Americarna 2015

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide News - Words and Pho­tos Gor­don Camp­bell

It was all on, then it was off, then it was on again, and when it did take place the gen­eral con­sen­sus seemed to be that 2015’s Americarna in New Ply­mouth was prob­a­bly the best yet. Cer­tainly the crowds seemed to be big­ger, and they wouldn’t have been dis­ap­pointed by the new, slim­line event re­duced to three days with some changes to the for­mat.

Day one started with the rest-home run, with groups of cars go­ing to var­i­ous rest homes around the city to min­gle with the res­i­dents, lis­ten to some fas­ci­nat­ing rem­i­nis­cences, and take a few for rides. The af­ter­noon’s run went via Waitara and back roads to a street party in In­gle­wood, a town that al­ways gets right be­hind Americarna.

Fri­day was the big­gest day, with a trip around the moun­tain. As usual, the coastal lo­cals on the Surf High­way turned out in force, and it was great to see Americarna tra­di­tions, like the farm­ers on a couch up high on their trac­tor’s front-end loader. A wel­come break in Opunake gave time for an early lunch and en­ter­tain­ment, while oth­ers held on for a late lunch in Haw­era, where the town went all-out to make the vis­i­tors wel­come. A new event, the Go-stop, drew a big crowd to see which car was fastest over a short dis­tance. Although brak­ing was im­por­tant, brute power won the day in the form of a su­per­charged late-’60s Chevrolet Ca­maro.


Then it was back to New Ply­mouth for the night cruise, the route to the city be­ing along Man­gorei Road, a mostly sub­ur­ban street that’s be­come world fa­mous in Taranaki for be­ing one long street party in hon­our of Americarna. The huge and good­na­tured crowds lining Devon Street, the city’s main street, were treated to a three-hour mo­tor­ized sound and light show that, for many, is the high­light of the event.

Satur­day’s Ameri­car­ni­val, back in Devon Street and a few side streets, was a re­laxed af­fair at which peo­ple could get up close to the cars while they en­joyed a wide va­ri­ety of good food and mu­sic, from Elvis Pres­ley to pro­fes­sion­ally-ren­dered Tom Petty and ZZ Top, not for­get­ting three young girls on a street cor­ner who pro­duced beau­ti­ful har­monies of much-loved ’50s and ’60s pop songs. There were plenty of craft stalls and shops for those who wanted to browse some­thing be­sides cars. While the ve­hi­cles must be of Amer­i­can ori­gin, the beauty of Americarna is the va­ri­ety of ma­chin­ery, from vin­tage cars to hot rods, barn finds to the very lat­est Amer­i­can mus­cle cars and more. Two Kawasaki po­lice mo­tor­cy­cles might have seemed out of place, but they were made in the USA es­pe­cially for the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol.

The next Americarna was planned for 2017, but the sug­gested 2016 date was greeted with huge en­thu­si­asm, so watch this space. Whether it’s one or two years away, it’s worth wait­ing for an event that brings so much plea­sure to so many peo­ple.

Ngawhini Hill Climb 2015

Some­how, two years have slipped by since the last ‘Ngawhini’, the clas­sic-car hill climb held in the Ngawhini Gorge near Haw­era, South Taranaki. As usual, this year a var­ied ar­ray of cars turned up to take on the hill.

The big ques­tions of the day were, at one ex­treme, would Nigel Fraser in his 1920s Chevrolet Speed­ster en­dan­ger Roy King’s (Austin Seven Spe­cial) jeal­ously de­fended slow­est-time-of-the-day record, and at the other, could any­one chal­lenge Steve Mid­g­ley in his Suzuki Hyabusa-pow­ered Mini for the fastest time? In the event, the an­swers were ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

The Chevrolet looked quicker, but the clock doesn’t lie, and Nigel man­aged two sec­onds more than Roy with his slow­est time. No-one could match the fly­ing, im­mac­u­late and beau­ti­ful­lyengi­neered Mid­g­ley Mini, which recorded a best time of 45.04 sec­onds, nearly 1.5 sec­onds quicker than Stu Robert­son’s Toy­ota Corolla that pipped Corey Baker’s Subaru Im­preza WRX by just 0.01 of a sec­ond. Mid­g­ley’s time was nearly three sec­onds quicker than his best and win­ning time in 2013!

There was some ev­i­dence of com­peti­tors try­ing hard, with a wheel be­ing lifted here and there, and Mike Car­rick get­ting his Tri­umph 2.5PI well side­ways, but no mishaps this year. The near­est was a fresh set of skid marks on one cor­ner.

Run ev­ery sec­ond year by the Eg­mont Clas­sic Car Reg­is­ter and South Taranaki Car Club, Ngawhini is a very well-or­ga­nized event with a long and proud his­tory. Although ac­tion was a lit­tle late get­ting un­der way, it was worth wait­ing for as usual, and spec­ta­tors cer­tainly got ex­cel­lent value for their do­na­tion en­try fee, with the bonus of a hot South Taranaki day.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. Wait­ing for the cars to ar­rive 1938 Chevrolet coupé 1939 Chevrolet coupé 1950s Chrysler Saratoga 1960 Chevrolet Im­pala coupé 1962 Chevrolet Corvette Colour-co­or­di­nated ladies in 1960s Chevrolet Cor­vair Proud 1955 Oldsmo

Bryce Glid­den’s MG Mid­get Al­bert Bar­ron’s rad­i­cal­look­ing Ford Con­sul 315 Bruce Good­win’s MKIII Ze­phyr pur­sued by Peter Scott’s Tri­umph TR7 Out to beat the record — Nigel Fraser’s Chevrolet Speed­ster FTD was set by Steve Mid­g­ley in his Suzuki Hyabusa-power

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