PER­FEC­TION

Greg Price wants to know if it is too much to ask for ac­cu­rate record-keep­ing

New Zealand Classic Car - - Price On -

Re­cently, I had the priv­i­lege of driv­ing a par­tic­u­larly rare clas­sic car that, prior to get­ting close up and per­sonal with, I’d never even heard of — and I’ve been around for a while. In case you want to drop ev­ery­thing and check it out on ‘Mr Google’, it was a 1960 Alexan­der Turner.

Alexan­der Turn­ers were a kit car that one could buy com­plete or as a kit to build your­self. Alexan­der En­gi­neer­ing man­u­fac­tured a cylin­der-head con­ver­sion — akin to the fa­mous Ray­mond Mays cylin­der-head con­ver­sions for the Ford Ze­phyrs — which was cou­pled to an Austin A-se­ries en­gine in the Turner kit ve­hi­cle. If you want to know much more about these Turner cars, then go to turn­er­sportscars.co.uk.

With the ben­e­fit of that won­der­ful thing called hind­sight, I’d prob­a­bly seen ad­ver­tise­ments for the cars in some of the UK mo­tor­ing mag­a­zines of the era but not paid much at­ten­tion at the time — a bit like when I was at school; it wasn’t school that I didn’t like; rather, it was the ‘prin­ci­pal’ of the thing! Any­way, this Alexan­der Turner first graced our shores in 1997, when it was ac­quired by what was then the Ep­som Clas­sic Car Mu­seum. It resided at the mu­seum for the next 14 years, un­til be­ing sold.

Fac­tory built?

What was fas­ci­nat­ing about this car was that the orig­i­nal owner had kept ev­ery last re­ceipt and doc­u­ment, in­clud­ing all the orig­i­nal log­books (own­er­ship papers), and ex­pired tax discs. You name it, it was all there with the car each time it changed hands. When the Turner first ar­rived in New Zealand in 1997, it was not pre­sented for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion — prob­a­bly be­cause it was in­tended for the mu­seum only. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion did not hap­pen un­til 2011, when the per­son who bought it from the Ep­som mu­seum de­cided it needed to be ‘ driven’. Up un­til then, the car had spent much of its life­time in var­i­ous mu­se­ums. It was at this time that the short­com­ings of the New Zealand Trans­port Agency ( NZTA) sur­faced, in that, when the whole mo­tor-regis­tra­tion sys­tem — ve­hi­cle records held at the Palmer­ston North mo­tor-regis­tra­tion cen­tre — was be­ing com­put­er­ized in the early ’90s, some ad­min­is­tra­tive noddy failed to en­ter into the new sys­tem all known ve­hi­cle names. In fact, the sys­tem seemed to have been de­signed to pre­vent any ‘ dif­fer­ent’ ve­hi­cle names from be­ing recorded, even if the ve­hi­cles were made by a prom­i­nent ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer. So, de­spite the fact that the Alexan­der Turner had ev­ery last piece of rel­e­vant doc­u­men­ta­tion/his­tory avail­able in hard copy, it went into the good old NZTA data­base as a — wait for it! — ‘ fac­tory built’. That would seem to make the Turner orig­i­nate from the same fac­tory that made my 1960 Fuji Victa 50cc mo­tor scooter, as, when I put that back on the road in 2006, it, too, had to be listed as a ‘ fac­tory built’.

I felt it was par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­point­ing for the cur­rent, very lucky owner of this Turner, who proudly pro­duced all the orig­i­nal doc­u­ments for his car — in­clud­ing, for ex­am­ple, var­i­ous news­pa­per ar­ti­cles about pop singer Pe­tula Clark, who owned two of these Turn­ers — only to have to ac­cept that, in the eyes of our Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Reg­is­ter, it is sim­ply an­other ‘ fac­tory-built’ ve­hi­cle.

Imag­ine for the mo­ment that the owner is be­ing pur­sued by the au­thor­i­ties: “Car 54! Keep an eye out for a red fac­tory-built car head­ing south on SH1.”

To which the pur­su­ing of­fi­cers re­ply, “Whisky Tango Fox­trot! What’s a fac­tory built look like?”

Bu­reau­cratic bungling

How­ever, to be fair, it is not just the NZTA that has come up short in this area. Those of you who scan the Trade Me auc­tion list­ings for more un­usual ve­hi­cles or have, in fact, tried to list one, will have come across the dreaded term ‘Other’!

But Trade Me is a com­mer­cial en­tity and de­vel­op­ment costs prob­a­bly have some­thing to do with how that plat­form is set up; this can­not there­fore be an ac­cept­able ex­cuse for the NZTA’S very un­sat­is­fac­tory short- sight­ed­ness in al­low­ing such an im­por­tant func­tion to be less than de­scrip­tive when it comes to cor­rectly list­ing ve­hi­cle types and makes.

Now, I also ap­pre­ci­ate that, when the ve­hi­cle data­base was com­put­er­ized, it had to be done from the ex­ist­ing hard-copy files held at the Palmer­ston North fa­cil­ity, and that ac­cu­racy was en­tirely de­pen­dent on what was orig­i­nally recorded when a ve­hi­cle was first put on the road. I’ve pre­vi­ously men­tioned the dif­fi­culty that I faced when at­tempt­ing to put a very-low-mileage Honda CB110 back on the road, only to find that the per­son who had first reg­is­tered this and an­other mo­tor­cy­cle at the lo­cal post of­fice had used a bank-note se­rial num­ber for both bikes — he’d ob­vi­ously left the papers back at the deal­er­ship! Un­for­tu­nately, this er­ror was com­put­er­ized at the changeover. The only re­deem­ing as­pect was that the new com­put­er­ized sys­tem now had two ve­hi­cles with the same frame num­ber — a clear in­di­ca­tion that there had been a stuff-up.

An­other glitch oc­curred when some­one orig­i­nally reg­is­tered one of my old Mark I Ze­phyr con­vert­ibles. They listed it as a coupé! I’ve never worked out how that hap­pened, but my cur­rent con­vert­ible is listed as a saloon, and my sedan is a pas­sen­ger car / van! Pre­sum­ably, this mis­in­for­ma­tion was trans­ferred across from the hard-copy file to the com­put­er­ized data­base.

Re­al­is­ti­cally, how hard can it be to record a ve­hi­cle’s de­tails ac­cu­rately, par­tic­u­larly its body style? I ap­pre­ci­ate that, with the ad­vent of kit cars, there has to be a way of dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing be­tween a gen­uine Fer­rari and a kit car. The Beacham Jaguars are clearly iden­ti­fied as such when reg­is­tered, so why is this not pos­si­ble for other mar­ques?

Do­ing my bit

Maybe I’m be­ing a bit pedan­tic, but if the Brits can do it, why can’t we do the same here? Speak­ing of the Brits, when they com­put­er­ized their mo­tor-ve­hi­cle records, they gave some­thing like five years’ ad­vance no­tice to the pub­lic, so that ev­ery­one had the op­por­tu­nity to get their ‘barn finds’ recorded in the new sys­tem. Not so here in New Zealand, which is why so many ve­hi­cle own­ers, whose ve­hi­cles had lain around or been parked up for some time, missed the chance to place their regis­tra­tion on hold and thus avoid the dreaded re­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process, which be­came un­eco­nomic for many a clas­sic car — or was that the plan all along?

No mat­ter. I am still fo­cused on get­ting as many old ve­hi­cles and mo­tor­cy­cles as I can back on the road and into the data­base, and thus con­trib­ute in my small way to ex­tend­ing the av­er­age age of New Zealand’s ve­hi­cle fleet, which at last count was 14.3 years — and climb­ing!

Speak­ing of per­fec­tion, don’t you reckon that this lit­tle Alexan­der Turner is just that?

Drive safely.

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