THE COOLEST OF CLASSICS

40- year- old sports car The life and times of a

NZ Life & Leisure - - News - WORDS ANN WARNOCK PHOTOGR APHS NI­COLA EDMONDS

THIRTY-SIX-YEAR-OLD Kim Par­tridge – Bel­gium-born, Lon­don­raised and cur­rently re­sid­ing in the world's coolest lit­tle cap­i­tal – has zippo in­ter­est in cars. She's never no­ticed them, never wanted to know about them, nor wanted to own her own. But on a win­try Fri­day morn­ing she's steam­ing along Welling­ton's bustling Wake­field Street in her beloved 1977 Mor­gan 4/4. “It's bit­ter­sweet and it feels very emo­tional but I know Dad would think I've done the right thing.”

The hood is down, the Ford Kent 1600 en­gine hums and the hand-built ash wood frame­work rat­tles with Par­tridge fam­ily his­tory. “Lovely isn't it? It shifts and shuf­fles in the wind and when it's rain­ing it to­tally leaks – ac­tu­ally drips into the pas­sen­ger foot well. A friend re­cently said, ‘Did you know it's rain­ing inside your car?'

“You need to push the ped­als down to change gear, the hand­brake is a night­mare, there are no side mir­rors and there are gaps when the hood is up. It's so low you can touch the tar­mac. But you can feel the en­gine; it clunks in such a sat­is­fy­ing way. It's ex­cit­ing and great fun to drive.”

Do­ing the right thing is not nec­es­sar­ily the eas­i­est thing – a premise so keenly cap­tured in the case of Kim Par­tridge and the dilemma of her dearly loved late fa­ther Richard's sports car. It was never go­ing to be a case of sell­ing.

“Dad was from York­shire and he bought the Mor­gan when he was about the age I am now. He was liv­ing in Brus­sels work­ing as an ac­coun­tant and pur­chased it through an agent in Lon­don who was sell­ing on be­half of its first owner. It was vir­tu­ally brand new.”

A year later Richard wooed Kim's Bel­gian mother Marie-Jeanne with his racy vin­tage-styled ma­chine – only 3480 of which were built be­tween 1968 and 1982 by the Mor­gan Motor Com­pany in Malvern, Eng­land. Wait­ing lists were sev­eral years long. “Dad was crazy about sport. On the night of the 1978 FIFA World Cup fi­nal, he was in a bar in Brus­sels watch­ing the match when he set eyes on Mum. He of­fered to buy her a drink and later de­liv­ered her home in his fancy car.”

That fancy car was to be­come cen­tre-stage in their lives. Richard and Marie-Jeanne mar­ried in Lim­burg, Bel­gium – the English side of the fam­ily trav­eled to the nup­tials in a Rolls-Royce Sil­ver Shadow Mk1 owned by the groom and his brother. Sev­eral years later the cou­ple, ac­com­pa­nied by their baby Kim, re­turned to the UK.

“Mum and Dad bought a house in west Lon­don with a garage for the Mor­gan – that was a key re­quire­ment. I have a lovely mem­ory of Dad in the drive­way at home. He'd wash and pol­ish the Mor­gan, then sit along­side it in his deckchair with a Bod­ding­tons beer in hand and his ra­dio on a card­board box and lis­ten to the cricket.”

Kim used to slide down the Mor­gan's wheel mounts. “I also used to be bored to tears sit­ting in it out­side Dad's lo­cal garage in Eal­ing while he was inside talk­ing for hours.”

Over the years the fam­ily took the Mor­gan to Bel­gium for sum­mer breaks. It was a fair-weather car – in­sured for six months of the year and used by Richard as his sum­mer drive. Then in 2008 ev­ery­thing stopped. Richard died sud­denly aged 65. Kim, an IT spe­cial­ist, was work­ing in Lon­don at the time and moved home to be with her mother. The Mor­gan sat in the garage. A year af­ter her fa­ther's death, Kim mo­bi­lized.

“I as­sumed Mum might start to drive the Mor­gan, but it didn’t hap­pen. I was 28, had no driver’s li­cence and no knowl­edge of the Mor­gan. I knew it as ‘that black car’.

Learn­ing to drive that black car be­came a means of shar­ing an im­por­tant facet of her fa­ther’s life. Lessons en­sued, a li­cence was ob­tained and the Mor­gan be­came her Lon­don wheels. Im­bued with her fa­ther’s sense of ad­ven­ture – “Dad worked all over the world and was a huge sup­porter of travel and of peo­ple get­ting on with things” – Kim ex­ited her Lon­don life­style. “I’d had a Kiwi boyfriend at one stage and had spent five days in Hamil­ton. When the Rugby World Cup was in New Zealand I de­cided it would be a good year to come.”

She as­signed a week each to Auck­land, Welling­ton and Christchurch and was in the YHA near La­timer Square when the Fe­bru­ary earth­quake struck. “I’d al­ready fallen in love with New Zealand but it was height­ened when I saw the way in which Ki­wis re­sponded and cared for each other. In Lon­don I’d helped at a home­less shel­ter and here I was in Ha­gley Park queu­ing and be­ing cared for. I was a bit bat­tered and bruised but not badly hurt. I was flown back to Welling­ton in an RNZAF Her­cules jet. All I had was the clothes I was stand­ing in, my hand­bag and a two­day-old pair of con­tact lenses.”

As the Mor­gan pauses at the lights, Kim tells of find­ing a job, a flat and a bunch of friends in a city on the other side of the globe. In 2014, en­sconced in an apart­ment that came with a car park and her Welling­ton life in full swing, Kim shipped the Mor­gan to New Zealand. “It was a re­ally hard de­ci­sion to make but Mum thinks it’s great, and even Dad’s garage in Eal­ing has said I’ve done the right thing.”

The Mor­gan’s New Zealand life is full. “It holds such a con­nec­tion with Dad and it’s ir­re­place­able, but I’m not fussy about it. It goes to the supermarket, my friend’s kids climb all over it (one of them found the horn for me), and I love bomb­ing along the open road. There’s no ra­dio so I sing at the top of my voice. It’s wicked to have it here.”

She con­tacted the Mor­gan Sports Car Club, and is rel­ish­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion. “They’re so kind, and seem thrilled to have a young woman mem­ber. I didn’t know the Mor­gan had a heater un­til I went to the AGM.”

While a pull home to Lon­don may yet ma­te­ri­al­ize, it is set in stone that where Kim goes the Mor­gan will go too. For­ever. “I’m look­ing for­ward to be­ing an ec­cen­tric old lady with an ir­rev­er­ent spirit, and driv­ing the Mor­gan prob­a­bly gets me half way there.”

‘It holds such a con­nec­tion with Dad and it’s ir­re­place­able, but I’m not fussy about it’

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