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Emergency services were called to the scene on Tar Hill, about 12km south of Tokoroa, about 9pm yesterday, Tokoroa Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer David Morris said.
It appeared the southbound car had veered off the road and smashed into a concrete culvert, he said.
"It was a single vehicle, which was in a real mangled state when we arrived."
The car was on its side with the dead man inside, Mr Morris said.
"The engine was actually ripped out of the vehicle on impact and thrown about another 10 metres from the vehicle."
Road conditions at the time were "excellent", he said.
"The road was dry and the weather was great, it was quite a nice humid night."
The serious crash unit was investigating.