50 Years Young

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The 50th edition of the Ellerslie Car Show was the biggest and the best

By Ian Parkes, photography Greg Lokes

It’s fair to say that the organisers pulled out all the stops for the 50th annual classic car show. They put on a superb multilayered display that was really appreciated by the big crowd that turned up to celebrate the spectacle and the tradition of this iconic Auckland event, making for an event that had a real buzz.

As three cases of Covid-19 were detected in the community and Auckland went into another Covid lockdown the very next day — and the threatened storm arrived — it became even more of an occasion to cherish.

The event is run by and for car clubs and the displays of club members’ cars are the heart of the show. Some clubs have been with the show through thick and thin and take part every year. That the event was celebrating a significant milestone in anyone’s language this year, its 50th, clearly inspired many more to come back. The space available at the Ellerslie Racecourse has decreased over time as the owners have developed the site. That has discouraged some clubs that like to show more cars, but in the past few years numbers have held steady at around 80 clubs, with one or two clubs showing for the first time, replacing some that have decided to pause. This year club numbers surged to more than 100, including nine showing for the first time.

 

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The other very noticeable difference from the last few shows was much greater diversity in visitors, especially in age range. While car-focused family groups have always been in attendance, events of this kind usually appeal to a particular demographic. As one regular attendee put it: “There was a whole new fresh feeling this year; a whole new vibe. It wasn’t just old blokes and old cars.”

Each year’s show is organised by a committee comprising members appointed by participating clubs. An entry fee is charged, in part to cover steadily increasing venue costs but also to provide a small dividend to the clubs that make the show. The committee starts to meet monthly to organise the following year’s event immediately after the preceding show. 

 

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Chairman of the organising committee Garry Boyce was delighted that the committee’s determination to make this year’s show a worthy celebration of this iconic show paid off. As well as adding more attractions, the committee made a determined bid to broaden its appeal to younger car enthusiasts by raising its game on social media and reaching out to other groups of car fans.

The show, this year entitled the Classic Cover Ellerslie Car Show, is also the venue for the country’s most prestigious classic car concours competition. The Intermarque Concours d’Elegance is the only concours event in New Zealand judged to international standards. The main categories in the competition are the Masters Class for best individual car, and the Teams Event, which is the best combined score from two cars entered by a club. The winner of this latter event each year becomes the host club for the following year. Last year’s event was won by the Auckland Mustang Owners Club. As Mustang club and organising committee member Wayne Lack said, the main privilege this gets you is to provide dozens of members to manage the event on the day. 

 

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“An absolute delight”
As befits an international-standard concours competition, the Ellerslie Car Show has tightly controlled criteria for winning the silverware, but a couple of those criteria are a little looser. One is the Best Club Display and the other is the chairman’s award.

The discerning eye of organising committee chairman Garry Boyce ranged freely over everything at the show, looking for something that sums up the essence of the flavour of the moment on which to bestow the chairman’s award, named in honour of former show chairman Gary McCrystal.

With his mind firmly on the next 50 years, Garry latched onto something he had never seen before. Among the Bugattis, Bentleys, Maseratis, and whatnot, he spied a brilliantly restored 1984 Jap import Honda City. Once a cheap and cheerful but also capacious and reliable shopping basket, complete with air-con and ABS, Garry first thought, Why would you do that? immediately followed by, Why wouldn’t you do that?

“It really is an absolute delight,” says Garry. The car is immaculate, even under the bonnet, and an absolute tribute to the hours that the owner has put into it. Garry says that if it had been entered in one of the concours categories it would have been a serious contender.

“The owner [Prakash Parag] was every bit as charming — everything we want to see at the show.”

What’s more, the car came complete with the Honda Motocompo folding scooter — Honda’s ultimate personal transport combo — which fits in the boot. To be fair, it’s a bit late to call this a ‘future classic’; like many Japanese collectables of that era, this combo is already rocketing up the desirability stocks around the world.

 

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Also future classics
Giltrap Group has been a long-time supporter of the Ellerslie Classic Car Show, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary the company assembled its biggest ever display.

Covering more than 800m2, the exhibit featured 30 stunning cars from marques known for creating classics on the day they leave the factory, such as the Bentley Mulsanne, featuring the last example of a stone-cold classic engine, the ever-evolving V8, one of the longest-serving engines ever, which has powered Bentleys for some 60 years.

A first for Giltrap Group this year was a sprinkling of fully paid-up classics among the latest generation showroom stars. In the line-up was an Audi Quattro in original condition and a Lamborghini Diablo Roadster recently restored to concours level.

In the ARC clubroom could be found heavy hitters such the new McLaren 765LT, the Aston Martin DBX, and the Lamborghini Huracán. The history of the greatest sports car race of them all was also a strong theme, with McLaren’s win at Le Mans on debut in 1995 being celebrated with the 720S Le Mans Edition. Just 50 of these cars have been built, and two have been secured for New Zealand.

 

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Victory at the famous 24-hour race was also referenced with the most photographed car in the clubrooms: the Jaguar XKSS (left). This continuation model was delivered in 2017, nearly 60 years after the Browns Lane fire stopped production before the run of 25 cars was completed. Built in Jaguar’s Browns Lane Classic facility, the nine continuation cars are completely faithful to the original road-going version of the D-Type, which reigned supreme at Le Mans for three years in the late 1950s.

Unprompted, show chairman Garry Boyce — a devoted Mercedes-Benz man with a sideline in Bugattis — said the XKSS was breathtaking and undoubtedly one of the highlights of the show.

The Survivors Class has been added in recent years, judged to different criteria that prize originality, alongside other non-concours events such as the Best Club Display and the new barn-find category. The Obsessive Car Detailing (OCD) 50/50/50 event was for competitors and cars under 50 years old who have spent less than $50K on the car.

Garry said that the effort to add depth and complexity really added to a noticeable buzz this year. “I think having a lot of different things going on at the same time gave us a broad spread of attractions, things like the barn finds, the 50/50/50 competition and the display of winners over the past 50 years. It added a new dimension to the show.

“The big issue now is how to build on it for next year. We have given ourselves a big challenge, but that’s always the way when you are successful in marketing anything.”

 

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Families to the fore
Event organisers are keen to get a younger generation involved in the show and the Tisdalls are showing how it’s done.

Dad Charles had his MGB in one of the MG Car Club’s two team entries and 16-year-old son Will entered his Suzuki Swift in the new 50/50/50 for cars and owners under 50 years of age, with less than $50K spent on them. Will came up trumps, collecting third prize in that category and a voucher for $1K’ of car detailing from category sponsors OCD.

In presenting the trophy and certificate, committee member Wayne Lack said that Will was almost certainly the youngest-ever prize-winner at the show.

Will is well used to tagging along to car events with his dad, and is now delighted to be a competitor in his own right. The pair spent many hours together at night, when Will got back from water polo practice, and over weekends, working as a team on both cars.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” says Charles. “Doing the whole thing together has been a buzz and we’ve had a lot of laughs.”

Will said he does get to drive his dad’s car. “I learned how to drive a manual in that car.”

Charles explains that MGs are a great way into classic cars, as you are not afraid to touch them. He and Will decided to rebuild a gearbox together.

“I showed him how the clutch plate works, so when he drove the manual, he was away straight away; no bunny-hops.”

The pair also have an MGB GT, which Will is hoping to enter in the Survivors Class next year. 

The results are in
Penny Webster had to make two trips to the winner’s circle yesterday, but perhaps the greatest prize was finally driving for the first time the car she had wanted all her life.

The stunning pale-blue Mercedes 230 SL was fresh from a ground-up restoration — just how ‘ground’ the car had been will be fully explained in a feature story in a coming issue. Penny’s first-ever drive of her car was after the show when sitting alongside her were the trophies for Masters Class winner and People’s Choice award. That counts as a good day out.

The main event at the Classic Cover Ellerslie Car Show is the Intermarque Concours d’Elegance, the country’s most prestigious car competition and the only concours judged to international standards.

Penny’s Merc missed top spot for the most points of any car in competition at the show by just one point. That honour went to one of the pair of Porsche 356s that took the Teams prize.

All categories were fulsomely contested and the results once again showed the dedication required to win the concours. Both of the Porsches, like Penny’s Pagoda Mercedes, were fresh from a complete restoration.

Another notable success was the Mazda MX5 Club, which took out the Best Club Display for the second year in a row after missing out the year before that by a one-point margin. What a club! 

Classic Car: Story and images supplied by New Zealand Classic Car magazine. Read more New Zealand Classic Car content here on themotorhood.com.

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