New Zealand Classic Car - - AUTOMOBILIA - Words: Faye Lougher

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)

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