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Thursday, 15 March 2012

Road trip and some great machinery

This isn't a prelude to resuming regular blogging but Jennie and I have just got back from a 6 day autumn road trip and thought I'd share some of the photos whilst I was cataloguing them as it was such a cool time.  Click photos to enlarge.  The trip covered part of the lower half of NZ's north island and it was a great opportunity to catch up with some friends in the region at the same time.

My mates and I did a bike trip late last year over a 160 km long road called Gentle Annie which traverses some pretty wild country at altitudes up to around 3000 ft.  Jennie had never been over it, so it was a great opportunity to put that right.  The small country town of Taihape where we stayed overnight was coincidentally having their annual gumboot-throwing day and it was great fun seeing people of all sizes, shapes and age throw standard-sized gumboots as far as they could.  The record is 67 metres (220 ft) which is pretty impressive.  There was also sheep-racing and racing ride-on lawnmowers.  We love eccentric events like that!

Choose your gumboot!

Letting fly

Entering the Gentle Annie road proper, it was a gorgeous day but you need to take care as it's rare to see more than a handful of vehicles over it's entire length.  Not a place to use as a racetrack, especially with some of the drops into valleys.

Lonely, majestic country

Remnant from the days of horse-drawn coaches

Remote cattle farm sign.  Nowhere in reverse (nearly!)

Beautiful river valley

After traversing Gentle Annie and staying in the lovely Art Deco city of Napier overnight, we headed south to Mount Bruce, which is renowned for its bird life.  It was fantastic to see one of our native parrots, the Kaka, at close range.  Very little fear of humans, but they wouldn't oblige by holding their wings open so that we could get a shot of their bright orange under-wing feathers.  Nonetheless, they still looked great.

The NZ Kaka

There were also trout and giant native eels in one of the streams and in the photo below, some of the eels were close to 6ft long!  

Giant native eels

Bush ferns unfolding at Mt Bruce

We stayed with friends north of Wellington for a couple of days and they took us to the Southward Automotive Museum.  We hadn't been there for over 20 years and it's grown into a world-class "must see" stop for anyone travelling in the lower north island.  Here's a small selection from their fabulous collection.

Not just cars but bikes and lots of other stuff

The next photo believe it or not is actually an unpowered trolley built for an annual race down a steep town street where gravity does all the work.  Most people are happy with a bit of plywood and 4 wheels from a baby pram but not this guy!!!  The answer to the question "Why??" must be "Because he can".  Incredible workmanship.

The ultimate machine for a trolley derby - slight overkill?

Mercedes Gull Wing Roadster  - elegant simplicity

Streamlined Czech Tatra from the 1930's!

Just part of the collection

Stanley steam-engined car

All copper-bodied car!


The ultimate non-skid tread pattern on a vintage car!


Brough Superior sidecar outfit with Austin car engine - worth megadollars

I think the trike below was manufactured in the USA.  Acetylene headlamp, chain drive to the front wheel.  One might imagine that the steering was somewhat heavy! Not sure whether the cylinder head cooling fans were original but in terms of effectiveness, we might be able to reach a conclusion of our own!

Beaten with the Ugly Stick......

The vehicle below is a British Bond Bug which was built in the early 70's. It had a 700cc 4 cylinder motor of very limited horsepower. At the time it was released, it was regarded as a bit of a joke but in these days of the SMART car and other super-compacts, it doesn't look out of place at all and I LOVE it!  I'd love to own one and with a bit of suspension tweaking and a 675 Triumph motor, sigh............. 

Way cool or a big embarrassment???

A Star Wars cockpit long before Star Wars

Early NZ rail dragster with a 28 litre V12 Allison from a P40 fighter

The scooter below is a Triumph Tigress from 1958 and still looks incredibly modern. Available as a 250cc 4 stroke twin or a 175cc single 2 stroke.

Triumph Tigress - very sleek

Triumph's sister company, BSA, produced some clever designs and the photo below shows a standard BSA bicycle (from the 1950's I think) with a small 2 stroke which drives the hub.  The ordinary pedals remain in place which was a wise move because as a kid, I remember someone in our village having one.  He spent more time going purple pedalling trying to start the engine than he ever did being propelled along.

Good idea from BSA, ruined by reliability

V twin Indian, but with a Moto Guzzi configuration
How rare is this???


Rotary-engined Suzuki RE5 from the early 70's


Nice NZ kit car from the 70's based on a VW floor pan and engine

Messerschmitt bubble car first produced in 1955
White car is a Suzuki!!

The vehicle below is a U.S-built contraption from many decades ago. Forward power was provided by lowering the central wheel with a hand-operated lever and no clutch so take-off might have been just a touch rapid!  Similarly, disengaging drive at critical moments may have been a trifle hair-raising; made even worse by the brakes which you can see as blocks which press directly onto the tread of the tyres. Medical insurance was presumably mandatory!

Voted least likely to be a commercial success....


Before we came home, we dropped into the small town of Otaki to look at a Maori church which had been rebuilt a few years ago after it had been virtually destroyed by arson.  The restoration work is stunning.  Traditional Maori decoration lines the church.  The grey vertical panels in the church are woven from strips of the native flax plant and the buff-coloured lining on the roof is comprised of individual stems of a native plant not unlike pampas grass.  Every pew space has a magnificent hand-embroidered kneeling cushion and embroiderers from round the world donated their time to make them - quite moving.  I'm not a religious person, but worshipping in a place like this rebuilt with so much love and natural light must be quite an experience.

Church entrance

Looking away from the altar

So there we are..... a few photos from our travels.  Hope that you enjoyed seeing them - nothing quite like road trips!