EH Holden Special

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My Grandma lived in a block of flats like this, on the ground floor, she wasn’t very mobile. Spent her time watching Days of our Lives and John Wayne movies. Not many John Wayne movies probably, but that’s what she used to tell me. It was that little thing we would bond over, even though I didn’t like John Wayne movies, and I’m guessing she didn’t either. We would go and visit in the school holidays, Mum would keep Grandma company and we’d hang around the town all day, looking for things to do. Not much was happening in Whanganui in the mid seventies. I know, we were as surprised then as you are now. I do remember seeing a Gary Glitter, Slade and The Sweet triple bill at the cinema one afternoon – bargain, three for the price of one. We were a bit too cool for this sort of thing, but these were dire times. We entered the cinema by sashaying down the pavement as though the cinema wasn’t there, then suddenly lurching through the front doors, like being sucked in by a vacuum. It was the only way to minimise the chance of anyone seeing us enter, not that we knew anyone in town but the stakes were high – if this got back to Wellington … it was all over, all over mate.

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Ford Anglia Super 123E

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Drove to Auckland and back in one of these when I was 17. Me, my mate and his girlfriend. It wasn’t awkward. I’d have happily ditched the girlfriend and done a roadie with my mate, but she owned the car. She would have happily ditched me for a weekend away with the boyf. Well, I needed a ride and thought it best to let it go. We went to see a band play at Western Springs stadium. I say stadium, more a paddock with a flat-bed truck at one end, but then it was New Zealand 1977. Can’t tell you who the band was, if I did I’d have to kill you. Forty years on, it still makes me blush – but just quietly, they were quite good. Anyway, the girlfriend’s green Zed-Back was a trooper, didn’t miss a beat. Topped 60mph on the Mangaweka hill … with the clutch in. Different story coming home but it was all the same to me, sitting in the back seat, knees around my ears, supping quietly on a lukewarm can of beer.

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Vauxhall Velox PA

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Where I grew up in the 1970s, Vauxhalls of this era were driven by hoodlums. Seemed a shame but who was I to argue? I pulled up at the traffic lights late one afternoon on my Sukuki GT250 motorcycle and said to the chap in the dark blue Velox next to me – ‘Nice car’. He said ‘WOT?’. I said ‘I said NICE CAR’. Actually, that’s not strictly true, I thought ‘nice car’ but I kept my mouth firmly shut and eyes glued to the red light on the other side of the intersection. When the light changed to green, I dropped the clutch, front wheel rose up off the road and my bike bolted forward, leaving the big guy and his dark blue sedan in my dust. Actually, that’s not strictly true, I made like I hadn’t noticed him, gently eased out the clutch whilst ensuring the nice chap was a good nose ahead and eventually dropping in behind and maintaining a healthy 30 metres. Well it just seemed right, didn’t it? 

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1966 Volkswagen Beetle

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Back in 1969, John, Ringo, Paul and George were on their way to Paul’s flat for a beer in John’s white Beetle. Yoko had bought it for his birthday along with a white birthday suit. His birthday was still a couple of months away but due to his incessant nagging, she gave him his presents early. Suddenly Paul said ‘Uv on-lee won ciggie left, best we git som moo-wer’ (that’s Liverpudlian if you didn’t pick it) and John said ‘Imagine thut’ and pulled up on the footpath, right opposite a shop. The four lads jumped out and strolled back to the zebra crossing. Once in order (John, Ringo, Paul and George) and after looking right-left-right, they crossed the road. When they reached the other side they realised the shop was shut. John stopped in his tracks and said ’Sod-it’. Ringo bumped into John and said ’Sod it John’. Paul had stopped with a stone in his foot and said ’sodding stones’ and George said ‘Yeah bot Sweet Virginia’s quart good’. They got back in order and returned to the car. The Beatles in a Beetle aye? Have to hand that to Yoko, nice one.

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Series 2 Land Rover

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I was down at the Cardrona for a photo shoot a few years ago. When it opened in 1863 it was a gold miners pub and after the gold was gone, the pub continued serving the local farming community. The long serving publican, Jimmy Patterson, would regulate how much his patrons could drink – one drink for those heading up the road over the treacherous Crown Range, and two for others heading down the road to Wanaka. None for the women. Jimmy died in 1961, aged 91, and the hotel was closed. It sat empty for years, slowly deteriorating until a local bought it in the 90’s and did it up. After the shoot, we drove up the road a bit to visit my wife’s uncles in Clyde  – Bill and Alan. They are Southern men of few words, can put you in your place with a raised eyebrow, or will end a half finished story with a chuckle leaving you to finish the story yourself. Masters of the understatement. In fact, an entire story could be a chuckle, they’ll all understand and have a wee chuckle themselves. We told them about our week at the Cardrona filming and it was followed by a bit of a pause. Eventually Bill piped up and said ‘Oh yip’. Another pause (pauses are normal though, nothing’s urgent in this part of the country), and then he added ‘The Cardrona aye? Hear it’s changed a bit since I was up there last … awe, in 1943’. 

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1958 Cadillac DeVille

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This car is best known for its part in a photograph of Marilyn Monroe, looking a little surprised with her white dress blowing in the wind. Marilyn was on her way to the opera in New York City where she was meeting John (John was waiting in the opera house foyer, in disguise, as his wife Jackie thought he was working late). As Marilyn approached the foyer entrance, she passed a Cadillac DeVille parked at the curb-side. Inside the car was a little girl, the daughter of an advertising executive from Madison Avenue who had just bought a new camera and flash. The girl was playing with the camera while her Dad popped into the drug store to buy cigarettes. Suddenly the flash went off, catching Marilyn by surprise – she nearly jumped out of her skin. The famous pose had been captured. A few weeks later, when the film was processed, the ad exec realised what he had. He immediately put the photo and negative into an envelope and posted them straight to Marilyn, apologising for the breach of privacy. Marilyn wrote back and said ‘no worries’ and posted the photo on her Facebook page. It went viral. Marilyn became the first internet sensation. There have been lots of sensations since but Marilyn is still the most famous.  

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Holden HG Premier

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In 1910, yeah I know that was a long time ago but bare with me, a bunch of locals at Lyall Bay started a surf lifesaving club – they called it Lyall Bay Surf Lifesaving Club. No, stick with me, it gets better. Being rather pleased with themselves, they thought it a good idea to have a demonstration day and show Wellington just how clever they were. Demo-day arrived and the surf was pumping (normally a good thing for a surf lifesaving demonstration day). The teams and routines had all been agreed with a nod and a wink. Five minutes before hitting the surf, the club captain (we’ll call him Ted because his name was Ted) lost his bottle and pushed another clubby (Neil) forward. Clubbie Neil didn’t like being pushed so pushed back. The two went hard at it in front of an enthralled crowd until Neil had had enough and stomped off. He only stomped 50 metres and stopped, stamped his foot and declare ’Sod it, I’ll start my own club and I’ll be boss’. And so it was, Maranui Surf Lifesaving Club was born (one assumes ‘Neil’s Surf lifesaving Club’ was rejected) and Captain Neil never went out in pumping surf again. The two clubs sat side by side quite well on the whole, but when a dispute broke out, they would go up the beach to the ‘Bend’, and with gloves on, sort it out. The Bend became known as ‘Gloves’ and when the dispute was unable to be sorted at Gloves, they moved further up the beach to a spot known as “Gloves off’. No dispute went unresolved.

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Triumph Vitesse 1600

 

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Back in the 1920s there was a guy called Adolph Rickenbacker who realised nobody was making electric guitars. In fact, he realised nobody had even invented one. Along came another guy, George Beauchamp, who had a patent for an electric guitar but didn’t know what an electric guitar was yet. So between them, they invented one. It had a very long neck and small round body and they said ‘Hey, it’s a fry pan’. Fry pan was already taken so George said ‘What shall we call it then, Rickenbacker?’ and Adolph said ‘OK, let’s call it Rickenbacker’. So that was settled and they started making guitars. As is often the way with guitar sales, the ebbs and flows are affected by who is playing what and when. One afternoon, while test driving a new bright red Vitesse, a young fella called John spotted one in a shop window. John immediately rang Ed Sullivan and said ‘Hey Ed, I can get you a Rickenbacker on your show, what do you reckon?’. So John, with some of his mates, went to America for the now legendary ‘1964 Rickenbacker appearance’ on the Ed Sullivan show. Not long after, John’s mates George and Paul joined the Rickenbacker club. Then John noticed everyone had Rickenbacker’s except poor ol’ Ringo, who only had drums – so John gave Ringo one he didn’t want and that’s how the four lads from Liverpool became The Rickles. What?

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Vespa GS150

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The Vespa motor scooter was a positive that fell out of Italy’s WWII years. Having had a smack on the hand by the Allies and told to stop making war planes, Enrico Piaggio did the next most obvious thing – he built a motorcycle, fully enclosed it in sheet metal (as one did an aeroplane) and called it a scooter. Well that’s not strictly true, the enclosed bodywork actually came about by employing a designer called Corradino D’Ascanio who hated motorcycles. A seemingly odd decision from Piaggio, but conveniently, D’Ascanio already had a scooter design in his back pocket – something he had whipped up for Ferdinando Innocenti at Lambretta, but it had been rejected. D’Ascanio’s design was revolutionary: he wanted the frame to be stamped steel, Innocenti had wanted rolled tube. ‘Stamped.’ ‘Rolled.’ ‘Stamped.’ ‘Rolled.’ went the argument and D’Ascanio left in a huff. Ensconced down the road at Piaggio, D’Ascanio set to work. Eventually, he revealed his new creation to Piaggio who exclaimed ‘Sembra una vespa!’ (which translates to something like ‘It would seem to be a wasp!). Thus, the Vespa was born. Sales grew steadily through the late 40s and then, in 1952, as luck would have it, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck’s Vespa in the movie Roman Holiday for a spin through Rome – and the rest, as they say, is history.

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