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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.

Becoming fond of Fords part two – happy times with Escorts

In part one of this Ford-flavoured trip down memory lane I recalled a sad and instructive episode when I learned my shortcomings as a car tuner, something that tainted my appreciation of Mk2 Ford Escort vans in particular. Prior to that I had a couple of other Ford entanglements of slightly more redeeming merit. There were two Mk1 Escorts I had got my hands on: a 1972 1300 XL belonging to my father and a later, end-of-line, English-assembled 1974 1100, which my partner and I bought from Panmure Motors Ford in Auckland in 1980. Both those cars were the high water mark of my relationship with the Ford Motor Co. I liked the Mk1 Escorts. They were nice, nippy, small cars, particularly the 1300, which handled really well, and had a very precise gearbox for the time.
Images of Jim Richards in the Carney Racing Williment-built Twin Cam Escort and Paul Fahey in the Alan Mann–built Escort FVA often loomed in my imagination when I was driving these Mk1 Escorts — not that I was under any illusion of comparable driving skills, but they had to be having just as much fun as I was steering the basic versions of these projectiles.

Fear and loathing the blue oval – part one

The slogan went something like ‘There’s a Ford in your future’. ‘Bugger off!’ were always the words that sprung to my mind. Ford and I have never really got on in the manner of many of my friends, so I’d say my relationship to the brand was distant. The accelerating blur of passing time has helpfully blanketed memories of a few Ford encounters which I probably wanted to forget but I have to admit, now I look at them, they are re-appearing through the mists of time. What comes to mind more readily, to quote some uncharitable wit, is that the letters Ford could stand for ‘fix or repair daily’. Still, I have to ’fess up, there were several Fords in my past.