50 years ago, I climbed into my little Austin 7 Nippy in Palmerston North and headed for the Wellington ferry. I landed in Lyttelton and headed for the start of Irishman Creek Rally which was starting at Hornby. I had no idea where I was going and somehow, I drove through Hagley Park.
The weather was foggy and smoggy and cold. As I drove through Hagley Park I thought “I’m coming back here to live”. And I did. The rest is history.
That journey introduced me to the South Island. To the Canterbury Plains. To the McKenzie Country. To an amazingly interesting group of people who were a subset of the Vintage Car Club. Coming from sheltered old Palmie these people blew my mind. There were people who stood around and talked about the end of petrol, in 1971. They were mechanics and university lecturers. There were historians and contrarians. They owned businesses and were ordinary workers. They went from a communist who drove a vintage Bentley to the deepest blue politically inclined person you could meet.
Basically, the Vintage Car Club was a New Zealand club which had a common bond. Old cars. I loved it and I really loved many of the people in it. My Dad had been a VCC member from my childhood and I just caught the bug from him.
So, I’m writing this before we leave. The rally has run every year, bar 2020 thanks to Covid. I have missed 5 years events since my first. My family know that the old man goes vintage motoring with his mates every Queens Birthday weekend. It’s my version of duck shooting. It’s not the winning, or the losing. It’s the taking part.
Last Irishman Creek rally we had three generations of our family on the run. That is not unusual. There’s many families like that. We cross rivers (though possibly not this year), traverse back country gravel roads. Throughout NZ there are what are known as “paper” roads. The Government early last century established a network of where roads could possibly go and registered them in legislation. They go through farms and it is possible to get permission from farmers to cross their farms.
The “winner” of Irishman Creek rally has to run the event the following year. A lot of effort is put into losing. I’ve had my win so I can drive with an easy conscience not worrying about how I would keep this lot happy next year…
This year the last “winner” has decided that we will start in Alexandra. So, a mate and I decided that we would drive our cars via Haast Pass. That seemed a really good idea until the weather event last weekend. The bridge is washed out at Porters Pass so we are headed to Lewis Pass. That’s slightly further. But it adds to the excitement of getting there.
Pam went on the rally before we were married 44 years ago. The event seems just stupid to her. And it is.
Here’s a photo of the car I now drive when it snowed on the last event. We’re hoping for snow again.
My plea in mitigation for continuing to go on this wasteful carbon hungry event is I promise to ride my bike most of the rest of the year.
I hope you all had a great Queens Birthday weekend in front of the fire.