Even before his death last Friday (June 26) Auckland-based businessman and racing driver Clark Proctor’s place amongst the greats of local Kiwi motorsport battlers was all but guaranteed.
After-all, like original all-rounder George Smith (1902-1969) Proctor started his life-long driving career of a loose surface (Smith on the black sand of Muriwai Beach, Proctor the hard-packed but constantly moving clay of the country’s stock car tracks) but ended up making his name on tarseal.
And, like the other great all-rounder of our sport’s rough-hewn formative years, Ron Roycroft (1915-2000), as well as current ‘keeper of the flame’ Ken Smith, Proctor went on to combine the business of making money with the pleasure of spending it going racing.
More recently other drivers to join this exclusive, ultimately, and proudly amateur, club would be the likes of Leo Leonard, Reg Cook, Ken Smith, Owen Evans, John ‘JR’ Rae, ‘Racing Ray’ Williams and Glenn Smith.
Each has made a fair old mark on our local motor racing scene. None have done so, though, across such a wide cross-section of categories, cars, and years, as Clark Proctor.
The ultimate loquacious, larger-the-life character, Clark lived his life at a million miles an hour and was as pugnacious and determined to succeed in his business dealings as he was on the track.
As such, the only person he drove harder than those who worked for and with him was himself. That he had his faults was obvious. In fact, I don’t think it is exaggerating to say that he wore them proudly – along with his poor, ultimately overworked heart – on his sleeve.
Woe betide – for instance – anyone who he thought crossed him, as those on the receiving end of (at best) a tongue-lashing and (at worst) protracted legal action, will no doubt be only too ready to admit.
Yet – in my experience anyway – he was one of the few of my myriad media ‘contacts’ who ALWAYS returned a phone call, and he was never anything less than unfailingly polite and empathic, whether he and I were talking business, racing, or – usually – a combination of both. Or debating something I had written which Clark thought was wrong.
I first met Clark Michael Proctor (1958-2020) not long after he had moved to Auckland (from Wellington) to pursue what at the time was the next best thing to a professional career as a Stock Car driver.
That might sound odd written like that but that was Clark all over; if he was going to do something, he was going to do it properly.
What I didn’t realise at the time, (this would have been 1987/88) was that Proctor and his father Bert were already well-versed in the then fledgling business of large scale metal recycling, and that in 1988 Clark became the public (Auckland-based) face of a business called Can Man Recyclers, one of the first businesses to collect and recycle aluminium cans.
After selling that business in 1993, Clark worked for others for the next six years before deciding the time was right to re-enter the trade on his own account – and the business he became synonymous with – Metalman – was born.
Needless to say, that business grew rapidly on the back of its ambitious car-mad boss. Hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders still drive past its ultra-high-profile site alongside the always busy Takanini interchange on the city’s southern motorway.
And anyone with even the slightest interest in motorsport – in the city or indeed around the country – would immediately associate the name and distinctive red on yellow Metalman colour palette with Clark and the increasingly wild (looking, sounding and going) Ford Escort he had built to do the various Targa NZ events.
The car – complete with its distinctive ROLLUP personalised number plate – was the perfect calling card; quick, colourful and a distinctive mix of the old and fan-friendly Mk1 Ford Escort body, and hi-tech of the new turbocharged Nissan V6 engine, and Supercar-style suspension and braking package underneath.
As business expanded so did Clark’s ambitions – first into the then booming Ford vs Holden ENZED NZV8 Touring Car class in a Ford Falcon, then the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series with the ex-John Gunn March 73A/1, and pretty much at the same time – Nissan’s GT-R35, which – initially anyway – replaced ROLLUP as his Targa car of choice.
No, I don’t know how he managed to do each project justice but – with the help of a group of loyal and equally hard-working crewmen – he did.
Clark might not have won every race he entered. But he was always there, always with the best possible equipment and intentions. He was, if you like, the ultimate competitor. And if he entered a race – no matter what category or car – he had to be taken seriously.
It was the same in business. Having built Metalman into a nationwide enterprise he first sold a share of it to Invercargill-based HW Richardson Group, then the rest a couple of years later.
Rather than retire to his holiday home in Queenstown though, Clark doubled-down on the proceeds of the sale, setting up the multi-discipline Logical Group to do everything from store race cars to build innovative, portable ex-shipping container-based rooms to complete houses.
He also went into partnership to develop a worker accommodation ‘park’ near Highland Motorsport Park on the outskirts of Cromwell.
Clark Michael Proctor (1958-2020) simply couldn’t help himself.
Please note. A service to celebrate Clark’s life will be held at The Pavilion, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park and Events Centre, on Wednesday July 01 starting at 2.30am