Rare BT4 racer set to hit the track once more

PRICELESS: Tim Rush in the 49-year-old Brabham BT4 intercontinental car he will drive for the first time next month.
PRICELESS: Tim Rush in the 49-year-old Brabham BT4 intercontinental car he will drive for the first time next month.

When a 1963 Brabham BT4 leaves its lair at Feilding next month, it will race in New Zealand for the first time since 1964.

It is one of only three BT4s made and three surviving on the planet - one is in England and the other in Belgium.

This one is part of The Rush Collection owned by Terry and Tim Rush.

It is a valuable machine but Terry Rush doesn't talk money when it comes to his large collection.

The sight of it should give enthusiasts a thrill at the Hulme Festival meeting at Hampton Downs next month.

When last driven in New Zealand, at the wheel was none other than Denny Hulme, the 1967 Formula One world champion.

Hulme died in 1992 but Brabham is still alive in Australia aged 86, the oldest surviving Formula One world champion.

He established the Brabham marque with chief engineer Ron Tauranac who built the Rush car's chassis - both men's signatures are on the dash.

Brabham was winning the Australia Grand Prix in it at Warwick Farm, Sydney, in 1963 when the 2.7-litre Coventry Climax engine packed up. Later fitted with a 2.3-litre engine, Hulme drove it in New Zealand and won at Levin in January 1964.

Since then it has had owners who raced it in Australia, Britain, France and the United States before the Rush family bought it when it came to the Chris Amon festival in February 2011.

"I went looking for a Cooper and found a Brabham at a fraction of the cost of a Cooper," Terry Rush said.

The car arrived with a broken gearbox and that is being repaired.

Money can't buy the experience son Tim has had behind the wheels of the family's treasured cars.

"It's an absolute buzz, privilege and pleasure," he said. "Like winning Lotto.

"We just want to show the car at speed in a safe way," he said.

"This car hasn't been seen in New Zealand."

The Brabham is fitted with a gate shift - a little gate drops down to block reverse gear - and small clutch, brake and accelerator pedals. It will hit close to 200kmh and generate 260 horsepower.

"That's sitting in here with just a couple of bicycle frames underneath you," Tim chuckled.

The Brabham will race in the 1960-to-1970 open-wheelers class at Hampton Down and the Rushes' 1976 McRae GM9 Sports Car will contest the Can Am class.

Tim will eventually take over the collection and the museum from his father. Terry, aged 67, was a founding member of Manfeild, finishing there in 2007.

The cars are not for sale, "they are investments", Terry said.

His oldest race car is a 1951 Morgan four-by-four tourer. He also has a 1952 Cooper 500.

It is the only collection in the country with cars made by three New Zealand icons. Besides the McRae there is the 1970 Begg FM4 and the 1972 McLaren M22 F5000.

And the only surviving team of the lot is McLaren.

They are part of the biggest exhibition of race cars in Manawatu and Terry Rush welcomes visiting groups, by appointment.

He raced Formula Vees and open-wheelers in his heyday, did a lot of beach racing and spent two years racing speedway saloons.

Manawatu Standard