VINTAGE AUSTIN REGISTER ANNUAL RALLY
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!