Seen in a Taranaki workshop 1
Passing through Taranaki on a mission for our sister magazine, NZTODAY, I stopped off in Opunake to see Nigel Fraser, who along with wife Michele runs Classic Auto Repaints, a vintage and classic car restoration and paintshop in the small coastal town.
I have met Nigel on many occasions as he is a vintage Chevrolet owner but this was the first time I had been to his workshop. I believe Nigel is one of those responsible for a conversation Eoin Young had in Te Kuiti a few years ago when he and I has stopped for fuel while doing a rerun of the 1923 Wellington to Auckland record attempt in my Durant.
While I was paying for the fuel, Eoin was sitting in the car and was approached by an interested onlooker who was asking questions about the car. When the onlooker volunteered he had old Chevs, Eoin mentioned that earlier in the day we had stopped at my father’s place in Bulls where there were old Chevs as well.
“Oh,” said our onlooker, “that must be Len.” Then, in a very reverential tone added, “We call him God”.
Getting back to the car, Eoin was bursting to recount the story, so I rang the person I don’t call God (but do call “the old bugger”) and asked after his apparent elevation to the status of deity. When Nigel and his mate Neil Carter (the Normanby cabinetmaker who prefers car woodwork and made the new bottom runners for the Durant body) were restoring their 1930 Chev sedans, the odd trailer-load of bits and a fair bit of information was seen heading north to Taranaki and it seems that any questions or requests for bits seemed to be answered from the Bulls Chev parts depository and hence the new title.
When I arrived outside Nigel’s workshop, a 1930 International truck, a vehicle which had been in the same family from new, was reaching the end of an extensive (and expensive) full restoration and was sitting outside while an issue with the vacuum tank was being sorted. Raw fuel arriving in the intake manifold after the carb. does not make for a happy engine. A 1950s Chev with minor hotrod treatment was just inside the door. A repaint had turned into something rather more extensive when some pretty dodgy work was uncovered during the preparation process and the owner has decided to repair the previous attempts to patch the car up before continuing with the paint work.
Taking my eye was the project against the back wall, where the mortal remains of a 1924 Chev. lay. My first vintage car was one of these fun little things and I remain a huge fan of the four cylinder Chev. It turns out that this is to be Michele’s car. She and Nigel had gone to the Roycroft Trophy at Easter and when she realised that there were a few female drivers there, she decided she wanted to be there as well, so a Chev. speedster is on the way. The chassis they have is looking pretty moth-eaten but when I mentioned that I knew where there was a good one, Nigel was already a step ahead of me and was planning a raid on the House of God soon to remedy that situation. In the early days of motorsport in New Zealand, when beach racing was the mainstay, the four cylinder Chev was a popular mount and with enough work and development, was good for 100 mph. Stopping from that speed with two wheel external contacting brakes would be another matter entirely.
Arriving near the end of the working day, I finished up back at Nigel and Michele’s home for a look at the other Chev speedster in the family. Nigel already had one completed for himself, complete with the ultimate engine upgrade (short of a Frontenac head), a very hard to find in New Zealand 3 port Oldsmobile head. Almost ready for the road, it isn’t quite there yet so I had to satisfy my desire for a fast drive in the country with a sit in the driver’s seat, leather flying helmet and goggles on for effect.
The mural on the wall of Nigel Fraser’s Classic Auto Repaints in Opunake
Looking racy in Nigel’s Chev 4 speedster
A joint effort between Nigel Fraser and Neil Carter, this is the body of a mid 1900s ArrolJohnston and was built from scratch from two photos by Neil. Nigel has the task of painting it. The finished car will then return to its native Scotland
1950 Chev. which came in for paint, but with floor and sills almost gone and some pretty rough repairs in some of the panels, the job got bigger. Outside, a 1930 International truck nears the end of a full restoration
Ford Model A and SS Jaguar in the paint shop. Below It might look like junk, but this will become Michele Fraser’s new 1924 Chevrolet race car