Old-school Kiwi Mazda 616 Capella claims Hot Wheels win

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Words: Matthew Hansen   |   Photos Race 'N' Road Photography
16 Apr 2021

Hot Wheels’ inaugural New Zealand Legends Tour, held virtually, has been run and won, with the well known (and rather gorgeous) custom 1973 Mazda 616 Capella of Mark Strawbridge. The brapping little motor is now one step closer to being immortalised in Hot Wheels miniature.

The homebuilt Mazda packs a 12A PP rotary engine with a screaming 11,000rpm redline, paired to a platform that only weighs 900kg all in. It hasn’t always looked like this, of course. The car was originally imported from Australia as a junkyard rebuild project. Amazingly, the car’s white paint is original.

“What started off as a ‘quick ‘n’ easy get it brapping-build’ snowballed into creating a corner-carving race car that plays tribute to the 1970s Mazda factory race cars driven by the likes of famous Japanese racer Yoshimi Katayama,” said Strawbridge.

“I always love to give those pesky Escorts a run for their money at the likes of the iconic Leadfoot Festival of which we are regular attendees.”

The competition judges said that the little Mazda scored big on authenticity, creativity, and what Hot Wheels calls ‘garage spirit’. It beat out a range of Australian and Kiwi entries, including a Ford Capri with an 8.4-litre Chevrolet V8 engine swap, a Ford XY Falcon wagon powered by a 545 cubic inch 8.9-litre V8, and a bosozoku-inspired Mazda MX-5 with an electric engine swap.

The Capella’s audition video included footage of it performing that Kiwi tradition; a shed skid. It also showed the car being hauled up Rod Millen’s driveway at the annual Leadfoot Festival; an event at which this car is a regular.

“The shed skids attracted me. The fact that it’s thrashing at the Leadfoot Festival attracted me. There’s a few things that separate it from the other Hot Wheels cars that have been immortalised in the 1:64th scale. The Katayama styling, the overfenders, the traditional 1970s racing-themed graphics make it an eye-catcher,” said ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett, one of the judges.

“It’s loud, it’s obnoxious, and it screams Hot Wheels. [...] It oozes style, and it’s a casting that Hot Wheels don’t already have. Hopefully it goes all the way.”

The Legends Tour will now continue on around the world in 15 other countries, before a grand finale event is hosted in the US.


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