New Zealand Travels: February 24 - March 7, 2015

The NZ trip was planned to drive the Frazer Nash, get to the Southward Car Museum open house and to see if there would be any interest by the car and motorcycle museums in the collections management software (CMS) and processes which I've been learning and using.

In Nelson

I arrived in Nelson from Auckland and Los Angeles on Feb 24 and Garry Orton (Victory R race shop, Classic Car museum support and the Bonneville record-holding '64 Mini team leader) picked me up for the short ride to their shop. I was glad to leave off about 40 lbs. of multi-ball trailer hitches for Garry, but I had misunderstood what he was looking for!  Garry and Guy Griffith had the Frazer Nash ready to drive right away, with the odometer showing 47,190 miles.  The car has had great care and support, so many thanks!  I drove the car over the familiar five mile route to the Waimarie on Riverside motel, where I've stayed previously and would be until Friday morning.

I was delayed Wednesday morning because I didn't remember the proper starting sequence and the battery was low.  At the shop, Garry quickly fixed two wheel rubbing/scraping sounds on the car's driver side.

I had earlier contacted Kevin Mercer, chairman of the Nelson branch of the NZ Vintage Car Club, and he was already at the shop. Later that afternoon, Kevin took me for a ride in his 1923 Mercer Raceabout.  This is a 21 minute video:  Great fun!  Before leaving the WOW/Classic Car Museum, I had a brief meeting with the new director, Maria Ciminiello, and suggested a further meeting to review any museum plans to use a collections management system.  Garry led the Frazer Nash to the nearby vehicle registration office where it was made legal for 3 months.

On the way to Kevin's house in Wakefield on Wednesday afternoon, I drove the Frazer Nash to see what Richard Conlon has recently created.  His new Tasman Coachbuilders, Ltd building is much more convenient to his house.  Impressive work!

Richard Conlon's shop and with the Frazer Nash

I was back at the Victory Racing/Classic Car Museum on Thursday. Rod Griffith, Guy Griffith's father, drove me to his garage to see his Fiat 124 Abarth, Lancia Integrale and Ferrari 308. He had expertly converted all to right-hand drive and told me the Fiat is for sale.

Rod Griffith's cars

Garry, Guy, Rod and I had lunch across the street from their shop at Speight's Ale House - good food but too much!  After returning to the Waimarie motel, I walked along the Maitai River to Haven Road and the newly opened NZ Classic Motorcycles museum. I met the new director, John Shand, who is just a short time in this position. Two other guys who had been working on the bikes for several years remembered me from prior visits to their workshop/warehouse near the Waimarie motel where the motorcycles were restored and the collection assembled.

Off to Wellington

At 7 am on Friday, I drove about 85 miles over hill and dale from Nelson to the ferry terminal in Picton for a 9:30 check-in and the 10:30 sailing. The ferry had a late arrival, so there was much time to look at and chat about cars and motorcycles, including more than a few vintage Indians returning from a South Island tour.

From Nelson to the Interisland Ferry in Picton, about 85 miles.  The actual Garmin GPS track shows on Basecamp.

The ferry was late, but I finally got to Wellington and drove to the Seaview area to meet Mike Wilson (PR for Bonneville Mini team) at the design studio where he does consulting work. I met Mike in Burbank last September when he was visiting, partly on "Mini business". I missed the correct turn at Petone for Seaview but the GPS got me to the right place.  Some of the designers checked out the car and seemed to like it!. 

I followed Mike to his house and we squeezed the Frazer Nash into his garage.  I stayed at Mike's house Friday & Saturday, with their three large Irish Setters, a cat and Nick, another guest. All very peaceful. When Mike's wife Lizzie got home, we all went to dinner on Cuba Street in downtown Wellington - a very thriving social scene. 

Mike, Lizzie, Nick and Bob

Mike told me about the 1943 "Battle of Manners Street", which were riots between the Marine Corps and NZ servicemen (and local civilians) that involved over 1,000 people.  All news to me!

On Saturday we picked up Shannon at the Wellington airport, had a quick tour of Wellington and returned to Mike's place. Lizzie is a doc, nearly done with her training, but was having long duty hours when we were there.  They hope to eventually return to Nelson.

After sampling and purchasing great chocolate!

Finishing breakfast, all ready to depart to different places.*

Southward Car Museum Open House

On Sunday we drove about 35 miles from Wellington to the Southward Car Museum open house in Paraparaumu. Mike made this clever short video:  By 11 am, the extensive grounds were filled with cars and people and we were lucky to find perhaps the last parking place. I hardly got back to the Frazer Nash or took many photos. It was a grand time.  Later I received an email from a NZ friend who said the Frazer Nash at the open house generated some good Facebook buzz, but I don't "do" Facebook so missed all of this!

Vintage New Zealand trailer and Thunderbird with a great display of period items

One of the last cars to leave the open house!

Hayden's restored Chevrolet

We stayed in Paraparaumu Sunday and Monday night. On Monday we met with Hayden Beissel, the young Southward manager and the instigator of the open house. I initially met Hayden about 3 years ago and he's since been to Burbank twice to enjoy the Southern California "car scene"; including visiting car museums and private collections. We had a good session on collections software and techniques. Then more museum touring and dinner with Hayden that night.

Historically significant 1915 Stutz Indy Racer

Bob and Hayden

I had five mysterious Frazer Nash engine stoppages since from the first drive, but the car readily restarted each time. After  most of the cars had left the open house, Mike and I opened the distributor and saw on the cap that the carbon center connector to the rotor was gone!  The spark had been jumping the gap.  On Monday, the Southward restoration shop made a quick temporary fix and it was fine for the rest of the trip.

Rush hour drive to Wellington, the Interisland ferry, and then to Nelson

We had good weather for our early drive from Paraparaumu through Wellington "rush hour" traffic, to catch the ferry for a 10:30 am sailing. 

At the Wellington ferry terminal

Waiting for the ferry to dock, on the train deck.  Side curtains installed to make room in trunk for our bags!

But it was very warm after we drove off the ferry in Picton. The car ran fine through wine country, valleys and over many hills - the same route as the map above - and we finally cooled off at a brief stop in Havelock and finally in Nelson. Shannon said it was fun and seemed to have forgotten some of her "vigorous" steering and braking directions on the hills!

We immediately walked over to the Nelson I-Site (tourist info) after checking in to the Waimarie motel.  I-Site told us there was a forecast for rain the next day through Friday, so we decided to put off booking a boat/bus tour to Golden Bay and other scenic coastal areas.  We also decided to fly from Nelson to Wellington on Saturday, rather than use the bus and ferry for the same journey on Friday.

Museum Visits

Wednesday started with a nice, short visit with guys at WOW/Classic Car museum, then to the new Nelson Branch VCC clubhouse at the Speedway.  After lunch, we stopped by the NZ Classic Motorcycles museum and made a Friday appointment with John Shand to look at CMS software.  

NZ Classic Motorcycle Museum library/reading room

The museum's balcony/mezzanine allows good views of the topmost motorcycles

We had a great walk through of the collection, then continued through Nelson, scouting possible dinner locations and pottery shops.  Shannon liked one piece at the Suter Galley and we noticed the adjacent cafe was very popular, so we had some very  refreshing orange almond cake and ginger tonic!

We checked the Free House for drinks and dinner but settled on Hangar 58 to later meet NZVCC member Tim McDowell for dinner.  I had met Tim in 2012 at Rollo's, his locksmith shop, when I needed a duplicate key for the Frazer Nash.  Tim has several vintage cars and after our meeting in 2012, we had a Sunday drive to Moutere in the Frazer Nash.

After breakfast at the Suter cafe, we further scouted for a Friday spa session for Shannon while I would be at the car and motorcycle museums talking about software.  Our walk took us to the Woman Beauty Day Spa on Nile Street and Shannon booked a session.  It was a nice walk back to our motel along the Maitai river and through Queens Gardens.

Kayaking on the Maitai River near our motel.

Wineries and Breweries

As an alternative to the scenic boat tour, we had a Thursday afternoon journey with Nelson Tours and Travel to wineries and breweries. CJ Power was our excellent tour guide to the Brightwater and Kahurangi wineries and the Lighthouse and McCashin (home of Stoke beer) breweries.  Although it was late after the tour, we walked to the Riverside pool, swam a few laps and sat in the (extra fee) Jacuzzi for a few minutes.  Dinner was again at Hangar 58 - not very imaginative!

Bob, Shannon and owner Sally

Bob and Shannon at the Lighthouse Brewery with founder/owner Dick Tout

Until Thursday night, there had had been not a drop of rain in sight - but a storm rolled in late.  On Friday morning, we drove the Frazer Nash through heavy rain to take it back to the museum. The wipers quickly stopped!   Here is a short video of the Frazer Nash ignition repair (worn carbon center connector on distributor cap), followed by the drive to the Victory Racing shop adjacent to the Classic Car Museum:  The odometer showed the Frazer Nash had logged a total distance of 390 miles.

Still wet!  First time the hood was erected in about 5 years!

After dropping off the car, I had a brief meeting with Maria at the Classic Car Museum and gave her a PastPerfect software disk and a brochure.  Guy Griffith gave us a ride to the Apex rental agency where we picked up a small Ford. I then dropped Shannon at the spa.

At 2:30 pm I met briefly with John Shand at the Classic Motorcycle Museum; then with consultant Lucy and Steve Scullion,  She explained their general IT plans included a comprehensive system for all the assets and businesses of the museum's American owner and founder.  Although their IT plans seem settled, I left a PastPerfect disk and brochure.  Then made a walk-through of the museum for this video:

Hayden at the Southward Car Museum is very dynamic manager and I'm sure he will be evaluating a CMS implementation. At each museum, I noticed a few placards with QR codes and previously heard that all three museums signed up for the "STQRY" system. It uses smartphone QR codes to provide exhibit info to visitors. I tried to meet Chris Smith in Wellington, the former Microsoft guy who started this company, but we could not connect.

Just after noon on Friday, the sky became very clear, but the weather changes did not affect our departure plans. Originally we wanted to leave Nelson on the bus and ferry Friday for Wellington, but had reserved a flight for Saturday to Wellington - the last-minute tickets were not cheap!  It was a good thing: the ferry had been much delayed on Friday.  Although we never learned the full delay, the local paper reported that the storm and high winds had smashed the ferry into the dock in Picton!

We had an extra day and night in Nelson because we would fly to Wellington. After the two museum visits and meetings, I picked up Shannon at the spa. We drove to look at Tahunanui Beach and then to Richard Conlon's shop so Shannon could see what is possible. These visits to Tasman Coachbuilders may inspire a project!

Alvis, getting new fenders at Tasman Coachbuilders Ltd


I bought a used suitcase in a Nelson thrift store for $3 to bring my stuff home.  It was a good replacement for the monster duffle bag bought last year for $16 to carry the "Bonneville Mini" tire home and the trailer hitches this year. After Shannon arrived, we had to leave the duffle bag with Mike Wilson because our luggage totally filled the Frazer Nash trunk!

Leaving kitty at the Kings Gate motel.  The Waimarie was full on Friday night, so we relocated here - nice place.

We went to the normally very crowded and popular Nelson market but many vendors and shoppers had decided to stay home because of the forecast for another storm on Saturday.  The morning was clear, but just after noon, we had heavy rain in the rental car to the Nelson airport. We were on time and the rain mostly cleared about 1:30 pm.  However, the flight was more than an hour late in arriving and departing. The flight was not too rough, but it was raining when we landed in Wellington. 

There was little time before our flight to Auckland - the Air NZ staff speeded our check in sent us straight to the gate for the flight. So instead of 2 hours in Wellington, we had 30 minutes.

Small plane on left brought us to Wellington; one on right would take us to Auckland

Again there was no time to spare in Auckland before loading - except for a snack & drinks. Shannon did not have enough time for duty-free shopping, but at least I was not at fault!  The entire flight to Los Angeles was bumpy. No hot drinks were served - almost 24 hours without coffee! 

Shannon had reserved a Super Shuttle for us, but it was not so super. After getting our bags, it took nearly 2 hours to get to Burbank. The cheap route by Flyaway bus & train would probably have been faster. But we got home, made a full pot of coffee and Shannon left right away to re-stock groceries.

Not enough photos?  Here is a 12 minute movie made from photos, narrated by  me.

At the Southward open house, we heard about plans for an international vintage car rally in Dunedin in January 2016. With luck, we'll plan to go to the rally with the Frazer Nash. Also recently received a Frazer Nash Club newsletter which announced a planned "raid" to southeast Australia in October 2016. Tempting!

PS I had at least two sausage rolls and three meat pies - very hard to find here!  And many different great beers and wines that never get to the US.

March 28, 2015