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New Zealand’s sportscar ingenuity on the international stage

Saker Sports Cars is one of the most successful New Zealand car manufacturers, with its unique performance models enjoying a loyal following.

Bruce Turnbull founded the company in 1989 and released the Saker SV1 three years later, a street legal model designed to be powered by a variety of engines.

With the aim of being an affordable and practical sportscar, which could set lap records on the track before being driven home.

Although the idea was the Saker SV1 to be not as a bespoke race car, Turnbull contested events in his legal road going example including at Pukekohe and the Wellington Street Race where it proved competitive against very exotic competition.

Produced in Feilding, the Saker was used as a promotional tool for Kenworth to showcase its Jensen range of products.

Powered originally by an Audi sourced engine, this has since been replaced by a Lexus 4.0-litre V8 thus highlighting the ability to interchange between different units.

Just 10 SV1s were built, before Turnbull developed the SVS using a Subaru four-pot boxer motor. However, the owner could choose between a turnkey option or rolling chassis to install their own powerplant. A Sprint variant of the SVS was also available for open top sportscar fans, but by this stage production had moved to the Netherlands.

Produced in four different countries, but a Dutch company has taken on the production of this New Zealand sportscar forming its own one-make series and claiming to build 50 cars per year.

There was a dispute over licencing and Turnbull isn’t involved in the company anymore, but the Dutch now continue to use the base platform after adding the RapX as well as the Sniper to the line-up.

The one-make Saker Sportscar Challenge was one of the top amateur classes in the Netherlands, but this ended in 2013. Three racing chassis were completed to race in the US, while Sakers have won the Britcar Endurance Championship, 24 Hours of Dubai and the 24 Hours of Barcelona.

Although the Dutch have assumed control, it still retains much of the New Zealand ingenuity, which made it a hit during the 1990s.