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Preserving Motorsport History: the Rush family collection

11 December 2018



The Rush family collection has to be seen to be believed!

I’m not sure if Terry Rush is first and foremost a collector, or a NZ motor racing historian, but what I do know is that what he has behind the doors of his shed is pretty damn impressive. I’ll be the first to admit that what I know about the early years of New Zealand motor racing you could write on the back of a postage stamp with a crayon. But thankfully we have the likes of Terry, who has collected, lived and breathed motor racing for a fair chunk of his life, to fill in the gaps and preserve the history, and for that we are eternally thankful.

It was back in the ’50s at Ohakea that the motor racing fire was lit for Terry, and he also has fond memories of watching Stirling Moss in ’62 at Ardmore, in the pouring rain. He was a regular ‘flag flutterer’ at Levin, where the likes of Moss, Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark would all make the effort of thanking each and every flag marshal after the race for keeping an eye on them, and waving the appropriate flag, thus averting any unnecessary on-track carnage.

Beach racing Volkswagens and Formula Vs was what consumed Terry’s time in the early ’70s, before he took on what would have probably been his biggest and most important task in motor racing to date, Manfeild. He, along with many others, identified the need for a proper circuit in the Manawatu, and decided to do something about it. Terry’s son Tim is the youngest person to drive around the circuit. At age three Terry strapped Tim into a single seater (a Briggs and Stratton-powered go-kart), set the throttle and sent young Tim on his way. On the back straight of lap three the kart ran out of juice and Terry had to go and rescue him!

It’s hard to say when the collecting started, but you have to remember that back in the day there were no glossy New Zealand car magazines like the one you are reading here, people had to rely on publications from our cousins across the ditch to get our fix of cars and motor racing. Terry has amassed quite a collection of these magazines, and still does to this day. A wall of them greets you as you walk through the door along with posters, signed photos and drawings of cars, all of which gives you an inkling as to what lies behind that innocuous-looking wooden door over in the corner.

Once through the door it’s pretty obvious that this is truly a very, very special shed. All laid out in front of you are some fairly important race cars in New Zealand single-seater history. The very first car Bruce McLaren ever drove, a Cooper 500, is the first one you encounter. Sitting next to it is a 1962 Brabham BT4, driven to victory in the 1963 Australian Grand Prix by Sir Jack from the back of the grid while powered by a borrowed engine courtesy of Bruce McLaren, because the original one had haemorrhaged. It made its way here in 1964 and Denny Hulme drove it for the new Tasman series, in which he won the first two international races at Levin and also set the fastest lap.

Not to be outshone there’s the imposing, 2.2-metre wide, yes wide, GM 3/9 Can-Am car built in 1976 by Bruce McRae. Underneath the handmade all-aluminium body is the 1978 Australian Grand Prix–winner GM3 chassis. When this was raced in Australia it was fitted with a distinctive clear Perspex cockpit cover and yes, that Perspex cover is here too, turn around and look up, there it is hanging on the wall. Terry even has Graham’s overalls that he wore when he raced the car to sixth in that race, how cool is that!

Flanking the Cooper and the Brabham are a Lola T142 brought into the country by none other than Kenny Smith in 1997 and a Begg FM4, the only Formula 5000 to compete in five New Zealand Grands Prix albeit with four different drivers, David Oxton being one of them.

Aside from Tim removing all the pushrods from the 302 Chev engines in the race cars to save the valve springs, they all go. Not all of them are in race trim but they all can be fired and driven if necessary.

Terry’s collection of vehicles is not limited to race cars only as there are various other vehicles on display, and the collection can definitely be described as eclectic. In one corner is a Morgan Plus 4 and way over in another corner is an old Ford V8 truck, that was bought purely because he drove one on his dad’s farm at the age of seven.

Various conversation pieces are scattered throughout if you ever get sick of the cars. A flat-six Continental aeroplane engine gifted to the collection lies on a pallet next to a 24-plug V12 engine out of a fire engine sitting on a stand. Terry points to the other side of the shed, “There’s the fire engine it’s out of.” I just smile and shake my head, “Of course it is.”

Once you have meandered through all the cars and peered in all the glass cabinets containing model cars and trains, then looked at the brass burners, taps, cameras, brands and fishing rods, another innocuous-looking door beckons. Sitting in this room is Terry’s 1972 McLaren M22 Formula 5000 which has just come back from Rod Millen’s Leadfoot Festival at Hahei. This McLaren is the very last McLaren customer car to have been built.

Never have I seen such an array of cars with such historical significance under one roof, outside a museum. It really is a special collection and one which, if you have an ounce of petrol coursing through your veins, should be on your bucket list.

You can view The Rush family collection by appointment only, Terry can be contacted on 06 323 6683 or at


This article originally appeared in NZV8 magazine issue No. 97 — you can buy a print copy of the magazine by clicking below