Wheel alignment

Monday 5 February 2024

A day in the sun

For the second post running, we feature some classic cars.  Every year barring Covid or natural disasters, the Coromandel Car Club puts on a car fair with vehicles from all around the peninsula and beyond.  The majority are American classics, with a smaller number from other countries, including some really rare vehicles.  It was held yesterday in perfect weather in a farm paddock just south of the town (village).  Entry was via a gold coin donation - fantastic value for money and extremely well organised with food and live music too.

The following photos only scratch the surface but are of vehicles which caught my attention.  Apologies if any of my descriptions are inaccurate but it's only 2 and a bit years from first classic car ownership!  Delighted to say however, that our MGB GT attracted a fair degree of attention, even in the presence of some seriously nice (and expensive) hardware.

We open with a location shot.  One side of the paddock borders Coromandel Harbour and the opposite direction shown here looks towards Castle Rock, the core of an old volcano. Pretty much the perfect setting on such a great day.

Backdrop towards Castle Rock, Coromandel

Some serious money on show here - miscellaneous Americana

Dodge produced some wonderful muscle cars in the 60's and 70's, particularly the Charger and Challenger.  I'd never seen a Coronet R/T in the flesh until yesterday but you can certainly see the lineage.

The Coronet R/T

Matte orange finish Chevy pickup with a natural finish V8 engine.  Looks far better than chrome in this application.

Chevy pickup with flawless matte paint

The European Ford Capri is becoming increasingly rare in NZ, particularly the 3 litre version and commands a premium price.

Ford Capri 3 litre

The Ford Falcon GT is arguably Australia's premier muscle car of the 60's and 70's (ok, the Monaro too for Holden fans!). Available with a range of engine options - 289, 308 and 351, plus various bolt-on goody options; it had a great racing legacy. I seem to remember that a top spec Falcon GTO sold last year for a tad under AU$2 million which is really serious money.

The one in the photo below has modern mags which suggests that it's either a low spec GT or a non-factory GT which has been upgraded.  Serious collectors tend to stick to originality.  Still a nice car though and sounded great.

Falcon GT

Beautiful Chevy pickup

In a departure from Americana, the following photos are of the Saker GT.  I must admit that I'd never even heard of one, let alone seen one in the flesh.  There's plenty of reading about them on the internet, but in short; they were originally designed and built in NZ.  Full production was subsequently carried out in the Netherlands, with some controversy about the legality of the arrangement.  A gorgeous-looking car and the owner had some trouble getting it into the paddock because of the minimal ground clearance.

Saker GT

Saker GT front end - crash rating???

Mercury Cyclone GT - a seriously large car

Something a little different was a Toyota Landcruiser set up for long distance travels and camping.  I understand that the owner brought it to NZ after owning it in Australia, which makes sense.  Incredibly well set up.

Toyota Landcruiser

There were a couple of all-black vintage cars at the fair, both of them with paint like a mirror - no dust, fingerprints or any other form of blemish.  An absolute tribute to their owners.  I'd happily own this but I guess super-deep pockets might be required.

Model A Ford - 1926?

Model A Ford interior

The following Vauxhall Viscount represents a bit of nostalgia for me.  Growing up in the UK, a mate had a Vauxhall Cresta with the same body shape.  The Viscount was the top of the range version.  We all used to pile in it and head off to the pub or longer weekenders and it had a surprisingly good turn of speed with a 3.3 litre engine. Ahh.... carefree days!

Vauxhall Viscount (UK made)

Nice airbrushing on a Ford saloon

Two Fords from different eras

Early Mustang fastback

A Corvette in Lamborghini Muira livery

Finally, a very nice Ford coupe hot rod.  A black finish still looks classy!

Ford Coupe hot rod

A great day, only 10 minutes from home and kudos to Coromandel for putting on a great show with some unusual machinery. 

Sunday 28 January 2024

Wings and Wheels 2024

What with cancellations due to Covid and the tropical storms in NZ last year, I've missed attending Wings and Wheels at Thames until now.  The location is only an hour down the coast too.  What a great day it turned out to be, with excellent organisation and everyone chilled and simply there to have a good time.  As I've remarked previously, there appears to be little or no snobbery or a hierarchy among NZ classic car owners which leads to some great discussions.

Even better, any classic cars or light aircraft owners were admitted to to the airfield for free and had a ringside seat for all the activities.  Can't be bad, can it?  The weather was warm and dry, although rain was forecast later in the day.  The following photos are only a small selection of the zillion I took and the sheer variety of vehicles and aircraft was guaranteed to avoid boredom.  Even Mrs James was moved to remark that she had a wonderful day out!

Great retro poster and pilot information

After we'd been directed to a parking spot between a Model T brewery delivery vehicle and a supercharged Model T bucket hot rod belonging to a middle-aged woman, we noticed something a bit different parked about 50 metres away.  This was a rolling chassis powered by home made pulse jet engines running on LPG, very similar to the WW2 German V1 flying bombs.  Even better, there was to be an engine run every hour!

Not something you see every day!

Starting it involved the use of a leaf blower to get the air and LPG circulating.  The noise and particularly the frequency was unbelievably loud and actually vibrated the bones and organs inside the body.  Pretty unpleasant but nonetheless impressive.

We have ignition!  Note all the fingers in ears

Being local, we were quite early and it was enjoyable to watch other classics drive in over the next hour.  A line of vehicles from the Austin Healey Club made for a great sight.  They sell for serious money, especially the rarer 100 series models.

Various Austin Healey models driving in

An Austin Healey Sprite with aftermarket bodywork

There was a pretty even split between British and American vehicles and with a population of ~ 5 million in NZ, I'm always amazed at just how many classic vehicles there are lurking in sheds around the country.  You can add light aircraft too, judging by how many private aircraft were arriving for the show.

Citroen with forward opening front doors

  Ford Cosworth Sierra RS500 - a rare beast

Ford Corsair GT - haven't seen one since leaving the UK in 1975!

Dodge Challenger R/T - shades of the cult movie "Vanishing Point"

A Packard Special which would look at home in a Mad Max movie

Ridiculously wide tyres on this Stingray

Plymouth Barracuda - yummm!

A Dodge 6

Supercharged Holden Monaro towing a racecar

Superb retro caravan

Jaguar XK150

Heaps of E-types on display

Mrs J and a certain MGB GT!

1952 Morris Minor - 918cc side valve, I think

We simply ran out of time to look at some of the vintage bikes which were at the other end of the airfield but a bike on the back of a ute (pick up truck) near us caught my eye.  This is the Honda XR500, first introduced in 1979.  This particular bike looked like it had never been ridden.  Whether it was new or flawlessly restored was hard to tell but I'd imagine that it would fetch a premium if ever sold.

Honda XR 500 trail bike

So many other vehicle photos which deserve to be posted but it's the turn of the aircraft now.  When we arrived, there were already lots of planes parked up but there were a constant stream on final approach. A quad bike customised to look like a mini-hot rod was tasked with guiding them to an allocated parking spot.  As a point of note, the pilots of the WW1 replicas and WW2 Warbirds could pretty much be described is "mature" with plenty of grey hair on display.  I found this strangely reassuring!

A Corsair taxiing to its designated spot
Arty shot of Yak tail fins

A couple of biplanes of unknown make, both of them in flawless condition........

In magnificent condition

The Warbirds Havards then put on a formation flying and aerobatic demonstration which was really impressive, especially against the ever-lowering cloud base.

Havards ready for takeoff

Formation loop

Barrel roll with smoke

There were also some WW1 German and British replicas flying.  For me, they clearly illustrated the fragility of combat in those days.  These photos scale up well.

Albatross, Triplane and Bristol Fighter

Albatross low pass

The Fokker Triplane

After the demo by the WW1 replicas, the weather was closing in and although there were to be demo flights by other aircraft, we didn't want to be trapped with every attendee trying to leave at the same time onto an arterial road which was already packed with long weekend traffic.  A reasonable number of people had the same idea but getting out was no hassle at all.  It was also great to meet up with Peter, the organiser of the MG Owner's Club for the Bay of Plenty region. He had driven up with a number of members. Where we live is a long way from the regional bases so we don't often meet up with other members.  What an excellent day and looking forward to next year!

Saturday 23 December 2023

2023 - a mixed bag review

Tropical cyclones and lesser storms, a change in government, significant surgery, spending more time out and about in our classic car, a major time-consuming project of Jennie's and a host of other things made for an unusual year in New Zealand.  However, there was still much to be thankful for.  In this review, I've used photos wherever possible which haven't been previously posted. 


Our region got hit by a series of tropical storms which caused widespread flooding and landslides, including a major arterial route which has only just reopened.  This caused significant economic damage to the Coromandel Peninsula because of access difficulties for visitors.  Fortunately, the direct impact on us was relatively small as we don't often need to use the roads with the biggest damage.  Here's an excellent video of the area since it reopened in December, courtesy of Deano's Motorcycle Rides:

The crappy weather actually offered a serendipitous opportunity for a black and white photo early one Sunday morning.  We get very little in the way of fog where we live but the wet, warm conditions had created a fog bank across the harbour.  I thought that a photo with the fog behind one of the locally moored yachts would make a good composition so I walked down the road and blazed off a few shots.  It wasn't until I got home that it was apparent that I'd also captured a gull flying past which added to the interest.

Long Bay Road, Coromandel

February and March

Jennie's sister Sue arrived from the UK for a couple of months.  That's quite a bit of time to have someone else under the same roof but Sue is so easy to get along with that the time just flew by.  Mind you, it didn't get off to a good start with Cyclone Gabrielle making landfall just a few days after her arrival.  We were all booked to attend a British classic car festival on the other side of our peninsula, which was really touch and go.  The first couple of days were in perfect conditions but we decided to cut and run at the end of day 2.  Just as well as  the roads we needed to get home became impassable not long after we got back.  Mercifully, no damage to our property apart from broken branches but a lot of local infrastructure damage.

Jennie and Sue, overlooking Coromandel Harbour where we live

Fortunately, the rest of Sue's stay was in pretty good weather so we were able to act as tourist guides around the upper north island.  During a trip to the Rotorua area, we visited Wingspan, the national bird of prey centre where they are rehabilitated and also bred to release back into the wild.  Watching birds being taught to hunt is quite an experience and having a NZ native falcon (Karearea) perch on your arm is surprisingly emotional.

Sue with a NZ native falcon


The more settled weather meant I could get out more on the e-mountain bike to maintain fitness in readiness for a knee replacement, whenever that may be.  I'd covered about 2500 km on the bike, mainly on the off-road trails in our area and as a bonus; had shed just over 10kg.  Good for overall health and less load on my dodgy knees!

Some local off-roading fun without face plants

April also signalled 12 months since retiring from riding - an opportune time for reflection as to whether I'd retired in a timely fashion or pulled the trigger too early.  Not too much reflection required - still love bikes but preparation for eventual riding retirement over several years means that my fall-back interests offer new and interesting pathways.  I think I got it right!

The start of the very last ride - April 2022

One of the fall-backs was joining the Whitianga Classic Car Club.  I'm quite happy just driving with Jennie on our own but the members of WCCC are a delight to travel with to a lunch destination somewhere round the Peninsula.  A great mix of vehicles from Ferrari through to Morris Minor Countryman but there are absolutely no egos on display with everyone down to earth.  There must be some deep pockets though.  The Ferrari 355 shown below requires regular cam belt changes - every handful of years.  To replace it, the engine has to come out.  How about something in the region of $10,000 for the job?  In a similar vein, 10 year old XK Jaguars and similar are really going to hit you in the wallet when things go wrong, hence the very modest purchase price thanks to massive depreciation.  I'm happy to have chosen an MGB GT!

MGB GT, Ferrari 355 and Daimler Sovereign at a lunch stop


May saw the first "proper" maintenance on the MGB GT with a complete flush of the cooling system.  The previous owner was meticulous with record-keeping of the restoration but there was almost no information on what routine maintenance had been carried out.  Flushing the system and adding a long-life coolant was surprisingly easy and something I shouldn't have to do again for a few years.   The purchase of  an infra red heat gun to check the temperature of various components triggered a bit of eye-rolling in certain quarters but eye-rolling is a common occurrence in our household anyway!

Yet another toy, sigh.....

I also became involved in the design and construction of a school science experiment chosen by our  granddaughter Georgia. She wanted to build a power-generating waterwheel and test power output against a number of variables.  It was all a bit of a panic due to time constraints but raiding the local transfer station and working with Georgia on building it was an absolute privilege.  Her work ethic couldn't be faulted and we had a huge amount of fun together.  Her experiments all worked and she achieved an "exceeded expectations" grade in her accelerated learning class.  Her work was also submitted to a regional science fair and was awarded a silver rosette.  Enormously proud of that young lady and the future is in good hands with young people like her.

Waterwheel spin test


The winter month of June sees a lot of bird life in the garden, both drinking nectar from some of our flowering plants, plus seeds we put out.  Here are some photos I took.

Native pigeon (kereru) in a palm tree

A flock of California Quail waiting for a feed


A quiet month apart from it being our 51st wedding anniversary.  Hopped on my MTB for an off-road ride and was no more than 10 minutes from home when I realised the significance of the date.  Jennie hadn't said a word about our anniversary which I took to mean that I was in deep poo.  Turned the bike straight round, rode home and planted a big kiss on Jennie.  "What was that for?", she said.  Both of us had forgotten the date - a lucky escape!  In our defence, we had already organised a trip to Rarotonga to celebrate a couple of months beforehand but that wasn't due to actually happen for another couple of weeks.  We did go out to a local restaurant that evening!

July 1972, Kent, England

There was a bit of domestic activity having commissioned a stained glass window for one of our bedrooms which was based on a photo I took in the garden of a nectar-eating Tui on one of our succulents.  Perched on a ladder whilst lifting the window into position wasn't for the faint-hearted and I was glad to complete the job without incident.

A nice bit of stained glass work

August and September

The long-awaited surgery to replace a knee suddenly got serious with it being scheduled for the last day of August.  We'd already booked a vacation on the Pacific Island of Rarotonga which only left a few days to get organised when we got back.  

The surgery took place at a private hospital in Auckland and the all-female surgical team were outstanding.  I'd elected to just have a spinal block to avoid the downsides of a general anaesthetic and it worked out well.  I was able to have running banter with the team throughout the procedure and also listened to music through my earbuds and phone.  The surgery was completely pain-free but rehabilitation has been hard going.  Jennie enjoyed making me walk up to 1 km a day on crutches as soon as we got home from hospital, the slave driver!

Part of rehab by walking up and down our road!

Four months after surgery and diligently doing flexibility exercises on a daily basis, I've regained about 90% of my original movement and it's wonderful to have a stable and pain-free knee.  The pain comes from doing the exercises but that's only a short term inconvenience.  I'm spending up to an hour a day on my old mountain bike in a resistance frame and I should be good to get out on the off-road trails on my e-MTB in early 2024.  A little way to go yet before being 100% but it's nice to feel reasonably active again.  


Although I could drive our modern automatic cars within 2 weeks of surgery, it was October before I could drive the MGB with its manual shift, but mainly due to it being difficult to get in and out of!  It was also a busy month supporting Jennie.  She's president of our local School of Mines Museum and was project managing the installation of a mid-1800's building on the site - a substantial job. A date was set for the district mayor to formally open the building, along with invited guests.  The pressure was on to complete various renovations so yours truly volunteered for that and it was completed in the nick of time.

The opening was an outstanding success with plenty of great feedback.  I was enormously proud of Jennie's tenacity over the many months of planning and execution.  It involved dealing with government departments controlling heritage building rules, the local council, applying for grants, coordinating tradespeople (shudder) and a zillion other things.  She got plenty of positive coverage in our regional news magazine and even made the cover along with the mayor!

Cover Girl Jennie!

With spring well underway, it was a good time for more bird life photography.  I was particularly pleased with the photo of a Tui in our kowhai tree, which is the national flower of NZ.

Tui getting nectar from a kowhai tree

I also turned 76 but that's irrelevant as I stopped counting years ago.  Jennie maintains that it's like living with a 5 year old which is further proof that chronological age means absolutely nothing!

October also saw a change of government.  The major parties in NZ don't tend to have the huge ideological gap which is often seen overseas and quite a few policies overlap.  I try to avoid politics and concentrate on the things which I can have a degree of control or influence over, apart from voting of course.  However, it's really disappointing to see the shortage of politicians who behave in a statesmanlike manner and with integrity among any of the parties.  Much the same throughout the world, I suspect.  Sigh......


We had another outing with the Whitianga Classic Car Club to sample lunch at a newly-opened cafe on the peninsula.  A great turn-out and we weren't disappointed with the venue and food quality either.

Some of the assembled classic cars

In the photo above, the nearest car is a Triumph TR4A.  The owner and his wife were really nice people and we chatted about cars for some time before going our separate ways.  He wore a club name badge and on the way home, I said to Jennie that his name, Keith Skilling; sounded familiar but I didn't know why.  A few days later, I Googled the name and there it was!  Aviation enthusiasts will know that a NZ company has restored a number of WW2 Mosquito fighter bombers to flying condition. It turns out that Keith was the test pilot for the very first one! 

He's also a senior Warbirds pilot and has flown a Hurricane 

Also a Corsair  

It was a privilege to meet someone so exalted in aviation circles, particularly so humble and ego-free in real life.  

The major blog post in November was to catalogue all the bikes I'd owned since starting motorcycling in 1964, together with the memories which each of them still stir up.  Looking back, it's not hard to figure out that retirement from riding wasn't that hard after the sheer variety of 2-wheeled adventures.  It's simply not possible to find a single photo which sums up motorcycling spanning 58 years but perhaps the following one comes close.

It was taken in late May 2003 in the Central North Island with the active volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park dusted in snow.  I'd got up early for a day ride and there was virtually nothing else on the route I'd chosen.  Solitude, me and my thoughts, the Blackbird and majestic scenery.  Says it all really about why we ride.

Tongariro National Park, NZ


The good weather is here and all the pohutukawa trees in our region have come into bloom. Great weather, Christmas reunions and BBQ's with the extended family and friends are all genuinely good for the soul. Celebrations with our kids and grandkids are only a day away and we'll catch up with our Melbourne-based daughter and husband in January when they return for a flying visit.  We even managed to take the boat out fishing again for the first time in 2023.  Uncharacteristically, I also caught the biggest fish!

Here's wishing all readers of this blog a spectacular 2024, lots of happiness and good health.  May the world be a better place than it has been in 2023.

Wicker picnic hamper and tartan rug - how very British!

All the very best from Coromandel, NZ!