I am indebted to Stuart Innes for much of the detail in this story)
The story of the Sidchrome Mustang is a true example of Kiwi ingenuity rising above the challenges of lack of money.
The car started as a Boss 302 road car. It was bought from Jerry Claytons car yard in New North Road during 1972 by Stuart Innes the NZ Manager for Sidchrome at the time Siddons Industries (Sidchrome Tools) . The car cost $4500 when initially purchased. It was yellow with black stripes and black upholstery. Stuart used it for a short period as a road car before the development commenced. Stuart Innes found, employed and sponsored Jim Richards to drive the car.
It was taken to Papakura and into a shed on a country property where Jim and Murray Bunn changed it into the Sidchrome Mustang. During this time, Murray Bunn was sent off to the the USA to buy technology. He returned with everything necessary except wheels. He set about constructing possibly the first split rims to be seen in NZ. The dies, pouring and machining of the metal were all done by Murray Bunn in the Bunn and Cummins workshop in Papakura. Much of the cars performance was attributed to those wheels.
The engine and gearbox were removed and replaced with a race prepared 351C, and a close ratio Ford top loader. The car was fitted with 66 Thunderbird front discs, lowered and fitted with HD springs, and the rear suspension fitted with a Watts Linkage. Doors were reskinned in aluminium, and bonnet and boot replaced with Fibreglass replicas. The Cleveland was fitted with a special oiling system, steel crank and rods, racing pistons, and breathed through four 52 mm IDA Webbers.
An enclosed trailer unit with workshop was constructed for the car, and a Toyota 4 wheel drive short wheelbase purchased to to haul it around NZ. Jim and Murray did the driving. They also bought a 20 foot caravan and a new red Ford Falcon GT XA to tow it ($5791.00 in 1972 from Bob McMillan Ford in Greenlane). The team would set off together, all painted up in red and yellow with signage everywhere.
Competition debut was at Baypark in Easter 1973. In the same year Richards won the 73/73 NZ Salon car title. The following year the car was fitted with Gurney Weslake heads, and a Borg Warner T10 gearbox replaced the top loader. A deep front air dam was fitted and the car painted in red over yellow, and proved very competitive.
(Soon after the successful development of the Mustang, Stuart Innes also set about the construction of the Sidchrome fastback Falcon that was raced in conjunction with the Mustang and another vehicle known as the Sidchrome Hillman Imp. The Imp was the only vehicle to beat the Minis of the day).
Stuart says: "I believe our first year budget was around $28,000 to run the two cars, as the Fastback Falcon was not constructed at that time. History will probably show we were the first team to go to go into motorsport with so many facilities for the team in NZ, but the sales results achieved for the product vindicated the expenditure and sponsorship continued".
In 1975 the car was sold by Stuart Innes to dealer Colin Giltrap and Jerry Clayton as joint owners. At no time did Jim own the vehicle.
Stuart: "We decided Jim was as good as Allan Moffat and possibly even quicker in the same car. We then set off for Australia, commencing at Baskerville in Tasmania where we won both races in the Mustang against Moffat, and the rest is history."
Below, the car In Australia
Jim Richards campaigned with considerable success against much more sophisticated opposition. By the end of 1976 however the car was no longer competitive and was shipped back to NZ. George Shewiery purchased the car from Jerry Clayton shortly after.
George raced it in NZ for a few seasons on a very tight budget, but has stored the car ever since. He has turned down some very lucrative offers to sell, and plans to restore the car and return it to the track in historic events.
For more information on the Sidchrome Mustang, contact Stuart Innes