1914 Delage part of the family, part of history

Sat, 27 Oct 2012 | Latest News
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Chris Read and his 1914 Delage. Photo: Gerard O'Brien

For Arrowtown resident Chris Read, his yellow 1914 Delage is part of the family - and part of Otago history.

Mr Read had the crowd-pleasing French-built vehicle on display in Arrowtown last Saturday as part of the sesquicentennial celebrations.

He said that after arriving in New Zealand, the vehicle was stored in Christchurch in the early 1920s, where it stayed for several years before the former mayor of Dunedin convinced Mr Read's father, Darcy, to bring it out of storage and use it in the rally during the early days of the Dunedin Summer Festival.

The Delage was taken out of storage and was used in the first Dunedin-Brighton run and had "done them all since then".

"It's been around New Zealand two or three times in rallies and it's been to Australia a couple of times."

The family had also been to France and attempted to find the factory where it was built, also meeting Louis Delage's grand-nephew, who also had an interest in the family business.

The vehicle was passed down to Mr Read, who has since passed it down to his son, Mark, who learned to drive in it.

"You have got to be the ultimate defensive driver in it because you have to plan 100m ahead.

"It's slow - it's got a top speed of 30kmh or 35kmh.

"It's a bit hard to stop it over that."

Mr Read said the car, which is wrapped in eiderdowns during the winter months to protect it from the cold, "still starts every time", despite being 98 years old.

"It's just become part of our family."

- Tracey Roxburgh