hubcaps and new badges. In short, everything he needed for his restoration. He now had the ideal Trekka and all the necessary bits, and it was time to commence work.
This Trekka is called a long wheelbase 3-18. According to Tony, halfway through the production run a decision was made to chop the back off the Trekka and put a flat deck on it. So, it’s a factory deal.
You could buy the Trekka in three forms: no roof and no tray, roof and no rear tray, or roof and factory tray.
Tony’s Trekka was originally supplied with a roof and no rear tray. The tray was built and fitted by the owner in Invercargill. It was quite comical, because the wheels had travelled so high that they had worn holes in the deck — clearly, it wasn’t a particularly successful vehicle for carrying excessive loads.
When Tony was following up on some information from Graham Lambourne, in Wainuiomata, they got talking about Trekkas and Kiwiana when Graham said, “I’ve got a Trekka under the tree, you’re welcome to have it if you want it.”
It just so happened that Graham’s example was identical to the Trekka Tony was restoring, complete with an original factory tray — naturally, Tony took Graham up on his offer. However, when he got it back to Auckland, the Trekka’s decking and bearers were too rotten to use, though luckily the steel understructure was intact. Just by chance Tony then met a boat restorer, Mark Stapleton, and he volunteered to restore the tray using tongue and groove timber. Subsequently, Mark reconstructed the
lower structure exactly as original, and also managed to save the original drop-side and tailgate panels so they could be reused. When Tony saw the quality of the craftsmanship, he couldn’t pay the money fast enough.
The Trekka’s steel mudflaps were completely rusty, and Tony had to fabricate new items, including stay bars and fittings exactly as per the originals. They were also painted correctly. Tony points out that the inside of the bearers are black and the outside is body colour, exactly how they left the factory. All the hardware, the hinges, chains and latches that were taken from the Trekka from Wainuiomata were cleaned and galvanized before fitment to Tony’s vehicle.
Early Trekkas also had two small Sparto-pattern stop and indicators on the back. The second run of production vehicles used a Britax combination lamp, one change that’s noticeable on the later Trekka.
The Trek Concludes
The body itself also required attention. Tony owns Custom Metalshapers Ltd, and spends his days working on high-end restoration projects such as Aston Martin, BMW and Jaguar. As such, the simpler construction of the Trekka made it relatively straightforward for him to refabricate and fit a new front valance as well as the area above the windscreen frame, the latter a region where condensation had collected over the years. Tony also points out that the big problem with the Trekka is that they were never painted on the inside, causing them to rust from the inside out.
Tony also fitted a replacement right-side front guard, a panel taken from an old Trekka he’d purchased for $200 — the only decent salvageable part on that car. The only other task necessary was to fabricate and fit new lower door skins.
All the suspension was stripped down to reveal a totally bare chassis. The chassis was then blasted and painted black, while all the suspension parts were also blasted, painted black, and reassembled with new bushings all the way through.
New brakes were installed, and the engine was cleaned and detailed. Tony thinks it will probably require a rebuild at some stage, and had the radiator serviced and retaped the wiring loom. New glass was cut and installed along with new seals. The fibreglass roof was tidied and repainted with a satin finish to replicate the original cream gel-coat. Interestingly John Lisle from Cascade Auto Finish, who painted the Trekka, used to work at the factory, not on the Trekka line but just after the Trekka. Another original Trekka employee reconditioned the handbrake cables. He worked at the Trekka factory as part of the team that redesigned the handbrake assembly — the initial design being a really horrible old Eastern Bloc set-up, according to Tony.
The paint supplier also told Tony of his many fishing trips in a mate’s Trekka — he and his fishing buddies would pop off the hubcaps and cook up the fish in them over an open fire, so
there’s been a lot of reminiscing and Trekka stories along the way, most of them favourable.
Tony had the seats retrimmed by Classic Upholstery in East Tamaki. They also carried out some research on what carpet was originally used on the gearbox cover, and managed to find speckled gray carpet to match the original.
All in all, the restoration was quite a simple job — one of the reasons Tony likes military and commercial vehicles. There’s minimal chrome, no wall-to-wall carpeting and hood lining, or loads of extras that now cost thousands and thousands of dollars to restore. These vehicles can be restored economically, and they’re as much fun as anything else to drive. In fact, Tony already has plans for his next project, a canvas-top Trekka wagon. He reckons there are still plenty of spare parts left over for at least one more, so it’s just about clearing some space and getting onto it.
Now, where have we heard that before?