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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.

Motorsport Flashback – Kiwi rallying in the 1970s

Rallying arrived in New Zealand in 1973 like a tsunami. It had been only a few years since the sport was introduced here and shortly afterwards Heatway came on board as the sponsor to take rallying to a new level. The 1973 Heatway would be the longest and biggest yet, running in both islands with 120 drivers over eight days and covering some 5400 kilometres. The winner was 31-year-old Hannu Mikkola — a genuine Flying Finn who had been rallying since 1963 before putting any thoughts of a career on hold until he completed an economics degree. The likeable Finn became an instant hero to many attracted to this new motor sport thing. I was one of them.

Think of it as a four-door Cooper

New Zealand Mini Owners Club coordinator Josh Kelly of Dunedin loves his Minis. It’s a family affair. Julie and Mike, Josh’s mum and dad, are just as keen, and they can usually all be found taking part in the club’s annual ‘Goodbye, Pork Pie’ charity run from the North of the country to the South.
But lately Josh’s young head has been turned by some other revolutionary BMC cars. He has picked up a couple of Austin and Morris 1100 and 1300s, which he started to restore — that was until an opportunity arose to buy a rare example stored in a shed.