28 October 2014

Te Awanga British Car Museum

Having recently enjoyed a return visit to the Southward Car Museum in Paraparaumu, New Zealand's finest car museum, I was looking forward to paying a visit to the smaller, more specialised collection at Te Awanga near Cape Kidnappers in the Hawkes Bay during my Labour Weekend visit there. The British Car Museum (at 63 East Rd, Te Awanga) didn't disappoint, and for aficionados of British cars it's definitely worth a spot on your trip itinerary, as long as you don't mind the slightly idiosyncratic curatorial approach taken by its owner, Ian Hope.

What I like about the museum is that it's not a pristine, hermetically-sealed time capsule. These are working cars that have been used by real families, and it often shows with rust spots here and there, and some cars on display that still require restoration. Couple that with the huge task of organising the place and you'll understand why the captions on the cars aren't necessarily word perfect and visitors are bombarded with the curious message to 'not touch the cars unless you're naked', attached on laminated cards pegged to every vehicle. WOF and maintenance slips are sometimes stuffed between car radiator grilles, a fair bit of dust mounts up in hard-to-reach places (Ian jets about on a mobility scooter to save his legs), and space is at such a premium that most cars at ground level have another suspended above them on a metal frame to save space - in the event of a serious earthquake, run like hell! These observations aren't criticisms - it's just fair warning that the British Car Museum is a bit 'rough and ready' - but there are plenty of automotive highlights for people who remember the days when New Zealand's roads were dominated by mostly weedy-engined, unreliable yet wonderful British cars (and quite a few German ones). Some highlights:

This is the first impression that awaits you

Rare 1970 MG Mk.2 1300 2-door coupe 

1967 Austin 1100 Vanden Plas mini-limo

Austin 1100s (in various guises)

1961 Bedford van, which served as an electrician's van in Wainuiomata from the early '60s

Plenty of Morris Minors

Also: Old piano player rolls, incl. 'Mr Jelly Lord' & 'Canadian Capers'
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