1946 FORD V8 COUPE
Astory in the March issue of New Zealand Classic Car (Issue No. 327) about a model of a 1946 Ford V8 coupé at the New Zealand Police Museum stirred memories for Eric King of Otaki.
Eric, now aged 93, made the model back in 1951 and was surprised to read that he had reputedly made it as a memorial to traffic safety service inspector Jack Kehoe, who had been driving the same model of car when he was killed in the line of duty in 1949.
“That’s incorrect; I was asked by the local cop in Otaki, Doug Watson, to make the model as a retirement present for Chief Inspector J Ainsworth, of the Transport Department,” said Eric. “It was the only model I was commissioned to make, and I charged £20, which was the equivalent of two-and-a-half weeks’ wages back then.”
To ensure that the model was true to the original car, Eric measured an Otaki-based patrol car to get the correct measurements.
Eric noticed a few discrepancies on the model when he visited the museum in March.
“The aerial has been replaced, as it was never that long, and the door handle has dropped down — it should be horizontal. The windscreen wipers have been moved, too, as they should be clapping hands,” he said.
The model presented to Chief Inspector Ainsworth was loaned to the Ford Motor Company of New Zealand and displayed in their plant in 1952. “Hand carved from laminated wood, the model took many hours to complete. The grille, bumpers, hub caps, chrome strips, headlights and window frames are all handmade from duralium [Duralumin] alloy, the windows are perspex, the suspension system is laid out, and even the tread on each tyre is carved for realism. Inside, the upholstery is perfectly fitted; dashboard, floor pedals and door handles are to exact scale. Even an aerial, the special and separate speedometer on the steering column, a ‘traffic’ sign, and the Transport Department insignia on the doors, are included.
“Mr King loaned his model to us, through Chief Inspector Ainsworth, for the exhibition in the plant. Later he paid us a visit and inspected the manufacturing operations.”
Eric has made a number of models over the years, the first when he was about 18.
“It was a 1941 Buick and it was 14 inches long and made entirely from kauri. I chose it because it looked fancy.”
Among others, Eric has made models of a Studebaker, a Jaguar XK120, a Jaguar Mark V drophead coupé and a 1941 Chrysler woody, as well as several motorcycles — including a Triumph Twin and a Matchless.
Eric’s models were all scratch-built from scraps of wood and have Perspex windows. All metal parts, such as door handles, bumpers, and trim, were crafted from Duralumin salvaged from wrecked World War II aircraft.
In 1952, Eric made a second police car the same as the one in the museum. It was a wedding gift for his brother, George, who had worked installing police radios in the patrol cars. That model remains in the King family.
The magazine article said the model had been at the Traffic Officers Training College at Trentham since being gifted by Maureen Kehoe, Jack’s widow. How it found its way from the Ainsworth family to the Kehoe family is unknown.
However, articles from the Upper Hutt Leader in February 1949 mention Chief Inspector Ainsworth attending Jack’s funeral, and his involvement in the establishment of a Jack Kehoe Memorial Fund.
Rowan Carroll, director of the New Zealand Police Museum, thinks the model was probably acquired by the museum during the 1992 amalgamation of the Police and the Ministry of Transport.
“I think it may have been repurposed for the museum, as it was the same car that Jack Kehoe was driving the night he was killed,” she said.
Rowan said that Jack was a well-liked and respected officer, which made his death even more poignant: “He was a returned serviceman and extremely handsome, so he was the poster boy on all the Transport Department’s advertising.”
Left: The sister car to the one at the Police Museum (photo: Craig ‘Style’ Counsell)
Below: Eric King at the Police Museum (photo: Faye Lougher)