Gor­don opens up a barn and dis­cov­ers more than 200 clas­sic cars. Af­ter blow­ing the dust off some of them, he sent in this photo re­port

New Zealand Classic Car - - The Collectors - Words and Pho­tos: Gor­don Camp­bell

ost of us have seen that won­der­ful in­ter­net fairy story about a cou­ple who bought a farm in Por­tu­gal, com­plete with a mys­te­ri­ous and se­curely pad­locked barn. The story goes that once the locks were cut off the cou­ple found them­selves gap­ing at a ver­i­ta­ble trea­sure trove of clas­sic cars — all of them lib­er­ally cov­ered in dust, but in­tact. It was the stuff we all dream of but, alas, it was ap­par­ently all a com­puter-gen­er­ated hoax. It’s not the only story run­ning along those lines that’s gone vi­ral on the in­ter­net, and it’s hard to know what to be­lieve in th­ese days of Photoshop im­age ma­nip­u­la­tion.

How­ever, for­get about the hoaxes — here’s the ‘real thing’ — and, rest as­sured, there’s no com­puter en­hance­ment when it comes to this Waikato col­lec­tion of just over 200 cars.

Cap­tain Vaux­hall

The owner of this amaz­ing gath­er­ing of clas­sic cars, Peter Markham, bought a for­mer chicken farm in 2002 and started build­ing up his col­lec­tion of cars in 2004. Mind you, even then he was no stranger to car col­lect­ing — back in 1991, he owned a grand to­tal of 75 PA Vaux­halls. His prop­erty at that time was known as Peter’s PA Par­adise, earn­ing him the nick­name of Cap­tain Vaux­hall.

Peter’s cur­rent col­lec­tion is much more eclec­tic.

Brands re­sid­ing in his sheds in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Bri­tish mar­ques such as Austin, Mor­ris, MG, Wolse­ley, Ri­ley, Vaux­hall, Hill­man, Hum­ber, Singer, Sun­beam, Van­den Plas, and Ford. While the ma­jor­ity of Peter’s cars are Bri­tish, there’s a smat­ter­ing of Ja­panese cars, plus one lone Amer­i­can. Keep­ing true to Peter’s nick­name, Vaux­hall PAS in their var­i­ous in­car­na­tions are prob­a­bly still the most com­mon model within his col­lec­tion, al­though Mor­ris Mi­nors and BMC 1100/1300s must come close.

Most of the cars are still within our reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem, al­though keep­ing their li­cences on hold is a time-con­sum­ing job. Peter knows each of his cars in­di­vid­u­ally — he can tell you how and where he ac­quired just about all of them. Some have in­ter­est­ing sto­ries, as you would ex­pect, while sev­eral, al­though they might be run-of-the-mill mod­els, are un­usual. For ex­am­ple, the FB model Vaux­hall VX4/90 is rare enough, but there can’t be a car much rarer in this coun­try than a left-hand drive ex­am­ple.

Art Union Singer

Check­ing out a few in­di­vid­ual cars within Peter’s col­lec­tion, I learn that a very tidy-look­ing Singer Vogue es­tate was bought by a Kiwi cou­ple who won the Art Union — the na­tional lot­tery that was the fore­run­ner of the Golden Kiwi. That, of course, even­tu­ally mor­phed into Lotto. That cou­ple trav­elled to the UK and bought the Vogue whilst there, later bring­ing it back to New Zealand. They re­turned to the UK two years later and vis­ited the same dealer, who had been sad­dled with a set of Cos­mic al­loy wheels a cus­tomer had or­dered and then re­fused to buy. The New Zealand cou­ple bought the wheels, and had them shipped home to fit to their Vogue.

To­day, un­der a light coat­ing of dust, the Singer has a rust-free body — al­though it’s the car’s in­te­rior that re­ally stands out. It is truly in that overused ‘as new’ con­di­tion. Quite sim­ply, there’s not a mark on it, and the pol­ished wood trim re­tains its new sheen.

A sur­pris­ing num­ber of Peter’s cars have in­te­ri­ors very much in a sim­i­lar con­di­tion to that of the Vogue es­tate. A fairly early Sun­beam Rapier, sev­eral of the BMC 1100/1300s, and some oth­ers have in­te­ri­ors that have clearly been well looked af­ter over the years, and haven’t seen much use. Peter pointed out that the Vaux­hall

dry. Peter also has a ‘death row’ sec­tion, com­pris­ing mostly parts cars, sit­ting in a shed that is await­ing roof re­pairs.

Mind you, even the worst cars have po­ten­tial in Peter’s eyes. Some would say he must be look­ing through a pair of very rose-tinted spec­ta­cles when he sees a dirt-cov­ered car and as­sesses the work re­quired to re­turn it to the road, but there’s noth­ing wrong with that. Such en­thu­si­asm is in­fec­tious, and it’s easy to imag­ine tak­ing one of th­ese dirty, un­cut di­a­monds and turn­ing it into a sparkling beauty.

Hot wheels

With so many orig­i­nal-con­di­tion cars stored away, it’s a bit sur­pris­ing that Peter isn’t a stick­ler for orig­i­nal­ity, es­pe­cially when it comes to wheels. A re­cent ac­qui­si­tion is a 1962 Vaux­hall PA Cresta fit­ted with a set of 100-spoke wheels — not ev­ery­body’s cup of tea, al­though I think the wheels turn a smart­look­ing car into a real head-turner. The wheels and tyres fill the wheel arches per­fectly, giv­ing the Cresta a sporty stance.

Sev­eral cars have mod­ern wheels, and they’ll also po­lar­ize opin­ions within clas­sic-car cir­cles. Peter’s FC model Vaux­hall VX4/90 and a Singer Vogue have been fit­ted with large-di­am­e­ter mod­ern wheels, as was the Se­ries V Hum­ber 80 that Peter has al­most fin­ished re­build­ing to his own taste. The Hill­man Minx Se­ries V has al­ways been rel­a­tively com­mon in New Zealand, but the Hum­ber is a par­tic­u­larly rare one — it’s the only ex­am­ple Peter has seen.

Peter does most of the work on his cars. A cab­i­net maker and ma­chin­ist/pol­isher by trade, he’s had 30 years as a self-taught me­chanic, panel beater, and painter. He hasn’t done a lot of up­hol­stery work, but feels he should be do­ing more of that as well.

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