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Vale Sir Colin Giltrap

SIR Colin Giltrap, an icon of the New Zealand automotive sector, philanthropist and long-time motorsport patron and enthusiast, has died aged 84.

Giltrap made his name in the automotive industry, co-founding the Hamilton-based luxury car dealership Monaco Motors in 1966 and building it into the multimillion-dollar Giltrap Group.

“Since I was a young lad going to school, I was keen on luxury cars,” Giltrap told 66 Magazine in 2020, explaining how he began trading cars while still in high school.

“When I was 18, I would buy used Jag’s – the Mark 1 2.4’s. I bought every one of them I could in Auckland and sold them in the Taranaki. 

“My father had an agricultural equipment showroom that I would use to put the occasional special car on display in. His business did well, and he moved on to Hamilton.

“So, when he retired and sold the business, it gave me the opportunity to concentrate on good cars.”

His contribution to motorsport over many decades, as well as his philanthropy, earnt him a knighthood in 2012.

Giltrap raced himself in the 1960s and was a starter in the inaugural Sandown 6 Hour – the race which became the Sandown 500 – in 1964, winning his class and finishing seventh outright in a Volvo 122S that he shared with Ivan Segedin.

He also was a friend to Formula 1 stars of the day, from Kiwi stars Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon, to overseas heroes like Sir Jack Brabham, Jim Clark and Sir Jackie Stewart whom he met when they came to New Zealand to race in the Tasman Series.

But it was what he did outside the cockpit that enshrines his place in New Zealand’s motorsport history.

Giltrap used his hard-earnt wealth to support countless young New Zealand racers in pursuing their dreams overseas.

The Giltrap Group still features on Shane van Gisbergen’s helmet amid his NASCAR move for 2024. Pic: Shane van Gisbergen Facebook

The list is essentially a who’s who of Kiwi racers from the past few decades, and includes Scott Dixon, Shane van Gisbergen, Haydon Paddon, Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber, Mitch Evans, Richie Stanaway, Liam Lawson and many, many others through to the present day, including his own grandson, rising Porsche star Marco Giltrap.

Giltrap also assisted many New Zealand outfits competing in marquee events, including an all-Kiwi Le Mans 24 Hours entry in 1996 that featured Greg Murphy among the driving roster.

He also backed New Zealand’s entry to A1GP in the 2000s, giving a platform for drivers like Matt Halliday and Jonny Reid to show their wares against top international talent.

“I can’t remember in my lifetime so many young New Zealand drivers competing in Europe,” Giltrap told the NZ Herald in the mid 2000s.

“Unfortunately I can’t fund them all. There are little bits here and there and some big bits for the ones who have lots of talent.”

Giltrap also helped sharpen Kiwi racers by bringing top international talent to his homeland to provide a benchmark, with the likes of Larry Perkins, Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan among others racing in the country’s top open-wheel series over the summer months in Giltrap-backed cars.

His patronage also extended to putting $250,000 towards the founding of the Bruce McLaren Centre for High Performance Engineering at Auckland University, while the Giltrap Trust, established by he and wife Lady Jennifer, made significant contributions to causes ranging from the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation to young victims of domestic violence.

He remained active in his business until as recently as last year, stepping down as chairman of the Giltrap Group last May and handing the reins over to his sons Richard and Michael, but was hospitalised in December after suffering a serious fall in London.

“Giltrap Group founder Sir Colin Giltrap, passed peacefully at home with family last night, aged 84,” company spokesperson Shaun Summerfield told the New Zealand Herald.

“He had been battling ill health since suffering a fall in London last year.”

The entire V8 Sleuth team extends its condolences to the Giltrap family.

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