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


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.

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