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Vale Phil Kerr: 1934–2015

24 August, 2015

Over the weekend of August 22–23, we received news that Phil Kerr had passed away on the morning of Saturday, August 22.

Phil, who told his own story in his superb biography — To Finish First — had a long association with Bruce McLaren, who he first met at a hill climb in which both men were competing.

In 1958, Phil would be one of the three finalists for the New Zealand International Grand Prix (NZIGP) Driver To Europe programme, along with McLaren and Merv Mayo. Bruce was, of course, the winner, but Phil would follow McLaren to Europe the following year anyway to work alongside Australian motorsport royalty Jack Brabham — during that time he would champion Denny Hulme. After Denny won the Formua 1 world championship in 1967, both he and Phil joined up with McLaren, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Photo: Terry Marshall

McLaren’s current boss, Ron Dennis, confirmed Phil Kerr’s contribution to the marque via his own condolences: “Speaking on behalf of all at McLaren, I am very sorry to hear the news that Phil Kerr has passed away. Phil was a McLaren stalwart from the company’s very earliest days … now, decades later, the 3000 people who make up McLaren therefore owe Phil a debt of gratitude. On behalf of us all, I consequently extend heartfelt sympathy to his family and many friends. May he rest in peace.”

Everyone at New Zealand Classic Car magazine and Parkside Media would like to extend their sincere condolences to Patricia Kerr.

Photo: A great partnership — Phil Kerr chats to Bruce McLaren

Taipan – surpassing interest

“It’s merely a passing interest,” insists Selby — despite owning three variants of the classic VW Beetle, including an unusual VW van that was sold as a body kit for a Subaru. In his defence he points to a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, a car that he converted to right-hand drive. However, on the VW side of the ledger, since he opened Allison Autos in Whanganui 27 years ago, Selby has built 15 VW-powered Formula First cars, followed by a beach buggy, restored a derelict Karmann Ghia, and hot-rodded a common or garden Beetle into something that has to be seen to be believed. As speed is not something generally associated with classic VWs, though, Selby is still waiting for this particular modification to catch on amongst the hot rod faithful.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.