Uring 1972, a Whanganui Post Office employee telephoned his boss and said, “I’ve got a gentleman at my counter who wants to register his home-built car. It is called a ‘VK’. What should I do?” His boss replied, “Has it got an engine number?” “Well, yes. A
and, to ensure that they got everything in proportion, Vince constructed a 1/12th scale model of the finished car. It was from this model — which Vince still owns — that the final body style evolved. Some specific parts were fixed — for example, using a windscreen from a Humber Sceptre placed some initial limitations on the design — but these issues were not insurmountable. The original model called for a fastback with a large glass rear screen, but, as nothing appropriate was available at the time, the pair opted instead to use slotted louvres to retain a flowing rear end.
As mentioned earlier, for Vince, any problems are only pathways to a solution, and this approach couldn’t have been more evident than when the plug for the body was finished, and he was ready to make the moulds. Having never done any fibreglassing before, Vince started by reading a book. By the time he had pulled the moulds off the plug, he had learned how to fibreglass — and also how much he didn’t like working with the material. His solution was to trailer the moulds to a professional fibreglass company, which produced the first and only body for his car.
An interesting feature of Nick’s design is the inclusion of gull-wing doors. However, as this was before the days of gas struts, Vince had to come up with a spring and
The Vampire VK
Around 1971, Nick proposed a couple of ideas. The first was to call the car the ‘Vampire’ — a catchy name that would get more attention than Vince’s idea of simply calling his car the VK. Initially, Vince didn’t care for Nick’s idea, but, eventually, the name grew on him, and the car became known as the ‘Vampire VK’.
Nick’s second idea was to put the car into production. He believed that if they used the more powerful Cortina 1600 GT motor, they could build examples for about $4K. For a little extra, the Vampire VK could even be offered with a 2.0-litre motor. Vince was sold on this idea.
The Vampire was very much a concept car, and a lot of development would have to be done to fix some of its shortcomings before a production model could be offered, not the least of which would be sourcing a specialist rear windscreen. As well, the car’s original gear-lever position on the right would have to be moved to a more conventional centre position and, of course, those gull-wing doors still required more work. With all this in mind, it seemed that series production was merely a pipe dream.
Meantime, with the car well on the way
The local community had become aware of the Vampire VK even before it was finished, and the organizers of the up-and-coming New Zealand Motor Show wanted the car to be the centrepiece of their event. This gave Nick a deadline, and he had to pull out all the stops to get it ready for the two-week show scheduled to take place in May 1972. To say it was a rush was an understatement, and Vince can still remember the excitement of driving the finished car on the road on the way to the post office to register it in April 1972.
Vince and Nick’s Vampire VK was something of a sensation with show-goers to what was billed as ‘The first New Zealand Motor Show’, in Whanganui, who all wanted to touch the car. Vince says that if he had charged a dollar for everybody who touched it, he could have recovered all the money it had taken to build it.
However, like all sensations, it was not long before the Vampire was replaced with something else, and its last public appearance came just a few months later in November, at the Auckland Motor Show.
Vince’s aim had been to build a car, and he had done it. That goal having been achieved, it was time to return to his other passion — motorbikes. He kept the car until the late 1970s, when it was eventually sold for less than it had cost to build.
Today, the Vampire VK is owned by Bernard Matthews of Invercargill. The louvres have gone, the car has aged, and Bernard is looking for a new motor. Since 1972, the Vampire VK has only covered 25,750km (16,000 miles), and, hopefully, one day, this one-off Kiwi special will be restored to its former glory.