Close this search box.

Whanganui takes you on a trip back in time

2 February, 2017

Late January 2017 saw another chance for Whanganui (the jewel by the ocean), to put on its annual Vintage Weekend. Spread over three days, all attendees got the chance to sample delights from a bygone era — the Rivercity Caboodle, street carnival, live bands, great food at the Riverside Festival, and the always popular Soapbox Derby. This array of lunacy saw home-made carts rocking down one of the steepest hills in town. As usual, the Waimarie paddle steamer, the oldest coal-fired vessel of its kind operating in New Zealand, took visitors up and down the river, and completed the heritage ethos.

That’s just the raw data; it doesn’t truly do justice to the level of attention to detail and sheer effort that the vintage and heritage enthusiasts put into the weekend.

But let’s face it, if you are reading this then there’s only one area of vintage memorabilia that you are concerned with, and that’s the infamous Victoria Avenue show-and-shine line-up, and the various car rallies.

The car nuts that infest the fair town came out in force, with everything from a 1906 Darracq to a 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. Also in the line-up was a 1980 Chev Camaro Z28, as well as Bruce Hodge’s always stunning and immaculate 1966 Ford Mustang.

We can only assume the owner of the Camaro dipped his head in disappointment when the SLS pulled up alongside. But that level of inadequacy must have been minuet compared to the owner of the 1984 Mazda 323. The owner obviously looked after and remained proud of his car throughout its ownership, but even the most loyal of car lovers will feel disappointment when a 1972 Jag E-Type pulls into the space next to you.

Many owners, as you would expect, kept a watchful eye on their cars throughout the event, keeping an extra close eye on the younger generation who felt the need to look with their hands.

I found myself cringing on more than one occasion, as people tried to squeeze into the gaps between the cars, but that didn’t stop the owners from having a good time. 

Surely no one should have been more nervous than the owner of the 1929 Willys Whippet; this truly elaborate machine had a consistent crowd, with a series of selfie-takers gathering around it from the beginning to the end of the event.

Much to the organizers’ delight, the annual rally on the Saturday of the event grew to even higher numbers than the previous year. I’m not quite sure how the owners of Mitre 10 felt about losing 90 per cent of their car park, but there were no complaints from the attendees. Every year the derby gets bigger and better, so I suggest you consider making the trip next year.

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.