Bryan Jack­son: col­lec­tor extraordinaire

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide News - The Mini and Jack­son car­a­van that fea­tured on the cover of the De­cem­ber 2013 edi­tion of New Zealand Clas­sic Car Words: Donn An­der­son Bryan Jack­son led a full and ac­tive life

Bryan Jack­son was a pre­server of New Zealand her­itage, a col­lec­tor and re­storer of vet­eran and vin­tage cars, an en­tre­pre­neur, a wheeler-dealer, and a chap who squeezed 10 lives into one. When El­ton John vis­ited New Zealand, it was Bryan who chauf­feured the pop star about Auck­land in his 1932 Roll­sRoyce. The Bri­tish singer was so im­pressed that, when he re­turned for a se­cond tour, Bryan drove him about in the su­perb 1933 5.4-litre straight-eight Stude­baker sedan that he had owned for 45 years.

Bryan, who passed away at the age of 82 in Septem­ber, may not al­ways have got what he wanted, but he put a huge amount into life and didn’t like tak­ing no for an an­swer. Grow­ing up in Orakei, he was noth­ing if not am­bi­tious, trad­ing bi­cy­cles while still at school, form­ing his own com­pany in 1950 at the ten­der age of 18, build­ing a sig­nif­i­cant car­a­van busi­ness in the Auck­land sub­urb of Mount Welling­ton, and at­tempt­ing to es­tab­lish mu­se­ums packed with mem­o­ra­bilia.

He was also some­thing of a leg­end in buy­ing, of­ten restor­ing, and reg­u­larly sell­ing vin­tage cars­­­— up­wards of 120 ve­hi­cles, all told, some­thing of a New Zealand record, al­though the most his Mu­seum of Sound and Light housed at any one time was 15 ve­hi­cles. This mu­seum was lo­cated at his Marua Road fac­tory, where he had op­er­ated a suc­cess­ful car­a­van busi­ness since 1958. Un­like the car­a­van trade, the mu­seum didn’t make any money, and he closed it down in Oc­to­ber 1973.

Ini­tially, Bryan bought and sold car­a­vans be­fore build­ing his own, and went on to sell more than 7000 of them. He also de­signed and built three Cara­cat cata­ma­ran power­boats, one which won the 100-mile Auck­land power­boat race in the early ’90s.

Like many clever peo­ple, Bryan was a touch ec­cen­tric and cer­tainly a per­son who en­joyed life, even when times were far from happy. In the early ’90s, the then–devon­port Com­mu­nity Board was unim­pressed when he de­posited a pair of red tele­phone boxes on the roof of the old Devon­port Post Of­fice build­ing, which he had ac­quired not only as his home, but as a con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion for his mu­seum.

He spent a con­sid­er­able sum on this pro­ject, only to find it wasn’t fi­nan­cially vi­able, and, when that mu­seum closed in 1999, he auc­tioned 30,000 items rang­ing from mu­sic boxes to wheel caps.

Some won­der­ful ve­hi­cles passed through his hands, in­clud­ing a 1932 Rolls-royce Phan­tom II sports tourer that ap­peared in the Septem­ber 2010 edi­tion of NZ Clas­sic Car, a 1911 Cadil­lac, and a 1926 Hup­mo­bile open tourer.

His 1913 Star Gen­tle­man’s roadster was sold to a US air­line cap­tain, who popped it onto a jumbo jet and flew it back to Amer­ica. The 1911 Mer­ry­weather truck was a full-on restora­tion and is be­lieved to be the se­cond-old­est fire en­gine in the world. It now re­sides at the Mu­seum of Trans­port and Tech­nol­ogy (MOTAT) in Auck­land, along with a 1909 sin­gle­cylin­der Brush that was also part of the Jack­son col­lec­tion. Bryan had a way of seek­ing out ‘barn finds’, and once lo­cated a 1915 Sun­beam am­bu­lance in Kerik­eri. The Sun­beam was so bad that it had a tree grow­ing through the en­gine block, but Jack­son soon had it re­stored.

Bryan also had a 1930 Packard hearse, a sim­i­larly aged Packard two-door tourer, and once ac­quired a large col­lec­tion of 18 Model A Fords in one hit.

Bryan Jack­son had four wives, and is sur­vived by his chil­dren Ash­ley, Alex, Ros­alind, and Mark, who re­calls a mem­o­rable 1973 South Is­land vin­tage car rally sit­ting in the mag­nif­i­cent Rolls-royce with his dad at the wheel.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, his beloved 1933 Stude­baker was in at­ten­dance at his fu­neral at the Wil­son Home in Taka­puna, along with a 1913 Ford Model T and a 1967 Cub car­a­van that Jack­son de­signed and built es­pe­cially to be towed be­hind the clas­sic Mini.

The world needs more colour­ful char­ac­ters like Bryan Jack­son, who are not only in­no­va­tive, but also pre­pared to chal­lenge au­thor­i­ties when they be­lieve they are right.

The an­nual Auck­land Mus­tang Own­ers Club car show was held on Sun­day, Septem­ber 27, at Stan­more Bay Pool and Leisure Cen­tre on Auck­land’s North Shore. More than 50 Mus­tangs, rang­ing from the ear­li­est 1964 mod­els to the cur­rent range — in­clud­ing GT, Boss, Shelby, and Roush — pro­vided an ex­cel­lent line-up of ve­hi­cles, en­abling the pub­lic to gain a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica’s iconic pony car.

With more than 17 cat­e­gories — in­clud­ing Best in Show — the judg­ing team and com­mit­tee mem­bers also had an op­por­tu­nity to se­lect pos­si­ble en­tries for the club’s 2016 Eller­slie In­ter­mar­que Concours d’el­e­gance team and Masters Class event.

At least half of the Mus­tang own­ers took the op­por­tu­nity to set up their cars in the venue on Satur­day af­ter­noon, while the re­main­der brought their cars along early on Sun­day morn­ing. Af­ter some fran­tic last-minute de­tail­ing, the doors were opened up to the pub­lic at 9am.

De­spite the slightly re­mote lo­ca­tion, the day’s beau­ti­ful weather saw a steady stream of pay­ing pub­lic wan­der­ing through the show to ad­mire the Mus­tangs on dis­play, mak­ing it a great day for ev­ery­one.

A pro­por­tion of the gate tak­ings were do­nated to this year’s char­ity of choice — the Hibis­cus Hospice.

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