PRICE ON Nos­tal­gia!

New Zealand Classic Car - - Words: Photos Courtesy - By Greg Price

We all have our own sto­ries about why we ‘al­ways wanted one of those’

My ear­li­est rec­ol­lec­tion of mo­tor ve­hi­cles is of be­ing in Welling­ton as a tod­dler, placed on my father’s knee and al­lowed to steer the car while he drove. Be­ing a de­struc­tive lit­tle sod, I al­ways en­deav­oured to turn the car to­wards the near­est tele­phone pole, where­upon my father would grab the wheel and steer us to safety. As a car dealer, he brought home dif­fer­ent cars al­most ev­ery day, and, ap­par­ently, he never for­gave me for ‘sail­ing’ my toy yacht in the freshly poured con­crete pad of his new garage.

On mov­ing to Auck­land and liv­ing with my grand­par­ents, I re­call be­ing taken to visit an aunt and un­cle who lived nearby in One Tree Hill (the hill still had its tree back then). On walk­ing down the long drive from the road, I spot­ted a Pan­ther mo­tor­cy­cle lean­ing against the garage. I took an in­stant lik­ing to the Pan­ther em­blem, and, while I was a bit young to be think­ing ‘I want one of those’ at age five, clearly the im­age be­came im­printed per­ma­nently, as, more years later than I care to ac­knowl­edge here, I man­aged to fi­nally pur­chase a Pan­ther.

I was at­tend­ing the lo­cal pri­mary school around that time, and my grand­mother would come and up­lift me from school. One day, they had some gar­den­ers in, and one of them was dis­patched to pick me up — in his 1938 Mor­ris Eight Sports! Top down, of course. I loved that car, and, 12–14 years later, I owned a Mor­ris Eight Sports.

Some years later, while at­tend­ing board­ing school in the early ’60s, came two more sig­nif­i­cant car-re­lated events. Now a teenager, I han­kered for my own set of wheels. The father of an­other boarder came to visit one week­end, driv­ing a Man­darin Red Ford Zephyr MKI con­vert­ible — a must-have car for any teenager hope­ful of pulling in the chicks. The next im­pact­ful event came while read­ing Na­tional Geo­graphic mag­a­zines in the school li­brary — I’d zero in on the US car ad­verts, par­tic­u­larly the out­landish Cadil­lacs of the ’50s — the 1959 it­er­a­tion be­ing the epit­ome of deca­dence. “I’ll have one of those one day!” I vowed.

First set of wheels

Fast for­ward, and I was now work­ing. A close mate who owned an Austin Seven was help­ing me to get into my first set of wheels. As luck would have it, he found a 1937 Austin Seven that be­longed to the fly­ing as­so­ciate of Cap­tain Fred­die Ladd (who fa­mously flew his Wid­geon am­phib­ian plane un­der the Auck­land Har­bour Bridge in 1967) and was avail­able for £30 (about $60) — the Austin, not the Har­bour Bridge!

Now that I was earn­ing, I em­barked on a se­ries of buys and sells to fund the next pur­chase. In­ter­est­ingly enough, back in 1967 or 1968, I sold a 1939 Ford V8 Deluxe to fi­nance my first MKI Zephyr sedan — but it was to be 1973 be­fore I bought the MKI that I own to this day. How­ever, in 1970, while work­ing for a lo­cal car dealer — the late Nigel Roskilly, for­mer New Zealand Clas­sic Car scribe and Jaguar afi­cionado — I turned down an op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase a MKI con­vert­ible, which was be­ing held in stock, for just $150. In­stead, I set­tled for driv­ing it back­wards and for­wards to work.

In 1975, I bought my own — how­ever, that one hap­pened to have been pre­vi­ously owned by an­other ac­quain­tance, who kept pes­ter­ing me to sell it back to him, which I even­tu­ally did.

In 1978, I bought my cur­rent MKI con­vert­ible, ‘Happy Days’ — a car that had been sit­ting on the side of Re­muera Road for sev­eral months with a seized en­gine. That was back in the days when you could ac­tu­ally leave a con­vert­ible on the side of an Auck­land street for sev­eral months! It, too, had an in­ter­est­ing his­tory, hav­ing once been owned by an ex­ec­u­tive of Ra­dio Hau­raki, then a pirate ra­dio sta­tion. I dis­cov­ered that there was money ow­ing on it when I at­tempted to re­trieve the own­er­ship pa­pers from the car dealer, who tried to re­pos­sess it. I had to hide the car away un­til I was able to es­tab­lish the fi­nance com­pany to which the money was owed and, sub­se­quently, clear the debt. That took two years!

Mov­ing south

On mov­ing to the South Is­land, I man­aged to score the (then) only ex­am­ple of a 1959 Cadil­lac Fleet­wood — one of only seven 1959 Cadil­lacs in New Zealand at that time. We owned that Cadil­lac for over 18 years be­fore part­ing with it — pri­mar­ily to en­able other ve­hi­cles on the bucket list to be ac­quired.

World-fa­mous mo­tor­cy­cle racer Ge­off Duke once said that ev­ery­thing has a life of 50 years, mean­ing that cars and mo­tor­cy­cles are of ‘in­ter­est’ for a pe­riod of 50 years. Given the cars and mo­tor­cy­cles in which we have an in­ter­est hold our at­ten­tion for around 50 years (with the ex­cep­tion of Zephyr con­vert­ibles and 1959 Cadil­lacs), when you de­cide to sell your pris­tine ex­am­ple of what­ever type of car it is, the peo­ple who might be in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing it have also reached that same point in their lives when they, too, are quit­ting ve­hi­cles for the same rea­son.

Un­for­tu­nately, many vin­tage car own­ers are still firmly of the view that their once pride and joy is still worth me­gabucks, but the list of prospec­tive buy­ers is de­clin­ing at the same pace as they are get­ting older.

I still have a few cars and bikes on my bucket list — th­ese in­clude an E-type Jaguar (I still have my first Match­box model of the same, be­liev­ing, at the time, that that would be about as close as I’d ever get to one) and, in the mo­tor­cy­cle cat­e­gory, an Ariel Square Four, an ex­am­ple of which was also at my un­cle’s place in One Tree Hill back in the ’50s.

My prob­lem now is sim­ply this. If I were to buy (for ex­am­ple) an E-type and, in due course, de­cided that I wanted to move it on, would I find a buyer — and, more im­por­tantly, would I find a buyer pre­pared to pay what I paid for it, or would I be look­ing at tak­ing a big hit fi­nan­cially? That’s food for thought, yes?

I hope you all had a happy and safe Christ­mas.

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