NEW ZEALAND CLASSIC CAR EDITORIAL Changing Times
As Auckland’s voracious appetite for additional housing continues unabated, the city’s skyline is constantly shifting and changing as more high-rise residential buildings conspire to blot out the sunlight from the street below. While I’m not totally against the removal of some less-than-handsome older buildings, I don’t particularly care for a few of the monstrosities that are sprouting up within the Auckland area.
Recently I was taken on a brief tiki tour — in a Porsche Speedster replica — around a new suburban housing development. While I accept that Auckland’s ever-growing population needs somewhere to live, I’m rather glad I don’t have to reside there — the buildings in the area we toured looked like they’d been commissioned by the Department of Corrections.
The latest casualty of Auckland’s building boom is 483 Queen Street, in the heart of the city. That address doesn’t mean anything to you? Let me explain.
As some readers will be aware from past editorials, I’m stuck in a time warp when it comes to music — much preferring old-school vinyl records to downloading digitally massaged tunes. As such, Real Groovy is, quids in, my favourite retail shop — odds are, you’ll find me there browsing through the record racks at least once or twice a month. Where is Real Groovy located? That’s right, 483 Queen Street.
Alas, the developers are moving in and the building is slated for demolition, the site to be used for a residential apartment block plus the obligatory ground-floor retail complex. Bugger!
Real Groovy, which has been at 483 since 1991, is currently on the search for new premises.
Of course if you’re not interested in records and, like Henry Ford, reckon that history is bunk, you won’t care too greatly about the eventual loss of 483 Queen Street. However, for motoring enthusiasts the loss of this building means the removal of yet another part of New Zealand’s automobile heritage. You see, the building in question was once home to Campbell Motors, which originally shifted its car business there in 1945 after the US Navy had finished using the premises for munitions storage.
In Mark Webster’s excellent book on local car production, Assembly (Reed Books, 2002), he quoted Hugo Bedford, later head of Campbell Motors, on the company’s move from Rutland Street to Queen Street, “All the equipment was trundled up Queen Street, on a Saturday morning in trolleys. There wasn’t a car in sight.” In 1945 Auckland’s population barely exceeded 250,000.
Campbell Motors, concessionaire for Renault and Peugeot, amongst others, maintained its main showroom at 483 until the end of the ’70s. It was owned by the Webster family (no relation to Mark), and NZ Classic Car readers will know the company’s current co director, Donald Webster, through his Targa exploits in a Group 5 Alpine Renault A110. Although Donald probably isn’t too happy about selling the building that once contained his father’s car dealership, business or market pressures were presumably behind the hard decision to sell the premises to the developers.
That, alas, is progress.
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