Recently we received a surprise email from an Auckland friend – could she come and stay with us in Christchurch and hitch a ride to Kaikoura to inspect and probably buy a tiny little vintage Austin tourer circa 1927? But of course! And so it was arranged.
We were keen to see Kaikoura where there was a major earthquake last year; the coast road was blocked by landslips etc exacerbated by wild weather for almost a year and is still being repaired so it was interesting to see how it was going. That stretch of coast is a favoured seal habitat and also Kaikoura is a well-known whale watch centre; very fortunately the sea life has all returned even though the sea level is now about a metre lower than it was before and the seabed near the coast has some new topography. (Some photos taken on the return trip).
Jacqui had recently posted a number of photos of the Napier Art Deco weekend festivities on Facebook, posing in gorgeous vintage dresses against various beautiful old cars. I took the opportunity to offer her some 20s and 30s dresses and accessories which once belonged to my Aunt Betty (why had I kept them for so long?) and peacock feathers collected at a homesit last year, while Dave contributed his mother’s crocodile skin handbag and some jewellery and long white gloves. We both produced beautiful old silky stoles with metallic embroidery and long fringes – not worn nowadays but perfect for Vintage occasions. To transport all this new finery Dave added an old leather suitcase and me a small tin trunk. Everyone was very happy – I felt sure my Aunt would be too, knowing her carefully hoarded ‘best’ was being put to good use again.
We set off for Kaikoura one rainy morning (after first feeding the cats and giving Oscar his twice-daily insulin injection – so we had to be back in time for the evening one). The weather wasn’t too bad but did not improve as we approached Kaikoura despite a hint of blue skies. Recent wild weather had caused numerous slips on the top of the range as well as the coastal highway so it was occasionally slow going.
We had time for a warming cup of coffee at our favourite Kaikoura cafe and for Jacqui’s Knight in Shining Armour (as will be seen) to turn up, having arrived on his motorbike by a devious route after leaving his ute and trailer at Wellington. Crossing the Straits with just the bike he was not content to ride to Kaikoura by the newly-opened coast road but elected to ride mostly in the rain (hence he arrived shiny despite a thick layer of mud!) via the Molesworth Track to Hanmer then North-East to join the main highway not far behind us. Not that we knew!
After coffee it was just a short walk in the rain (!) to inspect the Austin “Chummy”. An enchanting little red car with a fabric hood.
Jacqui immediately took it for a short run – after a push-start as the battery was flat – without the side windows of course, no rear view mirror, and a split windscreen.
Then back into the shed and, transaction concluded, the side windows were fitted (sort of) and the little car loaded up. Our old leather trunk slid into the space behind the driver perfectly. Jacqui had brought an assortment of useful tools including special rare Austin spanners, which all fitted into the small tin trunk.
A quick lunch then it was out onto the road – and another less successful push-start down the road and a section of the footpath to the nearest garage. Petrol was poured straight into the engine, or so it appeared (the tank inlet is under the bonnet), tyre pressures were checked and adjusted, then with some more huffing and puffing and pushing from various helpful males finally the engine fired and Jacqui was off!
Pete followed behind on his bike, to pick up the pieces (surely not). We followed too for a short way, then turned back for the run back to home, a diabetic cat, another cat and a foxie dog who had managed not to wreck the place in our absence, apart from a little pile of tissues (her specialty – always in a pile, not scattered) and some mysterious doggy footprints on the forbidden bed.
Meanwhile “Chummy” had decided to misbehave. First the hood literally blew off or rather backwards; Pete following on his bike helped secure hood and windows down with tape. Then at the 60 km mark, or was it 90 km, the engine decided it had had enough. In fairness it was the first real run it had had in a very long time. A helpful policeman stopped and enlightened them where they were and was most cooperative. Then the AA arrived with a trailer, they got to Picton and not only got a berth on the late ferry but a tow into the bowels of the ferry. The ferry staff enjoyed helping offload such a cute little vehicle at Wellington, where Pete AKA the KISA speedily went off to collect his ute and trailer and arrange with a friend for a bed. Next day we were told they managed the long haul all the way to Auckland.
We hope to see “Chummy” again one day, back in the south island in a Vintage car rally or two.
Just read about the Austin Chummy. Would it be OK if I passed this story onto the Scottish Austin Seven Club to print in their magazine?
What an adventure for the gorgeous vintage car!