Don’s first car was a 1926 Willys Knight that he inherited from his father.
It had running-boards and a soft top.
Next was a ‘special’, that Don bought part-finished.
With a V8 engine from a wartime bren gun carrier, and an aluminium body, it was ‘just roadworthy’, Don recalls. Bert Creswell finished the body, and with help from Harry Arcus and Mick Jones it was finished, and christened the ‘EJ Special’.
Don managed 4th in the Paekakariki hillclimb, an annual event organised by the NZ Sports Car Club. He competed every year until the event ceased in the fifties.
Don’s next car was an Austin A30.
Here we see the car entered in the now-defunct Mobil Economy Run. Don entered three times, once as a competitor, once as observer, and finally as a steward. His best result was second in class, with Mick Jones as co-driver. After his attempts at fuel economy, he ‘hotted up’ the A30 with twin carburettors.
Then the demands of the shop made more mundane transport a necessity, and he needed a van. This was a Hillman Husky.
After this he took over dad’s big bulbous Austin A70.
Don then acquired an Austin A40, which he ‘hotted up’ with a Shorrock supercharger. Don liked the A40 so much, he rallied it, and then bought another.
Once married, Don gave away racing cars. He was asked to come and help at the picturesque Levin motor racing circuit, NZ’s first permanently sealed motor racing track which fitted inside the thoroughbred racing track in Mako Mako road. Don’s job, he modestly recalls were ‘looking after the course clearances’. He was on the race committee and eventually ended up as Clerk of the Course.
The 1960s were the halcyon days of motor racing. Drivers would come ‘down under’ to escape the northern hemisphere winters, and Don rubbed shoulders with most of the great names: Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham & Bruce McLaren were all on first-name terms.
Don particularly remembers Jim Clark as a gentleman driver of the greatest talent, a man who ‘would do anything for you’. Pat Edhouse remembers Stirling Moss best, as ‘one who liked the dolly birds.’ As a motor racing administrator, Don was a steward all over the country, from Teretonga in the South to Pukekohe in the North.
Then Don got into the big grunty stuff. He’s made some money with friends in a share club, and acquired some Australian shares, which indirectly gave him access to the magic ‘overseas funds’. In the sixties, cars were very hard to get, with long waiting lists and inflated prices, unless you had foreign funds. Don was able to buy a V8 Holden Monaro, which he recalls as being ‘quite something’.
In those days with waiting lists, you could sell a car second-hand for more money than it cost you. Three years later, Don sold the first Monaro and bought another. He remembers that ‘it went fast, but didn’t handle’.
And then there were racing boats…
Dad used to go fishing on Lake Taupo, so it was inevitable that Don would transfer his love of speed from the land to water. Don and Pat built a bach at Omori, with views over the lake from Turangi to Taupo. Don raced boats. This was bright yellow, built by Plylite Boats of Paraparaumu, fitted with a 150 horsepower outboard motor. Pat Edhouse remembers it as the noisiest motor she’d ever heard. At full bore the boat had a huge rooster tail of spray out behind.
Don raced with some success from Wellington harbour to Auckland, Gisborne, New Plymouth and on lakes Taupo & Rotorua. Mick Jones was often aboard as co-driver.
Big grunty poor-handling cars weren’t to Don’s taste, so he took the logical move and bought a car with pedigree. This was a 1974 BMW 2002, which he still has today.
The BMW saga continues, and Don is the proud owner of two more, a red 325 and a smart little 130 hatchback.
What’s the next one ?
Don reckons it might be a turbocharged mobility scooter. I doubt it.