New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words and photos: Jac­qui Madelin

The Franklin hills were alive to the sound of vintage Austins when the Auck­land branch of the Vintage Austin Reg­is­ter hosted the club’s an­nual rally in March.

Nearly 90 peo­ple from as far afield as Christchurch and the Far North gath­ered in more than 40 cars, with some driven from as far as Welling­ton, while an Austin 7 ute (no, the Brit brand didn’t pro­duce one, but this home-built spe­cial was cer­tainly eye-catch­ing) was towed up by own­ers John Bail­lie and Jan By­ers, and a num­ber of folk flew in and bor­rowed cars, or pas­sen­ger seats.

Frank Mil­li­gan and fam­ily winged up from Christchurch and took over a lo­cally owned bright yel­low 1926 12/4 Clifton, and they weren’t the only ones to ben­e­fit from the club network.

The ear­li­est par­tic­i­pants were from the 1920s, while the lat­est was a 1947 HB driven from Napier by own­ers Neil and Jill Ham­mond, with their 15-year- old daugh­ter, So­phie, aboard. Does she like Austins? Turns out she’s a Bed­ford-head and, with Dad’s help, is restor­ing a 1950s van. Mind you, she low­ered her­self far enough to act as my nav­i­ga­tor, my puppy be­ing too young to read yet, though quite happy to take over the back seat.

Fri­day started out with reg­is­tra­tion, a nat­ter over a beer, and a BBQ, be­fore an early night.

Numbers were boosted on Sat­ur­day by sev­eral lo­cals do­ing just the one day, with Ian Wil­liams and nav­i­ga­tor Joss draw­ing this writer’s eye in his gor­geous ma­roon ‘Nippy’ — as its name sug­gests, Nippy is con­sid­er­ably quicker than my 1937 three-bear­ing-crank MKII Ruby.

Nat­u­rally, Austin 7s made up the bulk of the numbers, rang­ing from the older, squarer Chum­mies through to the likes of Bruce Jef­fery’s bright red 1929 7 Wy­dor, up to a num­ber of Rubys. Among them was Steven Craft’s ex­am­ple, com­plete with vintage suit­cases atop his roof rack, and sev­eral rather eye-catch­ing spe­cials, in­clud­ing John El­lis in his 1930 racer, and route­set­ter Mike Loose­more, with his en­thu­si­as­tic grand­son aboard.

The route took in some fab­u­lous roads, in­clud­ing sec­tions of the New Zealand rally, with a steep down­hill gravel seg­ment that no doubt chal­lenged some of the age­ing brakes. We were wel­comed onto a marae — and roy­ally fed — and took in the fas­ci­nat­ing Waiuku Mu­seum, well worth a re­turn visit.

Af­ter the evening meal and prize-giv­ing, it was a qui­eter Sun­day, with a visit to a lo­cal glider field, and the event ended at Ard­more’s clas­sic planes, be­fore lunch at its café.

There were a few break­downs, but only one ve­hi­cle — for­tu­nately, a lo­cal — ended up on the sup­port trailer, with ev­ery­one else able to sort any mi­nor is­sues by the road­side be­fore car­ry­ing on.

My first vintage rally in New Zealand was a blast. I can’t wait for the next one!

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