Why YOU Need To Head Down Under
Feeling patriotic

You’re from New Zealand? New what? That’s in Australia, right?

It’s a weird feeling when you tell someone where you’re from and they don’t have a clue where that is. It’s happened to me quite a few times this year, and I have to admit that it does make me feel a bit small and insignificant. Although I hate to resort to it, usually when I tell people that New Zealand is where the Lord Of The Rings movies were filmed, the response I get is “Oh New Zealand, yeah I’ve heard of that.”


We might be a small dot on the map in comparison to the rest of the world but there’s so much more to us than being just that country where hobbits come from. New Zealand has one of the most rich and diverse car scenes on the planet and not only should you definitely know about it, you should want to get amongst it – starting now!


Like a lot of other places around the world, New Zealand is at its peak during our warmest season, with the majority of our automotive events taking place from November through to April, with January being the busiest. Our modified car scene is pretty incredible considering we only have a population of around 4.5 million people and it’s one of the biggest per-capita in the world.


Every kind of car culture can be found here, whether you’re into drifting or rally, classic cars or top fuel dragsters, slammed dubs or rowdy in-your-face rotaries. You name it, we have it. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in this tiny yet vast automotive haven.


A very brief history lesson: since the early days, Japanese makes such as Datsun, Mazda and Toyota sold here alongside our more traditional American makes, Australian Fords and Holdens plus the occasional Euro and New Zealand new models, and many of these cars have been modified, raced and rallied since the ’70s. On the odd occasion you’ll see a senior citizen just on their way to the grocery store driving a bone-stock Datsun 120Y or KE35 Corolla, but nowadays most of these examples have probably been through half a dozen enthusiasts in their lifetime.


We also get a lot of cool JDM cars that the US has never had access to and you’d struggle not to see at least a dozen modified Skylines, Silvias and Hondas just on your way to work in the morning!


Back in the ’90s, the restriction on second-hand Japanese imports was lifted, which opened up the floodgates allowing in the very best high performance vehicles that Japan had to offer – for very little money. Suddenly everyone had access to extremely fast, easily modded and reliable cars for cheap, and this basically caused an explosion of performance car culture overnight within the country. We can still import second-hand Japanese cars very easily and recently a ‘second wave’ of special interest vehicles – cars considered classic in nature and more than 20 years old, the R32 GT-R for example – have been steadily flowing onto our shores.


With the massive influx of fast cars, the early 2000s saw the emergence of a huge nation-wide underground street racing scene and the New Zealand government would eventually crack down on this, enforcing a new ‘Unauthorised Street and Drag Racing’ amendment law. Believe it or not, this actually allows the government to ‘crush’ your car if you break the law too many times within the space of four years. Only one person has been ‘smart’ enough to get their car confiscated and crushed so far though.


Another area where laws have recently been tightened is with tyre and wheel fitment. Basically, when any structural modification is carried out on your car – installing coilover suspension, aftermarket brakes, race seats or performing an engine swap for example, these all need to be inspected by an official Low Volume Vehicle or LVV Certifier to ensure they’ve been installed correctly and safely. This process also includes wheels and tyres, with the tyre tread having to sit inside the wheel arch and tyre size being limited to a certain width depending on your wheel size to combat the rise in extreme stretch. Once everything has been deemed legal, you then hand over a large bucket full of money in exchange for a small metal plaque. Most people from NZ will agree with me when I say that it’s a huge headache. At least we don’t have rules on emissions or the draconian blanket bans on pretty much everything like some Australian states though!


With massive penalties for offences such as ‘sustained loss of traction’ and ‘excessive show of acceleration’ (I’m not kidding, they’re actually called that), and with the new restrictions on camber and tyre stretch now in place, I’m constantly hearing people complaining about how the road rules in New Zealand are too strict and how ‘nothing’s fun any more’. But as the street racing scene has slowly faded away, a new breed of enthusiast has emerged.


We’ve begun to evolve into a new generation of more refined, more mature car enthusiasts, who rather than just importing something and throwing an abundance of parts at it and not really knowing what’s going on, choose to carefully plan and carry out a street car build with pride and precision, usually over a long period of time. Many people have also adapted to the mentality that if you want to build something crazy-awesome and drive it to its full potential, legally, you have to take it to the track. But if that’s the only place you can really express yourself and drive the way you want, it makes sense to a lot of people to sacrifice road legality completely for a more competitive machine.


Inspired by drifting in Japan and no doubt by the general rise of the popularity of drifting as an international sport in recent years, it seems that most kiwis want to own a purpose-built drift car over anything else, whether it be to drive competitively or just to have a bit of fun on the weekends with friends. With the consequences of getting caught sideways on the street not being worth the risk any more, more and more people are getting involved in organised drift days between friends and car clubs. Most of our circuits are drift-friendly and some now have dedicated skid pans for hire at a reasonable rate too.


There are still those of us (like myself!) who choose to take New Zealand’s certification standards as a challenge and commit to building a legal street car that they can enjoy out on the open road. In my opinion, as long as we choose to move forward and keep our automotive passion close to our hearts, we can adapt and rebuild our car culture into something even bigger and better. It’s definitely a very interesting time in the New Zealand car scene.

Want to know how you can get involved yet?

What’s on in NZ?

Held in Auckland at the end of January each year, the V 4 & Rotary Nationals is the largest car show in the country and has plenty on offer for modified import enthusiasts to drool over.


The event runs on both Saturday and Sunday, with the Show ‘n’ Shine event on the first day and the Drags at Fram Autolite Dragway the day following. If you’re from out of town and want to get a taste for our performance car culture, then this event is well worth checking out!


Beach Hop is New Zealand’s biggest nostalgic festival, with a strong focus on American classics, hot rods and rockabilly culture. I was sad to miss out on Beach Hop this year but I’ve attended the last three years prior, and it’s definitely my favourite event of the year. Literally thousands of beautiful old school cars overrun the small beach town and it almost feels as if you’ve gone back in time.


Especially because everyone is encouraged to dress in theme! Whangamata beach is also incredibly stunning and although it’s raining in these photos I took back in 2011, wet weather is pretty unusual and it usually always looks like this. Honest! Beach Hop takes place over five days at the end of March, and accommodation MUST be booked in advance, so planning ahead for ‘The Hop’ is essential!


Although I haven’t quite made it along to check out what all of the fuss is about yet, the Leadfoot Festival is quickly becoming one of the most talked about events on the New Zealand motorsport calendar. Thankfully, fellow kiwi Speedhunter Brad Lord has been able to make the trip down to the small beach town of Hahei to bring us full coverage from the last two events.


Although the next festival isn’t set to go ahead until 2015, today Rod Millen announced that a series of mini events, Leadfoot Derelicts, will be taking place at the Leadfoot Ranch on each Saturday in January 2014, with free admission for everyone. How cool is that?


If watching cars driving in a straight line isn’t quite exciting enough for you, New Zealand’s largest drift series, D1NZ, is something you should definitely check out. The series runs from the end of the year until around April, on various tracks and street courses around the North Island.


The next D1NZ round will be taking place in Tauranga on the 18th-19th of January and there’s bound to be some carnage from the tight concrete barrier-lined course – and some sweet T-shirt tan lines too.


The Kumeu Classic Car and Hot Rod Festival is a favourite of mine, and another event that takes place in January each year. With numerous paddocks filled with campers, trade and food stalls and thousands of nostalgic cars, there’s always something new and interesting to be found there. Comfy walking shoes and sunscreen are a must if you want to enjoy yourself.


It’s a fun, family friendly opportunity to embrace your inner ‘bogan’ or ‘westie’ as we call it, and I have many fond memories of walking around eating those tiny cinnamon donuts (what do they put in those to make them so damn good?), watching wood-chopping competitions, admiring classic cars and drinking cold beers in the sun.


If you’re visiting Queenstown or driving through the South Island, Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell is definitely worth a visit. Although track time is exclusive to members only, the brand new motorsport facility still has an incredible museum which showcases some pretty amazing cars, an awesome go-karting track and a great restaurant showcasing some delicious local wines. I visited Highlands recently and was really impressed by how well-presented and professional everything was. Many international motorsport events will be hosted there in future, so check out their website to see what’s on!


The New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park showcases some iconic cars from both New Zealand and international motorsport backgrounds, and has a different theme each year. The festival in 2014 will be a celebration of all things Ferrari, and three Formula 1 cars from various racing eras will be attending. Sounds awesome!


As well as these larger scale annual events, during the kiwi summer there’s always at least one or two casual meet-ups or smaller-scale car shows on each weekend. 4 & Rotary Events and NZ Performance Car magazine organise many different events like this all around New Zealand and they’re always a great opportunity to catch up with friends and meet new people.

The kiwi way

New Zealand has some of the coolest driving roads in the world and as it takes only around 27 hours to drive from the top to the bottom (and in some places only an hour to drive from one side of the coast to the other), you can experience all of them in no time at all. As it snows here in winter, again I’d recommend summer as the best time to do this as it’s much safer and means you can take advantage of some of our beautiful beaches too.


This is a very common sight in rural New Zealand, so get used to being patient on the road!


It’s hard to even know where to start, but driving to Cape Reinga, Doubtless Bay, the Karikari Peninsula and Whangarei Heads at the top of the North Island, Omapere on the west coast, Piha Beach near Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula, and the Desert Road are all incredible dream drives in the North Island. The South Island also has some unreal roads and landscapes, and the drive from Queenstown to Wanaka through the Crown Range is one of the most spectacular. Hiring a car or camper van is really easy too, but if that’s not your thing, you can always buy a car, which is just as simple if you have the money for it and can speak English.


Most of our race tracks also have open days for circuit racing and drifting, and usually at a pretty reasonable rate too. New Zealand has eight permanent race circuits, so if that’s something that interests you, I’m sure that with a bit of research you could definitely make it happen! A helmet and fireproof overalls is usually all you need to go out on the track (you don’t even need a fast car, as evidenced by my daily driver here).


Being the small country that we are, we’re lucky to have such a tight-knit car community, and the one of the things I’ve noticed in the time I’ve been heavily involved in the scene, is that people are so willing and genuinely happy to help you in the garage when you need a hand.


Just like many other car cultures around the world I’m sure, working on cars together is a bonding exercise, a ritual and a tradition. It’s such a huge part of the everyday lives of so many New Zealand people and I love being one of them.


It’s definitely pretty great having access to a huge variety of awesome cars, various nearby motorsport facilities and a plethora of successful annual automotive events and gatherings, and all in one beautiful, compact little country.


For those of you unfamiliar to New Zealand, I hope I’ve been able to give you a bit of insight into what our car culture is all about. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to discover some of the rad automotive happenings going on down in this part of the Southern Hemisphere, why don’t you come and check it out for yourself in 2014?


Reach out to a fellow kiwi friend and make it happen! The land of the long white (tyre smoke) cloud awaits you…



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So how are those mineral exports going


Epic article!! Actually contemplating a move to New Zealand once I've completed articles just to be able to submerge myself in some skyline goodness :D Warm greetings from a sunny Cape Town :D


current laws in brazil doesn't allow you to modify a car besides changing its color, slightly changin the suspension height and alterations up or down 10% of the original power/displacement and thats it. anything outside these lines is illegal. Consider yourself blessed with all you can do legally in the Nz, AUS, JP, US and EUR


aussieANON not as environmentally rapey as aussies mate.


Great write up Taryn!


Six comments in and there are already a couple of douche bags arguing... Sigh.
Oh, and what's a "bogan"/"westie"?


Great article!
Two things 
First of all I cant believe people don't know where New Zealand is?!? 

Secondly, reading stuff like this really makes me appreciate the car laws in relation to where I live (Alberta, Canada). 
Here its 15 years then you can import anything you want from any where you want. Once you have a car here and it passes the initial inspection you can do whatever you want to it, and as long as you keep it registered (which is also really cheap 70$ a year) you never have to get it inspected again. Also for local cars anything over 15 years old has to pass a simple safety inspection (headlights breaks horn. etc) and then your good to go. No annual inspections no emissions tests! 

Also its not like i wanted to go to NZ enough already! One day!


Who hasn't heard of NZ?! It's a fairly well known place?
I rate NZ's car culture as being right up there, infact for variety I put it as follows:
1) UK
2) Japan
3) NZ
I would put Japan top but their strong domestic car industry and the UK's lack thereof switched it around. The only downside to the UK is that variety of cars tends to be hidden in garages most of the time, due to sh*te weather and thieves...


aussieANON Lol, how's Australias GDP growth rate looking? You can only dig it up and sell it once......


@Bah they are pretty much the same thing, sort of a "hill-billy" type person, that have mullets, and drive loud V8's. But a "Westie" refers to someone from West Auckland, like myself :)


aussieANON hows you car industry looking, good thing Holden will be around for years to come.........oh wait


Thieves? Which UK is that then? Qualify your statement and i'll steer clear of that UK. The UK I live in doesn't have any higher rates of car-related theft than anywhere else in Europe, or further afield come to that. I absentmindedly leave the keys in my '32 in the drive most weekends and it's never been TWOC'd or even fiddled with. Explain? I will give you the shite weather broadbrush but it genuinely was quite warm on the the third tuesday of june this year and I took my jumper off and even rolled my socks down an inch...


New Zealand... 
5 years ago I was moving to Whangarei, North Island. I lived there one year. I've been twice to Auckland in that time.
Sad that I had to leave the country, such a beautiful country!
I will not head to Down Under unless I will move there completely. Hahaa.. Priceless.

Great story!


scottcpynn IM from Alberta TOO BRO. do you go to driftwest events often?


I've been to NZ a few times and was always impressed with the people, the huge variety of cars, and the roads. The roads are incredible and I can't wait to go back and drive a decent car there.


How big is the motorsports culture down under? Im talking the likes of Can-Am cars (obvious though since Mr. McLaren was a kiwi), and Formula 5000 cars, as well as Group C?


JapCarVideos UK, wha? Japan easy 1st, regardless of their domestic market. They do a lot of other countries scenes better than those countries do it themselves!


I love New Zealand and I love Kiwi's(such cool people 99% of the time), and this might be quite ignorant of me, but when did NZ become Down Under(or have we always shared that nickname)? I've only seen people call it Down Under on this site, never anywhere else before!

And don't worry, a lot of the world doesn't even know where/what Australia is either.


Japan is cooler. But NZ is definitely better than the US for car culture.


SeBaBunea Yes! Whangarei local here. I'd say the scene up here is pretty strong. Especially if you like RB's and rotors.


turbofox I saw a MP4-12C in Kumeu a few weeks ago. It was matte black and it does have a V8..... so it fits the Westie stereotype in an odd way I suppose.


Jake d scottcpynn 
Yeah I try to. Im good friends with Spencer Hogg (white chaser in driftwest) and Alex Lee (GS 300 in FD) so I usually go out when they do


Since when is New Zealand called downunder? I clicked the link expecting to see an article on an Australian event. This isn't the first time on this website you've done this, I've never heard New Zealand referred to as the land down under anywhere else but here.


wheatgod not many of those down here sorry haha, but im sure they would


Styles aussieANON better than not digging anything up haha
nah guys i'm just playin
you're alright, and Milford Sound is a hell of a place to visit.


Lol "sustained loss of traction"


132000 I am from NZ and I have heard it referred to as that, both NZ and Straya are known as down under


@zz F5000 is reasonably big here, but the only time there is a full field of about 30 cars is at NZFMR


wheatgod turbofox They mostly drive commodores haha


Any chance that you guys will be sending someone out to the Jalopy Dust Up in March? I would love to see Speedhunters take on this event.http://www.fordv8parts.com/events/jalopy-dustup-and-rusty-nuts-hot-rod-show/


Hermosas imágenes. Muchas gracias.


JoshuaWhitcombe 132000 As an Australian I have always understood down under to refer solely to  Australia and the land of the long white cloud to be New Zealand's claim to fame.I asked a few family members today, some are ex NZ'ers and even they agreed with me. Australia doesn't have a dedicated speed hunter, is the name shearing to make it seem that ozzy land is getting coverage?


nice article, the best country brochure i have seen


@zzIf by "down under" you mean Australia, (as NZ is never referred to as down under - an error here), then it is huge. Hosts the F1 Grand Prix and World Time Attack


Makes wanna buy a plane ticket, great introduction! I am a little bit jealous, here in Thailand import taxes are very high, that makes the really cool cars very overpriced, on the other hand you can do whatever you want to your car and nobody cares, the only things you have to register are engine swap and change of color.


I really want to visit NZ soon, will try and make sure it's in the summer! Looks an awesome place.


yea, been dreaming about visiting or moving


132000 So because you have never heard of it, it cant be called that........sound logic matey.


Taryn or other NZ based readers; If I wanted to visit NZ next year December, what area would you advise me to go to? Probably won't have more than a week or so(budget...) Thanks!


westhave I guess it depends what you really want from your holiday. If you are going to be in a position where you can hire a car for a while I would definitely recommend this! If you are flying into Auckland, taking a drive down to the Coromandel area would be a nice short drive and a beautiful place to relax for a few days during our summer. If you are flying into Christchurch, you could then drive down to Queenstown and check out that area. I did that trip in late November and it was amazing! If you want to throw some car-related activities in there, the 2nd Round of D1NZ usually takes place in early December in Whangarei (dates for the next season haven't been confirmed yet) but you could then base your trip around travelling up north as there are some incredible beaches up there (Ocean Beach in the Whangarei Heads, Tutukaka, Ruakaka, Matapouri and Whale Bay - the best!!) Hope this information is helpful :)


James1010 I've always wanted to go to that but it's always been on the same date as something else... not sure if it's something Brad's planning on covering next year but as it's taking place in March just before Beach Hop maybe it could happen...


zuberbomb It's a real thing, I swear! #sustainedlossoftraction


132000 That's interesting, I've always thought that this term refers to NZ and Australia. As far as I'm aware, it's used quite often to refer to NZ. Let's not turn this into a pavlova-style argument though haha


@driveCircles Every country's car culture is cool for different reasons, I guess it just depends what you're into! :)


Spaghetti  As far as I'm aware this phrase has always been used for both countries ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_Under


@zz  As Josh said, it's reasonably big - we have large fields in most different classes of racing held on tracks all over NZ during the summer months. Check out http://www.irc.org.nz as an example of just some of the racing we have here


scottcpynn Ahh, lucky!


wheatgod haha it's an aussie and nz thing, right?


BenHunter Thank-you!


mbretschneider Oh man that's no good :(


still many people go outlaw, people are pushing i lt and i thing govmt is figuring that they can just create fees and taxes for modded cars like other countires... either say, people do it outlaw style all time, my own piece of resistance is something i will try to send to #featurethis in the near future, and , for us outlaws down here , SH and the stories of down there are all very inspiring


Taryn Croucherzuberbombsad to say i was done this :( last of car for 28 days and lost of licence for 4 months :(


Alex Finlaymatey if you come to any town in nz you will see a skyline of some type same with evo's rx7's wrx's and Honda's all day every day with out fail


I may have misread or skimmed past it, but our road quality is far from good. A high percentage of the countries roads are unsealed and the ones that are sealed are bumpy / rough as all shit. My car is 30 mm off the ground from the rails and Auckland's roads nearly defeat it. Definitely  not a low car friendly  country for the unprepared.


Taryn Croucher westhave Thanks a lot! I might be able to hire a car, that'd give me more flexibility(especially if it's really onle 27hrs top to bottom). I'd like to visit the D1NZ or something related but most of all just experience the country(and the nerd in me wants to visit Wellington :o )

I'll look at the options when the time comes but for now, thanks again and maybe I'll be able to spot a sweet and low Datsun :)


macm3651 Our roads are pretty good, compared to a lot of other parts of the world. At my last job we had a bunch of engineers come over from Japan to assess our roads vs the suitability of the cars that we had available to us to sell, and they graded us on par with Japan, better then most of the rest of the world.
Take a trip to Vanuatu sometime if you wan to see bad roads......


The rules in Denmark are also quite strict, you are hardly allowed to put an open air filter in or put lowering springs or coilovers if they lower the car more than 40mm (11/2 inch)


But still we have an event that a fellow speedhunter covered a few years ago ://http://www.speedhunters.com/2011/06/event_gt_gt_dhb_denmark/  But even though that the cars have licenseplates on, that dosn't mean that they are legal at MOT


Taryn, slightly disappointed that in an otherwise excellent article you missed NZ's unique contribution to world car culture. The ENZED New Zealand Invitation Superstock Teams Championship in Palmerston North on the 1st or 2nd weekend in February. Full contact automotive carnage. It's even an International event these days with A FWJ* led UK Lions team having competed the last three years.
As to the amount of things to do, i dread January  because there just aren't enough weekends in the month :)

*Frankie Wainman Junior, one of the two best UK Stockcar drivers.


Taryn Croucher 132000 You can have pavlova, horrible stuff. However you start claiming marmite over vegemite and we are going to throw down.


132000 Taryn Croucher bring it on, Mate


well said Taryn Croucher its really difficult to set up a car here in NZ but end of the day its the law and safety of our selves and others. my beagle was in the last pic. haha. stoked. more powers to speedhunters team.


What is this a tourism site for NZ ;)!? Kidding its top of my countries to visit list mainly because of D1NZ Love it!


All I am going to reply with is your idea of "pretty good" must be fairly far from my idea of "pretty good"


macm3651 Styles This has nothing to do with my idea of "pretty good" I'm saying that they've been objectively assessed as being some of the better roads out there, world-wide. If your car is 30mm off the road you'll probably struggle to find anywhere in the world that is that "low car friendly".


gotta love our country!! :D
can't wait till i get my restricted in a couple of months and start saving towards buying my brothers '99 WRX STI!! :DD


JoshuaWhitcombe 132000 Taryn Croucher pavlovas amazing. just sayn'


It is a lot easier to run a modified car here than it is in Australia or California or the UK, as there's no emissions to worry about, the LVVTA rules are fairly well thought out. Its a lot of the coppers that need the education to make life easier for the ones that do things the legal way. I remember a guy I know (runs a TX3 Laser better known as JRCOZY, a mental 11 second 340kw FWD beast of a hatchback) ran into strife at a checkpoint at Meremere one night because a cop wasn't all that clued up about LVVTA laws.

But yes. The car culture here is so diverse, that even driving down one street can turn up multiple different car scenes. My workshop alone has that point proven. One guy has a 63 Impala on bags powered by a 6/71-blown 383cu Chev, plus a Lexus V8-powered Hiace, my boss has a tidy HDT Commodore, another has a Holden Senator, and I have my Euro. Well, ok its a Mondeo, but it suits me just fine. You're not going to find car culture like this anywhere else in the universe!