Wheel alignment

Monday, 27 February 2023

Some nice Americana (and other vehicles)

 I saw that the local classic car club was having an afternoon get-together this weekend.  We're not members but as it was open to the public, it was a good opportunity to take the MG along.  Ownership was predominantly classic American, with a smaller number of classics from other countries.  It never ceases to amaze me just how many classic cars are owned in NZ considering a population of around 5 million. The other amazing thing is the extremely high standard of restoration considering that most of them would be a huge money pit! 

Here are some photos of the cars that caught my eye:

The early 60's white Ford Thunderbird was just so representative of that era.  The interior looked like a cross between an American diner and a showy jukebox with all the chrome trim. It wasn't to my taste but could still appreciate the kitsch styling as a statement of those times. Metallic sky blue vinyl seats!

Early 60's Thunderbird alongside a bare bones hotrod

The Thunderbird interior.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

As you might expect, Mustangs were well represented.  It's interesting how influences from younger years get carried through to adulthood.  In my case, it was the Mustang fastback which Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt.  I've seen the movie in more recent times and it's utter crap but the car chase with the baddies in the Charger is still great fun!

Late 60's Mustang GT

Moving forward to the early 70's, the Mach1 fastback was also a real looker.  The Mach 1 convertible at the gathering was also pretty nice.

Mach 1 convertible - nice personalised plate

The modern Mustangs lack the character of the genuine classics but the 5 litre version in the photo below with all the fruit looks pretty good.

Modern 445 5 litre Mustang with all the bells and whistles

The 1936 Ford V8 was a magnificent restoration, finished in a deep cherry red metallic paint.

1936 Flathead Ford V8

I thought that the Z28 Camaro in the photo below had received a sympathetic restoration, not overdone.  The late 60's Z28 with this body shape is my favourite Camaro anyway.

Z28 Camaro - all muscle
This late 50's Chevy Bel Air attracted a lot of attention when it drove in.  The whistle of the supercharger was distinctive even above the exhaust note.  Wonder how it got through its fitness warrant without extra muffling?

An automotive wet dream

There are an awful lot of $$$$$ invested under the hood

The Chev engine was impressively engineered but the engineering shown in the next photo was even more impressive - a twin turbo Buick-engined dragster.  Not a speck of dust or fingerprint to be seen anywhere.

A demonstration of excess!

Some of the parked vehicles

More parked vehicles including a certain Blaze Orange MGB GT

Although American classics were in the majority, there were still a few interesting Australian and European vehicles.

I've seen several vintage Morgan 3-wheelers in NZ with V twin JAP or Matchless motorcycle engines out front but this one with a 933cc side valve Ford engine was a first.

1936 Morgan 3-wheeler

This early 60's Aussie EH Holden wagon was restored by the local chap who was hosting the event.  Prior to the restoration, it had been locally owned by one person for multiple decades.

Early 60's EH Holden wagon

A nicely restored Aussie V8 Ford Falcon which sounded wonderful.  An affordable option as the genuine GT's or GTHO's are in the $millions bracket now.

Ford Falcon V8

Last but by no means least is the Aussie Chrysler Valiant Charger from the early 1970's.  Available as a straight 6 or V8, they cost serious money now. Specification impacts on what you have to shell out but a quick peruse of a NZ website shows several for sale between NZ$90,000 $175,000.  I'd be very happy to own one (subject to CEO permission which will not be forthcoming!)

Valiant Charger R/T

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Classic cars and a wild lady called Gabrielle

Oh dear, after the previous post moaning about the succession of storms hitting NZ and our area in particular, I clearly offended the weather gods with Cyclone Gabrielle having just come to visit us - unbelievable!  More on that later.

Coinciding with Gabrielle's visit was the annual Brits at the Beach car festival held on the south eastern side of our peninsula at Whangamata.  We'd entered for this event and booked accommodation months ago and with Gabrielle forming up in the Pacific, we weren't sure whether to pull out of the event.  However, looking at the forecast a few days beforehand , it looked like we might just about make it before the weather turned to custard big time.

The event started on Friday with a limited numbers charity drive round the Coromandel Peninsula.  I took part in that whilst Jennie and her sister Sue travelled separately as our MG isn't set up for more than 2 adults.  A nice 2 hour drive from home to the venue half way round the peninsula in hot, sunny conditions.

Our '72 GT in the company of fellow entrant Mike's '65 Roadster with factory hardtop

Checked into our accommodation, registered for the event and a nice drive round town at dusk with a few of the 160-odd entrants.  A number of entrants had cancelled because of the weather forecast. Next morning, we all met at a local park and mustered in lines by make of vehicle so we we would park in the same order at the public display venue on the waterfront.  It was warm and overcast with a stiff breeze.  MG's were bracketed by Land Rover on one side and Austin Healey and Rolls Royce Rolls Royce on the other.  No snobbery at all, everyone was totally approachable and chilled.

A goodly mix of British classics (courtesy: Brits at the Beach)

Fords and Minis

There were quite a number of Land Rovers, most of which had been heavily modified by their owners. The first one below was a V8 version which had a camper body made by the owner with a scooter on the rear for local travel.  a sign in the rear window says "Sorry for driving SO CLOSE in front of you"!

Land Rover camper van conversion

Built for serious back country work

A line for the unusual or exotic

With everyone assembled, a London taxi lead off for a parade through town to the display area on the estuary waterfront. Unlike some of the older cars, our MG showed no sign of overheating at the slow pace which was a relief.

A line up of MG's

The Scimitar below is what I would have chosen for our classic car but Jennie thought that they were pig ugly, sigh.....  No regrets about owning the MG though.

Reliant Scimitar GTE with the Ford 3 litre V6 powerplant

Fords and original Minis

A Morris delivery van - notice the Ace of Spades cutouts on the mags!

A Bristol and Jowett Javelin

Alvis TC21 Grey Lady - a stunning restoration

Rover P5B - one of my personal favourites

The following car won the "best classic restoration" popular vote.  It's a Daimler SP250 with the V8 Daimler 2.5 litre motor.  The restoration was breathtaking and I'd hate to think about the total restoration cost.  It would be easy to say that it looked brand new but it wasn't.  Nothing that came off a mass production line could look that good.

Daimler SP250

The following photo was taken in front of the vintage Rolls Royce.  The owners had 4 Rolls of different ages and were an absolute delight.  They were staying at the same motel as us and offered to take Jennie and Sue for a drive in it but unfortunately, time was against us.

Jennie, me and Jennie's sister Sue going upmarket with the Rollers

That's just a sample of the many photos taken.  We were really impressed with the organisation and the laid back atmosphere.  Other owners were totally approachable and no cliques.  I guess that's the Kiwi way.  That evening, there was to be a live music show and the following morning, a "bonnets up" followed by fish and chips.  However, with the cyclone approaching and a real risk of not being able to get home due to landslips and flooding, we decided to head straight home.  A memorable couple of days though.  The following photo is part of a road we travelled on to drive home from the car festival.  Less than 24 hours later, this is what it looked like.  The couple in the photo had just had their car break down.

Floodwaters on the Coromandel Peninsula (source: NZ Herald)

Well, Gabrielle has passed over us and you can read in the mainline press about the devastation it's caused to parts of the north island.  From a personal viewpoint, I guess you could say that we dodged a bullet.  Our decision to skip the final half day of the car festival was the right one as heavy winds and rain started not long after getting home and some of the roads we travelled on became impassable in the night due to slips and floods.  We're currently cut off from the rest of the north island as are many other peninsula communities.  Plenty of food and work to do clearing wind-borne debris so that's ok.

Wind starting to knock our neighbour's palm trees around

Yesterday was pretty scary as Gabrielle approached with high winds and torrential rain.  During a lull and having no power for over 12 hours, I ventured out in the 4x4 to get a feel for what was happening in our locality.  Had to negotiate 2 downed trees not far from our driveway.

Just hoping that the rest of the tree doesn't land on me

At the end of the road where we launch our boat was the sight of our friend's (and fellow classic car owners) yacht having broken its mooring and ending up on the beach.  Fortunately, it doesn't appear to have been badly damaged but will need to be slipped to do a proper examination.

Not a sight that anyone wants to see - a beached keel boat

The next photo maybe shows that an arty shot is possible despite the conditions.  A row of mailboxes on our street with waves piling in from behind.

Murky conditions

Next, it was round to the village wharf which is just a few hundred metres from home as the crow flies.  There was a local yacht with the jib torn to pieces.  I'm wondering whether the wind was so strong that it unfurled itself and just flogged itself to bits.  Not cheap to replace.

Yet more damage to local yachts

I was going to drive to the end of the wharf but the wind had picked up and was driving waves over the wharf so discretion was the better part of valour.  One of the mussel harvesting boats was getting pounded by the beam-on wind and rain.

The Phoenix getting hammered

A quick return home to prepare for the worst part of Gabrielle.  I must admit that the main worry was losing our roof but fortunately, our neighbour's trees helped to diffuse the worst of the gusts.  We live on the side of a hill so flooding wasn't a concern apart from the risk of flooding in the basement garage if the drain outside couldn't handle biblical bursts of rain.

At 2am today, I woke to howling winds and the aforementioned biblical rain.  A quick inspection revealed that some rain had got in but dumping a load of towels inside the garage door took care of that. A mad dash outside clad only in boxers to remove wind-blown vegetation from the drain mouth resulted in a good soaking which really wakes one up at that time of the morning!  Probably a sight best unseen.  At least the drainage improvements in the garden after the last garage flooding fiasco several years ago has clearly worked.  With 400 mm of rain having fallen in the last 24 hours, we got off lightly by comparison with many in the north of the North Island.

Mother Nature always has the capacity to remind us of who calls the shots but whether mankind will do anything to live in a more sustainable manner is anyone's guess.

Sodden towels, anyone?

Monday, 6 February 2023

The shape of things to come

Since we returned from a holiday in Australia just before New Year, the north island of New Zealand has copped 3 biblical-sized storms causing widespread flooding, damage from landslides and sadly, loss of life.  Australia's east coast has been similarly affected in previous years.   The La Nina weather phenomenon has added to the problem by channeling "atmospheric rivers" of moisture from the already-warm oceans in the tropics to our shores.

We live on the Coromandel Peninsula east of Auckland.  It has a relatively small population and is noted for its natural beauty with stunning beaches and an inland mountain range.  The 200-odd km long road which runs along the edge of the peninsula, State Highway 25;  is also known as the Coro Loop.  It's a paradise for motorcyclists - twisty and technical.

The Coromandel Peninsula

As well as flooding, the Coromandel roads are also subject to landslides and we've been cut off from the rest of the north island for a day or two each time a big storm hits.  A few years ago, it was for 2 weeks.  The storm a few days ago wreaked absolute havoc on both Auckland and Coromandel.  From memory, about 300mm of rain fell in the Coromandel area during the first week of February, breaking all kinds of records.

The most serious road damage was to the road at the southern end of the peninsula which essentially runs west-east between Kopu and Hikuai, south of Tairua.  It also happens to be the main route for both commercial traffic and the public needing access to and from the eastern seaboard.  Here's a photo of the damage - the whole hillside has slipped into the valley.  Deciding how to repair or divert the road is not going to have an easy solution and will take months at the very least.  The significantly longer, slow alternative access route will carry a heavy economic and social cost.

State Highway 25A - Coromandel Peninsula (NZTA)
The landslide on SH 25A gets bigger (NZTA)

Although I rode this road regularly on my motorcycle, we don't need to travel on it to get off the peninsula, using the western coast road to Thames instead.  This is where everything recently turned to custard!

The western road runs along the shoreline of the Firth of Thames with the mountains rising directly from the road edge in many places.  We regularly get small slips in wet weather but they normally don't have a major impact.  This time, it was a beauty at Ruamahanga Bay which cut us off for several days.   Here are the photos and a video link showing part of the landslide.  The traffic was a bit close to it for my liking!

Landslide blocking the Thames-Coromandel Coast Road 
(Snapper Express Fishing Charters)

Clearing the debris (press photo)

Rockfall live (NZ Herald)

The cleanup crews did a fantastic job which is just as well as we had to pick up my sister in law at Auckland airport.  The only alternative route via the east of the peninsula would have stretched the travel time from 2.5 hours to 4.5 hours! 

Our property is on a hill overlooking Coromandel Harbour.  We're safe from flooding but there's probably a small risk of us sliding into the harbour as part of a landslide.  In the coming years but hopefully not in our lifetime, we stand a good chance of being cut off from the village because the causeway leading to the property isn't much above sea level.  Coastal erosion is a world wide issue.  Sadly, there aren't any strong indications of urgency by any of the world governments in taking the tough but necessary steps to address the matter.  It's a bitter enough pill to swallow for my generation but the future impact on our kids and grandkids doesn't bear contemplating.  Let's hope that they have a better focus on ensuring a good future for mankind than our current leaders do. 

Oh, and watch this space...... there's another tropical cyclone brewing in the South Pacific which might drift down this way in about a week.  In the meantime, we'll look forward to a few days of sun!

Saturday, 31 December 2022

2022 - Ringing the changes

It's the time of the year when many moto bloggers traditionally review the previous 12 months.  For me, it was a significant time for several reasons - stopping motorcycling and meeting some people for the first time that I'd corresponded with for well over a decade to name but a couple of things.  I've noted some items which had the greatest personal impact, accompanied by previously unpublished photos where appropriate.  


Retirement as an Examiner with the Institute of Advanced Motorists was on 1st January 2022 after joining in early 2011.  My standard of riding when first joining fell woefully short of the UK Police Roadcraft standard which was used to assess my skills at that time.  The Chief Examiner called them "Opportunities for Improvement". He was right, but he could have said that I was crap and put myself at risk - I wouldn't have been offended as that's what joining was for.  Passing my Advanced Test, then the Observer (mentor/instructor) Test and finally becoming an Examiner over those years were all something I didn't think I was capable of.  Awarded Life Membership of IAM in 2021 which still doesn't sit particularly comfortably.  Being able to pass those skills on to others gave enormous satisfaction and has also enabled me to safely extend my driving as I age - all part of the plan.  No downside at all.  I still find myself assessing other road users which is a useful way of staying safe. Unless of course, it's a loved one.  In that case, better to keep one's mouth shut or risk death.

The KTM 790 - a real hoot!


Near as dammit to 58 years since riding my first motorcycle. During that time, I'd done tons of road riding, successfully campaigned a drag bike, enjoyed some track days, done some trail riding and raised my personal riding competence.  Still loved riding but there was nothing new I wanted to achieve.  For some years, I'd had highly productive discussions with Australian moto blogger Jules Pearce of Tarsnakes fame and eminent American motorcycle safety author Davis Hough about the ageing motorcyclist and appropriate strategies.  Approaching 75, I decided to retire from motorcycling whilst near the top of my game, rather than being forced to by declining health or competence. All the planning over the previous decade made the decision surprisingly easy.  It might have been different if motorcycling was the only passion but I had some strong fallback interests to build on plus a new one in the wings, so to speak.

A social outing with great friends

In early March, the KTM was advertised for sale and I was amazed at the considerable positive demand.  The first caller was the owner of a motorcycle business I'd used to service my bikes for decades.  International supply chain issues were impacting on their ability to procure bikes for sale.  He offered what I was asking and the deal was done.  That last ride to the dealer was unsentimental, probably because of all the preparatory thinking and planning for retirement over multiple years.  All done and onto the next stage of life.  Well, I still have my riding gear, helmet, comms units and so on to get rid of but no urgency!


With the bike gone, it was time to put some effort into the maintenance of our 1972 MGB GT.  Overall, it was in superb condition but the twin SU carbs were showing their age.  They were sent to an Auckland classic car specialist for a full rebuild.  

Carbs locked together to stop linkages flying apart during removal

The rebuild was a tad over NZ$1000 - would it be value for money?  The difference was like night and day!  Much easier to start and heaps more bottom end and mid-range power - great result!

A nice photo opportunity also presented itself.  My mate Paul had successfully bid on a 1971 Seeley G50 Matchless ultra lightweight racebike being auctioned online by Bonhams in the UK during the pandemic.  It had been raced by well-known UK rider Dave Croxford.  Shipping delays and then having it restored in NZ meant that he had only recently taken delivery of the finished bike.  Here's a photo of Paul's 51 year old Seeley Matchless alongside our 50 year old MGB GT.

Two classics from the same era


Good weather offered Jennie and I the chance for some fishing from our runabout and we were able to re-stock the freezer with some nice snapper.  Honours were even for a change, even though she traditionally catches more.  Gracious about it?  No way!

A spectacular day just outside Coromandel Harbour

That's dinner taken care of!

I'd procrastinated for decades about having a couple of watches restored which sat at the bottom of a drawer.  One was an Omega wristwatch owned since I was 21.  The other was a pocket watch and chain given to me by my maternal grandfather.  Time to spring into action as we'd recently discovered an elderly watchmaker who was prepared to restore them.  There was quite an international search to find parts which were no longer manufactured but finally, they were both ready.  Collection was surprisingly emotional because of the memories associated with them.  Wonderful how inanimate objects trigger forgotten memories eh?  An unexpected surprise was the valuation which the watchmaker put on them.  Quite a shock actually and they'll be heirloom items for our adult kids.  Hopefully, not for a good many years!

Memories are made of these....


In March, I ordered an e-mountain bike which was delayed due to international supply chain issues.  Ordinary cycling (at least to this old geezer) is a challenge on the Coromandel Peninsula as there's stuff-all flat land near us.  Getting an e-mountain bike would give access to the many off-road trails and help to maintain my fitness.  Not everything went to plan though.  Although fairly proficient on the dirt, I displayed stunning incompetence on our property. Returning from a ride and catching a shoelace on a serrated pedal right outside our garage saw me hit the deck and break a rib - bugger!  No sympathy from Jennie, ego damage for me and no riding for a few weeks.

Hill climbing on the Giant Talon e+1


July saw both high and low achievements.  The high was very high - our Golden (50th) wedding anniversary.  Still can't believe what a lucky guy I am, not least for Jennie's tolerance and our 3 wonderful adult kids who have clearly inherited their mother's brains and looks.

       1972 - Morris 1100                                     2022 - 1972 MGB GT 
Something special about 1972!

The day after our anniversary celebration lunch with friends and neighbours, I tested positive for Covid and Jennie tested positive the following day.  Apparently, we'd picked it up at a pub quiz a few days beforehand.  Embarrassingly, about half the people attending the lunch became infected but fortunately, none of us were seriously affected.  We had to cancel celebrations with our family scheduled for the following weekend but were able to hold them shortly afterwards.  Much of August was spent taking it fairly easy, recovering from Covid and my damaged rib before tackling anything too strenuous.


It is 60 years since the MGB was first manufactured and there were international celebrations to mark the occasion. We drove to Auckland to take part in a gathering of around 100 cars, representing virtually every year and model type.  A great day.

Some of the MGB's on display in Auckland

I also belong to an international MG internet forum and was told that a photo of our car had been selected for their 2023 MGB calendar, October to be precise.  An unexpected and humbling result.  This is the photo they chose.

"Miss October" 2023


Three notable events this month.  The first was that I turned 75 - eek... 3/4 of a century!  I guess you're as young as you feel.  Jennie once said that it was like living with a 5 year old but I don't think she was referring to youthful looks!  I'm just glad that we both enjoy pretty good health and are still active.  Also associated with my birthday was a present from my closest friend, Rick in the UK.  We'd grown up on motorcycles and Rick is also a classic car owner.  He'd managed to find a genuine service and repair manual issued to dealerships for our MGB.  So much better than the Haynes manuals in every respect and I was extremely moved to receive such a rare and useful gift.

Engineering porn - an official MGB service manual 

The other noteworthy event was meeting someone from the UK for the first time whom I'd corresponded with for over a decade.  A keen motorcyclist, Roy Blunt had been a spectator at drag race meetings back in the 60's which I'd competed in.  After coming across the blog, he got in touch and we'd corresponded ever since. Roy and his wife Dawn are classic car enthusiasts, owning a Hillman Imp and a Triumph Spitfire.  Covid disrupted their plans to tour NZ but this year, they finally managed an organised tour of Australia and NZ.  There was a narrow window in their schedule which allowed us to get together for a few hours mid-point between Coromandel and Auckland, thanks to a member of the NZ Hillman Car Club, Brian Baylis.  Brian drove them to the meeting point in his classic Sunbeam Rapier and we all hit it off together with much laughter and irreverence.  Wonderful that we'd finally been able to meet and get along so well.

Jennie, Dawn, Roy and Brian at Kaiaua

A while back, Roy sent me a photo of him sitting on a supercharged Hillman Imp-engined drag bike called Impulse.  I knew the original owner from competing at the same meetings.  Impulse held a number of records back in the 60's and has recently been restored to its former glory by new owners.  Here it is:

Roy on Impulse (courtesy: Roy Blunt)


Cycling on the e-mountain bike has been a lot of fun, giving access to a lot of out of the way places and keeping me fit, progressively using less power assistance.  Despite the enforced layoff due to a broken rib, Covid and a horrendously wet winter; I racked up over 1000 km since the purchase in June. Farkle purchase has been limited to higher quality pedals and a carbon fibre drink holder (just 'cos it looks cool) but need some better cycling shoes for longer rides over summer.

About to cross a ford in the bush and get a wet arse


Everything seems to have happened in December!  We celebrated Jennie's 75th birthday which has stopped her calling me "Old Man" since my 75th in October.  Whilst on the classic car theme, here's a photo taken in 1971 with her first car, a Morris Minor.  Wonder if it's still about?  Probably not, given winter salt on the roads in the UK.

Arty (so 70's!) pose at sunset on Jennie's Morris Minor

We spent the Christmas period in Australia with our daughter and her husband.  Video calls excluded, we hadn't seen them for 18 months so it was a special reunion. Visiting a wildlife sanctuary north east of Melbourne, I had a close encounter with a wedge-tailed eagle. These are seriously big birds with a wingspan of up to 2.8 metres.  Trying to take a photo whilst it was approaching a tree perch right behind me, it actually brushed my hat.  Seeing huge talons and a large beak at that range is something best avoided but got a cool shot!

Preparing to duck!

One of the "must do" summer events is to attend the Boxing Day international cricket test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, aka the MCG or "The G".  Australia was playing South Africa and with nearly 69,000 spectators, it was quite an occasion.  On the downside, the heat was brutal and despite all normal precautions, I felt rather seedy that night.  However, a spectacle not to be missed.

A great occasion

Pre-match activity at the MCG

One genuine privilege of our visit to Australia was meeting another moto-blogger in person for the first time.  Jules Pearce writes the Tarsnakes blog and rides a wicked Kawasaki ZX (ZZR)1400.  We've corresponded for well over a decade and as mentioned earlier, we had some very productive sessions with US motorcycle safety author David Hough on strategies for the ageing rider.  Jules has also done some motorcycle trips in NZ but we've never met in person......... until now.  

The day before flying back to NZ, Jennie, daughter Victoria and I booked a ferry trip across Port Phillip Bay to Jules' home city of Geelong. What a wonderful day it turned out to be.  Spectacular weather, a great ferry trip and finally meeting Jules.  A lovely lunch all together, then Jules and I sat under a palm tree and set the world to rights whilst the girls went into town.  It was like we'd known each other forever, with relaxed, delightful conversation and was over far too quickly in order to return to Melbourne.  Jules, thanks for a very special day mate and there will be good food, a comfy bed and dodgy company whenever you cross the Ditch!

Jules Pearce and yours truly at Geelong

So that concludes the year.  Fifty eight years of motorcycling now over, no regrets and lots of other interests to look forward to over the coming years.  Meeting old friends in person for the first time, celebrating a special anniversary, catching up with family and more besides.  Hasn't been a bad year, despite all the international doom and gloom.

Looking over what I've written and despite the deeply unpleasant things which are happening in the world, it's still possible to have a positive spin on life and try to pay it forward and help others.  I wish everyone who reads this blog a wonderful and safe 2023.  May it be the light at the end of the tunnel!