Coming up roses
Bay of Plenty Vintage Car Club Annual Car Show and Swap Meet
Every year, my assistant and I come away from this show and swap meet praising the event as the best so far. The organizers have the knack of each year offering an incremental improvement without sacrificing what has become traditional. New this year were ice creams for the kids, and, as my assistant and I didn’t qualify by a substantial margin, we were more than happy to instead partake of the traditional home cooking available at very reasonable prices in the club house. The atmosphere in the club-house-turned-tearooms reeked wonderfully of a gentler time, before the Women’s Division Federated Farmers became Rural Women New Zealand, when ladies lorded it in the kitchen and it was the done thing for men to hold the door, even though everybody knew the ladies were perfectly capable of looking after themselves.
At the risk of being unduly parochial, I cannot imagine there is a more spectacular location for a vintage car club in New Zealand. The view from the Cliff Road site across the upper reaches of Tauranga Harbour is something to behold. The Bay of Plenty (BOP) branch is fortunate enough to occupy what used to be the bowling green next to Tauranga City’s Rose Gardens. The roses were in bloom, so it was no trouble at all to spend a little bit of time appreciating the flowers, as a sort of quid pro quo for my assistant spending considerably longer indulging me as I drooled over beauty of the automotive kind.
I nearly had my assistant convinced that we should sell the house and invest in the pristine 1964 VW camper van and live a life of carefree irresponsibility. Given that Tauranga’s property values are heading for the stratosphere, just as they are in Auckland, we might have had enough left over to ‘invest’ in a couple of classic cars. From the cars on show at Cliff Road, my picks would have been the aluminium-bodied 1927 Rolls-royce made in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the red 1954 Buick Roadmaster. Alas, my idea got no traction whatsoever, despite me emphasizing the ‘investment’ aspect of my scheme — this no doubt influenced by the radiant blooms only a fragrant smell away and constantly reminding my assistant how loathe she would be to give up her treasured garden for life on the road.
As usual, I neglected to count how many motorbikes, cars, and trucks were on show, but, all up, it had to be around 70, maybe more, including the interesting trucks that served to display wares on offer in the swap meet part of the show. The interesting thing about the BOP Vintage Car Club Swap Meet is that it is not just about automotive paraphernalia. You could just as easily have snapped up a porcelain figurine as a Ford V8 diff — how democratic is that? Like the roses next door, the variety of stuff for sale was guaranteed to keep the less ardent petrolheads happy. I came away $20 poorer but immeasurably richer for the acquisition of five sealed-beam headlights that might fit my Alfetta GTV. I realized later that my assistant had approved this purchase because she was interested in some antique garden tools and was concerned that the fiscal balance should be maintained.
The show is not judged, but, had it been, the judges’ task of trying to determine which of the vehicles was more worthy than the others would not have been envied. However, my assistant and I settled on the 1939 MG WA Tickford drophead coupé as our best in show. This looked like an immaculate restoration of a car from a marque normally associated with lightweight sports cars. To that time, it was the heaviest and largest model built by MG. With a tuned 2561cc overheadvalve six-cylinder engine of Morris origin, it was probably the most powerful as well. World War II halted production of the WA, and it was not resumed at the end of hostilities six years later.
Replete in every way — with the sight and sound of classic vehicles, smell and beauty of the roses, and the taste of sweet and savoury in the tearoom — my assistant and I called it a day. We agreed that the organizers should again be well satisfied with their efforts, and, if asked, would be able to say that everything had come up roses.