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Letters from New Zealand (Part 1)

Jaguar XK120 DHC in New ZealandPhilip and Yvonne Haslam are long time Twyford Moors customers having had their XK120 restored by us over ten years ago. Since then they have taken their trusty Jaguar on many trips around the world. Here's an update from their latest journey to New Zealand.


"Well, one or two people asked to be appraised of our travels, and actually,  one or two didn't.  So if you happen to be one of the latter, I'm happy if you switch off now !!

For those of you who don't know, we're here in New Zealand,  touring with the XK.  For those of you that did, we're also here in New Zealand,  touring with the XK. 

The car took 43 days to get here, whilst we managed it in a somewhat tiring 38 hours. Obscurely,  we underwent a 13 hour time change, which rather bemused me as it seems to infer that we have set off back up the other side. No doubt there must be a sensible explanation,  but we were too weary to pursue it  !!

Following an extremely muddy Rally of the Tests in November,  and being aware that New Zealand customs officials are somewhat zealous when it comes to accepting cars into their country, I embarked on a scrupulous cleaning process on the underside of the car that involved power washing, scraping, wire brushing and hand undersealing , ( using a brush fashioned from the pubic hairs of the soft underbelly of the finest Peak District ram that could be found in the short time available, in order to be sure that every crook and nanny was thoroughly coated ). Indeed, upon close inspection,  Yvonne  declared that lunch could be taken from these pristine areas upon completion. 

Guess what  ?

You're right. All my efforts were ignored by the zealous Christchurch customs officers,  who insisted that the whole underside of the car be steam cleaned, at vast cost. A ruse, I suspect, to boost the nation's coffers.

Through the auspices of the XK Club,  I had been put in touch with Alastair Scott,  a proud XK 120 OTS owner, living in Christchurch.  Alastair has proved to be an absolute star. He found us accommodation,  took us to the shippers to pick up the car, arranged with his local garage to sort the Warranty of Fitness  ( MOT), arranged the road fund license,  fixed up the insurance and took us for coffee. So, many thanks for all that Alastair  -  see you in a month !

So, lunchtime last Friday, on a bright and sunny day, we headed north ( on south island). Sad to say, last November  there was a huge earthquake just north of Christchurch which took out the main coastal road, so day one for us involved a 5 hour inland diversion - hardly an auspicious start !

We, like you possibly, were aware that NZ suffered from earthquakes . However we were totally unaware of the extent of the problems and the effect on daily life. I read the football results on a regular daily basis,  whilst Kiwis check the app on their phones for earthquake activity.

Northwards has taken us through the mountains, following wonderful vast river valleys,  into the Marlborough wine region, giving us plenty of opportunity to pause and sample the goods. Taking Cloudy Bay in Cloudy Bay was particularly  memorable. 

Just a couple of days in, we crossed over to north island on the Picton ferry - memorable  to us for 3 things.........Firstly the quite breathtaking views as we sailed out through the Straits in blue , blue seas. Secondly, for the chap who sidled up to me in the car queue to whisper in my ear , " as one Jag man to another Jag man, do you mind if I spray your fishing lines "  ( WHAT  !!). And thirdly for astounding sight of a rather large bald headed chap of Oriental extraction , with a full size lobster tattooed on the top of his head.

Wellington,  or we now know it's called ' Windy Welly ', was terrific, but by now I was starting to get concerned about the effect of the unaccustomed sun on my dear wife. During lunch  she picked up and ate what she thought was a jelly baby, but which turned out to be solid sugar, then 'tested' my vanilla ice cream, which turned out to be a pat of butter !

So, the north of north island beckoned ( please keep up, there's going to be much more of this ). The weather was astonishingly variable  - from  5 degrees in the morning to a melting 33 degrees in the afternoon.  Small towns seem very much like American mid West towns, with low rise timber clad canopied shops lining the streets, selling everything from the ubiquitous NZ pies to , rather strangely,   'second hand antiques ' !!

We went well out of our way to avoid visiting Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu , mainly because I not only couldn't pronounce it, but wished to avoid typing it...........

On our list was to visit Dr. Greg  Beacham, who, as many of you may know is well known for producing Beacham Jaguars.His speciality is taking classic Jaguars and adapting them significantly  by installing modern suspension, a/c, and massive V8 engines. 

Greg is a man of serious disposition,  not given to small talk, which, bearing in mind that we had turned up for a lightweight friendly chit chat, made for a fairly brief encounter  ! Luckily, we hadn't travelled half way round the world solely to meet him, so all wasn't  lost.

Perhaps his most telling remark was to suggest that most Jaguar owners probably considered what he did was heresy,  and, as we had turned up in a fairly authentic car, maybe he recognised that I was perhaps not a likely customer  !

Jaguar XK120 and Vauxhall 14/40Rattling onwards and eastwards ( still on North,  you'll appreciate  ), we rolled into the amazing town of Napier. Napier was hit by a terrible earthquake in 1931, and the city fathers made the decision to rebuild the centre in Art Deco style, so has become the acknowledged world centre of this fine genre. We stayed at the beautifully restored Masonic Hotel,  and, as an added bonus had dinner with friend Roger Thorpe and wife Chris, who live just 7 miles away from us in the UK,  and who by coincidence happened to be visiting their daughter.  Just to complete the picture, Roger turned up in his 1925 Vauxhall 14/40, creating a great photo opportunity outside the hotel.

Since then, we've done a bit more eastwards and taken in the memorable  Coromandel peninsula.  This involved driving what must definitely feature in one of the world's top ten coastal  drives. If you happen to be this way, I commend it to you.

We're now relaxing in downtown  Auckland.  Gosh, it is tiring , all this driving !"

Jaguar XK120

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