I enjoyed Donn Anderson’s article Gentleman Racer, Motor Trader Tony Shelly [Motorman, New Zealand Classic Car Issue No. 313], and it brought back a few memories for me.
I went to work for the Shelly Group in 1968. I had been working for W&R Smallbone Ltd Renault Division in Wellington for a few years as a spare-parts assistant. The Renaults (Dauphine, R8, and R10) were assembled by Todd Motors in Petone from CKD [complete knockdown] packs of 50, but that is all another story. The Renault franchise went to Campbell Motors Limited (it had Peugeot at that point), and after discussions with Hugo Bedford in Auckland, I elected to stay and try my luck at jobs in Wellington.
Anglo Motor Importers Ltd, Cambridge Terrace, Wellington, advertised for somebody to run the Citroën ‘operation’ (parts and the odd car import), and I applied. Ken Carter (KE Carter Motors Tauranga, then a big GM franchise operation, part of the Shelly Group) hired me, and I met Tony at my interview. From my perspective, Ken Carter was effectively the power behind the throne in the New Zealand Shelly operations, and a very shrewd operator. I reported to Ken, and he was a great guy to work for. The Xmas parties in Tauranga were great; Tony attended with Leslie, and we socialized at Ken and Di’s home. In the latter stages of Anglo’s operations, I also looked after the Lotus parts business. It did not take much time, being somewhat small in volume! Donn Anderson says in the body of his article “He [Tony] was enjoying the freedom of the motor trade in Hawaii after the restrictive confines of New Zealand”. Sending Tony to deal with Customs officials or Trade and Industry officials was not a good idea!
Archibald’s, Shorter’s, Moller’s, and Shelly had rationalized the Jaguar business with the formation of Jaguar Distributors Ltd, the cars being assembled in Nelson with CBU [completely built-up] XJS later on. It was then agreed that (for a number of reasons!) Citroën would be put on a similar footing, and Palmerston North was selected as the base, mainly I think due to the existence of two Moller businesses there.
PO Box 46,020, Herne Bay, Auckland 1147
So, in 1971, Avenue Motors on Fitzherbert Avenue became Citroën Distributors Ltd. At that time, Tony was driving a 1968 Porsche 911 (with the lovely factory mags, which I was constantly chasing special Michelin tyres for). I was asked to move to Palmerston North to set up and run the national Citroën spare-parts operation. Tony and I had a few trips between Wellington and Palmerston North during the set-up of the entire operation, all conducted at high speed — I recall 130mph [209kph] showing at one point on the dial. One of the trips was done in a new Triumph 2.5 PI, the new boy on the block. Its injection system was courtesy of Lucas (aka the Prince of Darkness). The PI was no match for the Bosch-injected Citroën DS21. At this point in time, Tony’s choice of cars was “911 first, Citroën Safari for the mountain trips and an XJ6 for fronting”.
I took over the general management of Citroën Distributors shortly prior to Tony moving to Honolulu in 1976. Tony asked me to “drop in” when I was on my way to visit Citroën in Paris to look at his Mazda parts operation; however, it could not be managed due to timing. My recollection is that the early days in Honolulu for Shelly Mazda were not easy, however, along came the Mazda 323 and the rest is history. I last saw Tony quite by chance when we bumped into each other at Honolulu airport in 1986.
I did not attend Tony’s funeral; however, I will always remember him, especially for his generous donation to Scots College where his boys were educated.
PS. OK, I ’fess-up to a personal interest. I grew up with a 1947 Mercury, which has a grille that has to be an all-time classic. Interesting numbers indeed, Gordon, but no one can ignore the giant strides taken to make cars more fuel efficient over the last decade or so. BTW, the 1947 Mercury is one of my favs as well. AFW