Car enthusiasts' heaven at nationals
It doesn't matter if it's a rotary, a V8 or a 1500cc motorcycle engine.
As long as it can be modified it gets Azhar Bhamji ticking.
The V 4 and Rotary Nationals are on again this Auckland Anniversary Weekend at the ASB Showgrounds on January 25 and Fram Autolite Dragway in Meremere the following day.
And for owner-organiser Bhamji the excitement is reaching boiling point.
"This is my biggest effort so far and we are bringing some of the best cars from around the world," Bhamji says.
This year's lineup includes the world's fastest Nissan Infinity drag car, Datsun 1200 ute and Australian APSA drag racing winner Dom Lupino in his Ford Mustang twin turbo.
"What I'm trying to achieve is the largest after-market vehicle show in the world," Bhamji says.
"It doesn't matter if your car is run on a rotary or pistons."
This vision didn't originally go down well with rotary purists when Bhamji took over the event in 2006.
But the 33-year-old believes people respect what he is trying to achieve.
"In the beginning I did get a little bit of stick for it because you were either into one or the other. There's still plenty of work to be done but I can see a change in culture happening."
Bhamji has been into the car modification scene since he was 15.
His friends would gather behind his family dairy on Te Atatu Peninsula to work on their prized possessions.
"For my parents it was hard to understand why I was spending all my money on cars. It wasn't just about the rotars when I first started. It was the scene, the modifications and the power you could create."
But an accident in 2001 changed Bhamji's life forever.
He was driving through Glendene in his Nissan 200SX Silvia on a wet day when a car cut him off.
Bhamji escaped with a concussion but his Silvia was not so lucky.
"We'd just done a show and the word on the scene was that my car was gone forever.
"But I decided to keep quiet about my real plans to bring her back better than ever, to make people go ‘wow'."
Bhamji volunteered his time to helping the organisers of the nationals while working on the Silvia.
The car took four years to rebuild, all in chrome, and was unveiled in 2005 at the nationals where Bhamji was crowned the winner in nine of the 13 categories.
He went on to represent New Zealand at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas and came third overall.
The opportunity finally came up in 2006 for Bhamji to buy the ownership rights to the nationals.
"Growing up in West Auckland helped me a lot.
"We have a huge Westie demographic at the nationals that would easily make up 30 per cent of the following."
Bhamji also wants to bring an event to West Auckland which should only be a matter of time.
Western Leader has five double passes to give away to the Show and Shine/Xtreme Games exhibition at ASB Showgrounds on January 25.
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- © Fairfax NZ News
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