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.

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