ho could have foreseen, at about this time back in 1972, that a competition between a handful of car clubs at Cornwall Park’s sunken gardens in Auckland would have flowered into the huge spectacular now staged each February at Ellerslie?
Like that first inter-club competition, the New Zealand Classic Car Intermarque Concours d’elegance still focuses on presentation, appearance, originality, and excellence — it’s the only New Zealand car event at which entries are judged to international standards.
But it’s also the country’s largest celebration of classic cars and our internationally acclaimed restoration industry, with some exhibits and entries worth more than a clutch of Auckland houses at an auction.
Back in the day, MG was the first winner of the Inter-club Challenge Shield, with honours also going to the Alvis, Studebaker, Jowett, Riley, and Citroën car clubs. These days, winners are, arguably, more exotic, if not pricier — a pride of Porsches having taken club team honours to host the show in 2016 and 2017: the winning club each year hosts the subsequent event, supported by the 10-strong organizing committee representing founding and other leading clubs. And now there are about 800 — not just dozens — of classics and new vehicles on show each year.
For the first time, the show’s location for over 30 years will be reflected in the Classic Cover Insurance clubdisplay competition theme: “A Classic Day at the Races”.
Ellerslie became the show’s venue in 1982 when Porsche took honours after Jaguar and MG’S decade-long stranglehold on the shield and moved the event from Cornwall Park. Some of the first commercial exhibitors are still there today, albeit without the popular dealership hospitality tents hosting classic brews as well as cars, which resulted in some missing what else was on display …
It’s possible some cars from that first event may appear in the Survivor’s Class: a competition for up to six unrestored
vehicles at least 35 years old, with original bodywork, paint, and upholstery. Launched four years ago, the category showcases cars still in regular use that look almost as good as the day they rolled off the production line.
As in previous years, there’ll be the sharp contrast between the classics and the line-up of latest models from dealerships, featuring technology we only dreamed about in 1972. The classics will cover just about every marque seen in New Zealand since early last century — from the horseless carriage to Alvis, Austin, Citroën, Corvette, Holden, Jaguar, Mustang, Mini, Falcon, Volvo, and more. This year, there’ll also be line-up of legendary New Zealand–produced Trekkas, celebrating the car’s 50th anniversary. The latest arrivals, some newly released, will include offerings from Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Chrysler, Fiat, Jaguar, Jeep, Lamborghini, Maserati, Mini, Porsche, Rolls-royce, Volvo, and more.
It’s also a good place to catch up on what’s new (and old) in books, accessories, Meguiar’s car care, vehicle grooming, paint restoration, classic car sales, and the essential insurance from Classic Cover.
After so many years, it’s been a challenge for organizers to ensure that the event won’t just be a repeat of previous years. In 2017, the layout and positioning of many exhibits will change, as Ellerslie is set to undergo development and host the Pop-up Globe theatre where some displays were previously. Additionally, with future events in mind, organizers want to attract younger enthusiasts, whose definition of ‘classic’ encompasses more recent and Japanese vehicles, as opposed to marques that have ceased production — that is, successful males aged 25-plus: tomorrow’s classic and new prestige vehicle owners. The organizers are offering advice to help set up new clubs if they’re not already catered for by an existing group.
Something else that’ll be different: children’s charity Gobabygo will return to display electric ride-in toy BMW cars that it donates to children with impaired mobility. The cars encourage interaction with siblings and friends, deliver therapy benefits, and help children develop spatial awareness and related skills in a way that’s impossible when they are not independently mobile. Gobabygo is run entirely by volunteers and relies on donations to pay for cars and adaptations to operate. Once again, there’ll also be the presence of radio stations The Sound, Radio Live, and Magic FM.
As well as the hosting club and organizing committee, dozens of volunteer workers are involved — ranging from judges to gatekeepers and those behind the scenes — who will make sure it all goes to plan. Continuity, procedure, and judging will be overseen by the Thoroughbred and Classic Car Owners Club (TACCOC), and honours will range from the coveted Intermarque Team Shield to the Masters Class awards for individual vehicles and the Classic Cover Insurance Best Club Display — with a Meguiar’s People’s Choice Award for the latter.
An attraction little-known to those outside the wider classic car fraternity is the Meguiar’s Tours d’elegance, which happens each year on the Saturday of the show weekend. It involves up to 200 classics touring to Saint Heliers from six departure points around the Auckland region. Departures this year will start from Westgate, Northcote, Greenlane, Papakura, Pukekohe, and Albany and will converge after a 100-kilometre drive to tour along Tamaki Drive and picnic in Saint Heliers, with a Homage product for the best picnic presentation.
It’s a wonderful weekend that will allow you to rekindle memories of the cars you grew up with or spent your misspent youth longing for.