TARGA HAWKES BAY
FULL ITINERARY, DRIVER LISTING, AND ROUTE MAPS
For most classic car aficionados, the location of a car show is not the major attraction. Their focus is the cars, and rightly so. But, every now and again, we — the aficionados — luck out with an event that takes place at a venue that almost steals the show. The gardens and lawns of The Elms in Tauranga, with the house completed by Archdeacon Brown in 1847 as its centrepiece, is one of those venues. The house, outbuildings, and lawns shaded by the tall old trees after which the property is named, made a stunning backdrop for the almost 70 vehicles on display on Sunday February 25 at The Elms Classic Car Show. Admittedly, imagination is needed to visualize how the environs of The Elms must have looked 170 years ago, when the tranquil waters of Tauranga Harbour lapped at the foot of the cliffs, above which the house stands. Now, a century and a half of reclamation and devotion to road, rail, commerce, and port activities means that the harbour is difficult to see from the lawns.
Even though, strictly speaking, the British Car Club no longer exists, officials — notably Graham Beaumont — have joined with Andrew Gregg, who manages The Elms complex, to keep the show going. The show has progressed from a modest start a few years ago to become a great inner-city day out for all those who wish to admire the vehicles and to roam inside the main mission house and the many outbuildings — all for the price of a gold coin.
There are paths that take you around the perimeter, with all the various plantings and items of historical interest well sign-posted. Even though nowadays the nearest beach is at Sulphur Point a few kilometres away, Mauao (Mount Maunganui) still looms above all.
New to the event this year was a display of military vehicles owned by Bay of Plenty members of the New Zealand Military Vehicle Club. In such a lovely setting, peace reigned, so club members could relax along with the rest of us, secure in the knowledge that their prowess would not be called on.
Adding to the atmosphere was a sextet playing stringed instrumental versions of well-known hits. As usual, catering was by various carts, and my assistant and I sampled the savouries and excellent coffee. The Bethlehem Te Puna Lions Club signature sausages are always a welcome indulgence.
The cars were mainly of British origin, which was not surprising given Graham's penchant for Jaguars, Rovers, and Triumphs, of which he had an example of each on display. However, a car that caught my eye was a 2004 Mercedes-benz SL55 AMG F1 pace car. This future classic had a sign calling for ‘expressions of interest’, which I took to mean that it was for sale, but no price was mentioned. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), my assistant, now fully recovered from her mobility problems, was close at hand throughout the day, meaning my enquiry was stillborn.
The other car that triggers envy every time I see it at almost every car show around the Bay of Plenty is a stunning royal blue 1972 Triumph TR6. Although I suspect that it’s definitely not for sale, should I ever meet the owners, and depending on my assistant's proximity, I would be tempted to ‘express an interest’.
Perhaps it is unfair to single out these two cars, because there were many other excellent examples, and great representation from clubs including Vauxhall, Jaguar, MG, Rover, Rolls-royce, Bentley, Sunbeam, and Morgan. Looking entirely at home on one of the lawns, and of great credit to Tirau Earthmovers, was an immaculate International K7 truck named ‘Hillary’, first registered in New Zealand 100 years after Archdeacon Brown completed his Elms mission house. Had he been able to look into the future and see that beautiful old truck and all those other fine vehicles parked on his immaculate lawns, enticing visitors to contribute to maintaining The Elms, I hope that he would have been pleased.