THE TIKI:

NOT QUI T E A K IWI ICON

New Zealand Classic Car - - KITS & PIECES -

the car to King’s High School in Dunedin for use as a po­ten­tial work­shop pro­ject. While at King’s, fur­ther work was done on the car, and, by the time it was put up for ten­der in 1994, the Tiki was drive­able.

It was sub­se­quently pur­chased by Keith Buck­ley of Ran­giora, who wanted a pro­ject to share with his son. Keith got the car to the point of be­ing able to fire up the mo­tor, but, when that at­tempt was greeted with a cloud of blue smoke, he de­cided to com­pletely dis­man­tle it and start all over again. Alas, like the Tiki’s en­gine, the pro­ject stalled. Even­tu­ally, as his son had moved to Aus­tralia, Keith put it up for sale at the 2006 Vin­tage Car Club of New Zealand (VCCNZ) Mcleans Is­land Swap Meet.

Re­boot­ing the pro­ject

This was when vin­tage car re­storer Jerome Mehrtens en­tered the scene. On the look­out for a new pro­ject, he be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the car. Ini­tially, he could see most parts re­quired to fin­ish it ap­peared to be there, in­clud­ing such valu­able items as a front and rear wind­screens and, won­der of won­ders, a fully re­con­di­tioned mo­tor still in its plas­tic preser­va­tive wrap­ping. Some parts that were miss­ing — such as door hinges, bon­net catches, and door locks — Jerome knew he’d be able to source from the parts shed op­er­ated by the Can­ter­bury Branch of the VCCNZ. As he had a his­tory of ve­hi­cle restora­tions be­hind him — in­clud­ing, among oth­ers, two Ford 8s — Jerome did not see him­self hav­ing any ma­jor dif­fi­cul­ties with this pro­ject.

How­ever, his con­fi­dence be­gan to wane in 2008 when he tried to get the car cer­ti­fied as be­ing fit for New Zealand roads. The first prob­lem was that reg­u­la­tions re­quired it to be fit­ted with mod­ern seat belts. Al­though the ve­hi­cle cer­ti­fier had cer­ti­fied the car us­ing stan­dards that were ap­pro­pri­ate for its era, he was not happy about the lack of belts. As this was a safety is­sue, Jerome was happy to com­ply. How­ever, the task was made dif­fi­cult, as the car had never been in­tended to have belts — so Jerome had to fabri­cate a steel frame­work that could be at­tached to the orig­i­nal Ford chas­sis to en­sure a se­cure mount­ing for them.

The only other change he made to the car as he re­built it was to in­stall a 12-volt elec­tri­cal

sys­tem — al­though the orig­i­nal six-volt starter mo­tor has been re­tained. Like the seat belts, this was done in the in­ter­ests of safety, as six-volt headlights are re­ally too dull for mod­ern-day driv­ing.

Once the car passed cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, he as­sumed that a trip to the lo­cal test­ing sta­tion would be quite straight­for­ward. Rule num­ber one — never as­sume any­thing!

Al­though Jerome had now dug up suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion to iden­tify his car as a Tiki, as it was go­ing to be reg­is­tered for the road for the first time in 2008, he was told that it would have to com­ply with cur­rent new-car rules — and that would re­quire an­other full cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, this time to 2008 stan­dards.

Al­though Jerome could prove that the Tiki had been de­signed and built with parts that met the re­quire­ments of a 1950s clas­sic car, the NZTA rule was un­bend­ing. How­ever, pre­par­ing a car orig­i­nally de­signed in the ’50s for com­pli­ance to mod­ern reg­u­la­tions would not be an easy task. A sim­ple ex­am­ple of the dif­fi­cul­ties that Jerome would face is the is­sue of the Tiki’s wind­screens.

Mod­ern cars are fit­ted with lam­i­nated wind­screens, a level of tech­nol­ogy not read­ily avail­able in the ’50s, when cars used tough­ened safety glass. A lam­i­nated wind­screen is a le­gal re­quire­ment for a mod­ern car, so, to com­ply the Tiki, Jerome would have to re­move the front and rear glass with­out break­age and some­how get them re­man­u­fac­tured. The cost of man­u­fac­tur­ing one-off screens is, as you can imag­ine, hor­ren­dous — that is, if you can find some­one pre­pared to do the job. This is only one ex­am­ple of a whole list of tasks that would have to be com­pleted be­fore the car could be legally used on the road.

Cut­ting the red tape

Frus­trated, Jerome parked the Tiki in his garage, rolled up his sleeves, and pre­pared to do bat­tle with bu­reau­cracy.

For the next two-and-a-half years many let­ters trav­elled back­wards and for­wards be­tween the NZTA and Jerome, with the govern­ment agency re­quir­ing doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence that the car was ac­tu­ally a 1959 one. Own­er­ship pa­pers prov­ing it had been reg­is­tered for the road in 1959 would per­fect — how­ever, while the donor car would surely have been reg­is­tered at one point, the Tiki had never been of­fi­cially reg­is­tered for road use. With all other av­enues closed, Jerome de­cided to con­tact pre­vi­ous own­ers of the car in the hope of find­ing some form of doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence that would sat­isfy the au­thor­i­ties.

Amaz­ingly, around this time, Keith Buck­ley’s son had just re­turned from Aus­tralia for a hol­i­day. When his father told him about Jerome’s prob­lems, he was im­me­di­ately re­minded that he’d tucked away the car’s orig­i­nal own­er­ship pa­pers in a fil­ing cab­i­net in the home garage all those years ago.

As you can imag­ine, th­ese pa­pers proved to be worth their weight in gold. Thanks to the fore­sight of the Tiki’s first owner, Al­bert John­ston, the pa­pers proved not only that the car had been first reg­is­tered dur­ing Au­gust 1950 as a Ford Pre­fect but also that Al­bert, pre­sum­ably an­tic­i­pat­ing trou­ble down the road, had got his lo­cal post of­fice to change the car’s make on the pa­pers to ‘Tiki’ on Oc­to­ber 21, 1965. This ef­fec­tively meant that the Tiki could be reg­is­tered as be­ing com­pli­ant for the stan­dards that ex­isted in 1965.

With this im­por­tant piece of pa­per clutched firmly in his hand, it was back to NZTA for the next round — and this time Jerome won.

In 2014, 55 years af­ter the Tiki’s body left the Ge­orge & Ash­ton fac­tory, it was en­tered in its first event — the Mount Cook Rally or­ga­nized by the South Can­ter­bury branch of the VCCNZ, held over that year’s Labour week­end. How­ever, for Jerome, the high­light of his Tiki own­er­ship so far came in June 2015, when he was awarded the Veacroft Tro­phy for Best Vin­tage by the VCCNZ.

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