Rowena Orejana talks to the man behind the first Drive NZ Classic Rally, which will finish in a street race in Manukau later this month
Born to be wild is not precisely how you would describe Roger Philips. The former chief executive of an Italian car design firm speaks with an even cadence, almost as if addressing a boardroom meeting.
But the calm veneer slips slightly as he shows off his 300 Series 1 V12 Jaguar, Lotus and 1969 Daimler 250 V8.
''If you were blindfolded and someone sat you in these cars, you would be able to tell what they were by the touch and the smell.
''They have tons of character,'' Mr Philips explains.
The car fanatic - who designed the world's biggest agricultural tractor more than 30 years ago - is the driving force behind the first Drive New Zealand Classic Rally.
As well as closed-off sections of road, the rally tackles certified race tracks around the country in a 17-day, 5500km countrywide tour. It will culminate in the Manukau Flying 50 street race on October 25.
The street race is the highlight of Manukau City's Full Throttle weekend. Besides the two-car street race in the heart of Manukau, there will also be a display of 150 British classic cars in Osterley Ave.
''One reason for setting up this event is if you have a classic car, there is very little in the way of a motor race you can join in,'' he says. This event allows enthusiasts to use their car for its design purpose.''
Classic cars are defined not so much by age as by brand and character.
''We'll accept cars from the 1930s - if they've got reasonable performance - to pretty much new cars branded as classics,'' says Mr Philips. ''By definition, there was a period of technical excellence from 1959 to the 70s, before anti-pollution hit the automotive industry.''
In its inaugural year, the road show has a fairly low number of entrants.
But Mr Philips plans for the event to become a major tourist-dollar earner for the country. The price to join the race is $8000, about one-tenth of what it would cost in Europe.
New Zealand scenery and the South Island's low population mean drivers can keep their motors running at a gratifying speed.
''It will be an enthusiast's utopia,'' Mr Philips promises. ''We have the best scenery in the
world. If you've got a character car, there's no better way to enjoy it.''