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!