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.