Who was George Begg?

13th March 2024

Nestled in the small Central Southland farming community of Drummond, one George Begg spent more than a decade building many world-class race cars.

A man of many talents, he originally started building front-end loaders, and other implements and attachments, utilising his renowned engineering skills.

It was not just engineering he had a knack for. George Begg raced motorcycles extensively, including in the famed Isle of Man (TT) Tourist Trophy races.

It was in 1955 he set sail for Britain, alongside good friend Bob Cook.

While travelling from Southampton to Liverpool (where he was set to disembark for the Isle of Man), Begg called into the AJS factory to collect his new pride and joy: an AJS 7R 350cc racer, for which he forked out £336 ($672). The bikes were renowned for being competitive, fast, good-handling, and reliable racing motorcycles.

That year, Begg took part in the Manx Grand Prix races for amateur riders: an exhilarating experience. He earned a mid-field result in both the junior (350) and senior (500) GPs and garnered a bronze finisher’s medallion for each.

After the Manx races, Begg and Cook headed back to England, where they competed in a variety of club events. Both Begg and Cook competed in the GP again in 1956: Begg again received a finisher’s medallion, while Cook won a silver winner’s replica for his 25th place. It was during this stint at the Isle of Man that Begg struck up a friendship with a local girl, Freda.

Tragically, just a few months later, Cook was killed in a racing accident at the Aintree circuit near Liverpool: a shattering blow to his friend Begg.

His heart was no longer in it, but entry fees were already paid; Begg competed in the Ulster Grand Prix of 1956, before hanging up his helmet.

That December, George and Freda Begg were married and the following year (April 1957) the pair set sail to build a new life together in New Zealand.

It was from here during the 1960s and 1970s George Begg went on to build 18 race cars that not only competed with, but toppled, some of the best in the world.

His first attempt at building a single-seater race car is parked in the George Begg Bunker at Classic Motorcycle Mecca, in the form of the 1963-64 George Begg 650.

The car was built for club racing and as a bit of an engineering exercise: so, it was light, simple, and had a small rear engine.

Even though Begg hadn’t initially intended to build any more cars, within it lay the promise of bigger and better things. And that’s how it all began…

See the George Begg Bunker for yourself by booking tickets here.