NORTH CAN­TER­BURY RU­RAL RUM­BLE

Words and photos: Trevor Stan­ley-joblin

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents -

On Sun­day, Septem­ber 24, the sec­ond an­nual North Can­ter­bury Ru­ral Ram­ble was held on a day that could only be de­scribed as per­fect as far as the weather was con­cerned. Start­ing from St John Am­ber­ley, the Ru­ral Ram­ble route in­cluded two sec­tions of fine gravel, so the event was open to all mod­erns if the own­ers of clas­sics did not wish to travel over un­sealed roads in their re­stored clas­sics. Our other two clas­sic ral­lies, the North Can­ter­bury Clas­sic Tour, held in March, and the Christ­mas Picnic run, never in­clude gravel.

The old­est ve­hi­cle en­tered was a 1928 De Soto, while the lat­est was a near-new Maserati. New to the clas­sic car scene, Mi­randa and Johnny San­ders bought out their 1968 VE Valiant af­ter hav­ing it in stor­age for nearly 20 years, and, a few days later, they emailed me to say how much they had en­joyed the day and were look­ing for­ward to the next North Can­ter­bury events.

The first gravel sec­tion of 19km, which was 18km from the start venue, was over a twisty and un­du­lat­ing scenic sec­tion, be­hind and above Am­ber­ley. Many par­tic­i­pants, even lo­cals, com­mented that they had never trav­elled over here be­fore. The ic­ing on the cake was the fact that the last of the sea­sonal snow was still on the moun­tains be­yond — a scene like an ad­ver­tis­ing pic­ture en­tic­ing over­seas trav­ellers to visit the South Is­land. I’m not ex­pe­ri­enced enough to put words to­gether here to best de­scribe the over­all scene, with dozens of clas­sic ve­hi­cles trav­el­ling at a slow speed so the oc­cu­pants could able to take in the mag­nif­i­cent views.

Ex­it­ing on to the flat once again, through Pyra­mid Val­ley, the route sheet was pep­pered with his­toric in­for­ma­tion as par­tic­i­pants passed places of in­ter­est — “Pass the Hu­runui Race­course, es­tab­lished in 1874 and still used once a year” was typ­i­cal of many route in­struc­tions en­joyed by all.

About 30km fur­ther on, the in­struc­tion sheet read “Head­ing to­ward Hot Springs Han­mer, look for a blue sign 10km north read­ing Les­lie Hills to turn right here.” This sec­tion of road is an­other that most had never trav­elled be­fore. Con­tain­ing no fewer than seven one-way bridges with no on-com­ing traf­fic, this was like driv­ing over a sec­tion of a na­tional com­pet­i­tive rally but with only 5.8km of fine gravel.

The ram­ble fin­ished at the Wa­iau Mo­tor Camp — a venue the group had not used be­fore in 43 years of rally route planning — which proved to be an ideal place to lunch. The sausage-siz­zle proved to be pop­u­lar, as did the cof­fee/ tea car, both get­ting plenty of sales. Af­ter lunch, there was a short walk to view the mag­nif­i­cent dis­play put on by the Forbes fam­ily of Wa­iau com­pris­ing an elec­tronic 1950s-style Christ­mas Gala plus a minia­ture rail­way.

The old his­toric cob cot­tage right next door and the 105-year-old ho­tel op­po­site still show signs of se­vere dam­age from when the 7.8 earth­quake struck at two min­utes af­ter mid­night on Novem­ber 14, 2016, its epi­cen­tre un­der Wa­iau, not Kaik­oura as re­ported by the me­dia. We also saw an his­toric stone church badly dam­aged and many pri­vate homes still un­re­paired af­ter al­most a year! When this earth­quake hit, it claimed two lives, trapped res­i­dents, de­stroyed roads and build­ings, and raised parts of the seabed by sev­eral me­tres. We saw earth where road should be and twisted steel snaking away from what was once a rail­way line. Those of you who have trav­elled the scenic route to Kaik­oura would be dis­mayed and dev­as­tated at the sight. But work is well un­der­way to re­pair and re­store the rail and road routes. The rail opened in late Oc­to­ber while the plan is to have the main road from Pic­ton to Kaik­oura open by Christ­mas.

Very few peo­ple are aware that the orig­i­nal rail route from Christchurch to Pic­ton was to run through Wa­iau via what is now known as the in­land road. In fact, the line was al­ready laid and in use up to Wa­iau be­fore a de­ci­sion was made by the gov­ern­ment of the day to go the coastal way. Maybe a wrong de­ci­sion as it turns out. The rail from Christchurch to Wa­iau was then used as a Sun­day scenic out­ing for fam­i­lies, right up to about 1978. On week­days, the line was used to trans­port lime from the hills nearby to Christchurch — in fact, the con­crete load­ing hop­per is still there as part of an his­toric view point for tourists.

the atro­cious con­di­tions, with the fi­nal race for the se­ries can­celled. Most of these guys are there for the fun of par­tic­i­pa­tion and, as one can imag­ine, it wasn’t much fun par­tic­i­pat­ing in Lake Hamp­ton!

The ERC cars are split into two fields, with the AES cat­e­gory be­ing for the slower cars and the Ar­rows Wheels for the faster cars. One of the stand­out ve­hi­cles in this field over the week­end was the beau­ti­fully re­stored black and silver ’65 Ford Cortina GT of John Honore. The Icebreaker is first event that Johnny has had it run­ning at, hav­ing pur­chased it in May this year. It is what he con­sid­ers a “true barn find” and “a real honey”. He is look­ing for­ward to fur­ther test­ing and prac­tis­ing to get the most out of it.

Dar­ron Cur­phery once again shone through in this class with the new Alfa GT, win­ning races one and three. He may well find him­self in the Ar­rows group next time around.

The Ar­row Wheels races saw three dif­fer­ent win­ners, with the first race be­ing won by Bruce Manon. He drove well to get the num­ber-one plac­ing, hav­ing started in sec­ond but drop­ping down to fifth place by the end of the first lap, be­fore man­ag­ing to work his way back through the field. Race two was a hand­i­cap race and was won by Nigel Pat­ter­son in a BMW 335i. Hav­ing started 8th, he was in the lead by lap three and didn’t look back. The third and fi­nal race for the Ar­rows Wheels cars had Mal Clark tak­ing to the che­quered flag be­fore the rest of the field by a mere .256 of a sec­ond in his as­tound­ing Rover P6 3500.

Over the years, the BMW Race Driver Se­ries has built a rep­u­ta­tion for cheap, ex­cit­ing, fun rac­ing, as well as a pos­si­ble means to a ca­reer in mo­tor rac­ing and not to men­tion mar­riage pro­pos­als. The lat­ter was wit­nessed on Satur­day when BMW Race Driver Se­ries driver Si­mon Burke pro­posed to part­ner Raewyn An­der­son, who also races in the se­ries. Split into three cat­e­gories — 2.0 Litre, E30, and Open, the E30s, with a full field of 32 cars vy­ing for the same piece of tar­mac, made for some ex­cit­ing view­ing and prob­a­bly a cash cow for the panel beat­ers! Of the E30s, it was Jack­son Power who pow­ered home to gain an early lead in the BMW E30 Cham­pi­onship. Mean­while, in the 2.0 Litre class, Gra­ham Ball, hav­ing won race one and two, gained an early ad­van­tage. The Open class, which is where money talks, fea­tures cars such as the 4.5-litre 2006 M3 E92 coupé of Kent Baignet, who, in fact, won this round. The old­est car in the field was Michael Del­mont’s 1975 2002 Turbo.

Hav­ing en­dured a week­end full of aqua­plan­ing and close calls with wipers on flat stick and head­lights ablaze for the most part, I’m sure every­one will be look­ing for­ward to finer con­di­tions at the next race week­end.

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