What the Editor's been up to
Real Chevs have four cylinders
Going to Sydney is always bad for me. I can never leave Dave Perry’s place without wanting to again own a Chev. 4. My first car was a 1924 Chevrolet Superior F and I have to admit I still have a hankering for what was firstly Durant and then later, General Motors competitor for Henry’s ubiquitous “T”. The occasional drive of the Paternal 490 doesn’t seem to help and seeing Dave’s 490 roadster makes matters worse.
Heading for Bathurst to do a quick recce the day before the group arrived, I tried to track him down. I knew he lived in North Richmond but I had managed to lose his details and no amount of internet stalking could locate him. It was only the day before I was due to leave that the blindingly obvious came to me. He was the founder of the Chevrolet Historical Enthusiast Vehicle Society (C.H.E.V.S.). Finding them on the ‘net, there was a phone number for the Chairman so I tried it, assuming he will know how to contact the elusive Dave. The basic conversation was “Yeah mate, I’ve got his number but he’s moved. He isn’t in Richmond anymore, he’s gone Bush” Bugger, that wasn’t what I needed to hear. Then followed, “He’s in Orange now.” Bloody beauty! That is exactly where I was going to be, checking out our base for the Classic Driver Bathurst tour.
And 24 hour later I was at his place and the conversation soon turned to Chevs. When I was in Auckland talking to Hugo Bedford, he was showing me photos of cars his uncle, Les Bedford had raced in the early 1920s on the beach at Muriwai, the true home of New Zealand motorsport. One was a Chevrolet and it certainly was not the usual 2.8 litre model 490 which was the mainstay of the brand until the introduction of the Superior for the 1923 model year. If anyone could identify an early Chev it was Dave, and as soon as I e-mailed the photo to him I had the answer; a 1922 Series FB, the long wheelbase, long stroke car with a 3.7 litre OHV engine and something which I have never seen an example of in New Zealand. Photographic evidence shows at least one came here!
Having just moved house and in the midst of arranging garaging, not all of his toys had followed him when I got there, so I didn’t get to lust after the car which I would happily sell everything I have and rob a bank to get my hands on, the 1917/18 Chevrolet Series D, a 288ci (4.7 litre) OHV V8, an expensive, high quality car which due to it’s high price and downmarket name was a sales failure. Only 13 are currently known to have survived and there is one nearing the end of a major restoration in the Perry workshop. That sounds like an excuse for a return visit sooner rather than later. That and the annual Chev. 4 tour which sounds like a great week of vintage motoring on the other side of the Tasman!
Going to Gnoo Blas
Going where? Arriving in Orange I had an hour to kill before Dave got home from work so I did a bit of a loop around the town looking for points of interest. It was on my way out of town that I saw a sign for Sir Jack Brabham Park so I filed that away as a place to check out on my way back to Sydney in the morning.
Later in the evening, the conversation drifted away from old Chevs to racing and I was asked if I had been to Gnoo Blas? While I knew that Gnoo Blas was a disused race circuit “somewhere in Australia”, that was about the extent of my knowledge, so it was decided that as I had a couple of spare hours in the morning before I needed to return to Sydney and meet the Bathurst tour group at the airport, Dave would take me for a look.
It turns out that Sir Jack Brabham Park is part of the old circuit, which at the time of opening in 1953 was on the outside of town, using public roads around an airstrip (hence Windsock Corner) and the grounds of the local hospital. Now it is well within the city limits and much of the roads remain as they were when the track closed in 1961, by which time the circuit had hosted the first ever round of the Australian Touring Car Championship, won by David McKay in a Jaguar and was the first to have a 100mph lap, achieved by none other than Jack Brabham in a Cooper Climax.
It was parochialism and local politics which saw the creation of Gnoo Blas and the same two reasons which saw it founder. The Australian Sporting Car Club had fallen out with the nearby Mt Panorama circuit at Bathurst and wanted somewhere else to race. With assistance from the organisers of the Orange Cherry Blossom Festival, the track was opened less than a year after it was first proposed. The fly in the ointment was Bathurst, specifically the local MP Gus Kelly who was also the NSW Chief Secretary. He did everything possible to ensure the upstarts 50 km inland did not become serious rivals for Mt Panorama and he did everything within his (not inconsiderable) powers to make sure of this, going as far as introducing the Speedways Act, where the NSW Police had to authorise any motor racing and were particularly protective of the MP’s local patch! And here we were thinking political jiggery-pokery in the world of motor racing was only a recent blight.
Preserving a historic workshop
The Classic Driver team stayed in Wanaka for the weekend of the Highlands 101 race meeting at the newly completed Highlands Motorsport Park at nearby Cromwell.
We took the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the Warbirds and Wheels museum located at Wanaka airport and we are very pleased we did.
The name gives a pretty good idea of what they have on display, but does in no way convey the quality of the automobiles and aircraft on display.
We have already reported on the Duesenberg, the only Model J in the Southern Hemisphere but this is just part of the line up which includes Packards in both V12 and straight-eight configuration (more of which will feature in Issue 53 of CD), Cadillac’s in V12 and V8 and several more examples of top of the line mostly (but not exclusively) pre-war American cars.
What we did not know about was the latest exhibit. A workshop. Not just any workshop though... this is the complete working environment of one of New Zealand’s greatest mechanical and engineering brains, Ralph Watson, and the team at Wanaka have gone to great lengths to recreate it exactly as it was when the creator of the Lycoming Special last stood at the bench. Ralph’s mates were consulted early in the process and they stressed that to make it absolutely authentic, it was essential not only to have the tools and machinery, but also the little electric heater, the pair of slippers and Ralph’s oily workshop overcoat. To ensure the accuracy of the recreated workshop, Garth Hogan, one of the museum directors went to the original workshop at Point Chevalier and took photos from the windows. These are now the “view” from the recreated building which sits inside the museum, surrounded by two of the legendary engineer’s greatest creations; on one side the Lycoming Special, on loan from the current owner, while on the other side is the full size, working 1/1 scale replica WW1 era rotary aircraft engine.
If you are in Central Otago over Christmas (or any other time, for that matter), make sure you take the time to stop for a look. Not only is the museum great, the 1950s style diner is a great place to stop for a coffee and I can really recommend the scones with jam and cream!
The Chelsea Hillclimb
For at least 25 years (no-one present could give me a definitive answer on exactly how long the event has been running) the Waitemata branch of the VCC has run a hillclimb on the road leading to the Chelsea sugar works in Birkenhead.
In my spare time when I am not working on Classic Driver, I am also the National Speed Steward for the VCC, so when I got a call from the Steward I had appointed for this year’s event, that he had double-booked himself, I was struggling to find a stand-in so the only option was for me to head to Auckland for the day.
It is these types of events which I think are the future of the club if they really are serious about attracting younger members. Leading the charge are Anne Thompson and Wallace McNair from Hamilton who as well as recreating and running the monster 14.25 litre 1906 Grand Prix Darracq, spend an even greater time encouraging their grandchildren and mates to take up vintage motoring.
So it was, that among the entries, were four young teenagers, two competing for the first time and two taking part in only their second event. Olivia McNair, possibly the world’s youngest veteran Delage owner, was running an MG Midget and her brother Louis was in the Austin Seven Nippy bought by his grandfather Wallace as a teenager, who passed it on to his son Robert at a similar age and now the third generation of McNair’s are competing in the little yellow beastie. Tamati Thompson was making his debut in another Spridget and the final of the quartet of Future Vintage Motorists was Aaron Aldersley, using his father’s Austin Seven Special.
The event is run for pre war cars only, so the branch is to be commended for allowing the two Spridgets to run, even though they were not eligible for any of the trophies. It was good to see common sense ruling and the organisers taking steps to encourage the participation of the younger drivers. Each of them has access via their families to pre-war cars and it is a certainty that before too much longer, they will be out on the road (and track) in something older.
This is a great setting for a hillclimb, nestled in among trees and a lake. The atmosphere is like a country park (ignoring of course the sugar mill, but it is easy to find a spot where that isn’t visible) and it is hard to imagine when you are there that you are less than a five minute drive from the Auckland harbour bridge!
Weather on the day was typically Auckland, dry, damp, dry, wet and varying states in between. It was quite challenging at times and it was not the youngsters who were having trouble coping while at the same time they were getting lessons in car handling in the safest and most controlled environment possible. Watching Robert McNair launching the Gypsy Major-engined Riley Nine off the line on wet tar seal and wrestling the bellowing monster around the first corner was alone worth the trip north to watch.
Despite the tricky conditions, there were no off-road excursions and with the exception of an Austin Seven which arrived at the start line making truly horrible noises under the bonnet, everyone went away with cars in the same condition they arrived, always a good thing at any motorsport event. When it comes to Vintage speed events, it is my firm belief that taking part and exercising the car in an appropriate manner is the most important reason for taking part; winning is a secondary bonus. There of course was a winner, the quickest up the hill was in the most spectacular car, Robert McNair in the Gypsy Riley and fittingly, the trophy for best time in a borrowed car went to young Aaron Aldersley in his father’s Austin but really the winner was the old car movement itself, evident by the grins on the faces of four teenagers and equally happy parents and grandparents on the sideline.
Don’t know what you want for Christmas? A couple of suggestions...
Two very different and equally interesting books have passed over the editorial desk, both of which will be of interest to CD readers.
First up, Chris Amon: 1967 and this one came as a complete and very pleasant surprise. Written by New Zealander John Julian, it is quite simple in what it sets out to do, which is paint the picture of Chris Amon’s 1967 season, his first with Scuderia Ferrari and it would be difficult to imagine a more difficult introduction to a team and a season than this.
The book was produced with encouragement from Chris himself and is full of quotes, both historical and current, from many of the drivers and families involved in that turbulent year.
“By any standard, 1967 was a wretched year for Ferrari. Lorenzo Bandini succumbed to the terrible injuries he sustained during the Monaco Grand Prix, Gűnter Klass was killed instantly when his lightweight Dino slammed into a tree at Mugello and Mike Parkes broke his legs so badly in the Belgian Grand prix that his career at the highest level was effectively finished. Ludovico Scarfiotti retired temporarily to ponder the meaning of all of this, leaving just Chris Amon and me (TH With Amon doing the bulk of the driving, especially in Formula One) to carry on at Maranello” – Jonathan Williams
“I guess things were happening in a bit of a blur, but it almost didn’t pay to stop and think for too long in that suddenly the whole Ferrari thing was on my shoulders and I seem to recall trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t be dwelling on it for too long, because it might get to me” – Chris Amon
It is this which gives this hardcover, landscape book a level of intimacy and a feeling of being right there, which stands out for me.
Not only does it cover Formula One, but also sports cars where both Chris and the team had more success than Grands Prix during the season as well as the not-so successful Can-am foray.
For a rrp of $49.99, this book is a bargain in anyone’s language and for anyone with an interest in motorsport, especially with New Zealanders at the highest level, it is an absolute must. The second recommended addition – On the Wings of History – features the photographs from regular Classic Driver contributor Alex Mitchell.
When not taking photos of cars for me, he and his offsider Alan Udy, form the Historical Aviation Film Unit, which as the name may suggest, concentrate on filming and photographing aircraft around the country. As such, they spend a lot of time working with The Vintage Aviator Limited, based out of Hood Airfield in Masterton where the world’s largest (and continually expanding) collection of flying original and absolutely authentic recreation World War One aircraft reside and are flown on a regular basis.
The significance of this collection cannot be overstated; it is world class, so much so that recently the History Channel screened an hour long documentary about the aircraft and what goes into them.
This book gives a detailed description, using Alan’s words and Alex’s photos of every aircraft in the collection, including the non-flyers which are on display at the Aviation Heritage Centre at Omaka and is essential reading for any aviation fan, even if it is only a passing interest.
While Alan and Alex have described the book as a “revised 2nd edition” they have really done themselves a disservice here, with approaching twice the number of pages featuring new aircraft added to the TVAL fleet since the 2010 publication of the first book and a section dedicated to the engines of the era, this is no mere update.
It is in the chapters on engines that the association between the development of the aircraft and automobile is illustrated.
The TVAL Bristol F2B Fighter has the world’s oldest airworthy Rolls Royce aero engine in existence. What many do not know is, that engine is in effect a pair of 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes engines sharing a common crank-case. WW1 broke out immediately after the Grand Prix (in those days there was only one Grand Prix, in France) and the victorious Mercedes team had sent a car to London for display. With the start of the war, the now temporarily displaced car was “borrowed” by the Rolls Royce engineers and was to become the base for the aero engine.
The Sopwith Snipe in the collection is a reproduction (although that really struggles to correctly describe the level of historical accuracy used in building the aircraft) with an original 230hp Bentley BR2 rotary engine and the BE2C likewise has a new airframe but an original 70hp air-cooled Renault V8.
Close-up photos of many of the engines really show how the constant need for more power and efficiency in military aero engines had a spin-off effect on cars, a WW1 Mercedes engine looking very much like something from an early 20s Grand Prix car and that technology soon found its way onto the road as well.
If there is one criticism, and it is more a suggestion than anything else, it is that Alan and Alex should have made it a hard-cover coffee-table size publication and I am sure it will sell just as well as this smaller soft-back will. The more I read it, the more I am finding and I keep picking it up and flipping through random pages and I keep discovering interesting snippets I never realised I needed to know.
For a price of only $30 including postage anywhere in New Zealand (sorry, our Australian readers will need to pay a little more) the book is fantastic value and is available from www.aviationfilm. com/shop/books/wohvol01ed2.shtml. Even if you have the first edition, don’t let that put you off as this will stand alone as a totally separate volume and won’t break Santa’s bank balance.
Make mine a Matra
That plan had always been to put some sort of sign writing on the sides of the Editorial ute. It started its life sold new in Christchurch as a plumber’s vehicle and that didn’t really excite me all that much. Then with my brother’s 1932 Chevrolet pick-up nearing completion, we decided to decorate them both as “Haycock’s Garage”, our great-uncle’s garage in Bulls which had been around long enough to suit the ages of both trucks.
That was until, when as part of the Classic Driver Le Mans tour, I spotted something in the shop of the Matra museum. Decals taken from the side of their team service vehicles. Instant change of plan, my ute will instead be a 1970 Le Mans support vehicle for Matra Sport.
The only issue was the print on the decals was blue, which won’t look too good on my blue paint but I did know a way to fix it. Former House of Travel colleague Sarah, (the unfortunate one who has to deal with my sometimes rather obscure demands for the Le Mans tours) has a sister, Coral, who is very clever at designing and making all sorts of stickers and logos. It looks like I have another job for Coralware design.
While she was reversing and enlarging my French purchase, I was on the internet looking for the other logos used on the Le Mans cars and came across a UK supplier with the correct 1970 Elf and SEV Marchal logos and they even supplied a 1970 Le Mans 24 Hours vehicle entry pass to go on the windscreen. Either a great finishing detail or the final evidence that I am indeed a sad bastard.
What I didn’t take into account is that applying printed graphics to a car is not quite as straight forward as it seems. The Elf and Marchal logos went on without a fight but the main Matra decals were a different story entirely.
My first attempt was an abject failure and the other side, while at least I got it all on the door, wasn’t exactly perfect. Back to Coral for advice and I must have sounded pretty pathetic as with the promise that I will bring pizza for her girls, she will redo the decals and put them on for me. And if you think putting them on straight was hard, try removing them once they have attached themselves firmly to the paint!
It took Sarah and me quite some time to get rid of the complete but blistered attempt on one door while Coral, in what seemed to be no time at all, got the new one on the other side looking about 1000 times better than my effort and was waiting for us to finish getting rid of my previous mistake.
The end result was well worth the effort and yes, I know the Michelin Man isn’t correct for 1970 Le Mans Matras. They ran Goodyear’s but Bibendum was already on the roof when the Matra idea came about so he can stay there. Plus he gives people the opportunity to point at me and laugh!
The work of Euan Sarginson
Readers of Classic Driver who followed motorsport in the 1960 and 70s will almost certainly be aware of the work of master photographer, the late Euan Sarginson.
His photos and Peter Greenslade’s words combined in the Shell New Zealand Motor Racing annuals which are still the go-to reference guide for anyone looking for details of what happened in the Golden years of the sport here.
As a matter of fact, I have Eoin Young’s bound set sitting alongside me as I write this, borrowed upon threat of death, or worse if anything should happen to them, preparing for a story in the next issue of Classic Driver on Andy Buchanan – something to look forward to I hope!
What I was not aware of was his landscape photography, not until his daughter Alice, a very talented photographer in her own right, arranged an exhibition of some of his work at a local gallery, alongside the paintings of local artist Simon Edwards.
Eoin Young, one of Euan’s great friends and admirers of his work, invited me to go along to see this, what was to me, an unknown facet to his talent. Terry Marshall had already been once and was so taken by the power of the stark black and white images that he was more than happy to come along again and see some of the master craftsman’s work.
It is a pity that by the time you read this, the exhibition will be closed as it was stunning. I can only hope that at some time in the future, Alice feels willing and able to share more of her father’s work from outside the world of motoring and more people are able to see for themselves what a multi-talented artist Euan Sarginson really was. I have spent very little time in art galleries but you can be sure I would return to more work of this quality.
When you get a chance to give
On the Classic Driver Le Mans tour, Kath and Roger Broadbent were telling us about their six year old grandson Danny who is suffering from an inoperable brain tumour.
Danny and his family live in Christchurch and Kath asked if it would be possible to arrange for Danny to get a ride in a car around Ruapuna. Fellow tourist Paul Jones immediately volunteered his Ford Escort Mexico and we promised to arrange something when we all got home and returned to normality.
With normality and reality now firmly under control, it was time to make good on our promise. Paul was ready to bring the Escort out, Alex Mitchell volunteered his Porsche 911 and his wife’s Boxster, Terry Marshall had his Boxster and I supplied the Editorial Porsche 924 Turbo. Alex spoke to Ruapuna, who very generously gave us the track for an hour at no cost (thank you – it was appreciated!) and it was done as simply as that.
The chosen day was warm and dry which was a relief as Danny, with parents James and Jackie, sister Sophie and friend Amy turned up and none of us wanted to worry about a wet track. There were enough cars for everyone to try out without standing around waiting and I can assure you, the drivers had as much fun (or possibly more) than the passengers.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that what for us is normal and routine, may be to others something new and exciting and it was a satisfying feeling to be able to offer a new experience to someone who needs to take every opportunity while it is there. Something for us all to think about!
Touring in a modern car can be fun!
When it comes to doing car events, rallies, tours or whatever, I have spent pretty much all of my life, certainly all of my adult life, doing it in a range of cars ranging in age from pretty old to bloody ancient and enjoyed them all. Never in my modern car, for it is just not done!
At Labour weekend, Sven Slager in New Plymouth had organised a tour for Peugeot coupes and cabriolets and, as the last old one of those I had now resides in his garage, I gave it only a passing thought before deciding to stay home instead.
Then Sven rang me. He wanted a speaker for the final dinner; would I be prepared to do it?
As my parents were going to be taking part and a couple of cars I had previously owned would be there as well, I agreed and then had to break it to Maggie that for the long weekend, she would have to use the ute as I was taking the 406 Coupe, her daily driver, for a short drive to New Plymouth and back.
I learnt something. Several things... Modern cars can be fun on tour.
They have horsepower. Overtaking can be done simply by opening the throttle rather than needing a topographical map and an hour’s advance notice to get the car wound up to terminal velocity.
You can play music loud, not just to drown out the noise from the engine, but just because you want loud music.
Air-conditioning and leather Recaro seats make for a pleasant interior environment and there is a reason why vinyl isn’t used in car seats anymore.
And when on the road to Whangamomona you catch up with Neale and Michelle Batchelor, even though Neale has had to leave his beloved Fiat 124 Sport at home in favour of Michelle’s 306 cabriolet, when a big blue 406 coupe appears in his mirror, he wants to play too and that is one piece of road which is REALLY good fun driven in an enthusiastic manner in a car with both power and handling (and the noise of a 3 litre V6 working hard is actually enough to turn the CD player down for a while to hear the other sort of music).
I had a great time. Rural Taranaki roads are ideal for enjoying a decent car, especially the ones with signs to say they are about to be closed for the Targa. It is possible I may have strayed from the official route a couple of times to investigate them and had to try and work out exactly where in the region I was, to catch up with the rest of the cars again.
I think I may have discovered exactly why it is “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore”. Maggie might have to get used to the ute a little more; I have found a new way to enjoy myself.
The Boys go back to Bendigo
It seems that the Bendigo swapmeet is becoming a regular event for more and more New Zealanders. It was decided soon after getting back last year that we should return for the 2013 event and the word didn’t take long to spread.
By the time we headed over, our group had grown to seven, my father and brother being joined by Taranaki vintage Chev. drivers Nigel Fraser and Neil Carter, Neil’s son Nick, afflicted with the need for pre-war Morris parts and their mate Grant Bishop, a Ford Model T owner, just to prove we will mix with anyone!
While the swapmeet was the object of the exercise, there are plenty of other attractions around Melbourne to keep everyone amused and once we all arrived, call number one was to a place in the suburbs which I have been frequenting for many years, Model Cars of the World.
Twelve months ago when we were there, they were having a 50% off sale as they were closing down. As of last weekend, they still have a 50% off everything sale and they are still closing down. I hope they take their time about it as Melbourne just won’t be the same after they do close the doors.
When we went in, no-one was going to buy anything. Oddly enough, with the exception of my father, everyone walked out with something in their hands.
My buy was a 1/43 version of Howden Ganley’s 1972 Matra 670. It seemed rude not to when I have met the driver and my ute is now decorated in the team colours.
Ten minutes away and we were at Auto Surplus, a parts supplier since the early 1920s and one of those places where the more you look at, the more you see.
What I saw as I walked in the door was a framed Durant Motors share certificate. As I bent down to pick it up, a voice from behind the counter announced, “Dave Wilkens says you have to buy that!”
Now how did Dave Wilkens, my mate from Upper Hutt, know I was going to walk in? Are my Melbourne haunts that predictable?
“Did Dave Wilkens pay by credit card?” There is no way Wilkens was ever going to be leaving that particular Emporium empty-handed so I knew that was a certainty and that was confirmed. Well...
“That Mr Wilkens is a very generous fellow and as he is obviously so concerned that I have it, that he won’t mind if you just add this to his credit card.”
For reasons which I am not sure of, the helpful fellow behind the counter didn’t think that was such a good idea.
On the road north to Bendigo, Castlemaine is a compulsory stop. The Restorers Barn is supposedly for house renovators but there is plenty there of use to old car people as well.
Plus Nigel is restoring an old house and once he had had a quick cellphone conversation with the Opunake Financial Department, he was cleared to make a purchase.
Then there is the antique complex between the town centre and Campbell’s Creek, our third destination. Yes, there are plenty of antiques of the kind you would expect, but we were there for other reasons. Specifically the showroom (rooms!) full of restored petrol pumps, from the 1920s and earlier right up to the 60s. This place is a destination all in itself, and since our last visit, they have expanded into selling old motorbikes as well.
Yet still this was not the Friday highlight. That was, as it always is, the visit to Grant Cowie’s “Up the Creek” workshop on the outskirts of town.
Greeting us at the door was the 1914 Grand Prix Delage which has its newly rebuilt twin cam 16 valve now sitting back in the chassis.
Beside that a GN, a peculiar sporting British cycle-car from the early 1920s, boasting an air-cooled V-twin engine and solid rear axle, chain driven and the forerunner to the only slightly less peculiar but rather more civilised FraserNash.
The 1500cc straight-eight TalbotDarracq Grand Prix car has been on hold for a while but serious work is about to start soon.
On my last visit, Grant’s engine shop was working on an early 1920s Stoewer, an extremely rare German touring car.
This example is completely original, right down to the leather on the seats. The body is a local Australian production and unusually for one of those (very much like the slabsided creations which were built on our side of the Tasman as well) it looks very stylish and European.
Imagine how it would have looked when it was new with the aluminium polished to a mirror finish.
While it does not show up on the photos, the top 20cm or so of the allow body is as well. With the engine now reinstalled, this great looking car was almost ready to be returned to its owner and Grant started it up for us.
It was only a 2.6 litre fixed-head four so performance will never be startling and the drums for the two-wheel brakes don’t look too inspiring either, so the lack of performance may be a good thing, but hey, it looks good, it sounds good (and it still runs the original exhaust system!) and as Grant commented, a car in that state of originality probably belongs in a museum.
Of course all of this was just the appetiser as we prepared for the main course, the Bendigo Swapmeet.
The gates opened at 6.00am on Saturday morning and even for the keenest in our group thought that sounded a little too early. Still, at 6.30am I dropped off everyone except dad at the main gate and then retreated back down the hill to our apartment for a leisurely breakfast and we made our appearance at a far more civilised 8am.
I was actually taking a bit of a risk here. At dinner the night before we were joined by a couple of early Fiat guys, Richard Unkles from Melbourne and Dale Christensen who had driven 1700km from Queensland in the search for veteran chain drive F.I.A.T. 18BL truck parts.
Mid-way through a particularly tasty slice of Banoffee pie, Richard dropped a bit of a bombshell on me. “I don’t suppose you would be interested in a white-faced early Peugeot oil pressure gauge?” It just so happens that I would be interested in such an item for my 1915 type 153A. Could he describe were he saw it?
So here I am, 8am and trying to decipher a map drawn on the back of a serviette and not making a very good job of it. Perhaps I should have been there earlier as I will kick myself if I miss it. After an hour of fruitless searching, I admitted defeat and sent a text to my brother in the hope he was going to rendezvous with the Fiat (or F.I.A.T, depending on your era of interest) guys. Yes, meet in the main cafe at 9.30am. Which I did.
It seems I was following the map but I was 90 degrees out in my interpretation of it. Richard took pity and led me to the site where he spotted the offending instrument the previous evening.
It was still there. And it was the correct one for my car. And a little pricey. As well, the same guy had a N.O.S veteran Bleriot gauge which tells you if the generator is working as well as a Bleriot headlight of the right shape and size for the car.
This was an expensive outing and I now have for sale a very nicely restored pair of CAV “B” headlights for a WW1 era car, so I can afford to locate and buy the matching Bleriot one to give me a matching pair.
If anyone had said to me before leaving New Zealand that I would be retuning with parts for that particular car, I would have said they were dreaming, so it was a good day!
The Hawkeswood Sprint
Fast becoming a tradition is the annual Hawkeswood Sprint, utilising a particularly challenging section of what was SH1 just north of Cheviot until it was by-passed, leaving a perfect course for a sprint.
Run by RATEC for the Country Gents, the VCC has for several years been invited to come along and join in the fun. On previous occasions I have attended as a Steward but due to a lack of a suitable vehicle, I never bothered to enter. Nothing I had was powerful enough to make it fun; I would have needed to be timed by calendar rather than stopwatch.
I have always been a fan of sprints and hillclimbs. There is no chance of getting involved in someone else’s accident and there can be no-one to blame but me if I were to get it wrong and damage the car. I decided this was an event which would suit the Editorial Porsche and as I was driving it to and from the event and need it on a daily basis, the main thing was just to have fun, certainly not to take any risks and just enjoy a fast drive in the countryside.
Hawkeswood always attracts a huge range of cars, from Graham Hamilton in the ACE III Special and Mark McFadden in the 260M Zephyr Special to an enormous V12 Mercedes sedan and a mid 1930s Aston Martin Drophead.
Between the participating clubs, 37 cars took on the downhill, uphill and flat-out blast through the trees course and despite the road beginning to suffer from the extreme heat and pounding from the cars, on the tight uphill hairpin the majority set their fastest time on the final run.
The most spectacular retirement of the day as seen from the start-line was the newly completed Silcock Jaguar MkII which looked and sounded fantastic.
But most memorable of all was his comment as he was standing on the road, looking at the pinion and bits of diff-housing sitting on the ground, “How did THAT get out?”
Giving it a healthy dose of revs he dropped the clutch, the car leapt forward and then suddenly there was a bang from the rear, the engine raced and the car coasted to a halt, laying a trail of lubricant as it went.
Mind you, if anyone had been out in the trees to see Tim Stanton’s little Peugeot 106 clout whatever it was it clouted, it must have been a decent hit. The car was still driveable but it returned to the paddock sans rear bumper and the rear suspension no longer pointing in the same direction as the front.
Alex Mitchell came along for the ride and to take some photos and he was giving me a hard time about being so much slower than the other 924 in the event, a much more powerful 924 Carrera GTC.
I simply reminded him I was still learning about the car and the course and besides, it would be a bloody long walk back to Christchurch!
Fastest time of the day went to the Ford Escort RS 1800 of Tony Gosling, a car driven by rally star Hayden Padden recently in the Historic Otago Rally and the fastest VCC car was Russ Haines in the Frangapelli Special, a mere 1.21 seconds behind the Escort, but actually third outright. More astonishing was the second place time of Bert Govan in his MkII Jaguar, less than a second behind the winner.
Every year Hawkeswood gets bigger and it is fast becoming one of the must-do events on the old car motorsport calendar. I know I will be back next year.
As Durant agents, it’s a little odd that Les Bedford raced a Chevrolet, the opposition product. Here he is in another Muriwai Beach racer, a c.1922 Durant A22
Where is it now? The 1922 Chevrolet FB raced at Muriwai by Les. Bedford
Four cylinder Chev owners all know that the early, single exhaust port heads are prone to cracking. Not a new issue, the Australians made their own replacements after the war and Australian Chev 4 fanatic Dave Perry has a couple sitting on his bench
Windsock corner on the Gnoo Blas circuit, where Jack Brabham made his debut as a road racer. Below Part of the plaque commemorating the almost forgotten track, opened after a disagreement with the nearby Mt Panorama circuit
This lathe may look ancient but the genius that was Ralph Watson used it to create the Lycoming Special. His workshop has been faithfully recreated at the Warbirds and Wheels museum in Wanaka
As well as cars, Ralph had a fascination with early aviation and one of his last projects was to built this working replica of a rotary engine
About to take off and set FTD, Robert McNair looks relaxed behind the wheel of the world’s fastest Riley Nine Monaco
Aaron Aldersley makes his motor sporting debut in his father’s Austin Seven Special at the Chelsea hillclimb
Allowed to competed despite this being a pre-war event, Tamati Thompson had no problem handling his Midget in the wet conditions of the Chelsea Sugar refinery access road
More experienced was Olivia McNair, this her 2nd outing in her MG Midget
Just one reason to buy the book – this full page colour shot of Amon in the V12 Grand Prix Ferrari
Close-up detail of the Mercedes DIII engine from an Albatros DVa fighter, a taste of the engine chapter from On the Wings of History
The finished article. Now I am not sure if I need to add something to the top of the mudguards or maybe on the deck sides. Maybe “Matra-Gitanes” in white?
While Sarah removes the last of my unsuccessful decal application... Coral makes sure I don’t destroy any more of her handiwork by putting it on herself
I am sure this is where Classic Driver readers first saw Euan’s work. An exhibition of Euan Sarginson’s landscape photos
I don’t know what I enjoyed more, the drive to Whangamomona or the Hawkes Bay Brewery’s pilsner when I got there
Normally Neale Batchelor does his fun motoring in a Fiat 124 coupe. At Labour weekend the Fiat stayed home and Michelle’s Peugeot 306 cabriolet came out instead
Howden Ganley’s ’72 Le Mans Matra
The Stoewer, one of the best preserved, unrestored vintage cars in Australia and now back on the road after a major engine rebuild
Ever seen one of these before? This is a 1920s Michelin workshop heater with a compressor of similar vintage sitting on top. Not the usual antique shop finds, but this is no ordinary antique shop!
Something you just don’t see at New Zealand swap meets, a 1920s Ford Model T project
All Dave Silcock could say when he saw these bits was, “How did that get out?” the diff of his Mk II Jaguar might be needing some attention; this is the pinion sitting on the road!
How’s this for a paddock scene? Replica Jaguar C-type, Porsche 924 Carrera GTC, Aston Martin and Iso Grifo and in the background, a pair of Ford V8s
The Editor at play in the Classic Driver Porsche