Classic memories of holiday driving in stately splendour

By David Thomson on Sat, 19 Jan 2013

I guess most Drivesouth readers are now back into the daily grind after the festive season break, and I hope that as you look back at that time, there are some motoring­related good times in the memory mix.

My goal of managing a few motoring-­related magic moments was fully achieved, thanks to making a last-­minute decision to use our family's 1934 classic car as our summer holiday transport, rather than our 2007 Honda Accord.

This was the first time that I have used the car, which is more often driven by my dad, as primary holiday transport.

A 10-­day tour that started in Dunedin and took in Arrowtown, Wanaka, Twizel and Christchurch became a more leisurely affair as a result. The inconvenience of having a large old car that requires plenty of TLC was more than outweighed by the pleasure of motoring in stately splendour.

The only time the grand old lady of the family missed a beat was on the opening leg of our trip, when a flat tyre delayed us near Hyde. Jacking up a three-­tonne car and changing a wheel that seems to weigh almost as much is no easy feat, and I am especially grateful to the Naseby­-bound couple who stopped in their Alfa Romeo to lend moral and practical support.

Otherwise we covered several hundred miles without a hitch, enjoyed some great chats with interested folk who wanted to come and ask about the car, and returned the friendly waves and toots of many others. I particularly enjoyed a yarn with an Aussie visitor who reminded me of how lucky we are in the South when he observed - with an obvious sense of disbelief - that in a week's motoring he had seen just one pothole (in Queenstown) and one police car.

Truth be known, I wouldn't have minded a higher police presence, given some of the dismal driving we observed along the way. Poorly judged and quite aggressive overtaking moves by (most often, I suspect, foreign) rental car drivers were all too common, as were numerous examples of that well-­known Kiwi practice of flicking on the indicator as an afterthought.

We also saw all the weather extremes a South Island summer can provide: a possible trip up the West Coast was abandoned after rain washed out a crucial main­-road bridge; the Lindis Pass was crested soon after New Year with fresh snow on the hills around; two days later we delayed our departure from Twizel until early evening to avoid travelling in a 30 degree­plus heat wave.

The negatives of driving a classic - longer journey times, a considerably greater use of fuel, little puddles of oil left on friends' driveways and garage floors - were more than outweighed by the positives of a 10­-day period in which the car itself became an integral part of the holiday. That, surely, is what a true motoring holiday is all about.

Just in case you haven't had your motoring fill these past two weeks, remember that there is still plenty of car and bike­-related action to come in the South this month. The summer motor racing series continues at Timaru's Levels track this weekend (with Toyota Racing Series single-­seaters and NZV8 touring cars the premier categories), and next Friday the Nitro Circus is the first big event of the year for the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

David Thomson