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Beyond the Fence Line: heat and horsepower turn out for SPCA Auckland Hot Rod Day

28 September, 2015


It’s always wonderful when a plan comes together, and with blazing sunshine emerging from what had been a gloomy lead-up, last weekend’s SPCA Auckland Hot Rod Day — held on September 27 — was the fantastic event many had hoped it would be. A plethora of exceptional V8s and hot rods turned out for the meeting, all of them parked around the SPCA Auckland premises for what was a memorable event.

Run annually by the Renegade Rod and Custom Club, it was no surprise that 2015’s edition produced a fantastic assortment of cars, with plenty of familiar faces and cars among the crowd — one of which was Richard Tuthill’s ’86 Calais VL Commodore. NZV8 were lucky enough to feature Tuthill’s Calais a few years ago in Issue No. 24.

But while in many respects it looks like nothing’s changed — it still sits on Simmons FR19s and it still houses a ubiquitously ’80s tan-leather interior — things are different under the bonnet. The supercharged 304ci VL block has gone, with a turbocharged LS1 now rumbling in its place. Parked next to this black Monaro GTS at the front gate, with its heart in full view, attendees couldn’t miss it.

Another of the heavy hitters to attend the event was Trevor Smith’s illustrious ’70 Chev Nova, featured in Issue No. 109. First imported to New Zealand all the way back in 1998, Trevor eventually purchased it off a friend in 2007. After first being built up to tackle the quarter-mile, Trevor converted the car into a family cruiser. This involved removing the roll cage, adding a couple of bucket seats from a Chevelle, installing a comprehensive Sony sound system, and giving many of its elements — including its 461ci big block engine — a once over. But don’t be fooled, it’s still a beastly thing in a straight line — as the ‘Bad Attitude’ decals and big tunnel ram not so subtly give away.

One of the weirder cars present was this black Chevrolet SSR (Super Sport Roadster). As far as ideas go, the SSR is the kind of thing you’d be more likely to find scrawled with crayolas on the inside cover of a 10-year-old’s maths book than on an actual showroom floor. But I love it. Only someone acting completely based upon their own confidence and imagination would push for the production of a convertible ute sports car. Unsurprisingly, the SSR was a sales flop, with many consumers unable to really see the point — but there’s something about any car that’s made without any care for ‘what the market wants’ that has to be cheered for. Early iterations of the SSR utilized a Vortec 5.3-litre V8, but this 2006 example sports an LS2. It’s stupid, ridiculous, and I want one.

Another car that turned heads, despite appearing to be a little out of place, was this Volkswagen Beetle pickup truck. Regular readers of NZV8 might recognize the humble little bug, as we featured its location of residence back in Issue No. 119 when we accepted an invite into Brian and Sandra Strickland’s epic shed. Originally sporting a flat-deck rear tray, this Beetle now features a stepside-style example — complete with hand-formed running boards and front guards that have been widened by 30mm. The modification is seamless, making this truck look like something that’s rolled straight off the Volkswagen production line.

As you’d expect on such a beautiful day, the people turned out in their droves. But what I found particularly great were the number of people who completed their trip to the SPCA show by checking out all of the animals up for adoption. As the day progressed, a steady flow of families left the cars, the food stalls, and the charity auctions to check out the dogs and cats living behind the windows. Amid the pixelated videos on the internet of people laying down burnouts on public roads and causing controversy, it’s great to see the car scene giving back to the community. We can’t wait until the next one!

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.

Super Leicht Gullwing

It’s fair to say that nothing much in the classic Mercedes world gets past Mercedes-Benz Club stalwart Garry Boyce so it wasn’t surprising to learn that around 15 years ago he had sniffed out an extremely rare 300SL lightweight Gullwing as well as a 1958 300SL Roadster hiding away in the Waikato. The cars were not for sale but Garry eventually managed to persuade the owner to allow him and his restoration team to take a look at the Roadster. They discovered a very distressed but largely unmolested car. The car was so original that the body had never been off the chassis, meaning most of the parts and fittings were still present and correct, as they had been fitted by the factory.