Seen in a Taranaki workshop 1

Classic Driver - - OVER STEERING! -

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

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