17 Jun 2018

Cars as part of Kiwi culture

From Sunday Morning, 11:38 am on 17 June 2018

An exhibition opening at MOTAT (Museum of Transport and technology) looks at the cultural impact of cars on New Zealand society.

Accelerate: Driving New Zealand looks at the technologies, social impacts and culture associated with cars.

It includes stories of vehicles from days gone by as well as technological advancements in motoring today.

Elspeth Hocking, the exhibition’s curator, says the museum has had some exciting cars loaned for the duration of the two-year exhibition.

Black Beauty

The Black Beauty racing car helped power New Zealand onto the world stage of A1 GP motor racing known as the ‘World Cup of Motorsport.’

The countries that take part in the A1 GP must race a car that has the same specifications - every country is on a level playing field.

Black Beauty was New Zealand’s entry for that series in 2005. The team was founded by Sir Colin Giltrap, and the car is owned by Sir Colin.

Mazda RX 7

This modified model was once owned by Mad Mike Whiddet “a drift personality”, Hocking told Wallace Chapman.

“It’s quite unique it was one of the first wide body kits in New Zealand.”


MOTAT got its regal Daimler in 1970. The car was used to transport the Queen and Prince Phillip during the 1952/1953 Royal Tour.

After the tour the 1948 landaulet, or open top, was sold to a funeral directors who converted it to a hearse.

“It’s an absolutely enormous car, huge and very solid but very stately and very beautiful,” says Hocking.

It’s one of only 200 made in the world.

Morris Marina

Not all cars in the exhibition are this distinguished however. Spare a thought for the much maligned Morris Marina. The Marina was made by British Leyland at its mid-70s nadir.  The Marina consistently makes the lists of “worst cars ever made”.

The cars are actually quite rare as they were so badly made they tended to rust away and get scrapped.

Mazda R100 Rotary Coupe

This one draws admiring glances, Hocking says.

“Another of our collection jewels, quite a few people have came in and made eyes at that vehicle. It’s got a very impressive sound and its rotary engine means it’s got a lot of power for a small car.”

The exhibition has a Cooper Climax driven by Bruce Mclaren, an original Model T Ford and a solar powered vehicle built for the 1993 Solar Challenge race between Adelaide and Darwin.

And then of course the Trekka, the only mass produced car ever made in New Zealand

“It’s a real example of Kiwis bending the rules during a time when importation rules in New Zealand were particularly strict."

The Trekka got away with avoiding these tariffs because it was over 80 percent New Zealand made it had a Skoda Octavia engine imported in kit form from Czechoslovakia which was assembled in New Zealand with locally pressed steel panels and fibre glass

Technically it was a New Zealand-made car so it was cheaper than equivalent imports.

MOTAT has a rare prototype Trekka model from 1965.


This is what happens when Wallace asks listeners to send in the first cars they remember from their families (a selection). 

CONOR Peugeot hearse followed by Ford Galaxy Station Wagon. My older bro got to hoon around the Poverty Bay Flats in that v8 gorgeousness.

ROSS When I was very young, my Dad had a Humber Super Snipe, complete with running boards. Awesome car. 

SUE First car in our family in 1960 was a pink Ford Prefect. 

TRISH My family had a burnt orange Morris Marina for years, it didn't rust but by the time it was passed on to my sister, without dad's tender regular care of hose clips, silicon and duct tape it virtually disintegrated before our eyes down to the stub axes.

KATHY My first car a 1961 Red Hillman Super minx with an 8 ball as a gear stick called Ruby ... parents kindly helped me buy it for my first job as a School dental therapist in Dargaville; had to measure petrol with a notched bit of wood.

VICKI We grew up with a number of Ford Cortinas. Mum & Dad's first was a Mk 1 Station Wagon. We also had a Mk 3 and Mk 4 & Mk 5 SWs.

KIRI Our family car (in the 50s) was a 1949 Ford Customs line and our uncle had the 1951 Customs line. Beautiful car.

NO NAME Humber super snipe. 1949 model in Chinese gold colour. Great memories of caravan holidays.

CLIVE We grew up with an orange Humber Super Snipe in the 70s Grew up with a Willis 4 cyl (1937 ?) - streamlined with headlights set in front guards. Well before Chev or Ford went streamlined.

MARY Morris Oxford. Was British racing green and had holes in the floor so we could see the road. No safety belts, rattly exhaust and heaps of kids squeezed in.

NO NAME We grew up with a two-tone blue and white Ford prefect. It was called the Bomb and as a child I thought this was the brand name of the vehicle!

KIM 1st family new car Austin Cambridge A60 Station Wagon very proud I was. Dad wouldn't take the plastic off the seats

LOUISE We had a white Zephyr 6. I can still remember the number plate. Then a pale blue Falcon 500 station wagon.

MAX The earliest family car I can remember was our 1938 Plymouth sedan. We called it the brown bomb. Dad traded up to a 2-tone 1958 Morris Oxford. Sheer luxury.

KAY Dad always had a Vauxhall Velox. Big car as he had 4 daughters.

NO NAME First was a 1954 Chev Belair, followed a 1957 then a 1961 Mk3 zephyr. Loved it. Mum had a Morrie of course.

NO NAME I grew up with Ford 8. 4 kids bouncing around in the back over bumpy country roads... yikes.

PETER Hillman Hunters

NO NAME 1933 Chrysler Plymouth

NO NAME Holden Special then one day a Holden Premier - 1970s dream.

BARRY The first car I remember was a Standard Vanguard, then a 1953 Chev, 2-tone beige and brown (used), followed by a brand new 1957 Hudson Rambler, pastel green with the subtle pointed fins.

KEN I fondly remember my first car, a 1954 Morris van that my parents paid $300 for shortly after I had got my license at the age of 15. It was mechanically sound but the body not so much. The original floor had rusted out and had been replaced with  wooden floorboards and it also leaked which meant the mattress in the back got a bit musty. I clocked up many happy miles in that vehicle and in the course of rebuilding both the engine and gearbox, with the help of a mate and the trusty owners manual, learnt heaps about things mechanical.