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The end of March 2015 sig­nalled the 15th Beach Hop in the sea­side town of Whanga­mata. Billed as New Zealand’s num­ber one nos­tal­gia fes­ti­val, the Beach Hop eas­ily lives up to that claim.

And yet as I strolled along Port Road, Whanga­mata’s main street, past a Fer­rari F355 Spi­der, a Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lardo and a Nis­san GTR Godzilla, all in sil­ver, I won­dered if I re­ally was at the Beach Hop. But then I looked around and saw nor­mal ser­vice had been re­sumed for an­other year — hot rods, clas­sics, vin­tage, cus­toms, just about any style and brand of mo­tor ve­hi­cle you could imag­ine were cruis­ing back and forth along the street, and it was only Tues­day.

The Beach Hop kicked off on the Wed­nes­day with the Waihi Warm-up — a cruise to the gold-min­ing town for a street party. One of the high­lights was lis­ten­ing to Tim & the Rock­ets play­ing some great mu­sic in the his­toric old Cor­nish Pump House, with amaz­ing acous­tics. An­other was the now-tra­di­tional drag race. Not ex­actly car re­lated, this com­prised men dressed in women’s cloth­ing sprint­ing up the main street. Make-up, beards and tu­tus make an in­ter­est­ing mix.

On Thurs­day the ever-grow­ing num­ber of ve­hi­cles wended its way over to Tairua for a re­laxed few hours by the beach, be­fore re­turn­ing to Whanga­mata for more main-street cruis­ing well into the evening. Un­for­tu­nately the weather lit­er­ally put a damper on things, and the wet hung around all day on Fri­day. It didn’t stop the Thun­der Cruise (open ex­hausts en­cour­aged) out to nearby One­m­ana, but quite a few pulled out of the cruise on the way, ob­vi­ously not fan­cy­ing sev­eral hours with no shel­ter.

Satur­day dawned fairly promis­ing for the Grand Pa­rade and Whanga­mata street party, but the weather didn’t live up to it, with showers on and off for the morn­ing, and stead­ier light rain for most of the af­ter­noon. Many proved that car peo­ple can be a hardy bunch, but the crowds thinned out a bit quicker than usual. Most, of course, weren’t leav­ing un­til the win­ner of the give­away car had been an­nounced. This stunning metal­lic blue, mildly-cus­tom­ized 1950 Mer­cury coupé was won by a very for­tu­nate young woman from Auck­land.

Bands at strate­gic points along Port Road, and the ever-present cruis­ing that’s be­come such a ma­jor and popular part of the Hop, en­sured the re­main­ing peo­ple were en­ter­tained for the evening.

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