PRICE ON Nostalgia!
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!
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.