Maurice Geoffrey Mehrtens: 1926–2016
outhern motor-industry identity Geoff Mehrtens was recently farewelled in exactly the style he enjoyed in life: no messing about, no sadness, and with everyone sharing in a laugh at his Dunedin funeral and a celebration of a life full of accomplishments. Written tributes were many, and eulogies from his family — especially sons David and Richard — had many sharing in the laughter prompted by memories of a man with a keen sense of humour.
Artist and daughter-in-law Jenny Mehrtens completed a charcoal drawing of Geoff, which was displayed at his send-off.
Geoff had a long-term affinity with early vintage cars, beginning with a 1906 Reo he found as a wreck and restored. This vehicle survives today in a private collection in Auckland. In a move typical of Geoff’s style, the family assisted to have the car at the nearby wedding of granddaughter Anna, as her wedding car, when he couldn’t make it to Auckland due to failing health earlier this year.
There was a number of other veteran and vintage cars, too — always restored to pristine state from usually impossibly difficult condition. They included a 1910 Talbot 4AB, a 1906 Cadillac single-cylinder runabout, a 1911 Cadillac Tourer, and a 1924 Delage DI Alpine Tourer. He loved to drive anywhere, and often did.
While Geoff was first a member of the Canterbury Vintage Car Club, his interest in vintage cars grew when he moved to Timaru to work with Mobil Oil. He was instrumental in forming the South Canterbury Vintage Car Club in 1954. In 1956, at the suggestion of Harry Wigley, Geoff helped establish the Aorangi Car Rally, which runs to this day, celebrating the first tourist vehicle to travel from Timaru to Aorangi / Mount Cook, around February 1906. Geoff became an Otago Automobile Association councillor and a member of Rotary, in which he was three times awarded a Paul Harris fellowship and logged a 100 per cent attendance record. In 2015, his 60 years of continuous paid membership were acknowledged by the New Zealand Vintage Car Club. He was also involved for a number of years in the running of the Dunedin Street Race.
Geoff is survived by his wife, Rosalie; two sons and a daughter; and grandchildren Anna, Lucy, Benjamin, Samuel, Thomas, Josh, and Riley.