New Plymouth Rally New Zealand

Located on the North Island’s west coast, New Plymouth District has a population of almost 70,000 – nearly two thirds of the total population of the Taranaki region. It is situated midway between the major metropolitan centres of Auckland and Wellington.

Driving to New Plymouth from either of these centres is only a four and a half hour drive along scenic highways – or 50 minutes by air.

New Plymouth is surrounded by a spectacularly beautiful environment from its stunning coastline offering some of the best surfing conditions in the country, and a marine park conservation area, to impressive Mount Taranaki and the Egmont National Park which is a mecca for trampers and climbers. The area’s climate is ideal for the parks, reserves and gardens which have become a highlight of the district and a drawcard for visitors.

The diverse local economy includes agriculture with a strong dairying emphasis as well as aquaculture, floriculture, horticulture and forestry. Also very important are petrochemicals and energy, heavy engineering, manufacturing, education, leisure and recreation. Tourism has had an increasingly international profile because of the impressive range of natural attractions close by.

The Trip North

By Colin Hey

The trip to New Plymouth from Christchurch went without incident. Initial concern at not having travelled any distance in the Six soon began to fade as the miles stretched out behind us, and it didn’t take long before we were cruising up the Kaiakoura coast and then On board the Kaitaki – thank goodness for a good crossing! heading inland towards Blenheim. We arrived in Picton at 11.15. The car was very happy cruising along at 60mph, and had plenty in reserve for the hills and when overtaking the odd slower vehicle, so maintaining a good average speed wasn’t a problem at all. It certainly made a change from the last trip up to Wanganui in the 6/90, when it was necessary to keep one eye in the rear-view mirror all the time and try and allow the everyday users space to pass. I was a little annoyed at our placement on the Kaitaki, as the car ended up sitting outside right on the edge of the ship where it would have been very exposed to sea-spray. Fortunately we struck a really good crossing, and there was only a very slight film of saltspay on the car by the time we got into Wellington at 4pm. Our spot on the boat also meant it took about 20 minutes to get off and onto the road again, however we were soon heading up the Kapiti Coast in quite busy traffic, with passing showers rinsing off the car as we went. My original plan was to try and make Wanganui before stopping, however it was starting to get dark and beginning to rain more consistently, so we called it a day at Sanson and settled into a small motel that had Sky TV, as we also wanted to watch the first Crusaders game on the ‘new’ stadium in Christchurch. It was great to see the first try go to Sean Maitland, and to see the Crusaders pull off a victory against the Cheetahs at their first proper home game in 18 months. The next morning I got up and rinsed and dried off the car properly, and we were on our way again at 8.30am. There was a big classic car display in Whanganui that day, and we passed several groups of cars in towns along the way to Wanganui who were obviously heading there. A couple of our Australian rallyists had stayed the night in Wanganui, and called in to the show before coming through to New Plymouth, and said it was a great turnout.

As we headed north between Wanganui and New Plymouth we passed quite a few more cars which were obviously heading there. We even spotted a Leyland Force 7, which is, of course, an extremely rare car. We arrived in New Plymouth at about 11.30 am, found our accommodation at the Autolodge without too much difficulty, and got checked in. I spotted Gordon and Beryle Duthie’s 6/110 and Dolphy and Margaret Mathis’ Wolseley Messenger in the car park, and it wasn’t long before Dolphy and Margaret appeared to greet us. The very best thing about these events is catching up with old friends again in person!


After such a long time in the planning stages, the time had finally come for everyone to arrive in New Plymouth to enjoy a week of activities together using the cars we all enjoy. It’s great how an event like this can bring people together from as far as the lower South Island, and from across the Tasman.People actually began arriving for the rally on Saturday 24th March, and our Rally director,Michael Kruse, decided that it would be good to have a bit of a get-together that night sothat everyone who had arrived in New Plymouth by then could touch base and get themselves organised for the first official rally day on the Sunday. It just so happened that Saturday also coincided with Betty Francis’ 80th birthday, so it was a great to be able to celebrate that occasion as well. Consequently, those who arrived early all met at the Autolodge on the Saturday night for the first unofficial rally get-together.

Michael had arranged all the food, and more importantly, a birthday cake. Apparently, Betty hadn’t suspected a thing, and the celebration was a complete surprise. This was the perfect scenesetter for the days that were to come. Because Matthew and I had to begin our trip north on Saturday morning, we missed this party, but it was great to finally arrive in New Plymouth. It had been about 30 years since I was last in this area, so it may as well have been all new, as I didn’t really recognise any landmarks from my last visit (apart from Mount Taranaki, of course). After a slight unintentional detour down town, we soon found our accommodation at the Autolodge. We settled into our room, and then took a walk down town to get our bearings.

Rally check-in was at 4.00 pm at the Plymouth Hotel (just down the road from the Autolodge), so we made sure we were back in time to get there. By the time we got back to the Autolodge several others were arriving – Bill Martin from Queensland and Allan Francis soon appeared, and then Stephen and Janice Belcher pulled in right next door, followed soon after by Dave and Lynne Keech in their Mini Cooper, so there were plenty of greetings being exchanged. At the Check-in the welcoming committee consisted of Michael and Raewyn Kruse taking care of the paperwork, and Dave and Marie Sole and Bob and Mary Signal were sorting out other details in the background. More and more rallyists started arriving, and there was plenty of chatter and catching up going on. We learned that some of the Australians had been caught in the Northland flooding the previous week, and we’re still drying out the inside of their rental cars after escaping through door-deep water. Fortunately, they had hired 4WD’s for a better view of the countryside, otherwise, they may have still been stuck in Northland somewhere. At 6 pm we went through into the dining room for the welcoming dinner. Michael Kruse welcomed us all to the event, and Harry Duynhoven, the Mayor of New Plymouth, welcomed us all to the District and what it had to offer us over the next week. We were certainly all looking forward to what was to come.


Kick-off the next morning for the first of our runs was at 8.45am, and we all assembled on the forecourt of the Plymouth Hotel. This was the first time all of the cars had been together, and there was certainly a good variety of Wolseleys. The oldest was of course Dolphy’s Messenger, followed by the lovely Series III 18/85 belonging to Gary and Heather Wall. Michael soon had us all gathered up, and explained the format for the day – we were to leave in one-minute intervals, and our route instructions were in the very impressive rally handbook. Easy! I should mention here too how impressive the Rally Handbook was. All the information and route instructions for the whole week were included, and each A5 sized copy was finished with a cardboard cover and personalised for every entrant. Very neat indeed, and a great souvenir to take home.

We were soon on our way, firstly heading up towards Mount Taranaki. Within about 10kmwe were on a very narrow and winding road, gradually climbing towards the seaward side of Mount Taranaki. The road got even narrower, and a few of us had a close encounter with a large 4WD tractor whose driver seemed to think he had full rights to the road and all the one-lane bridges! Our first stop was for morning tea at the lovely Pukeiti Park gardens – a tranquil setting with lots of lawns, native bush and planted gardens. It’s a renowned rhododendron garden, and would look truly magnificent when they were in bloom. A huge morning tea was there for us, and there was enough time for a quick stroll around the garden as well. A very nice place!

Back on the road again, we travelled further south, still skirting the western side of the Mount. The roads soon got wider again, and fantastic views to the coast and to the south soon opened up. There were a few simple questions to answer along the way, and before long we were at our next stop, the Possum Factory. Here we were given a talk by Sally Sands, the owner of the business. We learned all about the skin and fur processing, and of course the wonderful products they are able to manufacture from the skins and fur from these pests. The company exports all around the world, and they have a huge range of products available. Some of us even splashed out and bought a few things, so I’m sure the visit benefitted both the factory and our group. It was certainly good to see a small business thriving out of such a pest of an animal.

The next stage of the route took us down to the flat again and into Hawera, where we were directed past the huge Fonterra plant, through the town, and then just a small hop east to the Tawhiti Museum. Matthew, Jenny and I actually visited the museum in January when on the VCC Rally 2012, however Matthew and I were quite happy to return so soon for another look, as it is such an interesting place and so well set up. We all enjoyed a good lunch first of all, before moving into the museum itself for a good look around. The owner of the complex (the museum is housed in an old dairy factory) manufactures life-like mannequins (all different), and they are displayed in and amongst a huge collection of historical and collectible artefacts from around the local area. Various areas are set aside for various ‘themes’ and there are rooms dedicated to Maori history, the settlement of the area, agriculture, and local industries. It is very, very well done. A recent attraction added is the Whalers and Traders museum, a boat ride through a large and dark diorama that depicts the Maori and Whalers trading and feuding, as went on in the early settlement of the area. Wheta workshops in Wellington had an input into this, so it is particularly good. I’m sure everyone was very impressed by this place. They even had a few Wolseley related items on display, such as a vintage radiator, a stationary engine, electric fence  units, and some small Wolseley instruction leaflets.

We were free to make our own way back to New Plymouth from the museum after we’d seen enough, and we met again that evening for a great meal at the New Plymouth Club. This was another good opportunity to catch up with everyone again. The food and conversation was a perfect way to end a great first day on the Rally.


Tuesday was a free day, and everyone took the opportunity to do a spot of shopping, walking, and to visit some of the local attractions that couldn’t be fitted into the Rally programme. The weather was perfect for it too. We did hear that some went with Michael Kruse on a tour of the local wrecker’s yards, and that some bits were found! John Malia from Melbourne even found a hubcap for his Series III 25HP drophead, and was actually given it by the owner of the yard for free. Great local generosity shown there!

That night we met back at the New Plymouth Club for dinner, which was once again generous to say the least, and served in short time as well. For the second night in a row we were treated to a great sunset which could be viewed easily from the Clubs’ dining room window. Dinner was followed by a talk by a Mr Max Rutherford. Max was New Plymouth born and bred, and grew up in a motor racing family. He served his apprenticeship in the local Ford dealership, and was then persuaded to go to the UK on a holiday with a group of mates in the mid-1960’s. Before he left he was written a letter of introduction, and when he arrived in the UK he took this to the Brabham Team, and asked if he could see the personnel manager. As luck would have it, the team was in crisis as it was running very short of time to prepare cars for a forthcoming meeting, so he was offered a job on the spot, and told to report the next morning for an 8am start, with his overalls. He did as he was told, and wasn’t able to knock off work until 8am the next morning. He wondered what he’d let himself in for.

Max worked building and preparing cars for various drivers and teams over the next 5 years, which took him all over Europe, to South Africa and America. He had many great tales, and wasn’t slow to point out that it was a very busy life indeed, and that the F1 business was full of pitfalls, wannabe’s, and downright misers and cheats. But for the smart, resourceful and skilled people, there was plenty of opportunity and personalities that made it an exciting sport to be tied up in.

After a number (I think it was 6 or 7) years and a great reputation under his belt, he decided that it was time to return to NZ, and became involved in setting up and running a very successful hire business in New Plymouth, and also branched out into manufacturing cycle helmets and sports chest-protectors. When the economy was turned on its head in the 1980’s he almost went broke, and the only thing that saved him was the chest-protector manufacturing business. He has now retired, and spends some of his time building and restoring small historic racing cars. He showed us some photos and videos of the cars he’s built, and there was no doubt about his skill and knowledge in this field.


Wednesday was soon upon us, and required a leisurely start at 10.30am. Our first  destination was to be Inglewood, about 30km east of New Plymouth. Most travelled out  there in their own time, and we assembled outside the old railway station in an area set  aside especially for the rally. We were joined there by new club members, Mitch and  Debby Mitcham, in a Series II 12HP. The 12 had been purchased a couple of years ago,  and had only recently been put back on the road again after a bit of a sort-out. This was the  second-earliest car that had joined the rally – very good to see another Pre-WWII car back  on the road.

Once we had all assembled, some of us went to a local café for coffee, while the rest  visited the Inglewood Toy Museum, which is home to the Fun-Ho collection and museum  set up by former Fun-Ho employee Richard Jordan. All New Zealand kids from the Fifties  to the Seventies played with Fun-Ho toys, and the whole range, plus lots of the original  manufacturing equipment was on display. There was also a video playing explaining the  history and processes behind the brand. Some of the range is still being made as souvenirs  using the original manufacturing equipment, and a few of us purchased examples to take  away with us. This was a great place to visit, and bought back memories of toys I owned  when I was a kid – including a bright red tractor that was in our toy-box at home, well into  my teenage years.

After the toy museum visit we were treated to a fantastic lunch at the local RSA rooms,  and then it was back to the cars to depart on the second ‘official’ rally, that was to take us  to the Methanex Plant down on the northern side of New Plymouth via the historic  Bertarnt Road one-lane wooden suspension bridge, where all the cars were photographed  as they crossed one at a time. At the Methenex plant (which primarily produces methanol)  a very interesting visitor centre was open for us, the idea being that if the weather had been  bad (it actually couldn’t have been any better that day) we would have been indoors. It  was here that we first started becoming aware of problems looming on the Vanden Plas 4  Litre R being driven by Colin Rowley from Australia, as it was beginning to lose more and  more water, and starting to run hot.

We were soon on our way again, the next stop being at one of the Kapunini wells, passing another being drilled on the way. The countryside around here was picturesque to say the least – rolling hills and green pastures where agriculture and energy production co-exist, obviously an abundant supply of wealth for both above and below-ground activities. The answers to some of our questions could be found on the information board at this stop, and we were soon on our way again, this time heading for Lake Ratapiko, which is back on the route towards SH3. The NZ Jet Boating Association has clubrooms here, and the grounds around the lake are mown and maintained by its members.

Our last and final stop for the day was at the ICONS sports bar, which is basically a pub in the middle of nowhere alongside SH3, where the owners have set up an outdoors and sports training facility in conjunction with a bar. The facility has its own mini-golf course, archery and shooting range, and is fitted out with pool tables, and as a shop that sells a huge variety of sports equipment and clothing. Apparently they make good income from corporate groups and team-building activities. One of the main reasons we came here was to take part in the inaugural Australian vs New Zealand Wolseley Challenge. Michael Kruse explained that this was now to become a fixture of all Australian and New Zealand National rallies, given that there are good numbers from each side of the Tasman present at our National rallies. One of the prime motivations for having this challenge was to run an event in honour of our very good friend and Wolseley ultra-enthusiast, the late Bill Slattery, who passed away two months ago. Michael produced a trophy that had been donated in honour of Bill, which will go from Rally to Rally, and hence be competed for annually. It was good to pause and remember Bill and all he has achieved for the Wolseley marque in his long and busy association with the Australian clubs.

And so the games began. Archery and mini-golf were the chosen sports. After a couple of practice rounds we were into it, however we soon found that those smart Aussies had been practicing back home before they came over, and us Kiwis were no match for them. They bragged about how as kids, they had played with bows and arrows in the tradition of their ancestors, and that they had already provided refuge to the many descendants of the Woods families. This was probably the one and only mistake made by the rally committee – choosing the sports for the sports challenge. Clearly when we return the challenge next year in Australia we will have to go with a strategy that will allow us to bring the cup back to this side of the Tasman.

While we were battling with the Aussies, the staff at ICONS were busy preparing our barbeque dinner, which was soon on the table and ready for us to eat. The steak was cooked to perfection, and the rest of the food was just great as well. After dinner Michael introduced our guest speaker, Ross Calgher, Ross was another ex-Formulae One mechanic who had done the great OE to the UK, and he was a specialist engine-builder and worked most of his time overseas for Cosworth. He had lots of interesting tales about various personalities and cars that he came across in his time in the industry. Sometime later he too returned to his birthplace in New Plymouth and still spends his time working on high performance engines and cars. His latest discovery is Dodge Vipers – he reckons they are the ultimate race car, as the air-conditioning and lots of other extras can be left in the car and it can still be really competitive. By about 9.30 it was time to call a halt on proceedings, and Ross was thanked by Dave Sole, and we all made our way back to our accommodation in New Plymouth. Another great day, even if the Aussies did take the Bill Slattery trophy for the first time.


Thursday was our last full ‘rally’ day, and another leisurely start. Our instructions were to meet at the base for Chaddy’s Charters in the New Plymouth harbour, where we were to be split into two groups – one for a trip out on the lifeboat, and the other to stay behind for snacks at the café next door. As it turned out, those that arrived first were immediately kitted out in life jackets and sent walking to the other side of the harbour so we could get on the boat and be ready to go when we had enough there. Now, normally, Chaddy’s boat (an ex-marine lifeboat) would be launched in flying style down the slip-way with everyone on board, but because it was a very low tide, this wasn’t possible. Just the same, we were treated to an informative trip around the inner harbour and offshore islands, all the time being told about the local history, wildlife, and also being told a few dodgy jokes. It was a very enjoyable outing. When we returned we were treated to yet another enjoyable morning tea at the café next door.

The afternoon event on Thursday was the Concours and public display, and we were given directions to a park just to the north of the CBD where we were to assemble by 1.30 for photographs and for the cars to be judged. Cars and people alike were lined up over the road from the beach for the photographs, and once they were out of the way three cars were used to convey the women-folk into town to the gardens while most of the men stayed behind to look over and talk about cars. One of the judges (a local car enthusiast) had arrived in a very unusual 1967 Panhard Coupe, and this attracted quite a bit of attention from us all.

Once again New Plymouth had turned on the weather, and it was warm and pleasant being outdoors. We even had a resident Mr Whippy there, although some found the chocolate-dipped cream freezes to be more like melting moments (they only took a moment to melt – eh, Allan?).

There were some great examples of our marque lined up for judging, and it was a great time to have a look at each other’s cars and to pass on tips and restoration ideas – there is always something new that can be learned from anyone who restores and maintains their own car. A notable car indeed was the green 6/110 Mk 2 belonging to Ray and Caryl Chapple. Ray had just completed a major restoration, and the car was looking just great. An engineer by trade, Ray had gone to great lengths to make sure everything not only looked good, but also worked well, and there were lots of little extra touches that made a great car even better. As always, Dolphy’s Messenger was another stand-out vehicle, and attracted a lot of attention. Later on we were told that the judges hadn’t stuck rigidly to the ‘concours’ criteria, and had instead focussed more on a ‘pride of ownership’ line that gave a bit more weighting towards how well the car was presented and cared for by it’s owner. With the judging over, it was time to return to our accommodation to freshen up for the Prize-giving dinner which was held that night at the Plymouth Hotel. We were invited to turn up in dress that reflected the era of our cars. Our two rallyists from Nelson, Phillip and Bryan Stansbury, had been given the nick-name of the “Ferals” by John Malia, so that’s what they came dressed as. There were some other notable outfits as well, with several couples really getting into the swing of things and dressing up in great period costumes.

We were invited to enjoy our dinner (and it was lovely food too), and then the rally committee disappeared for 20 minutes or so to finalise the winner’s lists, and to get all the certificates written out for all the rally participants. The really good thing about this was that no-one went home empty-handed, and everyone now has a souvenir of their time in New Plymouth. Before too long Michael Kruse, Bob Signal and David Sole were up the front ready to present the prizes, and the ceremony alone was one of the more hilarious parts of the whole event. David Sole even found out what it was like to get a ‘kiss’ from a Feral! All the prizes were dispersed to the very deserving owners (see below for the results), and the rally committee was then thanked by both the Australians and by our own President, Gordon Duthie. No-one at all could argue that we hadn’t had a great time! An invitation was also offered to go to the Australian National Rally in Queensland next year, and then we announced our plans to run the next New Zealand National Rally in Ashburton in 2014. Nothing like another event to start to plan for. Myself and Allan Francis will begin to get some plans together for this soon so we can get it signed off by the Christchurch Branch of the club, and then put our case to the National AGM in Feilding later this year.


On Saturday morning we were up bright and early to vacate our accommodation and get across to the Plymouth Hotel for the farewell breakfast. This was to be our last chance to have a meal together (and what a great spread awaited us) and to say our farewells before heading home. It was also to be the opportunity for our official rally photographer to get photos taken on the second rally day to us, however a technical glitch with his printer left him running late, so not everyone was still there by the time he arrived. Michael and Raewyn have now posted out the photos to everyone that had to leave before he got there.

And so it was that the Rally was over. What a great event, and what a good time we all had. There was no doubt that the Rally committee had put in a lot of time, and that all the hard work had paid off, as everything had gone to plan and nothing was left undone. Our thanks to them all – Michael and Raewyn Kruse, David and Marie Sole, and Bob and Mary Signal – congratulations on a job well done. Also, thanks are due to the other members of the Manawatu Branch (our host Branch) who got in behind the event from the beginning of planning. We can only now look forward to the next National Rally and the chance to do it all again in another part of our wonderful country.

Rally Results

Concours (Pride of Ownership) Event

1st – Ray and Caryl Chapple – 6/110 MkII (Auckland)

2nd – Bob and Mary Signal – 1500 MkII (New Plymouth)

3rd – Michael and Raewyn Kruse – Hornet Mk III (New Plymouth)

Most Enthusiastic Participants

Phillip and Bryan Stansbury (aka ‘The Ferals’) – Hornet MkIII (Nelson)

Good Samaritan Award (Night trophy)

Gordon and Beryl Duthie – 6/110 Mk II (Lawrence, Otago). (Gordon rendered assistance to no fewer than 3 other rally participants, and shadowed one car with cooling problems home in the dark).

People’s Choice Award

Ray and Caryl Chapple – 6/110 MkII (Auckland)

Overall Winners

1st – Gary and Heather Wall – 18/85 Series III (Manawatu)

2nd – Mark and Louise Sheilds – Modern (NSW, Australia)

3rd – Gordon and Beryl Duthie – 6/110 Mk II (Lawrence, Otago)

Last Updated June, 2020