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The First T Car


Each year after attending the Art Deco celebrations we thought about getting a vintage car suitable for Art Deco but had always given the idea away due to the prices being asked for Model A’s and Austin Ruby’s etc being beyond our budget.

I had a hankering for the Morris 8 sports as I learnt to drive in one forty years ago. We decided to look into the T cars as the prices seemed within our means and the T car was of a similar shape. Although not strictly of the Art Deco era we could see ourselves enjoying the open top motoring especially in the Hawkes Bay sunshine. In August 2008 we saw on Trade me a MG T car Mark 1 advertised. It was described as the first T car built mark 1 number 1.

There were a few others advertised and The mark 1 number 1 took our fancy as we felt it would be a little bit special and as it turned out was one of the cheaper ones for sale. The need for some cosmetic work and its age seemed to be reflected in the starting price. The closing day of the auction came and I waited and waited for the closing time and just before placed a bid at the opening price. The anticipation was high as I watched expecting there to be some other bidders. To our surprise and I think to the sellers disappointment we were the only bidder. When the “you have been successful “came up, I couldn’t believe it and rang my wife, Judy, tell her we now had a car.

I contacted Wally to arrange to pay and pick it up. The weather wasn’t the best the next weekend so it had to be a week later. Wally was very good allowing us to wait for a weekend with good weather to come up. Payment was made and the excitement built as the day came to drive to Auckland and bring it home.
We both fell in love with it when we first saw it and it was just as Wally described it and portrayed in the photos on Trade me. A quick trip around the block with Wally to get to know its little quirks and we were off on the way home. With the zips on the windows shot it was a rather damp trip down the motorway in light drizzle. A stop for a coffee at the BP on the Southern motorway warmed me up and the weather by then had improved. The rest of the trip to Hamilton was fun with lots of people looking as they passed and giving waves and the thumbs up. I could see then that we had made the right decision to buy it.
We stayed the night with relatives in Hamilton and gave them all a run around the block with the top down. They gave it the seal of approval. Sunday morning dawned fine so with the top down I left Hamilton early expecting the trip back to Hawkes Bay to take a few hours longer than usual. A stop at Cambridge to fuel up gave me a surprise with how little it used, no need to refuel at Taupo to get me home. Judy and her sister were going to leave Hamilton about half an hour after me and meet up in Tirau with the expectation I would be there just before them. It ran so well that I had to wait quite some time, enough time to almost visit every shop in Tirau.

From there it was onto Taupo with them following me. We were travelling at a good pace and not holding up other motorists. This top down motoring even in August was great. A quick bite for lunch at Replete in Taupo, our usual place we frequent on our way north or south, and we were off again.

Judy jumped in the passenger seat and we cruised over the Napier Taupo road enjoying the smell of the pine trees. It was then we set about working on a plan for a road trip at New Year down through Central Hawkes Bay. We thought we would invite friends, Carol and Ray, who have an MX5 along. They were keen on the idea and jumped at it some weeks later when they inherited a TR 7 that had been restored by Carol’s father before he passed away.

The trip from Auckland to Hawkes Bay went without any problems and the car ran well. We were well pleased with our purchase. Before we got into using it we made a decision to repaint, recarpet and give it a general tidy up. As it didn’t have a luggage rack we purchased one from Russell and he was able to verify that we indeed have “ole # 1”. The original ownership papers we got with it have Russell’s name on them to confirm this also. We are the seventh owners since Russell built it and the original 1965 host Triumph Herald has had a total of twelve owners. The speedo shows 15809 miles on the second time around, about 24000 miles since Russell bought the host car. Not sure if it is still the same speedo though.

Wally had started some work on the body of the car and had primed the areas he had worked on. One of the first jobs I got done was to replace the broken zips on the side windows so the soft top would be weather and wind proof. I had a week of leave in September so set that aside to repaint the body. I checked with Russell to see if it was originally cream as I wanted to keep it as much as possible like it was when built. Yes, it was cream so we choose a clean looking standard cream lacquer for the repaint.

All the panels and guards were removed and prepared ready to paint and wouldn’t you know it the weather didn’t play ball. I had setup our carport as the spray booth but the wind delayed the start of the spraying for a couple of days. Once I got into it, it didn’t take long to get all the panels done. The reassembly would have to wait as it was back to work and in three weeks time we were off to the South Island to do a 270km bike ride from Manapouri to Milton with the Oamaru pennyfarthing club.

I was happy with my spraying effort as it had been thirty years or more since I had been on the end of a spray gun. Back then it I was spraying clear lacquer on coffins which I used to make. A professional would pick some holes in my paint job but we were the ones who mattered and it is ok for us.

Gradually it was starting to look like a car again as another piece was fitted at night after work. Next it was the inside that got the attention. All the old vinyl was pulled out and the carpet taken out and replaced with new. Proper automotive underfelt and lining was put in (another cheap Trade me purchase). The new carpet transformed the look inside very quickly and set off the seats that Wally had got reupholstered just before we bought it. Various other small items received attention as they were noticed.

With the luggage rack fitted and a vinyl spare wheel cover made by Judy, “ole # 1” was looking very smart with her shiny new paint. The dash had been covered in black vinyl but would have to wait till winter to be replaced with a nice new piece of suitable wood grain timber.

We had spent about $1000 on the repaint, carpet, hood repairs and luggage rack plus other small items. We now had a car we could be proud of, enjoy using and within our small budget. It was time to start using her as the sun was shinning and the temperature was in the mid twenties. A few short runs prior to the New Year had mile wide smiles on our faces. One day a van pulled in behind us and people were hanging out the windows taking photos, then they pulled along side to take some more photos, then finally they pulled in front and leaned out the windows again to take more photos of the front.

It left us thinking what is so interesting and special about our little car. I think it is something we will have to get used to.

New Years day dawned fine and even though we had a late night we were up early excited and packing for our planned trip down through Central Hawkes Bay with Carol and Ray. We had arranged to meet at the Cheese Factory at 11. While we were waiting a gentleman in an early 70’s left hand drive Mercedes pulled alongside and admired “ole # 1”. His comments were very pleasing, “what a beauty, she looks great, just the ticket for today’s hot weather”.

We were on our way to Kirakau beach for lunch via the road following the Tuki River. A great piece of road to drive with some nice corners and good scenery. It has been used a couple of times for the Dunlop Targa. A delight to drive with the sun streaming in. About half an hour later we were at the beach and found a shady spot for lunch. Our trunk on the luggage rack was ideal for its job of holding the thermos and lunch in the chilly bin as well as a cold bottle of bubbly. The trunk’s front folded down to form a tray to set the glasses on and the cork was popped and a celebratory drink poured. A toast was drunk to the start of our first road trip.

After lunch it was onto Parongahau with a stop for an afternoon cuppa at Wallingford. The wind had got up and soon after getting back on the road a side gust took my hat off and out over the side. A quick stop and it was retrieved. We arrived at our destination, Chaplewick, a stately homestead, luxury bed and breakfast place. The two cars looked right at home in front of the homestead.

After a great nights sleep we were up early for another swim in the pool before a great cooked breakfast. Raewyn, our host informed us that a polo tournament was on just down the road, so we packed lunch and headed off to the polo ground. We drove into the grounds and parked next to the fence to enjoy the final three chukkas. Hawkes Bay beat Poverty Bay 5 to 1. It was fun sitting with the top down watching the horses and riders thundering around hitting the little white ball.

Then it was the off along the road to the beach for a walk then a short drive over some hills to the longest place name. A nice grassy spot under the shade of an old tree made an ideal lunch venue. A car stopped and a man walked over to the car and gave it the once over. He asked about it and said his mate rang him the other day to tell him about a car built on a Triumph Herald chassis. He had a triumph chassis and Arty told him he should use it to build something similar. Arty who? I asked, wouldn’t you know it; it was the Arty that had come to our place with friends for New Years Eve. It was back to Chapplewick for a swim and a much need sleep before dinner.

The rain clouds looked threatening next morning as we packed to leave so it was hood up time. By the time we drove out the gate it was raining. Soon it was bucketing down and we were to find out all the leaks. The hood was fine but it poured in around the wiper shaft right onto my left foot. The wind also drove the water up the window and under the front edge of the hood. A couple of rags stuffed in fixed that. Also Judy had water coming in the front edge of her door. It was still fun driving in the rain as it gave us a chance to see what needed sorting out. A new rubber seal has since been put around the wiper shaft and some different rubber seals for the door, the hood will have a foam seal fitted to try to cure the driven water. Bring on the rain to see if it works.

The rain eased off and we stopped at Waipukurau for lunch. Walking back to the car I couldn’t see it for the Canadian bus tourists that had gathered around it like bees to a honey pot. Oh well the price we pay for driving such an interesting car. We headed off and took the back roads for another enjoyable drive on a nice windy road towards home. All too soon we were home and it was a wash and polish for “old #1” before she was put away.

She has had a couple of short runs since and we are eagerly waiting for the trip to Taupo for the Tasman Revival race meeting. We had hoped this would give us an opportunity to meet with a few fellow club members but it seems there may not be many there. We won’t be able to get to the National Rally this year up north due to Art Deco but hope to meet as many members as possible at other events during the coming year. Any members passing through Hawkes Bay are welcome to look us up.

Colin & Judy Barnes