New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words and pho­tos: John Mctav­ish

Alot of peo­ple go to Ro­torua to look at boil­ing mud, steam­ing vents, and spout­ing gey­sers, and then scare them­selves silly rid­ing the luge. If they hap­pened to be there on the third Sun­day in Jan­uary, they would have been treated to an ex­pe­ri­ence most au­to­mo­tive afi­ciona­dos would con­sider su­pe­rior to view­ing all but the most spec­tac­u­lar ther­mal ac­tiv­ity, or de­fy­ing death in any of the mul­ti­tude of ways avail­able in Ro­torua.

That su­pe­rior ex­pe­ri­ence was hosted by the Ro­torua Vin­tage and Vet­eran Car Club, and cen­tred on the Lake­front Vil­lage Green at a mag­nif­i­cent dis­play of ve­hi­cles, from vin­tage to clas­sic, new, four wheels and two. Of course, those in the know, and that must have in­cluded mem­bers from just about ev­ery car club in the up­per cen­tral North Is­land, would not have been sur­prised at the record-break­ing turnout of ve­hi­cles. Be­ing an in­for­mal sort of show, with en­try by gold-coin do­na­tion, no of­fi­cial num­bers are kept of en­trants, par­tic­i­pants, or pub­lic. De­spite that, chair­man David Tom­lin­son es­ti­mated there must have been close to 300 ve­hi­cles on dis­play. I think he es­ti­mated on the con­ser­va­tive side, be­cause the vast space that lo­cals call the Vil­lage Green, ad­ja­cent to the lake, was filled with rows of cars, and ev­ery shady spot around the perime­ter had cars three or four deep vy­ing for space. There was no way I, or my as­sis­tant, who was slowed down this year by a mo­bil­ity prob­lem, had time to count them all.

A pow­er­ful at­trac­tion that may have con­trib­uted to my as­sis­tant’s less-than-com­plete de­vo­tion to the au­to­mo­tive im­per­a­tive was, as usual, the Sound­shell Mar­ket. Set up al­most as part of the Vil­lage Green, the mar­ket is a great place to find a bar­gain and get some fruit or a cof­fee. Equally close, but on the city side of the green, is Ro­torua’s fa­mous Eat Street. This pedes­tri­an­ized and cov­ered street lined with restau­rants is where my fel­low Alfa Romeo club mem­bers re­paired for a well-de­served lunch. No one said be­ing a clas­sic car en­thu­si­ast was easy, but there can­not be many eas­ier lo­ca­tions than Ro­torua, with all mod cons close to hand. Some­times, a proper gourmet sit-down restau­rant lunch just wins hands down over the usual hot dog and chips con­sumed on the fly.

David ex­plained that the gold coins would again go to the St John am­bu­lance ser­vice. The ser­vice dis­played a num­ber of am­bu­lances, the old­est — now re­tired — be­ing a 1976 Dodge.

Be­ing a laid-back sum­mer event, there were no prizes on of­fer, not even peo­ple’s choice. Due to my as­sis­tant’s tem­po­rary speed wob­bles, not to men­tion ab­sence scop­ing the mar­ket, our usual ploy of pick­ing our own wasn’t pos­si­ble. In any case, the num­ber of cars and the ne­ces­sity of cov­er­ing the ground in the time avail­able, made lin­ger­ing over de­ci­sions not an op­tion. Nev­er­the­less, ve­hi­cles that caught my eye were the small­est car, a BMW Isetta; and the largest, a spec­tac­u­lar Ford Galaxie 500; the mil­lionth (plus a few) Mor­ris Mi­nor; a lovely Ford Thun­der­bird; any one of chair­man David’s Rolls-royces and Bent­leys; and, of course, many oth­ers. How­ever, the ve­hi­cle that to me epit­o­mized the beau­ti­ful sum­mer’s day on the peace­ful Vil­lage Green was the dark blue Tri­umph TR6, surely a time­less de­sign from the era of Bri­tish sports car supremacy.

One mea­sure of an event’s suc­cess is how long the par­tic­i­pants stay. It was pleas­ing to note that as the 2pm nom­i­nal close of the event came and went, many own­ers were still con­tent to en­joy each other’s com­pany. In fact, the Alfa con­tin­gent, be­ing from out of town, was un­usu­ally among the first to leave. Some un­kind and mis­in­formed peo­ple would say that was be­cause these driv­ers would have to leave in plenty of time to get home, pend­ing break­downs. Be that as it may, we all en­joyed the day, and will be back as long as David and his team in the Ro­torua Vin­tage and Vet­eran Car Club con­tinue to or­ga­nize it.

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