty.
34. Do a Burnout — Various
We’re not talking about a little single spinner skid here, but a great big smoky burnout. Hell, pop the tyres if you can! The g forces in a car that’s got enough power to fry the tyres need to be experienced to be understood. Be careful though, concrete barriers aren’t forgiving if you get things wrong.
35. Race a Real Go-kart — Various
The speed and nimbleness of a racing go-kart can’t be beaten. Unlike the go-karts you went in when you were a kid, these karts aren’t limited by revs or speed — they’re low-to-the-ground, adrenaline machines. You’ve got to scare yourself good and proper once in your life …
36. Road Trip — Various
Sometimes it’s not about the destination, but the journey to get there; drive somewhere just for the sake of it. Memories made on trips away are the ones that you’ll never forget, so grab a bunch of mates and hit the road. Make a plan to have no plans, and get out and enjoy all the great things this country has to offer!
You can explore part one and part two of the 75 things every Kiwi car person should do before they die by selecting your path below:
This article was originally published in NZV8 Issue No. 102. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: