ï»¿What the Trevor Crowe/Rodger Freeth Starlet lacked in size, it made up in Kiwi ingenuity. It has since become an icon of New Zealand Motorsport
New Zealand ‘big banger’ sedan racing was going through huge changes in the late 1970s and early ’80s. The first half of the 1970s saw domination from heavy metal American iron such as Jim Richards’s ’69 fastback Sidchrome Mustang, the Paul Fahey/Graham Baker/Leo Leonard-driven, PDL-owned 1970 Boss Mustang, Red Dawson’s beautiful gold Kensington Carpets sponsored 1970 Z28 Camaro, Rod Coppins’s ex-US Trans-Am ’69 Pontiac Firebird, Dennis Marwoods ex-US Trans-Am ’69 Camaro, and so on.
But by the mid-1970s, teams had clued on to the fact that a small car with a big engine is usually better than a big car with a big engine, being lighter, more nimble, and better on brakes. And so, by the late ’70s, the engines were being pulled from the Mustangs, Camaros, and Firebirds, and squeezed into heavily modified Ford Capris, Cortinas, and Vauxhall Victors. But then, in 1980, a guy in Christchurch by the name of Trevor Crowe decided to push the parameters further still.
Crowe had been competing in both circuit racing and rallying since the ’60s. In the early ’70s he built a mad circuit racing car for the South Island OSCA (Open Saloon Car Association) series, in which he fitted a Toyota Corolla coupe with a 327ci small block Chevy. To be blunt, it was wild. And very fast. But its impossibly short wheelbase, combined with the hefty iron block Chevy, made for attention-grabbing handling. Even still, the little Corolla proved to be a pretty successful race car.