Ford Zephyr Mk1

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The Mark 1 Zephyr, state of the art in its day. Brace yourself, here’s some stats – tests in 1951 gave the Mark 1 a top speed of 79.8 mph (that’s a blistering 128.4 km/h – I guess speedometers were pretty accurate back then) and could accelerate from 0–60 in 20.2 seconds. That gave you enough time to find a cool radio station before you reached maximum speed. Of course I exaggerate, there were only three stations to choose from – The Concert Programme (yeah-nah), Radio Sport (cricket in the summer, rugby in the winter) and the local pop station. Wait, there was the horse racing channel too. There you go, we did need the full 20.2 seconds. These cars were built at the main British Ford factory in Dagenham, England but also in Lower Hutt, New Zealand (not many people know that). I could tell you a little about Lower Hutt, but that’s another story. Speaking of stories, when the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II visited New Zealand in 1953, she was photographed watching Zephyrs being built at the Lower Hutt plant – no, she was – and we wonder why she doesn’t swing by New Zealand more often.

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1969 Riley Kestrel 1300

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Funny how perceptions change over time. If anybody had driven one of these to college back in the seventies they would have been laughed out of school. You can hear the conversation – ‘Take my car today son’, ‘No I’m good thanks Mum, I’ll take the bus’. Even parking down the road a bit and walking to the school gate wasn’t worth the risk. 

It was designed by Alec Issigonis who also did the Mini. In it’s design phase, they called it the BMC ADO16 which stood for British Motor Corporation Amalgamated Drawing Office project number 16. No wonder they settled for Riley … oh and Morris and Austin and MG and Wolseley and Vanden Plas and one or two other variations too I think. Change the name and the grill and nobody’ll notice it’s the same car. Wouldn’t catch us out like that now-a-days aye, we’re onto their cunning ploys. Yessirree.

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Ford Prefect 107E

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This is British Ford at it’s very best (debatable I know, but let’s run with it for now). Even into the 1950s, car styling hadn’t really changed in Britain from the sit-up-and-beg look of the 1930s and 1940s (a tad distracted by the war I guess). Then, in 1953, Ford produced this ‘modern’ shape and it was a revelation. These simple, robust cars sold like hot cakes. They had features like hydraulic brakes and independent front suspensions but in true Ford spirit they were sparse inside – heaters and sun visors were extra. The windscreen wipers weren’t extra but were powered by a cheap-to-make vacuum system with one minor flaw – the faster the cars went, the slower the wipers worked. Bit of an issue in Britain I would have thought? But, despite their simplicity, the new Prefect heralded (that’s a wee Triumph joke there) in a new optimism that an austere Britain was only just starting to feel.

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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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