DREAM SHED —
BIG CARS AND AN EVEN BIGGER COLLECTION OF MEMORABILIA MAKE FOR THE ULTIMATE SHED FOR THIS DUNEDIN COUPLE
When looking around this great country of ours, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of fantastic man caves and sheds stacked to the rafters with all manner of car-related and collectable memorabilia. If you speak to the owners, many of them will be able to recount the day, and even the item purchased, that started them down the road of collecting. Barry and Liz Carmichael of Dunedin are one such couple. Attending a farm auction south of Balclutha some 30 years ago, Barry’s plan was to purchase a compressor that he was interested in, but, as is usually the case at auctions, Barry got a bit sidetracked looking at an old petrol pump. “I actually missed the auction for the compressor,” Barry mentions. “I was too busy lugging the petrol pump up to my trailer.” Fast forward to 2018, and the couple have amassed a huge collection of memorabilia — so large, in fact, that they have taken to building shelves across the roof trusses to house more pedal cars. Being members of Conrodders — Barry is a life member, while Liz is club secretary, and even their two sons are members — they’re hugely active in the local scene. The word is out about the impressive collection, with many garage tours having been held over the years, from car and bike clubs to a wedding to which 120 guests showed up. “I [said that I’d] let them have the wedding here if I could arrange the cake,” says Liz, “so they got a black cake complete with flames, and they loved it!” And the local BSA club showed up on one occasion for a tour with 140 people in tow. “We collect from all over,” Barry tells us. “People know [that] we collect and keep an eye out. We get items turning up when we aren’t even looking.” Owning their own plumbing business has its advantages for the couple, with their team also keeping an eye out for that interesting item that will add to the collection. Most of the stuff has been sourced from throughout New Zealand. Liz and Barry haven’t actively gone out looking for things of late, but, if they do happen to come across something interesting and they don’t want
it, they usually know plenty of people who will. “I know plenty of rodders who want a petrol pump or something for their garage,” Barry says. A small Mercedes pedal car that has just undergone a restoration came from friends down south who had had it kicking around their garage, and some great Trade Me finds came out of Nelson and Queenstown. “I ring the plumbing suppliers and arrange for one of their reps to bring the stuff down to me next time they are heading this way,” Barry explains. Another source of good collectable things is the second-hand shops in small towns. “You can find some really cool stuff in the back. I think to myself, ‘I could do with that’,” admits Liz. “Next minute, it’s in the car [and] on the way home.” Looking at the amazing collection of beautifully finished pedal cars at one end of the
garage, we can’t help but notice two very coollooking items — a plane and a Ferrari. The couple explain that these were purchased during a trip to the US a few years ago. Part of a 19-day tour was a trip to the Pomona Swap Meet — well known among car people for being the place to find that one part that has eluded them. Held every six weeks, the event contains close to 18 miles of aisles, with anywhere from 200 to 300 vehicles for sale. The two pedal vehicles were not the only purchases made that day, as the couple recall: “We bought a pallet full of shit home!” Having always liked American cars and culture, Barry and Liz had an awesome time while stateside, doing all the usual touristy things such as visiting Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, but they both agree that one of the highlights was meeting John Force while visiting his workshop. “He came out of a meeting, spoke to the group, and took photos for 10 minutes,” Barry recounts. On the subject of cars, a big black ’62 Cadillac convertible caught the couple’s eye some 30 years. Purchased from Auckland, the car was quite rare at the time and is still very tidy, running the original 390 V8 and Hydramatic three-speed with overdrive. They have repainted the Cadi and replaced the shocks, and, with power brakes, roof, windows, seats, and steering, it makes for an awesome cruiser. Sitting alongside the Cadi is the couple’s ‘small car’ — their ’64 Oldsmobile Starfire. The couple were after a compact car, something that could be used for daily transportation, and imported it from California about six years ago — although, once it arrived, it soon became evident that it wasn’t so compact at all. They spotted it on eBay on a Thursday, and a mate was going to be near the place the following Tuesday, so he popped in to look the car over for them. “We got a phone call from our mate to say that if we didn’t buy it, he would, cos he was driving it down the freeway,” Barry recalls. “So that was it; we owned it.” Once it landed on our shores, it was discovered to be very low geared, pulling 3500rpm at 62mph, making it a very thirsty beast, so the decision was made to repower it, replacing the big block with a GM Vortec 5.3-litre V8. Very happy with their decision, the couple have been rewarded with much better fuel economy, with the car now pulling only 2000rpm at 62mph, which, combined with its new wheels, makes it a great cruiser. The third car in the collection is the couple’s ’59 Chev Impala sports coupe. The ex-Auckland car was first spotted on Trade Me by the Carmichaels’ son, who was then aged 14. Having looked at it online a number of times, Barry decided that he would fly up to see it. The owner lived a few minutes from Meremere Dragway and would apparently drive the car drive to the track; race it; and, if it held together, sneak it back home. Barry explains, “When we bought it, it consisted of a front seat, a glove box full of earplugs, a roll cage, and straight pipes. It was such a shitty car that Liz wouldn’t get into it!” So, how did the idea come about to turn the car into the stunner that it is now?
“Well, a couple of friends of ours said that the Methven Street Rod Nationals were two years away , so why not see if we could get it done for that?” Barry replies. “I thought [that] it would be a piece of piss. [But i]t was full on.” Unlike a lot of people, the couple didn’t want the same as everyone else; they wanted something completely different — and, judging by the results, they got exactly that. From the Terry Bowden chassis and channelled body that the car came with to the full custom interior, custom-made Boyd Coddington wheels, and over-the-top audio, this ride is anything-but average. Starting the project with 18 months until the nats, the Carmichaels cut it fairly close, with the cert plate going onto the car on Thursday night and the couple leaving Dunedin on Friday morning. The only problem encountered on the trip was a faulty alternator, but, $40 later, the couple were back on the road. All the hard work was well
worth it, with the Impala returning home with a boot full of tinware, including New Zealand’s Top Street Machine. Asked if there are any plans to change anything, Barry mentions that he has toyed with the idea of fuel injection, but that’s as far as it’s got — an idea. After we have a look through the workshop area and the room where the panel beating and painting are done, Barry states that he has no plans to buy any more stuff, as he has a stash in the other shed to keep him going. But when we ask if they plan on purchasing any more vehicles, Barry tells us, “I would like to get a ’32–’34 something. I regret selling my ’37 — got caught at a weak moment.” So, while it’s already the dream shed for most, it looks as if there may still be some more to come!