Focus on: Barry Sutton

NO15_BarrySutton.jpgYears ago, the Ōtaki Mail featured Carl Lutz, an Ōtaki man with a passion for Fordson tractors. Today we feature a Te Horo man with the same passion for Ford cars.

Barry Sutton was born in Te Horo, went to Te Horo school and Ōtaki College before taking up an apprenticeship with Goodmans in Waikanae. He qualified as a diesel mechanic, but gained better than passing grades in classic cars under the tutelage of ‘old school’ mechanics who appreciated the delights of the internal combustion engine, and the vehicles they propelled.

Now Barry does what many of us have dreamed of — he pursues his passion — in this case for classic cars, hot rods and anything with a Ford badge. If you’re passionate about your car, Barry will service it, fix it , and if you ask nicely, restore it.

His big modern workshop in Sutton Road has got all the mechanical gear to do the job: Barry has the ‘old school’ kiwi approach that ensures no automotive project is too big or too small. More than half his work involves classic cars. When I was growing up, the term ‘classic’ car was applied to pre and post war thoroughbreds: Jaguars, Daimlers, Rileys and Porsches. Mustangs and Corvettes had yet to burst upon the scene, and we more anglophile car enthusiasts scorned American cars. Things have changed. We’ve all grown older, our children have grown up, left home, our mortgages are no longer a threat, and we probably drive Japanese high-tech cars that are so sophisticated that when we open the bonnet we can’t understand what we are looking at.

Classic cars are different. Today the term ‘classic car’ encompasses cars that we grew up with: Holdens, Fords, Chevrolets, Pontiacs. There’s a healthy re-manufacturing industry in the USA where you can buy parts for almost any car you can think of, whether it’s a Model A Ford, a Chev Corvette or a Pontiac GTO. If you stray onto the Classic car pages of Trademe, you’ll find cars from the 1950s and ‘sixties offered for prices that you wouldn’t have believed a decade ago. Any weekend, you’ll likely see parades of classic cars out for their weekend parade. ‘Is this true of Ōtaki?’ I asked Barry. He told me of a 1970 Mach 1 Mustang (a Ford naturally) that’s probably the best he’s ever seen, that lives in Te Horo.

He tells of how his first job when he opened SRS Automotive fifteen years ago was a XJS V12 jaguar. Next vehicle was an MGB GT, followed by a Renault Dauphine, a Bathurst Monaro and a Jowett Javelin, all from Gorge Road, Ōtaki.

What was his biggest repair job, I asked. Probably the Jaguar XJ12 cabriolet, he reckoned. This car had been ‘breathed upon’ by Lynx Engineering of London, who specialised in modifying Jaguars. It came on a trailer, with a seized engine. He rebuilt the engine, brakes and fuel system, which took over three months.

In Barry’s workshop there are two Fords. The first is a 1965 Ford Falcon coupe that Barry, in his mid-sixties plans to race, just for fun. It’s in the middle of a complete makeover, and will not see the track until next year, racing in a class restricted to near-standard specification vehicles for old classic car geezers.

The other project is a 1971 Ford Fairmont, being restored in memory of son Greg who died 15 years ago. It’s undergone a top-to-tail restoration, back to the bare metal, and now sports a fantastic electric blue metallic paint job, courtesy of Ōtaki’s Colling & Gray. With the influence of the Japanese, today’s cars are more reliable, and more complicated. Servicing can be described as robotic.

It’s good to know that there are still people passionate about their cars, capable of the care and attention that classic cars deserve.