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RIP Big Man: Jonah Lomu passes away aged 40

18 November, 2015

Sad news came across our desk today that New Zealand rugby icon Jonah Lomu passed away at the age of 40. While almost every Kiwi over the age of ten years old will know his name due to his rugby prowess and spin-off marketing contracts, there was another side to the ‘Big Man’.

What’s not known by most is how much of a car guy he was, and for those of us who know him personally, that’s what we’ll remember him for the most.

Like many growing up in South Auckland, Lomu’s dream was for big audio systems, and as his fame and finances grew, that’s an area he spent plenty of time working on. Starting as a privateer, he soon grabbed the attention of New Zealand audio brand Fusion, and became the global marketing face for it. This saw his Nissan Patrol soon become the loudest SPL vehicle in the country, and an even more ambitious Ford Transit van project embarked on.

Like most others though, he was also a fan of horsepower, and, as such, always had something impressive in the garage. Back in the late ’90s when I personally spent quite a bit of time with him, he had the latest, at the time, HSV, of which everyone was generally blown away by its ‘massive 20-inch wheels’ and impressive audio set-up. The irony was, he’d chuck the keys to anyone, and I remember being told many a time to take it out and skid it up …

When the R34 Nissan GT-R was released in 1999, Jonah was one of the few who could afford one, and soon became well known for it. Over the years the car gained more and more power, but was soon seen more in the hands of his good friend and tuner Arnie, while Lomu drove other cars. Included in those was a more subtle R32 GT-R, and a way less subtle Lamborghini, and even a Hummer at times.

One of his dreams was always to own a true muscle car though, and to tick that box he purchased Mark Bardsley’s old tubbed and blown Camaro street car, owning it for a few years before selling it on. That wasn’t the only Chev in the collection though, as he also had one of the tidiest Chev pickups you’ll ever lay eyes on. We featured that way back in Issue No. 13 of NZV8.

Over the years, while his health suffered, his love of cars never faded, even if his ability to get out and have fun like he used to decreased.

Our thoughts go out to his wife Nadine and his family at this time. We know, however, a good friend of his and fellow car guy who passed away a decade ago last month, Antony ‘Ant’ Little, will be looking forward to catching up once more.

RIP Jonah.

Saltwater Creek Garage

After passing by this building for many years, I decided to call in and ask the owner about his garage and the car that had been parked there. It was a 1982 Hyundai Pony 1200 TLS that he’d inherited from his mother who had bought it when it was nearly new. I was fortunate enough to buy it from him — many had approached him over the years but were turned away. After sitting out there for that long you could not imagine how dirty it was. At least it had never been wet in all that time. The interior is a mid-blue and almost like new — in fact his mother, Irene, had still retained the original factory-fitted thick clear-plastic cover over the mid-blue vinyl door panels.

Lunch with … Roger Bailey

Roger’s story is a classic illustration of what hard work, honesty to the point of brutal frankness, a ‘can-do’ approach, and a racer’s brain can get you in this sport of car racing. Roger, or ‘Boost’ as he’s known up and down the pitlanes of America, was who Kenny Smith turned to when he was dragging a reluctant teenager around the different pit garages at Laguna Seca.
“Scott [Dixon] kept complaining that it was too hot and he just wanted to go back to the hotel pool. I had to tell him that I was trying to secure his future — we weren’t getting much of a look in until we saw Roger who knew everyone and set about introducing Scott as New Zealand’s next big thing.