NZ Classic Driver
Like so many events, last year’s Autospectacular in Dunedin was cancelled due to Covid, but it roared back this year and I’m almost tempted to say bigger and better — except that would be a cliché.
As always, the display organised by local Packard enthusiast, Tony Devereux, was stunning with lots of big, glamorous and expensive cars of the twenties and thirties, including some from the Trevor Bills’ collection at Autohaven in Christchurch (featured in NZ Classic Driver #103), including a couple of early Cords.
I didn’t feel there was the variety of rare/interesting cars that I’ve enjoyed in earlier Autospectaculars but the crowds were enormous, many arriving early and starting to thin out by early afternoon. But, let’s be honest, for the likes of myself, Autospectacular (and similar shows) are not just about the cars — it’s probably more about whom you see and whom you talk to. As always, I bumped into dozens of old car cronies, some of whom were surprised to see I was still vertical, and ditto back to them.
There’s always a theme at Autospectacular but this year there was theme after theme after theme — perhaps too many to do justice to any particular one.
One hundred years of Alvis, 60 years of Jeep, 60 years of Triumph TR4A, 90 years of Triumph Motor Company, pre-1985 Japanese cars and pin-ups of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
If there were any significant displays of any of those — I missed them.
I reckon the star of the entire show was the 1922 Delage that had been repowered with a huge 18-litre Hispano-Suiza V8 aero engine.
The Delage was not a small car, but this engine was out of proportion and being a wide-angled ‘vee’, the banks of cylinders protruded out each side like Dumbo’s ears
It was sensational. The story board accompanying this cracking automobile said, “driving it is not for the faint-hearted”. The power — all 400bhp (298kW) of it — is transmitted through a Delage four-speed ‘box and Delage differential. The board said the car was geared to do 146mph (235kph).
I was reminded of the Zeppelin-engined Mercedes-Benz that lives at Southwards just out of Wellington.
No matter how many Ford GT40 replicas you see, they are always worth looking at and Brian Stewart’s example at Autospectacular attracted its fair share of admirers. It’s a David Brown-built car from Invercargill, and I know they are pretty authentic. I think the most genuine replica I’ve ever seen was the one commissioned by Grant Aitken for display at the museum at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell. Grant had Holman & Moody build that car and it used some genuine, in-period, GT40 MkII parts that Holman & Moody still had — including a transmission. I asked owner Brian Stewart how close he felt his car was to (a) Grant Aitken’s and (b), the genuine cars. “Pretty close,” he opined.
I always look for cars out of the usual or that I would like to take home. One car that was definitely out of the usual was the 1937 Vauxhall GY with optional Wingham body. This is a car that I could write a book about. It’s definitely rare.
The GY was the last of the original Vauxhalls. Until bought by General Motors in 1925, the company focused on bigger, quite upmarket cars — GM down-scaled everything, but they did keep the big car line going until 1939 and the GY, introduced in 1936, was the second last of them. The GL in 1939 was only slightly changed. Engine sizes seemed to vary, but brochures from the time seem to indicate this particular car has the 3.2-litre inline six producing 80bhp (60kW). Any GY is rare — I had never seen one before — but the example on display had the expensive Wingham body with full length convertible roof. And it’s a four door.
Holden actually built a sedan version of this car in Australia in the late thirties during the period when the company were still coachbuilders rather than car manufacturers.
The Otago Classic Motoring Club have been organising Autospectacular for a long, long time — how long? I asked a couple of officials and they looked perplexed — “Oh, not sure, but a long, long time. . .” was their answer. But they do a great job. Only next year – not so many themes.