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Track Goddess Creating An M8 Replica To Pound The Tracks Of New Zealand (Part 1)

12/2/2014 11:23:23 AM
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So what links the names Venus, Salome, Phoenix, Arabella, Sibella, Sophia, Passion and Helga? More to the point, what has that got to do with BMWs? The answer is surprisingly simple to one man – Alan Ferguson, an audiologist with a collection of BMWs that includes no less than eight, 8 Series cars. Each of those cars has a name but only one is featured in this article. Venus.

BMW NZ on road

BMW NZ on road

Resplendent now in red, this was originally green and yellow and enthusiasts may remember it as ‘The Green Goddess’ when it was competing in the UK. The car is still under development – and so is the driver! This is Alan’s first foray into motorsport and he has dived in very much at the deep end and along with proposed improvements and refinements to the car, Alan has very wisely opted for some tuition from international BMW racer and driver trainer, Mike Eady.

Whilst Mike develops the driver, the build and development have been under the care of local race car builder, Andy Culpin of Race FX, conveniently based at the new Hampton Downs race track, just south of Auckland, New Zealand.

Alan’s loyalty and passion for the marque is pretty obvious, starting with a 635CSi, an M6, then the first E31 850i in NZ in 1990. Alan wanted more performance, but BMW NZ would not import the coveted 850CSi, as the availability of quality fuel precluded it. Alan compromised with a BMW Motorsport Z3 3.2 straight-six, but in his words: “A GT it was not.”

BMW NZ wheel

BMW NZ wheel

Then, whilst visiting Scotland in 2009 (Alan is of Scottish heritage), Alan decided to do a spot of eBay shopping and noticed a 850CSi for sale in Salisbury. Not wanting to lose the opportunity, a deal was immediately done (even though the owner was then in Turkey) and Alan flew down to Heathrow, then caught the train to Salisbury to pick up the car. He then drove it back to Edinburgh, before driving back down again to Southampton and shipped the car to NZ. That was a 1994 UK press car and was initially sold by Damon Hill BMW and Alan still has it.

In May 2012, Alan was surprised to see another 850CSi advertised on eBay as a track car. Only 160 RHD cars had been produced, and turning one into a track car was indeed surprising. Converted by Mark Fish Motorsport UK, the car ran in the 2004/05 Kumho Series. Considered pretty heavy and tough on brakes, the car was part of a collection that was being disposed of as the owner was moving to Spain.

The date of transaction for this example was 6 June, notable for the very rare second transit of the planet Venus, which run in pairs, eight years apart. That finished on 6 June at 4:49am – which just happens to be Alan’s birthday. The next transit is over a century away, so the number eight is significant and was Alan’s preferred race number. Sadly, that race number was taken, being one of the most requested of all race numbers – for obvious reasons.

Alan won the auction and had the car shipped to NZ where, initially, Alan thought he’d use the car for spares. However, a visit to a BMW Motorsport 20th anniversary day at Hampton Downs just to watch, had Alan instantly hooked and the Green Goddess was duly entered in the annual 2013 January Hampton Downs Festival, running in the Heritage and Group A class.

A year earlier, and it would have been part of the BMW Festival at the track.

BMW NZ interior

BMW NZ interior

The chief scrutineer at the festival was respected competition car builder, Andy Culpin. Although Andy often seems to have more than one BMW in his workshop, he has also built his own F5000 car, restored others and has a history of interesting cars passing through his hands. Current projects include a Cheetah, plus what started off as a scratch-built Bentley Speed 8 but may yet morph into something else. Recently, a very nice race-prepped Sebring MGC shell also occupied Andy’s time and passing through his hands a few years ago was a Lola T70, another ex-UK car, the yellow Marcos LM500 – which had some success in 2000 – and there are several other open series BMWs currently racing in NZ that Andy has built.


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