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
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.
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.
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.