Treasuring old automobiles
Car collector and restorer Brian Rankine has his mum to thank for a life-long pastime and passion.
Brian’s sheds are a veritable automotive museum.
From a 1899 Locomobile steam car awaiting restoration to a 1996 Chevy Electricar pick-up truck that shares the same tech as GM’s EV1 of the movie Who Killed the Electric Car?, his collection spills out into the yard and even onto the lawn.
There’s a 1907 half-ton ride-on mower Brian still uses to deal to the grass, sitting under a tarpaulin.
‘‘I was 12, and asked my mum if I could have a motorbike,’’ he grins.
The inevitable ‘‘no’’ prompted him to ask if it would be ok if he made one.
The motor scooter he completed two years later still sits in one of the sheds. It’s powered by a 350cc Royal Enfield ‘bullet’ engine.
At 17, he was driving a 1927 Chrysler Coupe. He still has that too.
Pride of his collection is a 1924 Doble steam-powered car that only needs 30 seconds to fire up.
With a body by prestige coachwork company Walter Murphy, its headlamps and dashboard are made of silver.
American car enthusiast and former host of The Tonight Show Jay Leno, who Brian knows quite well and has visited in the United States, owns two of these exclusive vehicles.
Also catching the eye is a 1982 black collector’s edition Corvette Stingray, a 1926 Stutz 8, a 1916 Detroit electric car, and a 1929 6.5-litre Bentley Le Mans made famous by character John Steed in the 60s TV series The Avengers. Brian has driven the Bentley to Napier’s Art Deco Festival for the last five or six years.
The Stutz has recently returned from a vintage rally in Southland.
Working on the cars Brian reckons has kept him young, not that he thinks his years are important.
‘‘My age is an unlisted telephone number.’’
He’s busy trying to restore a 1902 single-cylinder, 9-horsepower 1300cc French Mathieu from photographs.
As far as Brian knows, it’s the only one left in the world.
There’s no owner’s manual, and working things out is testing even his considerable experience and ingenuity.
‘‘I want to get it ready for the London to Brighton Rally in November,’’ he says.
‘‘It might not be this November, though.’’
Not a boiler under the bonnet but a steam generator, car aficionado Brian Rankine with his ‘‘eyes of silver’’ 1924 E-type steam powered Doble, one of 10 ever made.