Enjoying some veteran car fun

By David Thomson on Sat, 3 Feb 2018

Veteran cars have never been quite my thing, but over the years I've certainly gained an appreciation for the folk that restore, maintain and drive them.

That appreciation was furthered last weekend when I was privileged to join 1914 Buick B25 owner Nevin Gough and his daughter Jennifer (9) on the 64th Dunedin to Brighton veteran car run. The run is New Zealand's oldest annual event for vehicles that meet the official definition of veteran (built before 1919), and Gough's Buick was one of about 30 cars and motorcycles that took part this year.

The Buick I journeyed to Brighton in was rescued from life as an Eastern Southland farm hack by Nevin's father in the 1950s and restored, under some time pressure, to take part in the inaugural Dunedin to Brighton run; so much time pressure, apparently, that its bright yellow paint was still not fully dry for the event.

Early Buick cars were very well engineered. The company pioneered the use of innovations such as overhead valve engines, and achieved greater sales success even than Ford in the early days of American motoring. Powered by a 22 horsepower four-cylinder engine, the particular car I travelled to Brighton in showed strong, smooth performance by veteran car standards: after leaving the Octagon we passed five or six fellow competitors on the climb up Serpentine Ave; once out of town we cruised steadily on flat or gently undulating terrain at what I guessed to be around 60kmh. 

Despite warning of possible graunchinggear changes, Nevin Gough showed the smooth confidence behind the wheel that only comes from someone who knows their old car very well. 

gear changes, Nevin Gough showed the smooth confidence behind the wheel that only comes from someone who knows their old car very well.
Arriving at Brighton, we were required to undertake two interesting field tests. The first involved towing an upright bottle of wine on a baking tray around a set course without causing the bottle to topple over.

‘‘Don't go any faster,'' was my attempt at helpful advice from the back seat as the bottle wobbled on the tray. ‘‘I'm going as slowly as I can,'' was the driver's response. The test was successfully completed. Next up, Nevin had to drive in a circle while our front seat passenger, Jennifer, tossed tennis balls into buckets. She landed all but one successfully, to complete our Brighton Run.

Once we were parked up I spent a delightful few hours catching up with other Brighton Run competitors and their cars and - as a final thrill - drove the Oakley family's 1912 Regal part of the way back to Dunedin.

Hopefully, this editorial and the accompanying photo will allow Nevin and Jennifer to feel that in taking me and a friend - neither in period costume - along for the 2017 Brighton Run wasn't all bad. We certainly enjoyed the trip.

David Thomson