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Classic cars in New Zealand

We went to New Zealand for 6 weeks and I was surprised at the number of clasisc cars that we saw. I don't intend this to be an account of our holiday but just about things mechanical. We stayed in Bangkok for a couple of days and I was impressed by the ingenuity of the locals who used a truck engine and gearbox to make a sort of outboard/boat combo called a long tail because the prop is mounted on a long shaft from the gearbox. The whole lot is mounted on a swivel to raise/lower and steer. They are grossly overpowered creating a rooster tail underway.

We flew into Christchurch about three weeks before the latest earthquake staying in a hotel in the city centre. On the Sunday when we were there I noticed a few classics from the post war era including this 2CV. They were parked in the main square beside the now ruined cathedral. I was intrigued by the number plate and discovered later that it's very easy to get a personal plate, which belongs to the purchaser, rather than the car. Later, on one of our journeys, I saw BARB1E but the 4x4 wasn't pink!

I did come across Longhorn Leather on Colombo Street in Christchurch, a shop that made and sold flying and motoring helmets as well as lots of other stuff. I tried one on and I was impressed at the quality which came at a price - NZ$250 - too much for a fun item. They made all their stuff on the premises and would make one-off styles of helmets. The original shop had been damaged in the September 2010 earthquake and they were in temporary premises and I've no idea if they are still in business after the February 2011 earthquake.

On the drive south in our camper van we passed various cars from the early postwar and interwar period. We camped at Wanaka and while eating breakfast one morning saw a number of Ford Ts gathering in the adjacent sports field. There were about a dozen cars which unfortunately were too far away to photograph. I discovered later that the NZ Ford T club organised this event. Given the population of the South Island is about a million I thought this was a great turn out.

When we crossed over to North Island we went to Napier which was flattened by an earthquake in 1931 and the subsequent fires destroyed the heart of the city. The central business district was rebuilt in Art Deco style and almost all of these buildings have survived. By chance we arrived on the Thursday before the Art Deco weekend festival. There were loads of events scheduled including a flying display by WWII aircraft and the RNZAF equivalent of the Red Arrows called the Red Checkers, a classic car parade, motorcyle parade and static dispays of steam traction engines, road rollers and small stationary engines.

We saw a P51 Mustang, PBY Catalina and a formation of T6 Harvards performing over the sea front followed by the RNZAF display team who were brilliant!

The majority of the cars were American with British cars being mainly mass producted Morris and Austin. The contrast between the staid Rolls Royces and Bentleys and the flashy luxury Auburn, Packards, Buicks and Cadillacs was quite striking. Most of the vast luxury cars were two seaters with a rumble seat for only the athletic to use. What was also striking was the lack of cars from Europe other than those from the UK. I saw a Citroen Traction Avante two seater coupe, a biggish 1920s Fiat and a BMW 328 sports car and that was it!

We saw many cars cruising the streets and when I tried to take a photo of an Oldfield the owner insisted that we got into the car for a photo! He said Oldfield had been taken over by General Motors and the name then vanished. I tried Google to find out more about the company but no joy. He lived in Auckland and trailered the car to Napier.

The parade had about 200 cars - they had over 500 entants but the police limited them to 200. The cars were on display either static or cruising the streets on the Friday and Saturday and, I guess, the Sunday when we left.

There were too many events organised for the w/e for anyone to see everything that was on. People made a great effort to dress the part both as spectators and participants. We can unprepared and we slobbed about in shorts and T shirts!

In the parade we saw a gap between two huge American cars and hiding in the gap was a Morgan Aero Supersport which looked very small! The only other three wheeler was a Morgan F. The motorcycle parade was disappointing with two or three Indians and that was that!

The display of small stationary engines was interesting as most were running. The steam vehicles, UK manufactured, offered rides in a trailer towed round the town.

Later when we were in Tekapo we saw a couple of the Napier classic cars on their way back to, I'd guess, Auckland. One had a puncture and they were changing the wheel.The majority of the classic cars at Napier got there on their own wheels.

New Zealand would be a great country to explore in a Pembleton with lots of spectacular scenery while driving through mountain passes, alongside rivers, lakes or the sea on, by UK standards, empty roads which were in very good condition.

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