British Car Club Comes of Age
It would be hard to think of a better place in Tauranga for the British Car Club to hold its 21st Anniversary Car Show celebrations, held on Sunday, January 18. British-manufactured cars bring to mind heritage and history. There is no more historic site in Tauranga with a connection to Britain than The Elms.
In 1834 the Church Missionary Society purchased the site to be the missionary station from which The Reverend Brown and family would dispense enlightenment to all and sundry. The permanent buildings that made up the Mission House were not completed until 1847, and remain today much in appearance as they did then. The Browns, when they weren’t mediating and enlightening, established the grounds in the image of the land from whence they came. Included was an avenue of elm trees. The grounds, like the buildings, remain as lovely as they must have been more than a century and a half ago, although it is unlikely that archdeacon Brown considered his efforts would make them so suitable for a 21st-century car show.
In 1873 the Church Missionary Society, its priorities elsewhere, sold the Mission House and grounds to archdeacon and Mrs Brown, who renamed the property The Elms. They carried on their good works until the archdeacon retired in 1883. They and their descendants remained as owners until the death of the last surviving family member in 1997, when title was gifted to the Elms Foundation. The Foundation, together with Friends of the Elms, is dedicated to preserving this gem, now squeezed between the CBD and Harbour Bridge, for the enjoyment and appreciation of all.
As it happens Ron Harvey is both president of the Bay of Plenty British Car Club and chairman of the Friends of the Elms. Naturally the location and Ron’s stewardship, with the help of his committee, guaranteed a wonderful event. And so it proved, with many praising the archdeacon’s foresight in planting the many shade trees that were a godsend on the hot day that Sunday turned out to be.
Each of the four lawn gardens surrounding the main house had cars representing the marques that make up the British Car Club, with more than 80 cars of British manufacture, from a Humber and Sunbeam from the early 1900s to a Lotus from the early 2000s. There were cars representing clubs and marques from Alvis, Mini, Ford, Vauxhall, MG, Wolseley, Riley, Morris, Jaguar, Rolls-royce, Triumph Heralds and Stags, Austin Healey, Daimler, Bentley, Rover, Lotus and Sunbeam.
Among the curiosities was a 1958 Morris Oxford that had done the 2013 Peking to Paris Rally, coming 17th out of 100 cars. Another unusual car was the 1969 Mini de Joux made in Auckland in the style of a fastback Mini. Perhaps the most noteworthy restoration was the Series One Land Rover restored to military standard by ex-army technician Owen Johnston.
The honour of cutting the British Car Club’s 21st birthday cake went to valued member and secretary/treasurer Jo Edlin. Catering was provided by the Bethlehem Lions Club, which came perilously close to running out of Real English Bangers. Luckily my assistant and I got in early enough to enjoy a sausage or two and a glass of home-made lemonade, consumed in very civilized surroundings.
Thanks must go to the descendants of archdeacon Brown and the citizens of Tauranga, who took up the mantle to ensure The Elms was preserved. Equal thanks must go to the owners of the cars that were on display, for their vehicles are also an important part of our heritage, and worthy of preservation.