New Zealand National Rally Report
From an Australian’s Perspective

By Graham Keys – Australia

Sharon and I helped to make up part of the contingent of seven Aussies who attended this six-day North Island rally, brilliantly organised by Winton and Ruth Cleal and members of the NZ WCC. We started in Auckland, travelling with Marion and Richard Graham in a hired and very comfortable Toyota Tarago, with heaps of room to carry us and our luggage from Auckland Airport via overnight stops at Hamilton and Taihape to the rally’s starting point, a motel in windy Wellington, which when we arrived was definitely living up to its infamous name.

After five previous NZ rallies, it was great to catch up with all our Kiwi friends, and as the traditional welcome dinner approached we met up with John Mallia and Allan Francis who had arrived from Christchurch in Allan’s black 6/90 Series III and welcomed Richard Keylock and Carmel Hegarty who had flown in from Queensland and were driving a borrowed FWD Wolseley 1300. By evening all the friendships had been renewed and we were tucking into the first of many delicious rally meals.

Our first day gave everyone a rest from driving and we toured Wellington CBD by bus, rode the cable car to the Planetarium and visited their wonderful museum, Te Papa, which lies in Wellington harbour on reclaimed land and sits on earthquake-proof rubber blocks. Later we visited Peter Jackson’s world-famous Weta Workshops and had a “behind the scenes” tour of this mystical world that provides the costumes and motorised monsters for many of the movies and characters that our children know the names of, off by heart. Our dinner for this night was served aboard a party cruiser and we motored around a now strangely calm Wellington Harbour to a secluded inlet before returning and boarding the bus to our motel to prepare for the next day of fun.

Day Two took us to the Southward Car Museum, and I ticked off another “must-see” item from my bucket list and saw two very early Wolseleys amongst the hundreds of magnificent cars, tractors, fire engines, motorbikes, racing cars, boats and aircraft on display over 2 floors and a huge mezzanine. We lunched at a local car club’s meeting rooms and inspected their parts shed before visiting a liquorice factory and an NZ Airforce base where we inspected a private collection of six airworthy and fully restored aircraft, which included a MK IX Spitfire.

On Day Three we left Wellington and drove to Palmerston North where we visited and had lunch at the Tui Brewery, visited a privately owned Greek Church with a magnificently painted interior and then drove north to our third rally motel in Masterton. A great BBQ dinner was served at the town’s local car club meeting rooms, and we inspected their workshops and parts sheds.

The Copthorne Hotel was our base for the next three nights. The complex has well over one hundred rooms and caters for very large corporate functions.

On Day Four their huge front lawns provided an excellent venue for the official rally photo, and when the drone had done its job we left to enjoy a picnic lunch at Castlepoint Beach where some energetic members walked out to the historic lighthouse with magnificent views over the rugged East Coast and the Pacific Ocean. Dinner and drinks were taken in a private room at the local services club and we retired for the night and prepared for the next day’s adventure.

Day Five dawned, and we divided into two groups. We rearranged the seats in the Tarago so Sharon could transport six ladies while the rest of the ladies filled up Wolseleys and promised to drive carefully as they visited a mohair factory and doll collection, while the blokes squeeze into the remaining cars to inspect yet another private car collection and check out the owner’s hubcap manufacturing enterprise. We met up again at yet another private collection, this time featuring both cars and vintage clothes, and after lunch headed back to the motels to prepare for the superb final dinner and prize giving, held in the complex’s formal ballroom.

Saturday, our farewell breakfast saw many sad good-byes as the Wolseleys and their owners departed for home, some with huge distances to travel and a ferry crossing to the South Island to contend with before they completed their journeys.
For us, another six days of sightseeing remained until we swapped the car for a plane at Auckland Airport. We drove north, overnighting at the Art Deco town of Napier, beautiful Lake Taupo, Thames and the spectacular Coromandel Peninsula, Whangarei in the Bay of Islands and Kaitaia, near the most northern tip of NZ, before again heading south and returning along the east coast, taking the ferry crossing of Hokianga Harbour at Rawene and driving to our last stop, Warkworth through the beautiful Kauri rain forest.

Along the way, we learn that the shocking Corona Virus had taken hold. Our Emirates flight back to Melbourne had been cancelled but we were able to “escape” on a special fight put on by Qantas for Australian passport holders. A sad end to a great holiday.

Sincere thanks to our New Zealand friends for putting on a superbly well-run National Rally, which will be long remembered by all who attended. Thanks for another great time in Kiwiland. You all know how much we love coming over for a visit.

Graham Keys

Last Updated August, 2020