Red, White, and Blue

Photo for Red, White, and Blue

The Red One - A recent Antipodean trip confirmed the MG family spirit. We first went to New Zealand for their Pre ’56 Rally at Taupo where Norm Harvey generously lent me his 1500 coupé for as long as I liked. He was an organiser and needed a bigger car for equipment.

I was surprised at the difference when I compared it with my roadster with its hood up, both in headroom and rearward view. The roof protected us from direct sun and by opening the windows and adjusting the quarter lights we had enough air to keep us relatively cool. At the Rally we only entered the Scatter Rally; we were defeated by some of the local knowledge required! I then helped out with time keeping for the Autotest.

After the Rally, Norm said that we could use the MGA to tour so we went to Napier to see this Art Deco city built in two years after the earthquake of 1931 in the style of the time. This year, having the opportunity, we decide to complete the tour round the Coromandel Peninsula. So the following day we took the road from Napier to Gisborne - now that is an interesting road, often narrow, usually up or down steep hills, and full of sharp corners. This section was given added spice by driving through low, wet cloud on the higher reaches with the consequent reduction in visibility.

Wairoa RangeWe stopped off at Wairoa for a little ancestor hunting, well aided by the local museum where we were told that in the old days the 65 mile section that we had driven before lunch would have taken two days by horse. If the journey was by boat, it could be done in four hours; assuming good weather for both methods. We had taken about three hours. I ascertained that a second cousin who was killed in France in the Great War was commemorated on a board in a Marae at Nuhaka just up the road. Although I could see the board at the back of the hall, the key holder was not available so we carried on to Gisborne through farmland and orchards. We drove to the lookout on Kaiti Hill where there is a statue purporting to be Captain Cook, but the sign points out that he is not in British uniform and does not resemble him. The town seems full of eating places, but we were unable to find them; a crowded Italian place recommended The Marina Restaurant, which turned out to be very up-market and all we wanted was a light meal in a reasonable time.

From Gisbourne we drove across the heel of the New Zealand boot to Opotoki through the Waioeka Gorge; a magnificent gorge with obvious signs of recent rock falls along the narrow road. Most had been cleared into the wider sections leaving frayed edges to the road surface in places. The gorge must be nearly twenty miles long. Opotoki has seen better days; the main business has closed leaving much unemployment and idleness. We stayed the night in Whaketane with its views of the volcanic White Island puffing away well offshore. The day’s run had been 125 miles. One of the local sights in Whaketane is a waterfall, but the drought has reduced it to an uninspiring trickle. That night I had the best venison steak that I have ever eaten, but it is a long way to go for another one.

We had decided to go round the outside of the Coromandel Peninsula so set off for Coromandel Town, a 200 mile drive and the roads just as energetic for driving as yesterday. Corner speeds are advised as low as 15 kph, but mainly around 35. We arrived in sunshine and drizzle at the same time. Coromandel is another town where there is less activity than before. Their Gold Rush was in the 1840s but a narrow gauge railway still exists as a tourist attraction.

In the morning we set off down the West Coast of the peninsula calling at the Rapaura Water Garden. There has been a shortage of rain in the North Island for months, which meant that there was not so much water in the garden us usual, but it is very well tended and has several sculptures dotted around. We tried the Shorebird Centre, but the tide was out, as were the shore birds so we headed for more friends and then back to Matakana to return the car to the Harvey’s. By this time I had added 1,100 miles to the odometer.

The White One

The White OneOn leaving New Zealand we headed for Queensland and Gary and Anita Lock, who had invited us to stay with them before going to the Australian National Meeting at Toowoomba. They were to lend me the 1600, which I remembered when they took it to England for the Round Britain Tour in 2005. They took me to their garage, but at the back of the garage was a white 1600 Mark II imported from the States having been sent to North America from Abingdon. That was not for me, as it will be a long time before it is back on the road.

The Blue One

Further on was the car I remembered, the blue one. Gary would be driving his Honda engined car, although this was excluded from any competition including concours because of this engine; they do not have an Altered A class there. He could, however take part in non-competitive road runs. I found the car took a bit of acquaintance before I was at one with it. The five speed box has rather a stiff change to the first two gears and reverse and the 165 tyres are wider than I use; but once in its stride, it is a very useable long distance car. I was advised to keep the hood raised for sun protection. It turned out that we needed it for rain as well.

Toowoomba is at 700 meters and suffered severe flooding in 2011, with many roads still being repaired. There are two deep valleys within the city which channel the water into the middle. The MG Car Club Queensland had eight feet of water in the building; luckily their comprehensive library was two steps higher.

ConcoursThe event centred on a set of conference and function rooms set by a park on the bluff overlooking the plain below with views for miles. After Registration, Natter and the Rocker Cover races took place on the opening day: the second was devoted to the concours with its myriad classes. The collection of cars was top class with a wide range of models including two K3s, the only TA Airline coupé and a wealth of others. The event was being sponsored by MG Motor Australia who were doing a soft launch and had six MG6s for viewing and test drives. I only parked among them.

On Easter Sunday the early starters took their cars for a Motorkhana while we joined the rest for their Kimber Run. As we had been to church we had to catch up in the rain, which we achieved by lunch time with a bit of map reading and a short cut. The weather had cleared so we put the sidescreens away and enjoyed the countryside, calling at The Barn with its collection of motoring memorabilia before heading back up the hill. At this point the heavens opened and the rain was thrown down. Luckily the car has two speed wipers otherwise I would have stopped. We heard later that this thunderstorm had delivered an inch of rain in an hour, all on us it seemed.

The morrow dawned brighter and promised well. Today was the competitive Observation Run. The route was using what they called a mud map which turned out to be sections using tulip diagrams, herringbone descriptive methods, and not really difficult until on the ground.

Observation RunThere were questions to be answered along the way; their approximate positions given along the route. We saw rather more of the countryside than the organisers had expected and managed to find most of the answers, but not all right. The first section ended with a coffee stop in a Returned Servicemen’s Hall, where the local people had supplied so much we would not need lunch. However, the Run ended with lunch at a restored Victorian mansion, Glengallen Hall. After lunch we felt that it was too late to go to Warwick, where the Speed Event was being held, as they would be near to finishing when we arrived; it is an hour’s drive from Toowoomba. The evening brought the Awards Dinner with a slick presentation of the event prizes and I did my bit with the perpetual trophies.

On Tuesday we took the car home in convoy with its owner who suffered a mishap when hitting a large bump hard, breaking the bracket which holds the sender unit for the electronic speedometer with a resulting knocking from the prop shaft. Help came from another friend who was behind us and carried a lot of equipment. We returned the blue car with an additional 400 miles on the clock.

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Last updated on November 11, 2013.