An Autobiography by Ross Baker

Patrick Harlow, who has written many excellent books on New Zealand built cars, has now decided to write a book on the “Heron Story”. This book will be available in about twelve months time. Keep an eye on this page for updates! We'll keep it current with publication dates and where it can be purchased.

Many people have asked me to write the story of the Heron Cars. I have made many starts to write this story but where do I start. So much and so many people have helped and influenced me over the years that to write this story I had to start at the very beginning. If you are not interested in the years leading up to when the Heron cars first appeared then turn to page seven, but this part of the Heron story is important as it sets up the whole story. Hopefully I will not bore you too much with it.
This is not the final story, it is a draft only. There are many photos and articles to be included.

I was born on my parent’s farm at Roto-rangi in Cambridge on the 3 December 1941. I am a sixth generation New Zealander and on my mother’s side, my ancestors, Nathan and Jane Stafford arrived in New Zealand on the first "free' Immigrant ship, the "Duchess of Argyll in 1842. Since then, through intermarriage, I am descended from the pioneering families of, Nathan Stafford, Alfred Buckland, Richard Taylor and William Crowther who owned and farmed large areas of land, which now makes up a large part of Auckland city. I have a brother Tony who is six and a half years older than me. My father, Frank Baker who Tony and I always called Frank, was a builder by trade and was also an amateur jockey. He had come to New Zealand from England with his parents in 1910 when he was 9 years old. My father, after leaving school at 15, worked as a stable hand for many prominent Cambridge racehorse owners. He later owned and raced horse and won the Auckland Gold Cup in 1929. While he was working for my grandfather, Harold Crowther at Te Miro, he started taking Harold's daughter Betty out who was later to become my mother. Frank then bought a farm at Roto-rangi and married my mother. My mother, who was also very good at riding horses, was the second daughter of Harold, whose father Charles owned the Auckland horse stables which is now occupied by the Auckland library. Harold’s wife Olive, my grandmother, was Alfred Buckland's grand-daughter who had one of the largest sale yards in Auckland, now Newmarket and built and lived at Highwick house, now an Historic Trust home on the hill above Newmarket. Alfred Buckland had 21 children to two wives. No TV them days!!!!!!!!!!!
My grandfather Harold Crowther, owned the Cambridge Stables as well as three other properties in Cambridge. One in Thornton Road to graze the horses from the stables and two at Te Miro which he and my father developed before milking cows. The two properties at Te Miro were acquired (stolen) by the Government, as many other farms were, for the returned soldiers after the Second World War. My Grandfather was fantastic with horses, especially driving teams of horses and hunting and would take on anything if he was on a horse, but he had absolutely no mechanical ability. I can remember the day he came to our house and Dad had just bought a new reel motor mower. My grandfather wanted to try it out so Dad started it up for him and he opened the throttle wide and let out the clutch. It took off down the lawn, through the veggie garden with him running flat-out behind it. Eventually it came to rest against the house with a very red face grandfather still with the throttle wide open. In later years he owned a low headlight Morris Minor. He would start it up, put his foot flat to the floor and keep it there. He then proceeded to find a gear while the motor was doing about 10,000 RPM and then let out the clutch letting it slip until the car reached the motors speed. He didn't even lift his foot between gear changes. How the motor did not blow apart I will never know. This used to be very embarrassing when we were in town. Everyone for five blocks around would be looking at this poor little car screaming its head off. This was in complete contrast to my father as he was always building or repairing something. From making cars into trucks for the farm, to building boats and sheds. His favorite tools were an axe and a hammer and a hand full of gutter bolts. It was amazing what he could build with these two tools and his hand full of gutter bolts. At this time no-one owned a gas plant or arc welder. As well as farming, he had an agricultural contracting business which amongst many other things, developed the Hamilton Airport back in the 1930's.
I grew up watching my father repairing and building all sorts of equipment out of anything he could find. A trip to the rubbish tip usually ended up bringing more home that we took. Poor mother, but it was amazing what he could build from this junk and showed me that you can build anything if you put your heart and soul into it and plan before you start.
In 1949, when I was seven, my father became ill through over work and he had to sell the farm and contracting business and moved to a house in William Street Cambridge. In 1949, we moved to Lewis Hill in Rotorua, which is now Lynmore, where my father got a job as development supervisor for the Lands and Survey Department. During this time he invented a crushing machine, which helped change the landscape of New Zealand. At the time New Zealand was in the midst of farm development for the hundreds of returned servicemen. The major problem was clearing the land of scrub. If it was burnt standing, only the brush would burn and the trunk and branches would remain standing. He developed a crushing roller using boilers from the old dairy companies, which were now becoming obsolete with the more up to date processing plants. He welded blades across the boiler and filled it with water to give it weight and a tow bar to attach it to a tractor. These were towed across the land to crushed and cut the scrub into small lengths allowing it to completely burn. This was a great invention to which my father received no recognition. The first crusher had its blades welded across the boiler but this caused it to pounded when towed so the blades were welded diagonally across the boiler to allowed it to roll smoothly across the ground. We also had the first rotor cut lawn mower. It consisted of a piece of 19mm plywood with the wheels and handle from a pram salvaged from the rubbish tip. A saw spindle mounted vertically through the middle of the ply with three farm mower blades bolted to a piece of steel cut into a triangle and attached to the spindle underneath. The top of the spindle had a pulley with a Villiers motor bolted to the top of the ply and a vee belt drove the spindle. A forerunner to today’s rotorcut! This was just a couple of the inventions my father designed and developed over the years.
Another project was a caravan he built. The shape of caravans at the time were real streamlined units which had standing room at the front but as you went further back the lower the roof become until at the back it was a case of crawling on your hands and knees. This was OK for Tony and I, but a real problem for mother as she spent most of her time doubled up. After we left the farm, Dad bought a 20ft kauri speedboat with a Chrysler six motor called Kiateri. After a couple of years Dad decided to take the Chrysler out and replace it with a Ford ten motor and turn it into a cabin boat. For the next five years every season it came out with a new designed cabin all shaped with the axe and held together with his favorite gutter bolts. We had some great holidays at Mount Maunganui and Thames with the boat and caravan although to get there was always a real ordeal. In those days you did not just go down to the local tyre shop and have a new set of tyres fitted to the boat trailer then flash your credit card as we do today. For a month before we left on our holiday, Dad would go around the trucking companies asking if they had any old tyres that would make the trip from Rotorua to the Mount. Sometimes these old tyres made it, sometimes they didn't. I remember one time a tyre blew out on the way to the Mount. The wheel was taken off and the trailer un-hitch and back to Rotorua we went to find another tyre. This time, no luck, so Dad stuffed the old tyre with grass and away we went. It was always great fun for Tony and I but not for Mum and Dad but they never complained - this was life in the 50's.
One holiday at Thames I went to put out the Coleman lamp and instead of turning the valve off I opened the filler cap. The white spirit fuel squirted up my arm and ignited. I took off out of the caravan with my arm ablaze and Mother in hot pursuit. Eventually Mother caught me and put out the flames but my arm was badly burnt. I spent the rest of my holiday in hospital and still have the scares today. I also broke my left arm when playing with Tony and while chasing a balloon with a carving fork to stab it, put the fork through my big toe instead! We had some great times with Mum and Dad before Dad's very sad death of cancer in 1958 at the age of 54. While I didn't have my father for long he was a great father and taught me the values of life and not to let people put it across you. I also remember him telling me, "Never trust a religious person!" How true this turned out to be in later life.

When we first left the farm and while Dad was in hospital, we lived in Lemington, which is a small village just out of Cambridge. I started school at Lemington Primary School. After Dad came out of hospital we moved to a house in William Street, Cambridge. This was about 6 klms from the Lemington School, but as Tony and I wanted to remain at Lemington School, we used to ride our bikes the 12 klms each day. During our schooling at Lemington, the school burnt down, so the school was moved to the Lemington Community Hall. When Tony was 13 and I was six we moved to Rotorua. Tony went to New Plymouth Boys High School and I went to the Rotorua Primary School, which I hated.
I began building trolleys soon after we moved to Rotorua. I would start on a Saturday morning and finish on Sunday afternoon with a trail of wood, steel and rope etc from one end of our tennis court to the other. But gleaming at the far end was my masterpiece. A brand new trolley with steering wheel, brakes, lights and horn, all found during our expeditions to the rubbish tip. Later models were fitted with the Villiers motor from Dad's original rotorcut mower now disregarded for a factory model reel mower, which did not like chomping on all the nails I had left on the lawn. I also won the Guy Faulks making competition each year with my guys that everyone said looked just like my father, mainly because they were made out of his old clothes. I had a great time growing up but hated school. One day my Mother took me to school and when she got out of the car, I locked all the doors and would not let her back in until she promised to take me home. The teacher told mother to say she would take me home so she could pull me out when I unlocked the doors. My Mother was absolutely furious. If Mother made a promise, she always stuck to it. I had the day off school but Mother never got out of the car before me again. You only put it across Mother once! Mother kept our family together and never remarried after Dad died even although she was only 49 at the time. She still had her driving license at 92 and drove a green Ford Capri to the envy of all the young petrol heads. Every Sunday night from when Tony and I got married we all went to Mothers for dinner. In later years we shared this and went to each other’s house, but even in her 90s, Mother could still cook a mean roast and veggie dinner. Mother always took a great interest in what ever Tony or I did, unfortunately, she died in 2002 aged 93.

In 1954, I followed my brother to New Plymouth Boys High School as a boarder. Not only was this a very good school, at the time it was the best engineering school in New Zealand. I took an engineering course and became first in my class in the third form. I loved this school. The teachers were human and I loved the technical subjects. Engineering Workshop (Pat Huggart), Applied Mechanics (Mr. Cluston), Tech Drawing and Electricity (Mr. Slyfield). Here I learnt to draw, use a lathe, milling machine, welder, make patterns, cast aluminium and electrical engineering etc. I became very involved in the rowing club and helped build the school’s rowing shed at Waitara. I was also the only boy allowed to use the workshop after school hours where I made equipment for the rowing club and other school projects. I also used to "borrow" one of the teacher's cars, an Essex and then a Fordson van and would "cruise the streets" unbeknown to him - or so I thought. The teachers name was J J (Johnny) Steward who later became the All Black's coach. One day I was given an old Army Indian motorbike which had a broken conrod. I removed the broken conrod and piston and rode it, unregistered and unwarranted, around the back streets of New Plymouth. This was the only bike I ever owned.
The first time I sat School C, I only gained 27% for English but over 85% for all my technical subjects. To pass School C you had to gain over 30% for English so I had to re-sit it the following year where I just scraped through with 33%. I played football in the second fifteen and was very involved in the tramping and rowing clubs. When I left New Plymouth Boys High School the Head Master wrote in my testimonial, "A very likeable boy, who has always been willing and helpful, and a genius in things mechanical. Ross is very highly recommended by the school".

The reason I failed School C the first time "may have been" due to working on the 1929 Essex I had just bought for five pounds ($10). I bought this car to drive home but it needed a lot of work before the trip. The only time I had to work on it, was between 4-00 am and the time my exams started. I would sneak out of school dormitory at 4-00 am and ride my bike down to a shed behind St Lukes Church where I had the car stored and work on it until about 7-30 am then rush back for breakfast before my exams. After a complete rewire, new corks in the fluid clutch, a brake reline and a big bribe, I managed to get a Warrant of Fitness. Three of us drove this car home, Richard Ford, Daly Davies and myself. Unfortunately Daly was drowned in the Mexico harbor some years later. When we arrived at my Grandparents farm in Cambridge they were very concerned how sick we were from the old cars fumes. We never told them we three young schoolboys had purchased three halfgallon flagons of beer from the Urinui pub and consumed the lot when we camped the night at Mount Messenger on the way. We dropped Daly off in Cambridge and he hitchhiked to his home in Kerikeri. Mother was staying in Cambridge so we picked her up for the final leg to Rotorua. Just out of Cambridge there was an almighty explosion from under the bonnet and the car came to a shuddering stop. We all looked at each other in amazement. I got out and lifted the bonnet and everything seemed OK, but it would not start. I preceded to remover the cylinder head on the side of the road to see what was wrong. Everything seemed OK, so I replace the head, old gasket and all and found some water in a ditch to fill up the radiator. Mother went to find a farmer with a tractor who would give us a tow. Up and down the road a few times frightening hell out of all the cows with a continued barrage of backfires before I found the distributor had slipped. Finally I reset the distributor, thanked the farmer and we were on our way again. I think this is where "curbside motors" got its name. We had a great time with this car over Xmas, 1957, surprisingly only ending up in the lake once. David Hicks and I also had a great time at the Mount picking up "chicks" where I found there was more to life than cars!! I sold the Essex to Allan Harker and bought a Morris 8 convertible and with Tony's help, completely rebuild it during the school holidays. Morris 8 convertibles were like driving a jelly. Without a roof they had no strength in their chassis, which I found out while driving to Hamilton. Rounding a corner I hit a bump, which caused the chassis to flex and the door to fly open with me after it. As I grabbed on the steering wheel to stop from falling completely out, I turned straight into a bank. End of Morris 8.

In 1959, I left school and with a good friend, Tony Mills, took a job with his father who owned H Allen Mills Contracting, as a mechanic. My first job was to fit rings and bearings to an old Fordson Tractor. I had never done this type of work before but surprisingly, with a little help from Tony my brother, it ran beautifully after the job. Next was a Ford V8 Ute and my love affair with V8s began. I worked for Mills Contracting as a mechanic as well as driving bulldozers for about six months before going into partnership with brother Tony. During the time with Mills Contracting, I helped level many of the new housing developments in the Eastside of Rotorua. When I left Mills Contracting, Allen Mills let me keep the full set of tools he had bought for me. I still have many of these tools today. Allan Mills, my only boss ever, was a great man to work for.


In 1960, when I was 19, my Mother gave my brother Tony and I one thousand pounds each to start a garage business. We purchased a property in Old Taupo Road from Mark Chadwick with a 1000 sq/ft shed and an old army hut where Merv Holster had started his painting career. Here we started BAKER BROS GARAGE. Old Taupo Road, at this time, was a one-way road with a big ditch on either side surrounded by farms. When it rained we would have 150mm of water flowing through the shop and unable to use the toilet, as it would not flush. It was not unusual to see a car or two in the ditch on a Sunday morning with their four wheels pointing up after a hard nights party.
Before starting Baker Bros, Tony had been a mechanic with the New Zealand Air Force and then had worked as a mechanic for Yorke Motors at Owhata in Rotorua gaining his "A" grade motor mechanics certificate. I did my apprenticeship under Tony but had to get the approval of the Court as I was working for myself, not for someone else as the Apprenticeship Board required. When I ran into trouble during my apprenticeship and had to ask Tony for help, his usual comment to his little brother was, "Get out of my way and let me do it". It wasn't long before I decided to have a go and sort it out myself. I have done this ever since. The funny thing is, years later Tony sent me a birthday card which he had made and written in it was, "Ross, through the years I've come to realise that you know quite a bit for a man who has never stopped to ask questions". What did he expect!!!!
Tony and I built up a very good business working on all types of cars, trucks and buses. One story I remember is when we used to get bags of cleaning rags which as well as having good rag also had bras and panties, which were not the best for cleaning up oil spills. One day, while doing some work on one of the taxis owned by a hard case driver, we decided to put a bra and pair of panties in the back seat knowing he was to clean his car before he started work. Unbeknown to us, his wife cleaned his car for him. We stopped the divorce but only just with a lot of explaining and apologizing to his wife. As well as working very hard, we had a lot of fun with a lot of very good and loyal customers.
We demolished the old buildings in about 1968 and I designed a new workshop, which was the first building in New Zealand using radiata pine laminated beams. These were made by Keith Hunt Ltd. This was a very good workshop as the beams allowed the building to have no middle supports. We later extended the building and put offices and two petrol pumps out the front. By this time Old Taupo Road had improved, drainage had been put in place, it had been sealed and the town was beginning to move out our way.

By 1961, BAKER BROS was up and running very well, so I decided to build my first car, a Mistral. This was a kit car designed in England and brought to New Zealand and raced in the South Island by Bob Blackburn of Christchurch. A company in Christchurch, Elmsly and Flockton decided to take moulds off the body and were selling fibreglass bodies and tube steel chassis. I purchased a body and chassis. At first, I fitted the car with the recommended motor; gearbox and diff from a 1936 E93A Ford Ten. I then became involved in the Rotorua Car Club and started hill climbing. I soon outgrew the standard Ford Ten and decided to hot it up. Ford tens had only two inlet ports and four exhaust. The very early models had the camshaft driven by a gear and the later modes by a chain. I worked out that if I fitted an early gear driven cam and drove it with the later model chain I would then have four inlet ports and two exhaust. This allowed me to fit four Amal motorbike carbs and probably gain an extra whopping 10-horse power. I had a lot of fun with this set up but soon wanted more power. Next I fitted a Humber 80 OHV 1500cc motor. This was the latest OHV motor on the market and I was lucky to get hold of one out of a new car from Beale Motors, which had run a bearing. I rebuilt this motor and fitted twin 1 1/2 SUs and extractors with a Standard Eight four-speed herringbone toothed gearbox. It wasn't long before the Humber 80 blew all the teeth off the gears so I fitted a Humber 80 gearbox as well. Next the 520 x 16 tyres were too narrow. I was possibly one of the first to widen rims in New Zealand, especially by the way I went about it. I obtained 4 LIP Vauxhall wheels which were 15 inch and hack sawed completely around the wheel bead then gas welded a 25mm x 3 mm strip back in to make the wheel 25mm wider and allow me to run 640 x 15 tyres. Imagine trying to get this certified today. For the next two years this car never came away from a hill climb or race meeting without being in the first three. I raced this car at the very first meeting at the new Pukekoe racetrack. A great car that was also used as everyday and night transport. At this time, I also met a very good friend - Diana Tait. Diana helped me work on many of my cars over the following couple of years. While most girls at the time were out partying Diana would be helping me work on my cars preparing them for the next meeting. It was a sad day when we parted but as they say, " all good things must come to an end or should that be, when one door closes another one opens". I then met my wife Bev. While Bev never became physically involved in working on the cars she has always supported me 100% in everything I have done and achieved over the years. I love her very much for this and owe much of my success to her.
Luckily while I was racing the Mistral, I met one of my best and most trusted and loyal friends, Bob Gee who had a farm opposite the airport in Rotorua. Bob was racing boats at the time and I met him through my brother who had worked on the engine of his boat. The extra 10-horse power in the Mistral meant I went faster which meant I hit the bank more often and much harder. "The faster you go the bigger the mess!" This is where Bob came in; he had been fibreglassing cowls for his boats for many years and knew all about fibreglass. In the early days of fibreglass, if you didn't mix the chemical exactly right you would literally produce a bomb. Many a time when I went to visit Bob in these early days, I would see a Watties pea tin come whistling out the door of his shed smoking and crackling ready to explode. Luckily he always managed to throw it out first. Bob was forever repairing the rear fibreglass guards on the Mistral so his skills in fibreglassing grew as demolished mudguard after demolished mudguard was repaired.
I have always enjoyed, and still do, hanging the tail out as far as possible but the only trouble is, I overlook the fact the front wheels will only turn so far to correct a slid!! It's a horrible feeling to frantically turn the steering wheel to correct a slide and just when you think you have it under control you run out of lock. Bob what are you doing tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!
While Bob was working on his farm and repairing guards on the Mistral he somehow found time to build a beautiful hydroplane called "Geyser Gal". This boat was fitted with a 1500 cc Sunbeam Rapier motor, basically a Humber 80 motor with an alloy head. I fully worked this motor with twin 45mm side draft Webbers carbs and built a tuned length inlet and exhaust system. At this time we could not buy exhaust bends so I either had to cut Vs out of the back of the pipe then welded it together or heat up the outside of the pipe and stretched it into a bend. Inlet manifolds were made in the same way. Bob held the 100 cubic inch hydroplane championship for many years in this boat until the Ford Twin cam and BDA motors appeared and we could not compete with this factory developed motor. We had two moments with this boat, one when the flywheel sheared its bolts at about 7000 RPM and luckily sat between Bob's legs cutting a neat 1/2 inch gap in his sand shoes and the other when I had to lift the back of the boat out of the water to allow the motor to get up on the cam and the propeller flew to pieces. We raced this boat all over the North Island. First towed with Bob's trusty 1954 8 hp Ford Popular then my LIP Vauxhall. Bob and I had some great times and successes racing this boat and a life-time friendship was established
I sold the Mistral, in 1962, much to Bob's delight, to Richard Mc Nair but kept the motor and gearbox, which I fitted into a 1950 low headlight Morris Minor. This was a great little car but with such a short wheelbase didn't care whether it went forward sideways or backwards. I never raced this car but Tony raced it forward, sideway and backwards a couple of times at Pukekoe. With the very low Minor diff ratio this car would lay rubber in first, second and third with ease. The last I heard of the Mistral was in about 1990 when it had been fitted with a new body in Gisborne and had been renamed the "Cactus".

In 1963 Beach Buggies were the in thing so I had to build one. I built one of the first fibreglass Sand Pacer buggies on a shortened 1200cc VW chassis. As well as using it as a shop run-a-bout we had a lot of fun at the beach and going up Mt Tarawera. It was amazing where this buggy would take you if you were game enough to drive it.

In 1961 I began doing all the work on Alf London's T Q Midget. This car ran a Triumph Speed Twin motor and the usual Austin seven running gear. I modified the motor by porting and polishing it, lightening the flywheel and bigger valves etc. Every Friday night at about 6-00 pm we would load up the midget on a trailer behind a Austin A40 that had been written off a couple of times already and head for Palmerston North speedway. We would arrive in Palmerston North at about 2-00 am and slept until about 8-00am. We'd race the midget Saturday night then party till daybreak, sleep till about 3-00 pm, then head home. The motor had a bad habit of burning a hole in the piston so back to Rotorua, gas welded up the hole, turn the piston in our old lathe and assemble the motor ready for next week. We later found that the fuel line had been dented in a previous accident, which caused the motor to run lean at high revs and burn the piston. This fixed, Alf then had great success. I did this for about six months until one Saturday night I was mistaken for Alf's brother Bob who also raced midgets as well as doing many other things in Palmerton North and decided it was time to give it all away if I didn't want to be killed by irate husbands or boyfriends!!!. It was no fun taking the punishment when Bob was having the fun!!

About this time, go carts were starting to catch on in New Zealand I decided to build a cart using 25mm exhaust tube. I built the chassis and suspension etc and then lost interest and sold it to John Agnew who finished it using a chain saw motor and wheelbarrow wheels and tyres. I don't know what happened to it but it was one of the top cars of the day. Unfortunately, John passed away from a heart attack a few years ago. John was a very good painter as well as a good friend and had painted many of my cars. John used to get very upset because I always wanted to rip the masking paper off long before the paint had dried. I could not wait to see the finished article. Another guy who I got to know through John was Errol Lowe. While a bit of a rouge, underneath Errol was a real nice guy and good guy to have on your side.

During 1962, I decided to design and build my own racing car. I was very impressed with the Lotus 23B sports car at the time and decided to base my first Heron on this car. I spent many hours reading about the Lotus plus many other cars of this type. Through my Applied Mechanics teaching at New Plymouth Boys High School I understood about building a space frame chassis. I was lucky to find a very good book called, "Racing & Sports Car Chassis Design" by M Costin and D Phipps. This book explained roll centres, anti dive, C of G and a hundred other things which must be considered when building a car, especially a racing car. I still have this book and have used it many times while designing and building my cars. Although written 40 years ago, it is still up to date with all the modern trends. As always, with any thing I build, I spent many hours designing and drawing until I feel I have the ultimate design. Luckily I have the ability to see the finished product before I draw it, which without this ability would make it very difficult. Another ability I have is to go to sleep with a real problem and wake in the middle of the night with the answer. Sadly in most cases, this only works with cars!!
Bob Gee gave up racing boats at this time to help me build the Heron Mk1. Bob became very involve from this point on with my building cars and successes in racing. Bob is a perfectionist and it showed in my cars. While Bob did not get involved in the actual designing he did most of the finishing work and was a great sounding board for a new idea. In the forty years I have known Bob we have never had a dispute and it was great to work with someone who had such faith in my designs and ideas.
Each part of any racing car must do more than just one job and any bracket must be drilled to make it as light as possible. As one friend once told me, he knew why I drilled holes in all the brackets, it was like toilet paper, it would never tear where the holes were! Luckily his theory seemed worked for me over the years, as I never had a failure.

One of the hardest jobs was to find a name for my cars. At first I was going to call them a Banshee but then found that this was a high pitched whine before death so didn't think this was a good idea for a racing car. One day I was reading the newspaper and I spotted an article on a Heron aeroplane, which had completed some feat in the South Island. This seemed a great name, as it is also a New Zealand bird known in Maori as a Kotuku. I have used this name ever since, trade marking it in 1995 when I built the PC80 electric cars for Powerco/New Zealand Electricity Corp.

The Mk1 Heron had a space frame chassis, aluminium body, 1500 Cortina motor, VW transmission and lightened Triumph Vitesse front suspension/brakes and rack etc. The chassis was built from 25mm and 19mm x 20 gauge Renolds tubing (push bike tubing) brazed together using Fluxicote bronze rod. The total weight of the chassis was only 35kgs. I purchased a Cosworth head from a well known racing driver Roly Levis, twin 40mm Webber carbs and made the tuned length inlet and exhaust system. A good friend of my brother's, Peter Hinton who was working for the VW agent at the time, built the gearbox. I cast up side plates for the gearbox and used Austin Mini donuts, drive shafts and welded feet onto front Mini hubs for rear uprights. The car ran coil overs and discs all round. The body was formed by bending 5mm rod over the chassis to gain the desired shape, then Eddie Jones, a well known panel beater in Rotorua, formed the aluminium body over this wire frame which was discarded when finished. Eddie had worked on aluminium aircraft during the war and was an expert in this field. Firestone supplied the tyres, which were 520 x 13 front and 640 x 13 rear on steel wheels. The completed car only weighed 400kgs and took Bob and I six months to build.
At its first outing the Heron Mk1 won its first race by a mile. Unfortunately, it then had problems with head gaskets as the head had been planed so often before I got it. I did try building it up with bronze by preheating the head and building a 3mm layer of bronze over the whole surface. It looked great until I ran a straight edge over the top and found it had warped about 5mm. I now had no alternative that to modify and fit the original head. The car continue with success until the 1963 Grand Prix when it was running 2nd behind the Lycoming in the open sports car race and the slave cylinder piston decided to jamb at the hairpin, forcing me to retire. At the end of the 1963 season I decided to sell the car to Peter Ackeroyd, but he had very little success with it. While Peter was quite a good driver, they did not suit each other and he sold it to Barron Robertson. Barron fitted the just released Ford Lotus Twin Cam motor and raced it with great success. It then went to the South Island where I lost track of it until I was phoned by a person in Taupo in 1989 to say he thought a chassis he had found at the back of his shop under blackberry could be a Heron. It turned out to be the MK1 chassis. How it got there I never found out. I did hear rumour that someone had cut the back off the chassis and used it in a Hillman Imp club car. I picked up the chassis and have started to rebuild the car. Whether I will ever finish rebuilding it is anyone’s guess.
One very lucky escape with this car was very early on when we were testing it through the forest on the way to Taupo. We had arrived at about 6-00am when there was no traffic. I told Bob I was going to just go down the road a couple of miles to warm it up but decided to give it a blast. I was doing about 120 mph when the catch on the left hand side of the rear body came undone. This acted like an air brake and slewed the car to the left. I quickly corrected it when the whole rear body was ripped off. With the front wheels on full opposite lock this caused the car to start spinning. It did three perfect spins straight down the middle of the road before coming to a stop against a marker post. How it did not flip at this speed I will never know. I climbed out a complete nervous wreck when a guy in a Morris Minor came along. There was car body all over the road and all he said was; "What sort on motor did it have!"
Bob had heard the motor start to wind up and then complete silence. Thinking the worst he raced down the road to see what had happened. All he could see when he came around the corner was a Morris Minor and Heron body all over the road. He thought I had hit the Minor. Luckily very little damage was done to the car and a new pair of undies fixed my problem!
I remember one of the top drivers at the time, when I told him I was building a sports car similar to the Lotus 23B said, "You don't build that sort of car, you buy it"! He didn't know Bob and me very well.

The MK2 Heron was to be a team effort. Ken Richardson, Bob Gee and I decided to build two identical cars and race then as a team in 1963/64. I designed the cars similar to the MK1 but using the very light GM all aluminium 3ltr Corvair flat six cylinder motors with Corvair four speed transmissions. These horizontally opposed motors allowed the cars to only be 400 mm high with large guards to house the wheels and tyres.
This was at a time when import licensing was in force. The motors and transmissions had to come from the States so I ordered them through our local GM Dealer, RM Transport. They were going to take three months to arrive so the two cars were completed back to the rear bulkhead while waiting for the motors and transmissions to arrive. The transmissions arrived first and we waited for the motors. I had also imported Iskerderian cams, which were coming in as milking machine parts, as the import restrictions disallowed imports of this nature. When the motors arrived, the Government would not allow them in as no Corvair cars had been imported into New Zealand and they were returned to the States with the gearboxes. This created a major problem. We had two completed cars less motors and transmissions. Ken found a Daimler V8 motor from a new SP250 sports car, which had run a main bearing, so this was purchased and repaired. We also purchased an ID 19 Citroen transmission and adapted it to the Daimler motor. The motor was fitted with eight Amal motorbike carbs, which worked very well with eight individual exhaust pipes pointing straight up to the sky. Once again the chassis were built from 25mm Renolds tubing, modified Vitesse front suspension, Heron designed aluminium cast uprights and the body again beautifully shaped by Eddie Jones in aluminium. Only one car for Ken was ever completed.
We tested this car up and down the Rotorua airport runway, which was opposite Bob's farm. It was driven from Bob's farm, down the road and into the airport then raced up and down the runway between landings of DC3's. Imagine trying to do this today with all the red tape! It was a very quick car, but the transmission only lasted a lap or two each race before it gave up. Ken raced this car during the 1965 season with little success due to the transmission failures. The second car was sold to Jim Aislabie, who re-named it the Sid Mk1 and first fitted a 3.8 Jaguar motor then a 221 ci Ford V8. This car gave a lot of chassis and suspension problems, as it was never designed to take the extra weight of the very heavy motors. Ken's car was eventually sold to Norris Miles who raced it with some success. I believe this car is still stored in a garage in Wellington where it has sat for over 30 years while its owner is overseas. It would have been an interesting car if we had been able to fit the very light 300hp Corvair flat six motors and transmissions, but that's racing.

I met my wife in 1963 at a party held in Sunset Road Rotorua. Bev and a girl friend had come from Perth, Australia to New Zealand for a holiday and had come to Rotorua to see her father. I asked Bev out and after a year or so we got engaged. It was decided we would get married at her home in Perth and then drive across the Nulibour plains to Sydney. We were going to buy a car in Perth then sell it when we got to Sydney, but after a bit of research, found that cars in Perth cost two or three thousand dollars more than in Sydney, so it was cheaper to ship our car from New Zealand to Perth, drive it to Sydney then ship it back home. At the time we owned a Ford Mk2 Zephyr. As petrol was so dear and scarce on the Nulibour Plains, I fitted a 100 litre TK Bedford truck fuel tank into the boot with spare axle, fan belt and radiator hoses. I drove the car to the port of Tauranga and it was loaded straight onto a ship for Perth. When it arrived, Bev went in to pick it up and was asked for all the freight documents. She said what documents? Luckily, I was still in New Zealand and could sort out the documentation but it was only touch and go that they did not load it back on the next ship and send it back to New Zealand at our expense. No-one could understand how it had been loaded on the boat at Tauranga with no documentation. I flew to Perth with my good friend Richard (Ridge) Ford as best-man and met future Mother in law, step-father in law, the two sisters and all the relations before the big day. Meeting the future relations would be bad enough one by one but to meet them all together was worse that my first stock car meeting. I had heard that my future mother-in-law worked at the airport but I didn't realise she kick started the jumbo jets!!!!!!!!!! Unfortunately mother-in-law and I never got on so it was just as well she lived in Perth but over the years we have both mellowed a little a do get on in small doses.
Big day over and we were off across the Nulibour. Most of the Nulibour is sealed now but when we drove across it in 1966 it was unsealed. To stop the dust getting into the car we taped up all the doors and widows except for the driver’s door. We also had two water bags attached to the front bumper as well as a ten-gallon container in the boot. Water is extremely scares on the Nulibour. We headed off as Mr. and Mrs. Baker into the unknown. It was a very interesting trip. If we stopped and got out of the car we were immediately covered in ten thousand flies. We had been warned of this, so when we got back into the car we would spray ourselves with fly spray to kill them. The dust was a real problem. We would see a car or one of the many large trucks and trailers coming towards us probable an hour away. When it approach we would have to stop for half an hour until the dust settled and we could see again. Once we drove side by side with a car for two days because if one of us passed the other would have to stop until the dust settled and in 40 degree heat with no air conditioning, wasn't a good option. The other problem was dust holes. These are potholes in the road, which fill with the fine dust. These can be a foot deep and as they are filled with dust, impossible to see. If you hit one of these it will rip the front suspension completely out of the car. There were many cars abandoned on the road and was either through hitting a dust hole or mechanical failure. They were abandoned where they had stopped, as it would have cost more to tow them out than the car was worth. Luckily we had a good trip across with only one puncture, once getting stuck and one night we had all our water stolen. The trip took eight days from Perth to Sydney.
We came back to Rotorua and lived in Mother's house as she had continued on to England after the wedding. After she returned we rented a couple of flats and houses then designed and build our own house at 14 Parkcliff Rd, on the edge of Lake Rotorua.
This house had a full basement as a workshop and later I built a 1500 sq/ft workshop on our adjacent section as by this time the basement was full of cars and parts. My daughter Marny came along in 1972, and it wasn't long before Marny was bundled up into the one of the many Chev V8 tow cars and off to Hamilton for a nights racing. From having one supporter I now had two! I remember going to the doctor and asking him would it damage Marny's ears with all the noise we created down stairs while building cars. Luckily his answer was no! No concern about the poor neighbors next door!!!!
In 1980 we decided to move. We bought another section down the road and were about to build a new house when we decided we liked our existing location better so I redesigned the old house and went up another story. John Stanners, a very good neighbour and builder rebuilt the house with his mate Charlie. When were about to remove the roof I rang the Met.Ofice and was told there was three weeks fine weather ahead. Off came the roof and it rained for two weeks. Our plan was to live in the house while it was re-being built but with all the rain Marny and Bev moved into Mother's house. I stayed at home to look after it, as it was now all open. The old house had plaster ceilings and when it rained the water would pour down the light fittings in the centre of the room and flood everything. To stop this, I nailed funnels over the fittings then attached a hose to the funnel and ran it out the window. This at least kept most of the water at bay but all our furniture down stairs got drowned.
It eventually fined up and the house was completed. This was a beautiful house. It had a really nice feel about it and we loved it. Marny had a room with a sloping ceiling just like a little hut and a study to one side. We had many parties and Christmas's in this house over the years. We continued to live in this house until 2001 when we decided to move to Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast of Australia to a unit we had purchased five years earlier. There were many reasons for leaving New Zealand. One was the racial problem that had been growing since 1975 and can only end in tears for all concerned and the another reason was the depreciating of assets in New Zealand brought on by the racial problem and a Government out of control. The weather in New Zealand was also a major factor as well as Marny, Yaser and Alex had decided they would also move to Maroochydore if we moved. We left New Zealand for good on the 8 March, 2002 to semi-retire at Maroochydore on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of Australia.

In 1988, I joined the One New Zealand Foundation Inc as a foundation member, which was an organisation concerned with the racial problem beginning to raise its ugly head in New Zealand as in many other parts of the world. A small group of New Zealand Citizens who could claim some minute trace of Maori ancestry were becoming very demanding for special rights, which belong to all the people of New Zealand. It must be remembered that the average Maori today only has about 12% of Maori ancestry and decreasing rapidly but the Government treats them as if they were the same people who signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. A Maori only Tribunal, the Waitangi Tribunal was set up by Government where Maori only are allowed to put their case without cross examination by non-Maori. In the majority of cases to date, they have been granted their demands virtually in full. This is racial discrimination but not only does the Government close a blind eye to it, they encourages it with millions of dollars of taxpayers money. The part-Maori people of New Zealand are really not to blame, it is the weak Governments that have given in to their demands until now it is too late to stop without major problems for all concerned. I feel if people in New Zealand understood or knew how much money and public assets were going to a few of these so called Maori, there would be a riot but it is a very well kept secret which only Government knows. God help New Zealand when the people find out what's happening, but unfortunately, it will be too late. I was president of the ONZF for six years and am an honoury life member. To date, I have written three books on the subject. “He iwi tahi tatou – We are now one people”, “From Treaty to Conspiracy” and “The Treaty of Trickery”.

In 1966, Tony and I teamed up to race in the first six-hour endurance race to be held in New Zealand at Pukekoe. The Wills Six Hour. Our team consisted of Don Roberts as manager, Peter Hinton, Bob Gee and Warwick Coote. Warwick very sadly lost his life some years later when duck shooting. The first car we raced was Don's 1961 Ford Anglia. I must thank Bev and Don for their faith in lending Tony and I their only means of transport at the time. We had a good run in this car gaining a fourth place in our class.
The following year we race a Ford Mk1 Escort sponsored by Doug Johnstone of Doug Johnstone Motors, the Ford dealer in Taupo and the company Warwick worked for. We were in second place in our class when someone clipped the back of the car at Railway corner when Tony was driving and it rolled over and back onto its wheels. Tony only lost one place but the windscreen was broken and the roof pushed down. Tony came in and we inspected the damage and I went out while they decided on what to do. As we were frightened the back screen would blow out now that it did not have a front screen, it was decided to fit a new front screen. A screen was taken out of our spare car in the pits and had tape put around the edges as with the roof pushed down, the new screen would not fit. Two people held the screen on pit lane as I came into the pits and virtually drive straight into the screen and back out onto the track. Even after this, we still managed to get third in our class and a whopping cheque for $20-00 from the Ford Motor Company "in recognition of our performance"! Just enough to buy the team a hamburger each! Bit different today!!!!
In 1967 we drove a Ford Mk3 Zephyr again sponsored by Johnstone Motors. To get these cars to handle we had to lower the rear springs. This was not allowed, so to go through scrutineering, we had to drive around the corner, jack the rear end up as high possible, undo the spring shackle bolts then retighten them and creep back before the car sunk down to its modified high. While this was not strictly legal this car was probably one of the most standard racing that day. We had worked our way into first place in our class when the car completely ran out of brakes while I was driving. No warning lights in these days. I managed to limp to the pits to have new pads fitted but unfortunately the old pads had welded themselves into the calipers. By the time we had fitted two new calipers we had lost too much time to secure a good finish. While we all had a great time we had a disappointing finish.
The following year, 1968 we raced the new Mk4 Ford Zodiac V6 also sponsored by Johnstone Motors. As always we completely stripped all the mechanical components from the car and completely rebuilt them. About all that was legally allowed was to blue print and balance the motor. The motors of the winning cars are stripped after the race and inspected. Depending on who you were, any found to be modified in any way were disqualified. About four days before the race, Tony took the car to Hamilton to run it in. On the way back a slip had come down across the road in the Mamakus and who should come around the corner at a "gentle running in pace" but Tony. The front of the car hit the slip and followed the slip upwards while the rest of the car continued in a straight line - result - one MK4 Zodiac looking exactly like a banana with only four days to race day. The car was taken to Eddie Jones, the man who built the MK1 and 2 Heron bodies, and within a couple of days and nights he had worked a miracle and had the car looking like new. This was one of the best cars I ever raced in an endurance race but by then the cheating on rules had become so rampant that we had little chance of any success and the last endurance race we participated in. I would like to thank the following people for one of the best times of my life. My brother Tony and his wife Marlene, Don Roberts and his wife Bev who Don had to convince to allow us to race his Anglia, Peter and Shona Hinton, Bob Gee and Warwick and June Coote who secured our sponsorship of cars over three years, Doug Johnstone who had the faith in our team with three very expensive cars and finally my wife who I had just met and wondered what the hell was going on! Thanks to you all, they were great times with plenty of hard work but also lots and lots of fun and friendship.

After the Mk2 Daimler Heron and the unfinished Mk3 Heron, now called the Sid Mk1, was sold, Bob Gee and I decided to build a replica of the very successful Ford GT Mk4, the car which had dominated GT Sports Car racing in the U.S.A. from 1966 to 1968, to race the next season.
For the next six months I collected every write up and piece of information I could on the Ford GT. The original car had a honey comb aluminium monocoque chassis with fibreglass doors and front and rear body sections and a Ford 429 ci V8 motor. The fibreglass was no problem as by now fibreglass and Bob had made great advances but there was no way I could locate and build the chassis out of honeycomb aluminium so I decided on steel. I also wanted to use a 327 ci Chev V8 motor, as it was far easier to obtain Chev competition components. The transmission was a problem. To buy a transmission to carry this type of power would cost a fortune, so there was no alternative than to "build one"!
I spent a year designing this car. It was a major challenge, as I had never built a monocoque chassis or a four-speed transmission - let alone to take in excess of 350 HP. I drew the basic car then all the individual panels to make up the monocoque chassis. There were 57 panels in total. The main load-bearing panels were 18 gauges and 24 gauges for low-load-bearing panels. Once the drawings were complete, we started cutting the panels out by hand and folding them to shape. The panels were either spot welded or pop-riveted together, but we had to be very careful we did not weld a panel only to find we could not attach the next as the welder would not fit. Out of the 57 panels there were only two that had to be re-cut and folded again.
The front suspension consisted of unequal length fabricated wishbones with Humber 80 vertical links, coil overs and disc brakes. The rear suspension consisted of a fabricated lower link with the driveshaft acting as the top link. Heron fabricated steel uprights with inboard discs and coil overs.
About this time, I had fitted a 350 ci Chev into a Ford Mk4 Zephyr for Terry Scott and Spinner Black of Paton and Black Engineering of Morrinsville and the original Zephyr gearbox handled the power without any problem so I decided to use this same gear-train. The crown wheel and pinion was from a 1934 Ford V8 as it has a bevel gear and not a hypoid. A bevel gear is machined on the same plane whereas a hypoid it is slightly below and the slightly makes a big difference to the machining and the way it runs. I modified the crown-wheel carrier to take the Mk4 Zephyr spider gears, output shafts and half-shafts. As Bob had a Howard Rotary hoe and had a full range of transfer gears to change its speed, I decided to use these to change the final drive ratios. I adapted an Austin Mini oil pump on to the rear of the box to pressure feed the whole transmission. Now all the components were decided on I had to work out how to join them all together. There was only one real solution and that was to cast an aluminium housing. I drew all the components in their respective positions then proceeded to draw the housings around them. I took the drawings to Bob for him to make the patterns. These patterns had to be a split with removable webs inside so it could be disassembled from the sand mould to allow the aluminium casting to be cast in one piece. Within a month or so Bob had made a full set of patterns out of wood and fibreglass to cast our gearbox housing in aluminium.
We carefully loaded all the patterns into Bob's Cortina Station Wagon and headed for Auckland to have them cast. The first foundry we approached laughed at us and told us no one could cast a housing such as this. The second, third and fourth did the same. The boys from the sticks turned around and drove home very sad. All the hard work and thought was to become firewood. As we approach Rotorua, I remembered a little foundry down a back street called Foundry Engineering who cast mainly brass antique lights but had cast a few aluminium wheel spacers for me over the years, so we thought we would give our funny shaped firewood a go with them. Ray the foreman took one look at them and said to give him a ring in two weeks and by then he would have had time to look at them. The two weeks slowly ticked by and I gave him a ring. In a very dry and slow voice he said, "There all finished, come and pick them up"!
I could not believe it and raced in to find a set of complete replica aluminium castings of our patterns. Since this time Ray has cast some impossible shapes for me, he is a real genius when it comes to aluminium castings. Dave Long of Dave Long Engineering machined all the housings and we eventually had our Heron four-speed transaxle.
While I worked on the monocoque chassis and suspension components, Bob made the male plug for the body then the actual fibreglass body. Both jobs were major tasks. It must be remembered that Ford had a team of hundreds of people to design and build their cars and an unlimited budget, we had just two, Bob and I and a few thousand dollars. It took seven thousand people to design and build the first Ford Falcon.
When the car was about three quarters finish, the controlling body of motor racing in New Zealand foolishly decided to lower the capacity of Sports Cars to 2ltr. This killed sports car racing in New Zealand and until this day, it has never recovered. We were absolutely devastated. Bob and I had worked no stop on this car and all its challenges to have a pack of clowns make it obsolete. The GT was pushed to the back of the shed and there it sat for ten years.

Stock car racing was starting to catch on in New Zealand and Rotorua was the next to get a track. John Lind who had successfully raced stock cars at Palmerston North decided to open a track at Rugby Park in Rotorua. I decided as we had no where to race the Heron GT I may as well get involved in stock car racing. A young apprentice of ours, Alf Luckin who was tragically drown in the Whakatane river when diving in later years, and I decided to build a stock car. While John was putting railway lines as posts and 25mm steel cables around the outside of Rugby Park, Alf and I were buying a MK1 Zephyr which had hit a power pole in Murapara. As the front sway bar/stabilizer had been broken in the accident, we put a piece of number 8 wire around the lower track arm and twitched it to the front of the chassis. This allowed us, with a cake or two of soap jammed in the radiator to stop it leaking, to drive the car home to Rotorua.
We stripped all the trim, lights and glass etc and cut a hole with the gas axle/cutting torch from the front head light hole to the taillight. We then pushed a piece of 50mm water pipe from the front to the back and welded a hoop at each end to act as bumpers. A roll cage was attached to this with a 3mm steel plate along the driver’s side door and above the driver’s head. We were now ready to go stock car racing. We had a lot of fun with this car as all the cars were very similar, but as time went by, people began building special cars and importing specially built cars from other tracks and our car became obsolete.
Bob and I decided to team up again and build a replica ""E"" type Jaguar stockcar for the 1970 season. Somehow, we found a Mr. Fenn in Katikati who had a shed full of old Chrysler and Dodge cars that had all the "in type" of suspension for stock cars of the day. Many people had tried to buy these cars from Mr. Fenn but he had refused. Bob and I approached him and without any hesitation he said we could have the lot for nothing. It was amazing what this man had stored in his many sheds. Mr. Fenn owned Fenn Motors of Katikati and I'm sure every car he had traded since about 1936 he had kept. There were hundreds of cars in various states of repair lying everywhere. We salvaged about eight cars and towed them home to Rotorua. One day we turned up and his old bulldog came ambling down the drive. As our family had owned a bulldog I said I knew all about them so I would get out of the car and say hello. I slowly walked down the long drive with a smile on my face to greet the dog. When I was about six feet away it bared its teeth and made the charge. I turned and ran as fast as I could with the dog gaining each step to the amusement of those in the car. I just managed to leap onto the bonnet of the car before I lost a good portion of my pants. There I sat until Mr. Fenn appeared laughing as well. Perhaps this is why he gave us the cars. While we were towing one of the cars back to Rotorua a wheel came off. We spent about an hour trying to find the wheel but had to give up. Perhaps it is still stuck in some ones grill!!!!.
I drew up a very sophisticated chassis using 50mmX100mm RHS, plated with 3mm Corten plate, the same plate they use in battle ships. We used a 3.4 Jaguar motor, which we bore out to 3.8 ltr. Mild racing cams and a very rare double choke 50mm SU carburetor, which were made solely for Cooper racing cars in the 50s. The rules stated you could only use one carburetor and Jaguars were fitted with two 50mm SUs. The "E" body was made by cutting sections out of the old Dodges and Chryslers and then welding them together to replicate the shape of an “E“ type Jaguar. The front axle which we had removed from a 1938 Airflow Chrysler from Mr. Fenn's collection was the ultimate front suspension as they were stated to be so strong. Unfortunately this broke before we even raced the car when trying to set more positive camber. A Dodge diff located by Ferguson tractor drawbar stays and leaf springs. At this time Bob had bought a block of land between lakes Rotoiti and Tarawera and we decided to build a track on it to develop the car. This caused quite a stir amongst the airline pilots who could not work out why this oval track had appeared in the middle of nowhere. Had the aliens invaded? We had a lot of fun with the car at this track. Bob has since sold the farm and I often wonder what has happened to the track.
This was a very successful car and we were picked for the New Zealand verse Australian Stock Car Challenge Team that year by Terry Scott and Spinner Black the Promoters of Forest Lake Stadium in Hamilton. As the car was so strong we were the block car and very few, if any, got past it. For the following season I was contracted to race at Forest Lake Stadium for very good appearance money. To date, this is the only car I have ever rolled over. During a race in Auckland it was hit from behind and did a very quick roll back on to its wheels. In fact it was so quick Bob didn't even see it and it was only the fact that the roof number was flattened that he believed it actually rolled. A couple of years after I sold this car, it won the New Zealand Stock Car Championship at Rotorua. My brother Tony also got involved with Jim Cooke in racing stockcars and built a car from this same chassis plan. It was a very successful car also and was powered by a 3.3 Vauxhall Cresta motor.
To tow the stock cars, I build one of the first Mk3 Ford Zodiac with a 350 Chev motor and Jaguar gearbox. It was very interesting watching the people’s faces when we went past them going up the Bombay Hill at 80 miles an hour with a two ton stock car in tow or laying fifty feet of rubber at the lights. I also made a set of mag wheel covers for this car. I made a pattern and cast up an imitation mags that fitted over the standard wheel. They were about 5mm thick and were held on by making extended wheel nuts with a tread. While these looked great, they were virtually impossible to balance and God help it if one had ever come off, as they weighed a ton. I made quite a few sets of these and saw the last set only a couple of years ago on a very tidy MK3 Zephyr in Rotorua.
In 1971, I decided to change to saloon car racing and sold the stock car. While I had had a lot of fun racing stock cars I was getting sick of all the work. I worked out that for every minutes racing we spent one hour working on the car just to repeat it all again next week.

One night while towing the Camaro Saloon car home I had to stop quickly while going down Fenton St in Rotorua. The rope holding the back of the car must have come loose and the car rolled forward and parked itself on the boot of the 1965 Chev tow car. I had to start the 400 ci Chevy motor and try to shift it back so we could drive home. Imagine the noise at 1-00 am in the morning with the open exhaust and the tires squealing trying to move it back. Luckily it was too noisy to hear the comments from the people trying to sleep. Another time a customer’s 3.8 Jaguar had blown a radiator hose in Auckland and cooked the motor and he wanted me to tow it back to Rotorua to repair. I was going to Auckland racing that night so decided to tow it back then. We headed off back to Rotorua with the Camaro on the trailer and the Jaguar being towed behind the trailer on a rope. All went well until we got to Huntly when unbeknown to me, the towrope broke. I continued on to Cambridge, about 20 klms before we realised the rope had broken. Bob Gee who was steering the Jaguar was not very impressed. He said when the rope broke he expected me to stop but all he saw was the trailer tail ligths disappear into the darkness.
Another time I had to tow a golf car over to Tauranga and had just taken delivery of a 1992 Holden GTS. I was sailing along the straight at Piangaroa when I decided to pass a truck. There seemed to be plenty of room but when I was alongside the truck I found the Holden did not have enough power to make the move so I braked to slip back in behind the truck. I then learnt real quickly that 1992 Holden Commodores GTS do not have rear brakes. The fronts locked up and I seemed to be accelerating. The only alternative now was to take to the grass on the right and hope the oncoming truck didn't do the same. Luckily he drove between the truck and me. When I arrived back home Bev had been rung by the irate driver to ask who was the bloody idiot, and rightly so, who had tried to kill him. I rang him back later and opologised but he was not impressed. Sorry Eldon!!!!
While we did thousands of miles towing cars and boats etc, this was the only real time that I could have been killed. I never had a car come off the trailer in all that time. Better luck than good management!!

In 1971, I decided to go Saloon car racing but as Rotorua did not race saloon cars I again contracted to Hamilton's Forest Lake Stadium. My first car was a 1961 Ford Anglia with a 1600 cc crossflow motor and four of my favorite Amal Carbs, the next best thing to fuel injection. This first car only had a roll bar and a pipe behind the bumpers so when it had a shunt, which was fairly often, the front guard would end up about half way along the door. This was easily fixed by chaining the back of the car to one laminated beam of our workshop and putting the endless chain between the front of the car and another beam. Pull on the chain until the car returned to its original length and we're off racing again. The Anglia did very well but I found it was essential to have a full chassis if the car was to remain racing after a shunt.

At the end of the 1971 season, Terry Scott, the promoter of Forest Lake Stadium asked me if I would like to take over the tracks sponsored Twin Cam Ford Escort that Roddy Bell had been racing. At first I was over the moon to think I now had a fully sponsored car but this was short lived when I first saw the car. We drove to Auckland to pick it up as it had just been shipped back from Australia where it had been racing. A very good friend, John Grant joined the team at this time. John was a very good welder and mechanic and helped built and repaired all the chassis from then on. We asked the guy at the gate of the shipping yard where was the Escort we had come to pick up. He said he didn't know of any Escort but there was a pile of bent and rusty metal down at the bottom of the yard addressed to Forest Lake Stadium. His description was spot-on; it was a crumpled pile of panel steel sitting on three wheels all pointing in different directions. We reluctantly loaded it onto our trailer trying to think what we could tell all the people we had told we had a fully sponsored racing car. We also learnt that it had hardly ever finished a race due to mechanical problem mainly with the motor, which had been bored and stroked to 2ltr.
Bob very kindly offered to take it to his shed on the farm where we could hide it and work on it before showing it to anyone. Once we got into the body we found instead of using body filler they had used plaster of paris to fix the dents. All this had to be removed. While Bob worked on the body and John on the chassis, I stripped the motor, gearbox and diff and rebuilt them. I don't think I have ever seen such shoddy workmanship in all my life. No wonder it never finished a race. We had the car like new for the coming season. While it went very well and finished every race without mechanical breakdown it was outdated and over-weight. I decided to design and build a new car for the following season.
There was one exciting moment when I decided to change the fuel tank. Whoever had built the car had welded an old jerry can into the back as a fuel tank and it began to leak. The car was parked in the basement of my home and I decided to fill the tank with water before cutting it out. Unfortunately, while I was filling the tank it overflowed spilling what petrol was left in the tank all over the cars floor. Without thinking, I lit the cutting torch and boom, the whole car was engulfed in flames that were pouring out the windows and curling about the floor joists of the house. Luckily I had a fire extinguisher and one squeeze of the trigger and it was all out. Without an extinguisher, the house would have burnt to the ground.

In 1971, I was asked to become a member of the New Zealand Auto Cycle Union, the body who controlled speedway in New Zealand, as their Chief Scrutineer. This was a very interesting job as speedway was going through a stage where the cars were becoming far more sophisticated. Each year Scott Black Promotions were invited Americans and Australians to come to New Zealand to race against the locals. Their cars were far more advanced than ours, so each year I would have to rewrite the rulebook to allow the locals to build cars to compete with the visitors. After three or four years our cars caught up to the American and Australian cars and we began beating them. My 250 ci Mk3 Cortina six could give Gene Welsh's 370 ci Chevy V8 a go for it’s money. Many of my rules and roll cage designs etc are still published in today’s rulebooks some 30 years later. I have also been asked on many occasions to give my opinion in court cases, which involved my experience in things mechanical.

My daughter Marny was born in July of 1972. When she was about three months old she was bundled up into her carrycot and off we would go to Hamilton every Saturday night. Bev would carry Marny around to the terraces and there they would watch me race. Well Bev would watch, Marny would sleep until she was about two years old then she took an interest in me racing. This continued for the next five years. Marny has always been interested in motor racing and we had a lot of fun traveling to hill climbs and club meetings when she got older and could race. Marny was a very good driver but decided to travel overseas and gave racing away. A pity, as I am sure she would have done very well as she proved when she drove the 350 ci Heron GT around Bay Park putting in some very good times with no brakes. Still, she's never used brakes whether racing or driving on the road. In fact I don't even think she knows that cars have brake pedals, only an accelerator pedal which must always be pushed flat to the floor at all times.

For the new Escort I purchased a damaged body shell from rally driver Paul Adams who had hit a tree and had decided it was easier to buy a new shell and fit all his components. We straightened this shell, and I designed and built a very light but very strong full chassis/roll cage in the car, new modified suspension and the now very reliable motor and gearbox from the old car. This car was one of the most advanced cars running in New Zealand at the time and I won most of the big money races including the New Zealand Saloon Championship in 1972. Every two weeks I would completely strip the motor, check it, rebuilt it and loaded it onto the trailer for next Saturday's racing. It never missed a beat for the whole season being raced at just about every track in the North Island. The only parts, accept for gaskets, needed during both seasons racing, was one top ring. An amazing little motor that just wanted a bit of Tender Loving Care! I won the New Zealand Saloon car Championship in this car in 1972. At the end of the year this car was sold where it race twice without success at Auckland and was never seen again!
For the 1973 season I wanted to build a Ford Mk3 Cortina with a Falcon 250 ci six-cylinder motor which had just appeared in Australia for the next season but the new 400ci Small Block Chev motor had just come on the market and Terry and Spinner wanted me to build something to take this motor. As they were now paying the bills, who was I to argue.

Bob, John and I went over to Paton and Black's workshop in Morrinsville and picked up a brand new 400ci Chev motor and all the trimmings to make it go fast. Carbs, manifolds, cams springs, pistons etc. and bought them all home in the boot of my brand new two door V8 Ford Falcon XA Coupe. At the time Bev wasn't even allowed to put the groceries in the boot but a 400ci Chev was different. I often wondered why the fuel tank held ten gallons less after this trip until one day I lifted the boot carpet and saw the Chevy motor had nearly gone through the top of the fuel tank.
We arrived home and wondered what we would fit all these goodies into. It was decide a 1968 Camaro was the car but how do we get a Camaro. Why not build one? At the time the new Vauxhall Victor had just come on the market and it had a slight resemblance to a Camaro so it was decided to buy Victor panels and modify them to the Camaro shape. A chassis was designed, and as usual a welding wire model was build to discuss the finer details with John before he started building. While John completed the chassis, Bob and I were reshaping the panels to represent a 1968 Camaro. The new car was a dog to drive at first, as I was not used to the torque the 400ci motor had. A touch of the throttle and the rear wheels broke traction and by lifting the pedal the compression torque also broke traction. A few tweaks to the chassis and the driver and we began to win races but then the little "green men" at Hamilton Speedway got upset. This was not solely their fault as I was an outsider racing a fully sponsored car owned by the promoter. They protested that my car was not a Camaro but a Victor modified to represent a Camaro. They were right but I had to defend all the work we had done so approached the Hamilton GM dealer who had my car inspected and verified it was a genuine 1968 Chev Camaro modified for racing. Just shows if you do it right you can fool the best of them. The other drivers would not accept this and rightly so, so we scraped this car and fitted all the components into a HK Holden. We pick the HK up which had hit a power pole with its left front corner, from Lovegrove Wrecking in Hamilton and towed it home on a Sunday morning. For the next week Bob, John and I, plus most of my neighbors at Parkcliff Road stripped the Camaro, repaired the Holden, built a chassis and roll cage, swapped all the components from one car to the other and painted it as well as doing our normal day jobs. The following Saturday night the car was racing at Hamilton! One week to build a complete racecar! While this car went quite well my heart was still set on building a Cortina Six. Also and understandably, I was not the most popular driver at Hamilton at this time, so sold this car at the end of the 1972 season and convinced Terry and Spinner that the Cortina was the way to go for the next season to which they eventually agreed. One of the Hamilton drivers bought the Camaro!!!

During the season I had been designing the chassis, roll cage and suspension for the Cortina so we could make an immediate start once we found a car. For the next couple of weeks I tendered for any Cortina MK3 that became available, sight unseen. Eventually I won a tender for a four-cylinder car in Tahuna for $850-00. I had to make my mind up by eight the next morning whether I wanted it or no, so that night we made a rushed trip to look at it over a fence by torchlight. It had been hit very hard in the right hand front corner but as I was building a space frame from the bulkhead forward, this did not matter. I paid for the car the next day and picked it up. At the time a new Falcon motor cost only $700-00 so I did a deal with one of our taxi driver customers and sold him the new motor for $500-00 and kept his old motor. A deal that suited both of us. Ford Australia had just developed a 12 port head for Bathhurst, so I purchased one of these and fitted Holden V8 valves, three 48mm Delortos carbs with tuned length inlet and exhaust manifolds and a set Arius pistons. The motor was fully balanced and the cam was ground by Taupo Auto Machinists who did all my machining at this time. After we had been racing this car for about half the season a school boy asked me one day why it had two 48mm carbs and one 45. I had never notice this but as it went so well we left it as it was.
As the Escort, the chassis was a full space frame with roll cage being part of the chassis and the motor and transmission being bolted solid to add to the rigidity. The front suspension was by unequal length wishbones, a Vitesse upper arm and a Cortina lower track arm, Humber 80 vertical link with stabilizer rods facing back and coil overs. The rear suspension was conventional with live axle, leaf springs and shocks. Even although dirt track cars only turn one way, it is much harder to set them up than a circuit car as the dirt surface changes as the nights racing goes on and the track dries out. Just when you think the track has dried out and the car is handling well they put the water truck out and it's back to square one again. The suspension must be very quick and simple to adjust so that it can be altered to suit each race and track condition. This car had 15 inch wide wet weather racing tyres on the back and 10 inch on the front. We also ran 2 inches of stagger with the front geometry squared and the diff offset 1 inch. It was stated and proved itself many time that this car was the fastest saloon car in New Zealand at the time and was the only car that could give Gene Welsh the American a run for his money, beating him on many occasions. As well as winning many major races over the season I was runner up in that years New Zealand Saloon Car Championship and the winner of the American verse New Zealand Challenge race. I had beaten the Americans at their own game with a car with half the horsepower and a quarter the cost!!!! Funny, we didn't see Gene Welsh in New Zealand again after that.

Terry Scott approached me in 1970 and asked if I would fit the 400 horsepower 350ci Chev V8 motor out of Spinner Blacks racing boat into a new MK4 Ford Zephyr he had just bought. This was quite a challenge as the MK4 was fitted with a very short V6 motor. The Mk4 had its spare wheel mounted in front of the radiator so if I moved it into the boot it would give enough room for the V8 motor. I decided to retain the four-speed Zephyr gearbox as it was used in the early Mustangs and hopefully would take the power of the Chev motor. Another problem was the oil pump on the Chev motor is at the rear of the sump and the Zephyr X member runs just in front of this. The answer was to form a new sump at the front of the motor with a small sump at the rear for the oil pump. Fit the motor then join the two sumps together, under the X member, with two one inch hoses. This solved the problem. I made a steel plate adaptor between motor and Zephyr bellhousing/gearbox and bolted it all in. The exhaust was another problem but by now we could buy bends so it was just a matter of making a set of extractors and a large diameter exhaust system. The power of this car was unreal. It would spin the wheels in third gear, which for the day was unheard off. Terry drag raced this car at the old Meremere dirt drag strip with great success.

In 1971 Tony and I decided to open a service station on the corner of Old Taupo and Sunset Road. By now we had two petrol pumps at the workshop in Old Taupo Road but decided to move these to the new site. At this time a license to sell petrol was a very valuable asset so we did a three- way deal with Mobil Oil NZ Ltd and the Rotorua Milk Treatment Station who owned the site. The Milk Treatment owned the land, Mobil built the building and we owned the license. We decided that I would run the Service Station selling petrol and doing servicing and tune ups and Tony would do all the major repairs at the workshop. At first this worked very well but we found that it wasn't long before our customers preferred either Tony or myself to do all their work. They did not like taking their car to Tony for some work and me for other work. It was predicted that this site would pump 40,000 litres of petrol per month but after three months it was pumping 100,000 litres and had two more pumps installed. At this time petrol was bought by the gallon. With no computers we had to work out the price in our head. Petrol was three shillings and four pence a gallon and at the time service stations only sold petrol, oil, diesel, cigarettes and drinks. We received 12 pence (24 cents) a gallon so it was a very profitable site. Paul Martelli, Ray Oakly and Wayne Vaughan worked for me at the service station, which I ran until 1977. It was very long hours and tension began to raise its ugly head between Tony and me. This was mainly brought on through the competition between us created by our customers. While I don't blame our customers it did cause problems towards the end of our eighteen-year partnership. We felt our family was far more important that the service station so we decided to sell it in 1977 and go our separate ways in business. While it had been a very good partnership for 18 years it was time to finish it. I sold my shares to Tony, we sold the workshop and I opened Road and Track Autos in White Street as well as buying six flats at York Street.

In 1974, cars jumping over other cars were catching on in Australia. Scott Black Promotions wanted to be the first track in New Zealand to follow suit. I don't know whether it was time to get rid of me or not but they asked me if I would be interested to drive the car. I thought why not and Bev seemed pretty keen as long as I increased my insurance policy!
I found a Ford Mk2 Zephyr, which we named the "Streaker" and put a very simple roll bar in it and a bar between the seat and steering box just in case it all went wrong. Terry had a ramp made and it was all on. The night of the jump arrived and I must admit it didn't seem like such a good idea as it had a couple of weeks ago but too late to back out now. Fourteen cars were lined up on the other side of the ramp and away I went. The Mk2 hit the ramp with a terrific crash to be followed by silence as it sailed through the air. The next minute it landed gentle on a couple of cars. Although spectacular from the stands what an anticlimax inside. The next week we were to appear in Auckland. The Mk2 had only suffered a bent tie rod so we used it again. This time I had a better run up and approached the ramp at about 50 kph. Again crash - silence - but this time the Mk2 decided to nose dive straight in. It sat on its nose forever then did a complete summer-sult to end up back on its wheels on the ground. Thankfully the roll bar had done its job and I was OK but the motor was lying on its side and the poor Mk2 was in a very sorry state never to jump again! Unfortunately, the ramp Terry had built did not have a curve in it to keep the springs depressed while it was going up the ramp and the car virtually fell off the end. I have learnt since that the ramp must be curved to flick the car off the end. As the car hits the ramp the springs depress then rebound before the car reaches the end of the ramp and it virtually falls off. If the ramp is curved the springs stay depressed until it leaves the ramp and this flicks the car up into the air and it travels far further. The jump was shown on National T.V. where my Mother heard about it for the first time and nearly had a heart attack. I must admit, I was paid very well for this feat, which paid for the swimming pool at Parkcliff Road, which I dug by hand.
I would fill the barrow with earth then wheel it up a ramp to empty it. Marny, who was about three years old would then climb into the barrow and go for a ride back down into the pool to do it all over again and again and again. I rigged up a light and dug most of the pool after tea at night when it was cool. While we had a lot of fun with the pool and all the local kids learnt to swim in it, there are two great times when owning a swimming pool, one when you fill it up for the first time and two when you FILL IT IN FOR THE LAST TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!. This was done some fifteen years later and turned into a sunken garden.
I also participated in a couple of demolition derbies. The most success was in a 1961 Chev Belair at Forest lake Stadium. While this was a lot of fun I always felt sorry for the poor car. You just drove it until it would go no further. It's amazing how this Chev tried but with no water, three wheels and not one straight panel let it slowly die a very undignified death. Very sad for some-ones pride and joy some twenty years earlier.

Another interesting car about this time was the 1961 Chev Belair which I fitted a Chev 427 ci motor out of Ian Reeves speedboat. This motor developed about 450 HP and heaps of torque. I ran this through the standard Chev three speed gearbox and diff without any problems but the torque of this motor over time broke the chassis in half. This was repaired by cutting out the floorboards over the break and welding a plate in to re-enforce it. I used this car as general transport as well as at hill climbs and club circuit racing. I had the most fun I have ever had racing in this car with a very good friend of mine, Glen Jones. We traveled to hill climbs and club race meetings all over the country to do battle. I can remember pushing Glen's 1939 Ford coupe fitted with a 350 ci Chev all the way up the main straight at Bay Park at about 130 mph. By pushing I mean locked bumpers and physically pushing. Glen and his father used to come down for the weekend to stay and we always had a lot of fun together. He was a great guy but very sadly died of cancer some years later.
It was also an interesting car at a hill climb. As I came around a corner, I would see the spectators running for safety as this two-ton monster, completely crossed up, slid by. This car was clocked at 150 miles an hour at a sprint in Hamilton. It would have gone faster but I was banned from further runs when the scrutineer found I was running on Firestone retreads!!!!!!!!. The easiest way to sum up this car was,” Two tons of steel - 450 horse power - very little road - but OOOOOH what fun"!

In 1974, Rotorua Stock Car Club decided to race a new type of class called Super Stocks. As I was getting sick of traveling to Hamilton each Saturday night and they still hadn't forgotten the Camaro , I decided to change classes and tracks and race Super Stocks in Rotorua. As chief scrutineer for the NZACU, I was asked by John Lind to draw up the rules and specifications for this class. I spoke to a lot of the drivers in Rotorua who wanted to race this type of car and came up with a set of very simple and open rules and specifications, which suited everyone. The car must have approved roll bars, a plate above the driver’s head, and a seat belt. The only stipulation was the car must represent a production car of some sort. The rest was virtually open. I wanted this class to appeal to the typical DIY type of guy. It was a great class until later the rules were changed to allow all the tired old sprint cars to complete and took away the DIY theme.
I sold the Cortina but kept the good motor. I decided to build a very simple space frame chassis with an adjustable suicide front end and live rear axle with a narrowed fibreglass Ford Anglia body. It had to be a very light car, which handled well and had outstanding acceleration. It had no gearbox. The car only weighed 630 kg and had 325 horsepower. This car was by far the quickest Super Stock in the country. In Hamilton I would start one lap back and by about four laps would have reached the front. I took this car to Bay Park to a club meeting one day and had a race with Craig Pullman’s Falcon Gt. At the start, I left him for dead, but down the back straight he caught me only to be left behind through the short straights. Afterwards he said he was doing 140 mph down the back straight but had no show of out accelerating me in the short straights. He shook his head and walked away!!!
I was sponsored to take this car to the South Island where I won the South Island Championships and broke many of their track records. I sold about ten kits of this car to drivers in the South Island after I returned. I also won the New Zealand Super Stock Champs at the end of the year. This was a very successful car, which I hill climbed, sprinted and race at sealed and dirt circuits. By this time John Grant had got re-married and decided to give racing cars away. I thank John for all the help he gave me over the years, we had a lot of fun and without him I would not have had the many successes at Forest Lake Stadium. This car still held the ten-lap record at Forest Lake stadium until it was turned into a netball court about ten years later. This was a great pity as it was such a great track to race on. Many of the locals are sad they moaned so much about the noise every Saturday night as now they have screaming girls playing netball six days and nights a week. Serves them bloody well right!!! After John left, Chris Cooke joined our team. Sadly I sold this car after my accident to a guy in the South Island. I did try to buy it back many times but something always seemed to crop up that stopped me.

In 1977, Tony and I decided to sell the service station. We had someone ready to buy it but at the last minute Tony decided he would like to keep it so we sold the workshop and he bought my shares in the service station. I had a big clientele list including most of the Rotorua Taxi fleet so Bev and I decided to open up a workshop in White Street called Road and Track Autos. Bev left Bonza Pies who she had worked for many years. Steward and Daffy Guilford who owned Bonza Pies had been very good to Bev and I know she was very sad to leave. My brother-in-law Warren Gummow and sister-in -law and family also decided to shift from Perth to Rotorua and open a speed shop in the front of Road and Track Autos. Chris Cooke began working for me at this time. Both these businesses went very well until Warren found a new lady and decided to move back to Australia but as usual it all fell over two months later. Should have stuck with cars Warren, it's easier. They don't mind being parked up while you drive another!!!!!!!!
Robert Martin then took over the speed shop but it closed six months later. While this was sad for Robert, it was good for Road and Track as we were getting very busy and needed the extra space. Most of the taxis at this time were either HK Holdens or XA Falcons. Chris and I could do rings, valves and bearings on either a Holden or Falcon in a day. Chris would strip the motor and wash the parts while I did the other jobs in the workshop. Then I would take over and fit the rings and bearings and overhaul the head and refit it while Chris put the sump back on etc. This meant that the taxi did not lose a days work. This is where the Black Rover V8 Escort, Lindsay Sundren's very successful hot rod, the first Heron Spraymaster and Hilton McLaughlan's motors were built. This was a very busy little workshop but a lot of fun until I had my accident.

On one of our trips to Perth to see Bev's family I bought a Rover V8 motor for $250-00 and shipped it back to Rotorua in parts. I thought I could fool the custom's man into believing it was only parts, but he was no fool, I ended up paying full duty but still it was a very cheap motor. I then bought a written off Mk1 Ford Escort and cut the damaged front off it and built a subframe from the bulkhead forward to fit the Rover motor, five speed Fiat gearbox and front suspension from, you guessed it, a Triumph Vitesse. While building this car I will never forget we had a panel beater next door in White Street who we called Puffer. He had just got a gadget for pulling dents out of panels and came over to show us how it worked. There was a dent in the right rear guard of the Escort so he showed us how you rammed the screw thread into the panel then pulled the dent out. What he hadn't realised was the fuel tank sat inside the rear guard. The look on his face when he pulled the screw thread out and a steady stream of petrol followed. While we're on Puffer, another time Garry Locke, another real hard case who ran a spray painting booth next to Puffer, decided to make a welding gas bomb and put in Puffer's shop. A welding gas bomb is made by lighting the gas-welding torch, snuffing out the flame, then filling a plastic bag or box etc with the gas. It is then ignited by poring petrol along the ground as a fuse. A small plastic bag of the gas explodes with a terrific bang. Well Garry put a small plastic bag of gas in Puffer's shop and lit the fuse and boom. Puffer jumped about two feet in the air. Not to be outdone by this, Puffer got a larger plastic bag and returned the favor to Garry. Garry then came into my shop with an old beer carton and asked if he could fill it with gas, which he did. He then placed it in Puffers shop and lit the fuse. Well, I have never heard such an explosion with window glass and bog dust in all directions. We had people coming from all the workshops to see what had happened. After all the bog dust had settled, Puffer emerged from his shop stone deaf and completely covered in dust. It took about two weeks for his hearing to return but to this day, he never made another gas bomb!!!!!!!!!!.
The Escort was a beautiful little car painted in black. Bev drove it to work during the week and I hill climbed it or raced it at the weekend. I remember when working at Bob's farm after my accident which was on the way home to Parkcliff road, we used to hear Bev approaching. As she got closer to the gate the revs would drop off and then once a couple of hundred yards past the gate it would be full on again. She didn't realise we could hear the exhaust as she went past. I reluctantly sold this car after my jet boat accident. Graham Barker bought it and fitted a turbo charged Leyland P76 before righting it off in a hill climb. A very sad end to a beautiful little car.

Lindsay Sundren brought a half finished fibreglass B Model Ford Roadster into Road and Track to be finished. This car was fitted with a 350ci Chev motor, 400 Turbo auto transmission and 10inch Ford diff. I built the motor, fitted twin 600 double pump Holleys, a 400-turbo transmission and changed the very light Austin A30 steering box for a MK2 Cortina. Lindsay painted the car yellow and had great success drag racing this car at Meremere Dragway. One Friday night, Lindsay and I decided to have a drag race down White Street. The Hot Rod verses the Rover V8. They were so evenly matched that Lindsay wouldn't give up and ended up in the yard of a business at the end of the street. While our acceleration was very even, the main contest, the Escort out braked the heavy Roadster by a workshop fence!!!

By now I had owned, built or modified about 75 cars. After the Essex and Morris 8, Tony and I bought an F100 Ford Ute for a shop runabout. I loved this truck with its big V8 motor and big front seat just like a double bed!!!!!!!! I then bought a 39 Ford V8 from Morrie Becket, a mate of mine. Morrie had been driving down to an apprenticeship school in Wellington and the V8 had run a bearing at Foxton. Another mate of mine Dean Calnan and I drove all the way to Foxton and towed the V8 home with the F100. I repaired the motor and cut the back off the car to made it into a truck. I was racing the Mistral at the time so used this to tow it to hill climbs and race meetings all over the country. I sold the V8 Ute to John Jervis Contracting and bought a 57 Ford Customline. I also cut this down into a truck. I finished this truck on New Years Eve and painted the deck with Timbercote. That night, New Years Eve, a whole heap of us decided at about 11-30 pm to go and watch the fireworks at the lake front, so about 5 of my mates and their girlfriends climbed into the back of the Ute and off we went. It wasn't until about half way there I remembered about the paint. It was very easy to find my mates and their girlfriends that night. They were the ones with the red backsides!!!. From then on I had numerous cars of all makes and sizes. Most were either modified or had bigger motors fitted. Another night we were going over to Hamilton to race and towing the racecar with a 1965 Chev (I owned 5 of these over the years). I had just fitted a 396ci motor but had not upgraded the front springs to take the extra weight so the front was very low. We hit a bump in the Mamaku hills and a few minutes later I saw the oil light come on. The bump had wiped the sump plug off and all the oil had run out. Bob had a great idea by plugging the hole with some tar off the road. We dug up a hunk of tar from the road and put it on top of the motor to soften it then plastered it over the hole and put a couple of litres of racing oil in the sump. This allowed us to struggle onto Tirau were we conned a guy at a garage to let us use his hoist and welding gear and weld a patch over the hole. A year or so later when I sold the car the new owner ran me up a couple of weeks later to ask me where the sump plug was. He wasn’t very impressed when I told him it was in the Mamaku hills!! Another time on the way back from Napier at about midnight we tore the fuel tank out on a rock in the Waiweka Gorge and lost all the petrol. We had about 3 gallons of race gas in a tin so I took the radiator overflow hose off and used it to connect the tin of race gas to the Chev's petrol line. I then had to drive at 30 kph coasting down all the hills to conserve fuel, as there were no petrol stations open at this hour. We made it home at six am on three gallons of petrol in a 1965 Chev towing a two-ton trailer and saloon car, which normally would have taken 15 gallons.
Another interesting little car was a BMW Isetta. I bought this car from Ross Blackmore for $250 in a million pieces. Ross had bought it to use when he was down at Otago University but on the way down to Otago it had broken a conrod. Ross and his father had tried to fix it but parts were impossible to get so I decided to buy it and put a motorbike engine in it. Originally they had a single cylinder 350cc motor with a four-speed transmission. No differential just two back wheels placed very close together. The whole front of the car opened, including the steering wheel, for access. As luck would have it, just after I bought the car a firm in Hamilton became agents for the Isetta. I managed to get a new piston and conrod. I cut a piece of aluminium from an old Vauxhall bell housing and welded it into the hole in the crankcase and re-assembled the motor. Bev drove this car for a couple of years. Once she gave my brother Tony a lift back to work and he said he would never be driven in this car with Bev again. I must admit it was a frightening experience to be a passenger. These are just a few of the 75 cars I have owned to date. Most I have either, built, rebuilt or modified over the years. The three worst being a 1965 Mercedes 220, a Chevy Monza 2 ltr and a 2002 Holden Monaro CV8. The three best being a 327ci powered 1963 Mk3 Ford Zodiac, a 1972 302 ci 2 Door Falcon Coupe and my present car a 2003 Holden Commodore SV8.

In 1975, Bob Gee had changed from growing vegetables on his farm to growing apples, peaches and pears. Like all orchardist, every few days while the fruit was growing Bob would have to dress up in wet weather gear, climb on his tractor and tow a trailer sprayer to spray the fruit to stop pests. Bob got sick of this so we got together to build a self-propelled sprayer with an air-conditioned and pressurised cab. Bob knew what he wanted but did not know how to build the mechanical side of the sprayer so he approached me for help. We decided to build a vehicle where the driver sat in a cab in the front of the machine, a 3000 litre spray tank in the middle and the VW driven spray/fan unit from his old sprayer mounted on the back. The vehicle also had to have a very tight turning circle to turn from one row of tree into the next. While I designed and built the chassis and running gear etc, Bob built the fibreglass cab and tank unit. I decided to use a Ford Zephyr V6 motor and automatic transmission mounted behind the driver and a Land Rover front axle assembly at the rear so that both front and rear axles turned to double the turning ability. The front wheels turned to the right and the rear turned to the left, which gave a very tight turning circle we required. A chassis was built from 100 x 50 RHS with the rear diff mounted solid to the chassis and leaf springs at the front. The finished sprayer did exactly as Bob had required and is still being used by a spray contractor in Te Puke.

In 1975 I became involved in building the motors for Hilton McLaughlan’s jet boats. Hilton was using a 200ci Ford Falcon motor. He had had a cam ground by Summit Engineering and the boat was not performing. I found the cam had been ground wrong and fitted one of the spare cams from my Super Stock motor. Hilton was amazed by the improvement in his boats performance. He was now keeping up with the other boats. I talked Hilton into fitting the motor from my Super Stock into his boat to show him the power it had. We went out to the blue lake to try it out. We had not had time to hook up the throttle so I sat in the back of the boat and worked it by hand. We took off from the shore at about half throttle and Hilton looked around with a big grin. I then asked him if he was ready for me to open the throttle, another big grin. I then I opened the throttle wide and have never seen such a look of disbelief on anyone face. He gripped the steering wheel with both hands and we took off. Before we even got back to shore he was asking when I could build him a motor the same as this. For the rest of the season the motor was dragged out of the super stock to be raced in his boat during the day then put back in the super stock to be raced that night. The following season I build Hilton a 250ci Falcon Motor the same specs as my motor. He called this boat "Beautiful Noise" and it lived up to its name, not only by the noise it made, but by coming first in class by a mile and third overall in the Citizen Jet Boat Marathon in 1977. The only boats that beat it were two 454ci Chevs. The jet unit nozzle we had to use on this motor was a 325 horsepower unit. Not bad from a 140 horse power sleepy Falcon six!
The following year, Hilton decided he wanted to go into the small block V8 class and again wanted me to build the motor. I decided on a 307 ci Chev as it had a long stroke and developed its power low down. A jet unit operates at its best under 5000 RPM. I built a cross over tube manifold for this motor with four 48mm sidedraft Webber carbs plus the usual hot up parts.
We had a lot of trouble with this motor breaking the rear main bearing cap. It was sent over to Taupo many times to be rebalanced but each time I was told it was perfect. I was told it was to do with either the cross over manifold I had built or the way I was assembling the motor. After it broke the third cap I took it back complete, as they wanted to run it on their dyno. I rang to ask how it was going and they said they had found the problem but would not tell me what it was. I asked them if it was in the balance but they said no it was something to do with the way I had assembled the motor. This annoyed me so I rang Hilton and we drove to Taupo to see what was happening. As we walked in the door there was a mad panic. There was the crankshaft in the balancer. It turned out there they were balancing the shaft and flywheel as an assembly and the shaft was setting up a critical vibration at the rear journal/main cap where the oil pump on a Chev is located causing it to snap off. Once the shaft and flywheel were balanced separately they never gave any more problems. I was very upset as I had spent a lot of money with them over the years and they had lied to me. I never returned to Taupo Auto Machinists to have them do my machining work again. The owner was a religious man - so my father had been right!! Unfortunately, he died a few years later.
In the V8 class it is usual to take three people because if the boat ends up on dry land, as they do, then it's easier to push it off with three. As I built the motor, I was nominated to be the third person with Hilton as driver and Charlie Hugh’s as co-driver. We stared off very well but the motor developed a miss after about half an hour and we lost time. At the next refueling stop I found a plug had broken its centre electrode porcelain and this had become lodged under a valve and bent it. Luckily we had a spare head so we did a marathon job and fitted it during the refuel stop. We now had to start at the back of the field so we were going flat out through the Manawatu Gorge to make up for lost time.

We had just passed a boat called the Ugly when our boat hit a submerged rock and spun side ways in front of the boat we had just passed which then went right over our boat hitting Hilton and breaking his collar bone. It also hit Charlie in the head and broke his jaw throwing him out of the boat and into the water knocking him out. As I had nothing to hang onto, I must have been thrown into the water on my stomach when our boat spun. After the boat had gone over our boat it landed on my back in the water. I can vaguely remember being accelerated through the water. When I came up I saw Charlie with his head face down in the water. I swam about fifty yards over to him and held him while the boat, which had hit us, came back and picked him up. They then took my arms and lifted me into the boat. I tried to stand up, but my legs would not support my weight. They took me to shore and lay me down were I went in and out of consciousness. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of the Manawatu gorge with no access to the road. A helicopter was sent but it could not land due to the narrow gorge with cliffs each side. It was decided the only way to get Charlie and me out was to load us back onto a boat and take us back up the river. Two oars pushed through coat sleeves made a stretcher, which they used to load me onto the boat. The trip up the river was through two sets of rapids were they nearly lost me as I was lying across the back of the boat. About an hour after the accident we arrived at a clearing where an ambulance was waiting. It took another half hour to get us to the Palmerston North hospital. I do not remember anything after I was loaded into the ambulance until I woke up in intensive care the next morning. I believe that a Tangi (a Maori funeral) had been arranged for me in Rotorua and all was set accept for the body. I must thank my good Maori friends for this and am sorry to have disappointed them!!.
What had happened, the boat that went over our boat had hit me on my left buttock. This had shattered my pelvis in many places and damaged my spinal cord. The broken bones had ruptured my bladder and cut my urethra, the tube between my bladder and penis. I was paralyzed down my left side from my waist to my toes and had also damaged the nerves in my right knee. The burst bladder had poisoned my blood and I had to be given 14 pints of blood due to internal bleeding. I had also developed pneumonia. I was a very sick lad with a very small chance of recovery. Bev, Tony and Marlene made a rushed trip to Palmerston North that night. Tony and Marlene stayed until the next day but Bev stayed on and was by my bedside every day while I was in hospital. Good friends of ours who had lived at Parkcliff Road, Diane and Glen Ramsay, who now managed the Capricorn Motel in Palmerston North, allowed Bev to stay for a very cheap rate. After a couple of weeks, Marny who was seven also moved to Palmerston North and went to school, which she hated. Bev was by my bedside every day.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was rushed to threatre were I was lucky that a Mr. Walton was on call. He operated straightaway to repair my balder and urethra and taped up my pelvis. I was then placed in a revolving bed, as I could not be moved due to my broken pelvis. Every two hours a nurse would come and place a special bed base on top of me and then the whole bed would electrically revolve so that I was lying on my other side without moving. Even as sick as I was I would not allow the nurses to fit and tighten the bolt, which held the top. I always had to tighten this before they turned me over. This went on for two months while my pelvis mended. In the mean time my right knee was operated on to repair the damaged nerves. For three months I was still paralyzed down my left side and I was told many times it was very unlikely that I would fully recover or ever walk again. This is where my wife and friends, especially Bob Gee who came from Rotorua to Palmerston North to see me every Wednesday, were just great. Without them I would not have recovered, they were always so positive that I would recover and race again.
One night when I was in Intensive care and heavily sedated on morphine I accused the nurses of being members of the Klu Klux clan and cooking up meals in my room. I demanded the nurses ring Bev and ask her to take me home. It turned out that the nurse’s office was just across the isle and they use to make toast for super.
I then became addicted to morphine and each time I closed my eyes the room would start to spin. It would get faster and faster until I had to open them again but I wanted to go to sleep and as soon as I closed them again the room would start to spin again. This went on and on until they had to strap me down to stop me from falling off the bed. Eventually the morphine dosage was cut back and I settled down. Another time I dreamt that I was half way out of a paper bag and I was trying to get back in. The more I tried the more I fell out. I fought and fought which seemed like hours and woke up with four nurses holding me down. I was in intensive care for about two weeks with only immediate family allowed to see me. I was then moved to a ward with four other hard case guys. One of the guys, an Aussy who had had a bad motorbike racing accident, believed that pepper made the nurses sexy so every mealtime he would sprinkle pepper all around his bed hoping it would work. All it did was cause the nurses to sneeze but it was good for a laugh. .
Bob Gee used to bring me strawberries every Wednesday and every time I told him I hated strawberries so he would leave them with me while he went to lunch. When he came back all he could see was the strawberry tops all over the floor and not a strawberries in sight.
After about six weeks I was allowed to go to physio. I used to wheel myself down to the gym then crawl out of the wheel chair and try to walk on parallel bars. After a week or so in the gym I was assessed and told I would not walk again and I must think about an office job as my left side was paralyzed and I would have to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I don't know whether this was to make me more determined to walk again or not but it sure worked. There was no way I was going to rely on a wheelchair for transport. How could I fit a V8 motor, fuel injection, six speed gearbox, limited slip diff and twelve inch discs into a wheelchair. No way!!!!
I was allowed out of hospital in a wheelchair on 3 December for my 37th birthday. All the family had come down to Palmerston North to the motel where Bev and Marny were staying. During the party I decided to show everyone how I could stand on my own. I got a broom and struggled up and stood with the broom under my arm as a crutch. All went well until the broom slipped on the floor and down I went. Everyone just stood there in shock. Luckily a friend of ours, Margaret Dury, a nurse from Napier hospital, was there and took control. She gentle lifted me back onto the couch and checked me out. I was still in one piece but a lot quieter now.
Back at the hospital a staaf scare broke out and I was isolated into a private ward as I still had a big raw patch on my buttock where the boat had hit me.
It was amazing how many people came to visit me in hospital or sent me cards. Every one of them was so positive and helped me to recover. Without them I would possibly still be in my wheelchair.
I stayed at Palmerston North Hospital until the day before Christmas. The nurses and physios all worked very hard to get me well enough to travel home by plane. When I arrived at the Rotorua airport I had a crowd of friends to meet me. One very good friend, Jim Cooper was there and wheeled me from the plane to the terminal. I said to him we would fit a V8 to the wheel chair and he burst into tears. While I felt sorry for Jim, it showed the emotions people had to my accident. Unfortunately, Jim died of a heart attack a few years later. I still miss Jim to this day. He was a very good friend; I think we understood each other more than most people.

Once home, I went to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital every day for therapy. I still had no movement in my left leg but I was getting a little feeling back. A Dr Cooper at the Rotorua Hospital was the only doctor who explained why I was paralyzed but slowly getting feeling back. He told me that when my pelvis had broken it had stretched my spinal cord. He said I was very lucky I had not cut the cord because if I had, the nerves would never grow back. He explained my spinal cord was like a wiring loom in a car. It consisted of hundreds of small nerves like the wires in a wiring loom that branched out into all the various lights and accessories or in my case muscles and nerves. If these nerves/wires were stretched the nerve or wire inside the casing would break but as long at the casing was still intact the nerve would grow back down the casing at about 1mm a day. He said that if the spinal cord was not cut, all I had to do was wait for the nerves to grow until they reached the muscle and then with luck I would be able to walk again. Luckily, this is exactly what happened but it took six months. When I did get movement into my leg again, the muscles had completely wasted away through lack of use. For the next three months at the Q.E. hospital, I worked harder than I had ever worked before to build up the muscles. My physios, especially Jan Sutcliffe, were fantastic. They worked so hard to help me. Once the muscles had built up, I was ready to walk so I was reluctantly put in a walking frame. Why should I need a walking frame, I had been walking for 35 years? Unfortunately, when a person does not walk for some time the brain forgets how to walk. To walk you actually fall forward and the brain automatically moves a leg forward to stop you from falling on your face. As you walk this is repeated each step. I would take a step forward and forget to move my other leg forward and fall flat on my face. It took another three months to learn to walk again. Although I have little feeling in my left leg and my left knee is very weak, at least I can still walk. While it was hard work I had a lot of fun at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I remember one day I had a screwdriver in my pocket and the physio decided to measure the length of my legs. The look on her face when she put her hand on my hip and felt the handle of an eight-inch screwdriver in my pants - wishful thinking!!!! The Physio’s were a great bunch and I got to know them very well. Years after I had gone home, many of them would come to visit me to see how I was doing. They said it was great to see someone who had worked so hard, get better. I was amazed how many people are quite happy to just give up and live off the state for the rest of their lives. I can remember one guy in particular. He had a sore back and could hardly move. He would virtually crawl into the exercise room moaning and groaning to try and do his exercises. He was interested in cars and he asked me if he could come and see my cars. He came home one night and proceeded to climb all over the cars. In them and under them without the slightest problem. Next morning he was back to being a cripple. He was still ripping the system off six months later when I left to go back to work. During this time I was not supposed to drive as I had a full plaster on my right leg and very little strength in my left leg to operate the accelerator and brake but I drove from the time I arrived back in Rotorua. Luckily I had an automatic and I never had to brake in an emergency.
I had one terrible fall at Queen Elizabeth. They had fitted new rubber pads to the bottom of my crutches that had a cavity underneath which held a pocket of air. I walked into the exercise room and the floor had just been washed and down I went. Luckily I didn't break anything but I went straight over to the hospital workshop and drilled two holes through the rubber feet to let the trapped air out. I never had another fall but ended up drilling hundreds of pads after this for the other patients.
After about 6 months, I was released from Q.E. to continue to build up my strength on my own. Nurse’s and physio’s are the most underpaid and unappreciated people in our society. Their dedication to their work is just amazing.
This was a very hard time for Bev as there was very little I could do for myself and she had to sell Road and Track Autos and tidy up the business as well as be a mother to Marny. Chris Cooke and Bob Gee were very good at this time as they took all my tools etc and the half finished orchard sprayer from Road and Track Autos to Bob's workshop on his farm and cleaned up the workshop. Bob also employed Chris in the orchard. Road and Track Autos was sold to Grev Hesketh who had just return from the U.S.A after working for the Bruce McLaren Team.

Up until the time of my accident all my racing, designing and car building had been done as a hobby and in my spare time as I still had a business to run from 8-00 am till 5-00pm. This meant I would work all day then rush home for tea before going down to the basement to either build a new car or get it ready for the next race meeting. When I recovered after my accident, I decided to build the Heron MJ1 as a job. I realised I had missed a lot of time with my family, Marny had grown up without me hardly knowing her. I wish now I had spent more time with her and Bev but it did set us up for later in life. Luckily Marny and Yaser have given me two beautiful grandchildren, Alex and Anna and I am spending time with them growing up and it is fantastic.

In 1979 when I left Queen Elizabeth hospital, Bob offered me part of his packing shed to slowly get back into the workforce and finish the sprayer. I was still on clutches and found it very difficult but Bob and Chris were very good and help me with all the heavy work. I formed a new company with Bev and myself called Heron Developments Ltd. We finished Bob's sprayer and I began to do more and more work. A Falcon motor into a transit van, rebuilt Jim Shorts famous Paton Ford with a new body, built a new Super Stock running a P76 motor and fibreglass 1928 Ford three-window coupe body to start racing again. Bob's cool store came in very handy when laying up fibreglass on a hot day. We would turn up the cold air to stop the resin going off too quickly then place heaters in the room to cure it rapidly. This new Super Stock should have handled as well as the first one as it ran the same chassis but we found that somehow three inches had been left out of the chassis when we built it. Eventually we got it to handle and I won the New Zealand Super Stock Grand Prix in this car. Proving Bev, Bob and Chris were right, I would race again. We had quite a lot of fun at Bobs. One time I can remember Bob was trying to develop an apple juice extractor. I had a great idea. If we could spin the apples fast enough the juice would be forced out of the apple by centrifugal force. A sugar sack of apples was assembled and these were tied to the rear wheel of the Super Stock, which had been jacked up off the floor. At about 6000 RPM the bag decided to explode. I spent the rest of the day cleaning apples from the rafters, walls and floor! Another time I had a bet with Bob and Chris that I could build a motor in an hour. Luckily I found a brake cylinder piston that fitted a piece of exhaust pipe. This was the piston and cylinder. I then fixed a piece of steel into the piston to act as the conrod. A nut welded on the end was the big end and another piece of steel with a hole in each end allowed me to weld two rods to make the crankshaft. The flywheel was a Falcon front pulley. A piece of 10mm x 50mm made the crankcase. A hole was drilled in one end for the crankcase for the crankshaft and in the other end three holes. One to pivot the cylinder and the other two as inlet and exhaust ports. Without a pivot at the piston the cylinder and piston rocked as the crankshaft was turned. Another hole was drilled in the top of the cylinder to correspond with the inlet and exhaust hole as the cylinder rocked. Now all I had to do was couple the inlet port up to the air and presto I had a motor running in 55 minutes flat. I won the bet much to the amazement of Bob and Chris, although I can't remember what it was. I kept this motor for years and am sorry I threw it out when I moved to Australia.

In 1979, Bob had been using his orchard sprayer for about twelve months when one of the representatives from the New Zealand Fruit Federation saw it and took great interest. We found later that the Federation had spent over $150,000-00 on having an engineer try and design a machine such as this but it had come to nothing. He was trying to design the complete machine instead of using existing parts from other machinery. The Federation decided to send all their reps to have a look at the machine and see if it was what they wanted. They thought it was a great concept but asked if we could design a machine using later model components, four-wheel drive and be able to go between the fruit trees where they were grown much closer together. Bob and I came up with the idea of changing its profile to a wide base and narrow top to allow it to between the trees. I worked on designing and building a chassis using later components while Bob started building a plug for the new shaped body/tank. I decided to use a XD Ford Falcon motor and automatic transmission with Land Rover front axles at both front and rear to give it four-wheel drive and four wheel steering. The transfer gearbox was a problem as it had to reduce the overall speed of the machine, have a drive for the front and rear axles, a power taker off for the pump and another for the tank agitator to keep the spray mixed. Once again, the only option was to build our own transfer gearbox. I drew up a transfer box using TK Bedford gears and once again Bob made all the patterns as he had for the MK4 Heron gearbox. We used a Holder spray unit, which was bolted onto the back of the machine and driven off the front of the motor through a Ford Cortina clutch assembly to disengage the fan when not in use.
A new galvanized chassis was designed and built with all the new components. The new air conditioned pressurized body/tank was a real star wars shape that slid through the trees without damage to the fruit. Even the mirrors were retractable. We built a prototype and tested it on Bob's orchard without problems before building three units for sale through the Fruit Federation. John Grant began working for us at this time. The first three machines gave problems with breaking axles but we found later that the supplier of the axles had supplied us with inferior units made in Brazil. The prototype machine as Bob's first machine had genuine axles made in the UK. This problem was solved after some sleepless nights by fitting genuine UK Rover axles.
As Bob and I were not interested in manufacturing these sprayers we sold the rights to a firm in Wellington. While they did not have the ability or knowledge to manufacture these machines, the crash of the kiwifruit industry in 1980 putting a final stop to manufacture after only seventeen of them were built. Most of the seventeen are still in used today in many parts of the country. Paul MacDiarmid of Rotorua Fibreglass built the fibreglass bodies for the sprayers and was a godsend for his company as the just announced boat tax had put many fibreglass companies under. This was the start of a very good working relationship and friendship with Paul over many years. A man who could always be trusted to do his best and a very good tradesman. Another person who would attempt the impossible for me and usually succeed.

While recuperating after my accident, I decided to build a fibreglass road legal sports car for production. It was to be a semi-kit car where the customer supplied all the mechanical components and I supplied the chassis/body and assembled it into a roadworthy car. By this time, I had learnt enough about fibreglass to be able to build a fibreglass monocoque body/chassis, the same as if I was using steel. A monocoque chassis/body means the body and chassis are constructed as one unit giving strength to each other. I calculated to get the same strength as steel, the thickness of the fibreglass had to be multiplied by three. It was also easier and stronger to thicken up a high load bearing area by making the fibreglass thicker or by using Kevlar or the Heron patented stainless steel mesh. To mount the 3000 litre tank to the sprayer chassis I had developed a special fixing system which I had patented. This was a very simple method of bonding stainless steel mesh into the fibreglass at lay up time. Fibreglass is very strong over a large area but has very little localised strength. The mesh allows the load to be spread over the area determined by the size of the mesh or number of layers. This overcame the failures experienced by other fibreglass car manufactures in attaching components by other various means. The stainless steel mesh flexes with the fibreglass and the strands of glass weave themselves though the mesh when being layed up. It is just a matter of placing the mesh in the area the component was to be mounted, then drill a hole through the fibreglass and mesh to bolt in the component as if working with steel. In the twenty years I have been using this system, I have never had a failure with it. I patented this method in 1981.
I spent many hours working out the style of car I wanted and the most suitable components. I had set up a drawing board in my office at home and did all the drawing there. I usually did these late at night or early in the morning. If I had a real problem I would go to bed and think on it. It's amazing how your brain must keep working when you are asleep as sometimes I would wake up at 3-00am with the answer and leap out of bed to complete the drawing. Lucky I have a very understanding wife!!!!!!!!!!!
I decided to use Skoda front suspension as it had a cross member with wide mounting points, unequal length wishbones and disc brakes. I also decided to use the Skoda transaxle and rear suspension as it also had wide mounting points and the transaxle was a very sturdy four-speed unit. I also found that if I used mostly Skoda components I could use the original registration papers and would not have to go to the trouble of re-registering the car as a new vehicle and pay the 40% sales tax. I was very taken with the Lotus Esprit at the time and decided to style my car on this shape. As with any low volume, low budget car, compromises have to be made as to the availability and suitability of components. I once read where it took 7000 people and millions of dollars to produce the first Falcon from drawing board to reality so it is quite an achievement to do it on your own and a few friends and very limited budget.
The first component I start with when designing a car of this nature is the windscreen, which must be a production screen as it is too expensive to have a special screen made and if one is broken, most auto glass suppliers will have a production screen in stock. I had a rough idea of the size and shape of screen required so spend many hours at car yards measuring front and rear screens until I found one that would suit. This gave me the starting point to begin my drawings. I decided to use a MK1 Ford Escort Sport windscreen, as it was the closest to the size required. I decided to use flat glass for the side windows as it is easier to make frames and tracks for flat glass and get it cut to the desired shape and then have it toughened. The rake of the screen determines the slope of the side windows but it must be remembered that if the slope is too great the window will end up outside the body when wound down. Curved windows can have more slope as they curve in as they go down but to make the frames and find a suitable production window to match the screen can be a real problem.
Once the screen has been determined and the components chosen including the motor, gearbox, rear assemble, front assembly, radiator, door catches, hinges, wiper motor, seats, pedals etc etc, the drawings can proceed. The desired shape can be drawn compromised by the screen and all the components, headroom, footwalls, spare wheel compartment plus a million other things. Once this is completed, the hard part comes; all the components must be joined together by a fibreglass monocoque chassis/body with strength to carry the loads that the components will generate and with safety in mind if ever involved in an accident. The monoquocue chassis/body of Heron MJ1 consisted of five moulds. The floor pan is a one-piece full length and full width moulding with two sills and a tunnel glassed to it to form three longitudinal tubes for rigidity. The floor pan, sills and tunnel are reinforced with kevlar to give them extra strength with stainless steel at the component mounting points. The top body was layed up in one piece with the windscreen pillars also incorporating kevlar to give them strength in case of a roll over. The only steel in the chassis/body was a 25 x 25 x 3 mm roll bar glassed into each door pillar for extra strength and to mount the seat belts and door catches. The floor pan, sills, tunnel were then glassed to the body top to give a very strong and rigid one-piece monocoque unit. When making the drawings, all the components, headroom, foot wells etc must be taken into account because if you forget one at this stage it is very difficult to alter the mould or find a place for it later. Then on top of all this, the finished chassis/body must be able to be made and extracted from the mould. The bonnet, boot lid and doors were separate moulds and were doubled skinned by laying up one side and allowing it to cure before laying up the other side and while it was still wet, clamping the outer skin to it.
Once the main drawings were completed, a new set of drawings was made for the floor pan plug. On the MJ1, this was a female plug instead of a normal male plug. I found it is better to make this very complicated plug as a female so that a mould would not have to be made first. The article we took out of this plug would be the actual floor pan. If any mistakes were made then it would be easier to alter than if a mould had been made. Once I was happy that all the components fitted, I could use this floor pan as a mould. Normally plugs are replicas of the actual car and are made out of wood or anything that will give the desired shape of the car. All other plugs were female and had a mould made first before an article could be made. Luckily I had kept all the plywood from the boxes that the Ford Falcon motors for the Heron Spraymaster had been in, so this was used to make the plugs. It was very good ply for plug making as it was 3/8 inch thick and would bend very easily and equally. The chassis plug was made on two 8 x 2 inch pieces of timber to stop it from distorting when we layed up the fibreglass.
The actual plugs were started in 1980. A good friend, Peter Guilford gave me a hand to make these plugs. The floor pan and roof section plugs were major plugs with the mounting points for all the various components that would be fitted to the final car. These plugs had to be built to exact measurements from the drawings for all the components to fit. Once a mould is made from a plug it is too late to make changes. When I was satisfied that we had all the plugs to exact measurements they had to be painted and finished better than the finished car. Any defect in the finish on the plug would be reproduced on every car. When we were satisfied with the paint finish, they had seven layers of parting wax applied. This wax allows the mould to release from the plug once it had been layed up. The plug was then very carefully transported to Rotorua Fibreglass where Paul MacDiarmid, Peter and I made the floor pan and moulds for the top section, doors bonnet and boot etc.
The waxed plug was painted with tooling gel paint. This is a very thick polyester based paint, which gives a very hard surface to the mould. A fine fibreglass tissue is then put over the gel coat using polyester resin. Once this has cured seven layers of fibreglass and polyester resin were applied at twenty-four hour intervals. A steel or wooden frame was then glassed to the moulds to stop them from distorting due to the heat generated when the fibreglass is curing. When this has cured the mould was carefully removed from the plug and the plug becomes firewood! The mould was then waxed as the plug before a body could be layed up. To make the body, the waxed mould was painted with a colour gel coat and then the fibreglass/kevlar/stainless steel mesh was layed up to the desired thickness. Once this has cured it was removed from the mould as a finished component. Large moulds such as the floor pan and body section can be very hard to remove due to the suction it creates so wooden wedges are gentle driven between the mould and the article. Water can also be used to break the suction. It is a great feeling to see the first component come out of the mould.
Once all the components had been made they were fibreglassed and glued together to form the monocoque chassis/ body unit and the assembly of the mechanical components could begin.
The first car out of the mould was the red one, which ran a 1600cc twin cam Fiat motor. I decided it was best to build one prototype car at first to sort out any problems. The assembly went very well with very few problems due to the time I had spent at the design stage. I had learnt over the years that the more time you spent getting the drawings accurate the less time you spend sorting out the problems at a later stage.
lt is far easier and cheaper to throw away a piece of paper than throw away half a car as we found later when building a car for Forbes McKenzie that had been designed by an engineer from the Ministry of Works. Making a fibreglass monocoque is far harder than building a car on a steel chassis. With a steel chassis you can always cut a section off and start again but with having to make a plug, then a mould before you have the finished article means it is nearly impossible to make changes after the moulds are made.
Once the car was on wheels it was taken to Allan McKay for painting. Allan had done a lot of painting for me over the years and always made a perfect job. Although the bodies came out of the mound already painted, I decided to paint the cars with a paint resistant to the ultra-violet rays from the sun as the ulta-violet rays in New Zealand would make the gel coat quickly fade. Wayne Maisey, another very good tradesman, trimmed the car in black vinyl with cloth insert seats.
The prototype car was put through its paces and created a lot of public and media attention. It handled and performed very well so we decided to build another car for Peter Guilford. Unfortunately, this second body was not set up correctly in the jig when it was glassed together and ended up with a twist in it. This body was discarded for the time being and a new one was made for Peter. Peter’s car was the same as the red prototype but painted yellow and was later fitted with a turbo charger. Peter gave this car to his wife for her birthday. How to get round the wife when buying a sports car!!!!! The body that was twisted was cut apart and re-aligned and was the blue body placed above the running gear at the Auckland Car Show. It eventually became the yellow Hersey’s raffle car.

I was approached by the company who ran the Auckland Motor Show to see if I wanted to show the cars at the 1981 Auckland Motor Show. I decided to put three cars in the show in various stages of build. Peter Guilford, Allan McKay, Chris Cooke, Wayne Maisey and Derrick Canty very kindly agreed to help me at the show. The red car was completely finished, Peter yellow car was on a turntable with the doors removed to see inside and a blue car had its body set above the running gear for people to see how they were built. All this was set on bark base with a backdrop of a forest setting, which the above people all helped to build. I told these people if we got ten interested people on Saturday, I would shout them dinner that night. We stole the show and appeared on Nation Television on the Saturday night of the show. Over the next three days we collected 350 names of people who showed an interest in the car. Everyone was too tied on the Saturday night to go out for dinner so we delayed it until we were back in Rotorua. The original concept of the car was for the customer supplied their own running gear; we made the bodies and assembled the car using their components for a cost of $16,000-00. This meant that we did not have to get involved in re-registering, reconditioning or guarantying any of the second hand or reconditioned components.
I decided to also show the Heron GT Mk4 at this show so Chris Cooke pulled it out of the back of the workshop and got stuck in and finished it. Allan McKay painted it in the same colours as the 1968 LeMans winning car. Chris, as always made a beautiful job of finishing this car. Chris Cooke was very good to work with. He always knew exactly what I wanted and did exactly as I had in mind. A very gifted, capable and loyal tradesman as well as a very good and trusted friend.

After the show I had a problem, what do I do with 350 names we had collected of interested people. I decided to write to all 350 and ask them for a $1000 deposit if they were really interested in purchasing a car. We made no promises and there was no obligation on either party. It was a fully refundable deposit held in a trust account. About two weeks later we had received 33 deposits or $33,000-00. Now what! I approached the D.F.C., the Government Development Finance Company, but they were more interested in lending to their mates, which was proved when it went belly side up a few years later. Frank Hart of Summit Engineering had showed interest in the car after seeing it at the show and on TV. He approached me to see if I would be interested in Summit becoming involved. Bev and I decided to sell two thirds of Heron Cars to Summit Engineering. A very, very bad move in hindsight.
Before Summit finalised their involvement, Frank Hart, Kerry Hart, Colin Denholm, Arthur Wilcocks and Chris Joseph, the directors of Summit Engineering, spent many hours inspecting and driving the prototype cars, the concept, development stage, operation and building of the Heron Cars.
They agreed to buy two thirds of Heron Cars and form a new company, Summit Manufacturing Ltd to manufacture the Heron MJ1. The agreement was; Summit would run the company employing many of their relations and I would continue with the development of the car. While they fully understood the semi-kit car concept, they decided this was too messy and that it would be better if they supplied all the components and assembled them as a complete car with no customer participation. Summit Engineering would do all the reconditioning of the secondhand components. This changed the whole concept of the car from the customer being involved by supplying the components, to a complete new car. This is not what the 33 prospective customers, who had paid their $1000-00 deposit expected.
Summit decided to change the motor from the reconditioned 1600cc Fiat to a new 2000cc Fiat. This caused many problems due to it being a very harsh motor and the extra power caused the clutch to slip. I spent many hours trying to modify the engine mounts to stop the vibration the new motors caused and modifying the clutch assembly to stop the clutch slip. Both of these problems were never solved satisfactory, the motors were just too harsh and powerful for this application. They also decided to change the instrument panel to a Holden Camira unit. This involved a complete redesign of the dash layout and wiring as well as these dash panels gave a lot of trouble. The changes created many problems, which required many other changes to rectify. Unfortunately, the five Summit directors all worked together and decided on these changes without my input. I was only a third shareholder so had to go along with the majority..
I had designed this car as a very simple car that could be built for about $16000-00 using reconditioned parts supplied by the customer with Heron assembling them into a complete roadworthy car. The directors of Summit wanted to build a complete car using mainly new parts. This was not the concept we had sold at the Auckland Motor Show or the 33 interested people who had paid their deposit thought they were getting. We now had to carry the warrantee on the complete cars instead of the owners supplying the parts and carrying their own warrantee. This also added to the loss, as with little time to develop the modifications required with the new motors etc, there were many claims.
A workshop was rented in Waters Street Rotorua and the three remaining prototype cars, which had already been started, were built for Allan McKay, Derrick Canty and Richard Veth who supplied all their own running gear as the original concept. After these cars were built Summit made many changes, including the new 2 litre motors and dash panel etc, but there was never enough time given to developing these changes before they went into the production cars. By using virtually all one make of components as original planned, to using many makes, caused many problems in adapting and modifying them to fit and be compatible with each other. . Something that was unfortunately never completely achieved. "Why change it if it ain't broke"!!!!!!!

Summit found that they could buy new 2ltr Fiat motors for about the same price as reconditioning the 1600cc units so they ordered ten units. When they arrived we found they came without their electronic ignition, sender units, starter, air cleaner and clutch. This added another $2000 to the price. We had to then make a new oil filter adaptor, thermostat housing, engine mounts and as the motors where higher, a sump guard. Another $2000. Summit had not taken this extra $4000 into account. I knew nothing about these motors until they arrived.
The 2ltr motors also presented a major problem with vibration over 3500 RPM, where as the 1600cc motor ran to 7000RPM as smooth as silk. Four thousand RPM was about 110kph, right at the critical vibration speed of the motor. The only way to get over this was to lower the engine RPM. I came up with the idea of fitting a fifth gear to the Skoda gearbox to give it an overdrive, lower the revs and help overcome the vibration problem. By extending the main and pinion shafts I could then fit another set of Skoda third gears to these shafts but in reversed positions. By extending the reverse selector rail to take the selector fork, fifth could be selected in the same way as a normal five-speed gearbox. This gave an overdrive to the transmission therefore lowering the RPM of the motor. I cast up a new extension housing to house the gears and selectors on the back of the box. This improved the problem, but unfortunately did not eliminate it completely. The motor was just too harsh to have sitting just behind your left ear. Unfortunately they had ordered a total fifteen motors from Torino Motors so we were committed to use them.

Unfortunately, the total costs of these modification and the alterations that had to go with them, were never added to the cost (now $18500-00) of the first five production cars and the first batch of cars lost about $20,000-00. The next run of five cars were costed out at $21500-00 but still with the continuing and unnecessary modifications were still under priced and another $20,000-00 was lost. The final five cars were costed at $27,500-00 but by now making a profit were overpriced for the people who had originally agreed to purchase a very simple sports car for about $16000-00 and many pulled out. About this time, 1985, the first Jap import Mazda RX7 were available at about $18,000-00, which priced the Summit Manufactured Heron off the market. While I should have kept a closer eye on the administration and costings side of the company but was flat out trying to correct the problems the changes had made, the directors of Summit Engineering, especially their accountant Arthur Wilcocks, assured me they had the capabilities, resources and expertise to cost these cars at a profit. After just 12 months and 20 cars had been built at a great loss, it became apparent that they did not have the expertise, skills or capabilities to undertake this venture. I also had the drawings of the MJ 2+2 underway and knew they would not be capable of doing this car as well, so I bought all the moulds, jigs and rights back and stopped production. I am sure if the car had been left as originally intended, it would still be going strong today. It was to be a semi-kit car with components being supplied by the customer, all built the same by Heron Developments Ltd with customer participation as shown by the Heron Sale Agreement. Unfortunately, this was not to be, the demand for this car was just too great for Heron Developments Ltd to tackle on their own and the decision to sell to Summit, in hindsight, was the wrong one. Frank Hart was also a religious man, "He was worshiped by himself and his gutless followers"!! Colin Denholm one day said to me and Grant Chapman, " I am sorry I can not help you, I know you are being shafted, but I have too much to loose if I go against Frank".

After I had bought all the moulds back there was one body with a raised roof that was half finished. I started to finish this car but was approached by Derrick Lane, Paul’s partner in Rotorua Fibreglass, to buy it. I decided to sell it to him. He wanted the n/w 2 litre Telsatr motor and gearbox fitted. While we had fitted one of these units to Petter Guilford’s car, now owned by Bernadette and Allan Wichman, it was still unfinished. While the unit fitted in well by making and glassing in a new engine bay, there was a problem with the wider track of the Telstar unit. The Wichman’s had fitted the standard three piece Heron wheels with varying off-set which performed OK. Derrick supplied a set of Telstar off-set wheels which meant we had to make 75mm wide spacers to bring the front wheel out to match the track as the rear. This caused a major problem with “tram-lining”, but Derick was prepared to put up with this as he wanted to keep the Telstar wheels. Paul has since modified this by widening the front X-member by 140mm and fitting new wheels. It also was fitted with twin SU carbs which Derrick supplied which where not really suitable as the Telstar fuel pump pressure was too high. Since Paul has owned this car, he has spent unlimited dollars and about three years working on it to make it into a very nice car.
Don Haque of Whakatane bought one of the last Heron MJ1 to be built. He spent many hours detailing this car and I bought it in about 1992 and gave it to my daughter for her 21st birthday. Over the next five years it probable only did about 200 klms, as my daughter was overseas. The car was sold to Cleigh Hartley who has maintained it in magnificent condition ever since. Other very well kept cars belong to John Evans of Auckland and Paul MacDiarmid of Rotorua. I have lost contact with most owners but am still rung up for information and still see many cars on the roads all over New Zealand. Heron Cars in time could have been New Zealand’s own Ferrari or Lamborgeni, but unfortunately it was not to be.

I raced the Heron GT MK4 at one of the Wings and Wheels Historic Meeting at Whenuapai Airbase. While it sounded beautiful and went well in a straight line blowing off all the Ferraris and Porsches, the 1965 Humber 80 brakes were not up to the task of stopping it. It was a very easy car to drive and handled well. I sold this car to David Manton, a collector in Tauranga. From there I believe it went to a museum in Christchurch and rumor has it, is now in America. A beautiful car, but unfortunately, a very useless car. It was pushed it in and out of the workshop more than it was ever driven.

In 1986, Terry Scott, the Promoter of Forest Lake Stadium, also had a company called Formula Manufacturing Ltd and offered Heron Developments Ltd a job of redesigning the go-carts they were exporting to the U.S.A. The cars they were making were too light and were giving problems. He asked me to design a new car that would stand the constant crashing and bashing that these amusement park cars were taking. I designed a chassis, which was surrounded by a 100 x 10mm spring steel bumper that was attached to the chassis by about 18 heavy "D" shaped rubbers. I used a pneumatic tyre on the Skid Cars that was fitted around the car instead of the steel bumpers. These cars proved very satisfactory and about 500 were exported to the States, Australia, China and Japan until our rising dollar priced them off the market. Formula also supplied the local market. Many of these cars are still running today at various parks.
I also designed many other amusement park equipment including bumper boats and Formula cars for local and export markets. This was a very interesting time in my life as I traveled to and around the United States and Australia many times to set up new tracks etc.
I also designed a car display turntable with a unique system of a cross that allowed arms to be pulled in or out to fit the majority of vehicle wheel based and tracks. It also had a bearing arrangement that allowed it to stop turning with out burning the drive belts as other manufactures turntables models were doing. .
Formula then got involved in small industrial electric trucks for industry and I did all the design work for these as well. While very few of these trucks were ever produced by Formula, we did a lot of development work on them. Next Formula became involved in golf carts and again I did all the design work and built the prototypes. Formula started exporting these products to many countries around the world.
Formula then joined Bisley Engineering in Hamilton to manufacture the electric trucks, golf carts and turntables etc. Bisley's were to build these products under license to Formula to be exported to the States, Canada China and the local market. Just as they were about to start full production, Bisleys, now owned by the troubled Equity Corp, went into receivership and it all came to an end.
Formula then tried to join up with a company in the States called Lumus Industries and I had a great time traveling to Atlanta city where Lumus were based to check out their operation. Lumus was one of the major manufacturing companies in the States. This was the first time I had seen a lathe with a seat on the carriage as the bed was so long. The operator rode up and down the bed as he worked. For a while it was all on but then something unbeknown to me went horribly wrong. Not long after Formula also went into receivership and my tripping about came to a end.
In one year I had traveled to the States 9 times. Once for only a day!! The best trip was in the old DC10 pub plane. The usual DC10 had been taken off the New Zealand to Los Angeles run for maintenance so they had replaced it with the plane that flew from Los Angeles to Washington DC. It was set up with an old English pub bar in the middle of the plane. You could wander up to the bar, strap yourself into the seat and drink. Didn't matter how much you drank you could not fall off the seat. It was a great and very short flight from what I can remember of it. But as I have said before, all good things come to an end.

In 1987 Chris Cooke was back working for me at my workshop at Parkcliff Road so I decided to start making the Electric Industrial Trucks which I had designed for Formula Manufacturing Ltd. Tasman Pulp and Paper had shown great interest and it seemed a pity to not capitalise on all the hard work I had already completed on these trucks. They consisted of a welded 3mm chequer plate monocoque body/chassis with made up front axle, Datsun steering box and shortened Toyota KE30 differential sitting on 520 x 10 wheels and tyres. A 3 HP Baldor electric motor was mounted on top of the diff with a 3:1 reduction notched belt drive to the differential. Mounted across the truck in the middle were six x 6 volt Trojan batteries and a Curtis pulse controller. The truck measured 3 metres long by 1.2 metres wide. We were building about one of these trucks a month for Tasman, Carter Holt Harvey and Air New Zealand as well as other companies around New Zealand. A total of 250 trucks of various dimensions were built
We also built about 100 of the golf cars as well as becoming involved in making equipment and doing modifications to cars for people with disabilities, something I had got interested in while at Queen Elizabeth Hospital after my accident.

About this time we were approached by a Mr. Forbes McKenzie from Christchurch to build a fibreglass body for a four-wheel drive go-anywhere vehicle he was building. The chassis had been built by a firm in Wellington and the body had been designed by a guy called Tony from the Ministry of Works in Wellington. We were given a set of drawings and began to build the plug for the body. The first problem we found was that the doors were seven feet long. To open them to the normal seventy degrees would require about six feet each side. Bit tricky when most parking spacers only have about two to three feet each side. We pointed this out to Forbes and a quick call to Tony soon change this. Unfortunately, we had most of the plug made so while Tony had to only re-draw the doors and openings, we had to pull most of the plug apart and start gain. Another problem was the vehicle stood about seven feet high. When we had nearly finished the plug the chassis arrived for a fitting. Unfortunately changes had been made to the chassis, which we had not been informed of so the body did not fit. Another problem was the chassis had a centre backbone, which was inclined to flex/twist when driven over uneven ground. A real problem when trying to attached a rigid fibreglass body.
The building of this went on for some months until it all came to an end when it became apparent that it would never work. No thought had gone into the planning or design stage and everyone was blaming everyone else for the problems. Fortunately, in the end, Forbes arrived with a trailer
and took it all away. While they did have some good ideas, unfortunately, they were just not practicable. While it is easy to draw a basic vehicle, there are a million and one other things that must be taken into consideration. I have never heard any more of this vehicle so guess it ended up like so many other projects started but never finished due to trying to design them as you go. It does not work and this was a shining example. Unfortunately, Tony knew it all until crunch time came then it was everyone’s fault but his.

One interesting vehicle for a person with a disability was for Brom Wells of Te Puke. Brom was in a wheel chair and wanted a vehicle he could prune his Kiwi fruit vines and oversee his staff at his orchard. I designed a vehicle which Brom could drive his wheelchair onto with only one control. A tiller steering that also acted as a brake when pushed down and a twist grip throttle. By having a tiller steering, brake and throttle all controlled by one hand, Brom was free to prune the vines with his other hand. The vehicle also had to be at the right height for Brom to reach the vines under the pergolas but not too high otherwise he would hit his head on the crossbeams. I designed this vehicle using the same componentry as the industrial trucks but steered from the back to give better moveability. It had a fibreglass body. Brom was extremely happy with this vehicle as it did all he asked of it. ACC paid for this vehicle and the comment from their manager summed it up well, "We ordered a Morris Minor and got a Mercedes Benz"! Brom used this vehicle for about ten years until he decided to give up the manual work around the orchard and concentrate on management. We used parts from this vehicle to build him a smaller three-wheel vehicle.

In 1987, Marny was becoming interested in motor sport. She had driven the Super Stock a couple of times during practice and showed a lot of ability, so we decided to build a car both Marny and I could race. A Ford Escort, which originally belonged to Wayne Huxford and still with a lot of good gear in it, became available. It had hit a bank in the front and was for sale without the motor or gearbox. This would be an ideal car to fit a Rover V8 motor as I had done a few years earlier. The car was in Wellington so I bought it and the trailer over the phone and agreed to drive to Taihapai to pick it up. The car was very badly damaged in the front but as I was going to cut the front off and make a sub frame as before, this was of no concern. I towed the car home, cut the front off and built a sub frame similar to the other Escort but retained the adjustable McPherson struts and Formula Pacific brakes. We picked up a Standard Rover V8 motor and Datsun five speed gearbox from the wreckers and bolted them in. The original front was roughly panel beaten into shape to use as a plug and Marny and her friend Narel West learnt how to fibreglass by making a complete front in fibreglass. This was a very quick little car which we had a lot of fun racing and hill climbing. It didn't seem to matter who had the off, the media always blamed me for it much to Marny's delight. Marny got quicker and quicker until I was having to try my hardest to beat her. Marny was a very good driver and it was a pity she did not keep racing, as I am sure she would have done very well but decided to do her big O.E. Originally we painted the car red, white and blue but later I painted it black. We kept this car for about eight years until Marny went overseas then reluctantly sold it to John Marslin. John repainted the car again and is also having a lot of fun with it. It was a great little car, very quick and very cheap to run.

In 1988, I decided to move back into town and opened a workshop in Riri Street. As well as making the electric trucks, golf carts and working for people with disabilities, Jim Short asked me to design and build a sports car he could use on the road as well as race. It had to resemble a Ferrari Spyder, and to be known as a "SHORT SPYDER". I decided to build a large diameter tube chassis with MK4 Cortina front and rear suspension, a Rover V8 motor and a Datsun 5 speed gearbox. This was again a very interesting car to design and build from scratch. The chassis was made from 75mm x 2mm and 50mm x 2mm exhaust tube gas welded together. The body was to be fibreglass. Jim supplied me with photos of the shape he wanted and we began making the plug. Jim made many trips from Auckland to Rotorua to make sure the body plug was to his liking. When he was satisfied, we made a mould, then the body. The car was assembled and painted in red and what a beautiful looking and sounding car with its V8 Rover motor. This car was great to drive on the road and Jim has had many successes in racing it. It's a pity more of these cars were not built but I feel Jim priced the kits a little too expensive. Especially when I only charged him about $30,000 for the design, making the plugs and jigs etc and a finished car!!!!!!!!!

In 1990 Bev and I decided to go back into the old Baker Bros Service Station on the corner of Sunset and Old Taupo Roads. It had had many owners since I moved out in 1975 and was now owned and operated by Mobil Oil New Zealand Ltd at a great loss so they wanted out. We did the figures and found by running it more efficiently and reopening the auto repair workshop we could make a go of it. It also had a very big workshop, the old milk treatment building out the back, which Mobil were quite happy for us to use at no cost. It's interesting that Mobil's margin was about 12 cents a litre and ours was 7 cents and reducing to 3 cents by 2001 but we could still make a profit.
It didn't take long to see why it was running at such a loss. The scams the staff had going was unbelievable. Mobil allowed the staff to cash up at night and the till tape gave exactly what should be in the till so it was a very simple matter of selling items during the day without ringing them up then pocket anything over what the till tape registered. This was soon stopped when we did spot till checks during the day and stopped the staff doing their cash ups at night. Another one was to ring all the item up on the till, give the customer the total then cancel the last item before totaling. Our biggest mistake was to take on all the old staff but things had changed so much since I originally ran this station that it was a whole new ball game but once we had stopped the scams the old Mobil staff soon left. I found that staff was far more honest in the seventies than the nineties. We also learnt to count all the new stock that came in. Amazing how poor the suppliers are at counting and always in their favor. One of the largest suppliers of drinks was the worst. We would be delivered six trays and the middle two would have three or four cans missing which we didn't find until we had used half the product. One day I noticed we were being delivered a lot of damaged cans. They were all squashed and had holes in their sides so I decided to drill a spy hole in the storeroom wall to see how these cans were being damaged. I could not see how they could be damaged in this way during delivery. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw our young boy who came after school to clean up was pushing a screw driver though the side of the can then drinking it, squashing it then claiming it was another damaged can. They sure start young. Luckily I had Chris Cooke as a witness because after I had sacked him his six foot six Black Power father came down to see why I had sacked him. I bet the kid got a hiding for being caught, not for stealing. Another good one was to give your mated petrol then claim it was a drive off. Amazing how quickly drive off stopped when the staff had to pay for any drive off during their shift. After about six months I had learnt most of the tricks and had put methods in place to stop most of the theft but definitely not all. To stop all would be impossibility but by installing video cameras and adding another 8 percent to our mark up for theft, as all other service station do; we began to make a profit. Its interesting to note that 75% of losses/theft are incurred by staff and if one staff member forgets to pay for a pie and coke each shift for a year, the loss adds up to $10,000-00.
I re-opened the workshop and moved all of Heron Developments Ltd into the old workshop out the back. This worked extremely well as all was now under the one roof. Bev and I ran the Service Station, I employed a mechanic to run the workshop, and Chris ran Heron Developments Ltd. We also turned the tyre bay into a take away food outlet, which was a real moneymaker, especially when we employed the "king "of the burgers in Rotorua, AL Beasley. Al had been making burgers in Rotorua for many years and had a great following. His steak burgers were the greatest. He would spend at least ten minutes studying the grain of the piece of steak before he cut it so that when you ate it the steak just feel apart, instead of pulling the whole piece of steak out first bite. We employed 15 staff at this time.

During this time we had an armed robbery. I was working with Wayne Gibson and making a cup of coffee in the smoko room when I heard shouting at the counter. I rushed out of the smoko room to see a guy with a balaclava over his face banishing a sawn off shot gun at Wayne. Another guy was at the till trying to bar it open with a large screwdriver. I shouted, "What’s going on". With this, the guy with the shotgun ran down the isle towards me pointing the gun at me. When it was about six inches from my face he must have realised that Wayne was not covered so he turned round and pointed it at him again. He then proceeded to wave it about from Wayne to me. By this time the other guy had managed to open the safe. They then both ran out of the shop. It's amazing how big the bore of a shotgun looks when it's only six inches from your face. By this time Wayne had activated the alarm system and within about five minutes the police had arrived. The station was closed and the interviews started. It's also amazing how little you remember fifteen minutes after being confronted with a saw off shotgun. The police knew who did the robbery but never had enough proof to convict them. While this did not affect me, unfortunately Wayne left a few weeks later. As we had a drop safe, there was only about one hundred and fifty dollars in the till which was covered by insurance. Not a nice experience but another one to add to my collection.

One interesting episode was when we were sick and tied of no maintenance work being carried out by Mobil on the building etc. I took photos of all the things that needed fixing then wrote sarcastic notes on the photos and sent them to the General Manager of Mobil. Within a week we had tradesmen with the same photos including the notes I had written, fixing all the faults. Over the next twelve months the Service Station doubled its literage and shop sales, the workshop was fully booked and Heron Developments were designing and building some amazing equipment and vehicles.

I also had another accident during this time. After my accident in the Manawatu Gorge I have a very weak left knee and as I went down the stairs at home one morning I slipped and broke my kneecap. This time the doctor had to wire my kneecap together. I still have the piece of wire in my knee today. Luckily I had very good staff and they took over and ran the service station and garage etc while I was in hospital.

Heron Developments Ltd got very involved in designing and building all types of equipment for people with disabilities. We designed hoists to go in the back of vans, and swing out hoist that when in the side. Lowered floors in the back of vehicles so a disabled person could be wheeled straight in the back of the vehicle and hundreds of hand controls for all makes and models of vehicles. Our most complicated modification was to a Honda City for Cherise Hobbs. I had been briefed on Cherise and her needs but was not prepared for Cherise when she arrived. Cherise, who was 19 at the time, had had brittle bones since a child and is confined to a wheelchair. If she could stand, she would only be about three feet tall. She arrived in her electric wheelchair, which was fitted with a seat just like a baby's bassinet. Both Cherise's legs were so short they just stuck straight out in front of her and her left arm had been broken so many times between the elbow and shoulder it would not mend. But what Cherise lacked in body functions was made up ten times over in enthusiasm and courage. After five minutes with Cherise I was going to get her driving one way or another!
I found that Cherise could not operate a normal hand control, as she did not have the strength in her broken left arm to either steer or use the brake. Normally we fit a hand control, which the person uses their left hand to operate while steering with their right hand. Cherise really only had one arm to drive the whole car. This is were I went to bed at night and thought how the hell was I going to get Cherise driving. Then it came to me. If I could make the steering wheel also the brake she could always keep both hand on the wheel to steer and be able to brake and steer. - But how. I had the crazy idea of putting a universal in the steering column, which allowed the column to move up and down. Now if I coupled the column to the brake pedal she could steer and when she wanted to brake, push the whole column and steering wheel up. The only problem I could see is that when she made a turn she would push the column up and apply the brakes. I quickly made a rough prototype and presto it worked perfectly. Next I had to work out how to get Chesise and her wheel chair into the car. I came up with the idea of a platform that fitted on a frame that would move in and out of the car. Another problem was to get the platform over the sill then back down under the steering wheel to drive. The platform had four wheels that ran on two rails underneath that lifted the platform when it slid out and then lowered it when it slid in. The platform also had a ramp, which could be lowered, to the ground for Cherise to drive her wheel chair up onto the platform. This platform was operated in and out by an electric Honda starter motor off one of the golf cart engines driving a worm thread and the ramp by a hydraulic ram/pump from an old outboard motor tilt/lift.
There was a key operated set of controls fitted to the outside of the car to open the door, slide out the platform and lower the ramp. Once Cherise was up the ramp she had another set of controls within easy reach to lift the ramp, which also locked the wheelchair into position then slid the platform into the driving position. An accelerator pedal was fitted next to the indicator switch to be worked by her outstretched foot. The hand brake and automatic transmission gear stick was extended within easy reach.
It took Chris and I about three months to complete. Cherise arrived for her test drive and she and her father spent all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday driving it around the workshop yard. On the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Cherise had a driving lesson with professional instructor Heather Frame. On the Thursday she went for her license and passed with flying colours. If you think this was incredible then on the Friday she drove her father and herself back to Auckland. Cherise is one in a million and we keep in regular contact. This vehicle was modified in 1990 and today 2002 it has give no problems. Today Cherise works with disabled children and lives on her own in her own home. A very independent young lady with a will of steel. Unfortunately, Cherise died of complications in 2004. She is very sadly missed by all who knew her.

In 1995 Heron Developments Ltd became involved with Mr. Drew Steen, the Managing Director of Electrocorp NZ Ltd, in building an electric farm buggy. While I was not all that happy in building these vehicles as I knew an electric vehicle was not suitable for farm use, Electrocorp wanted to show it was involved in electric vehicles and to find a use for their power in off peak periods. We decided to use the Golf car chassis and body extended with a tray on the back and six wheels with the four rear ones driving. Electrocorp displayed these vehicle at the 1996 and 1997 Field Days at Mystery Creek in Hamilton where they created a lot of interest. While the vehicle turn out OK for selected use it was more of an exercise and we only built about ten of these units. The main purchasers were the Waikato University and Electrocorp who used them with success as gardeners or maintenance vehicles.

In 1997 we were approached by Powerco, the power supply authority in Wanganui, to design and build a small electric road vehicle. Again this was more of an exercise in showing power companies were interested in electric vehicles. About every ten years or so people get excited about electric vehicles and they become more and more advanced, but unfortunately so do fossil fueled cars and the electrics never catch up mainly due to the problems with storage batteries. While they are good for environmental applications and small industrial vehicles in warehouses etc where emission must be to a minimum, they still have not advanced or cheap enough to take over from the ordinary petrol/diesel burning vehicles yet.
The car for Powerco was to be a small two door four-seater car built as the Heron MJ1 using a fibreglass monocoque chassis/body. I designed the car with two Sonechien 12 volt batteries in the front and four in the back giving a total of 60 volts. I used two ceramic magnet pancake motors, one in each wheel; build in England by Lynch Engineering. These motors were only 200 mm in diameter by 100 mm wide but produced 16 HP at stall and 8 HP continuous running. They were wired in series and controlled by a 500 amp Curtis controller. The rear suspension consisted of a Heron cast aluminium swing arm each side with the motors and nylon reduction gears in the cast swing axle assembly attached to a sub frame with quarter elliptic springs. This sub frame also held four batteries. The front suspension was designed and fabricated by Heron with a transverse spring and upper wishbones and a shortened Honda City rack and pinion. This was attached to a sub frame, which held the other two front batteries. Both sub frames were bolted to the fibreglass monocoque body/chassis using the Heron stainless steel patented fixing system. The construction of the car was very similar to the Heron cars with the top and bottom moulds glued together with a tunnel and two sills. This car would cover 100 klms at an average speed of 80 kph. This was as efficient as any factory made vehicles at the time. We finished one car before Powerco decided to join the New Plymouth Power Company and lost interest in further development. This was a nice looking little car. I reluctantly sold this car to Ray Millar of Millar Electrics in Rotorua when I left for Australia.

In 1997, Mobil decided to pull the old Service Station down and build a new one. This was quite sad as it was running so well for us. The service station was going well, the workshop was always busy, the take away was making good money and Heron Developments was into all sorts of interesting projects. Bev and I were probably to blame because we had built the service station up to a stage where it was too small and I had convinced Mobil that it would be better to build their new Truck Stop at the service station rather than Shorland Slaters in Riri Street.
The old building out the back was demolished and Heron Developments was moved back to Parkcliff Road. The new service station, truck stop and car wash were started where the old workshop had been. We continued in the old station until the new one was built then it was demolish and this area became the forecourt. What a disaster. The first power bill we got for one month was $3000-00. There were 96 lights in the showroom! The lights were set on an automatic switch to come on when it got dark but it would come on at any time. They also had it on full supply costs and not day- night billing. Mobil had also fitted two individual air conditioning units and when one said it was too cold the other would go into maximum heat causing them to fight against each other and burn up heaps of power. Eventually this was sorted out but power still cost about $2000-00 a month. This was only one of many problems we had with this new station. No thought had gone into this station and it was just a matter of solving the problems when they arrived. The car wash was a major problem. It wasn't until it had been in use for a couple weeks that I found out it was an old unit that had been reconditioned by Fuel Quip but had sat out in the weather for twelve months and used as a parts source. It gave continuing problems until I refused to use it and stopped paying for my fuel or rent. Mobil said nothing until one day the rep came down in a hell of a state. He said, "Do you know you owe Mobil $175,000-00 for rent and fuel": I said I knew but as they were not interested in fixing the car wash I was not really interested in paying rent or my fuel bill. It was amazing how quickly the carwash was fixed. Luckily they had overlooked my account until it got to $175,000-00 otherwise they would have kicked us out but with this amount of money they must have thought it cheaper to fix the carwash!
At the end of the year I asked for a $10,000-00 rebate on my rent due to loses on the car wash. Nothing happened so I threatened to take Mobil to the Small Claims Tribunal. Mobil rang me to say I could not take them to the Tribunal as it only heard claims up to $5000-00'. I had great pleasure in telling them that the Tribunal had just increased its claims to $12,000-00. I knew the Tribunal was about to increase it so had waited. A cheque arrived few days later and we didn't go to court. It wasn't long after I heard the guy in Mobil I had been dealing with was now working for the Red Cross and the rep was selling soft drinks!!!

In 1995, we won the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand Award For Business Innovation. This was judged on all aspects of our business. It is a very prestigious award and we were very pleased to win it.

By 1998, we had eventually fixed all the problems and had the station running very well again when Mobil decided it was now profitable enough for them to take back. I told them to get stuffed. You can't beat Goliath but you can kick him in the nuts. The trade off was a very good deal at Mobil Te Ngae. A rent-free deal for three years. This station had been allowed to run down over the years. The previous lessee was very upset with Mobil when he left and did all he could to make it difficult. His gripe was not with us but we were the ones who suffered. When he took his computer he pulled on the wires, which went under the forecourt then cut them. They all disappeared down the tube. This went for most of the items he removed. Although Mobil had to pay to have these fixed, it delayed our opening. This station also had a workshop, which I lease out to a Jackson French then Mike and Paul Varley.
We again got this station running very well even with Fletcher Challenge coming on the scene but after a couple of years found we were losing fuel from our 91 octane tank. An ultra sound test showed it had a small hole. We decided to change our 96 tank over to 91 so we could continue serving the main grade until Mobil fitted new tanks. We then learnt that Gull was to build a station just down the road making six stations within 2 klm. Mobil decided it was not worth the cost to fit new tanks and we were given relief funding to continue until our lease expired on the 30 June 2001. While Mobil, like any other large companies are hard to deal with, there were some very good reps who did their best to look after us. There were also others but these usually became reps for drink companies when they got fired!
How Mobil never kicked me out for some of the things I did I do not know but I think they knew that I was there to make a dollar for both Mobil and myself and respected me for this. Mobil was a good company to work for if you stuck to your guns and took no crap from their "brainwashed" reps.

Over the years at the service stations we came up with some extraordinary advertising. A fifteen feet high windmill was built out of used one litre oil bottles. This won us a $US1000 ($NZ1700) prize at the Mobil Conference in Las Vegas. We also built a twenty feet high dinosaur during Jurassic Park. When we moved to Te Ngae Road I mounted a car on its rear end at the front of the service station to attract attention. Each Christmas we mounted a Santa on top of our revolving Mobil sign. One year it was stolen and the local paper made a big fuss over it stating that if it was not returned, then the children of Rotorua would not have any presents. They did find the culprits who were made to pay for another Santa. A very expensive Santa too!!!!
All this advertising while taking a lot of time to make definitely helped the success of our business.

During this time I decided to renew the stairs I had built from our section down to the beach on the lake at Parkcliff. While lifting a 12 x 2 x 6meters long piece of timber I felt a pain in my stomach. This turned out to be a hernia so once again I was back in hospital to have a patch put on my stomach. Re-built again!!!!

When we moved out to Te Ngae Road, Heron Developments moved back to Parkcliff Road and Chris continued to build electric trucks and make and modify equipment for people with disabilities. I worked a couple days a week with Chris and the other days at the service station. We got a very good contract to build fifteen electric vehicles for Carter Holt Harvey in Whakatane. They wanted the fifteen within twelve months so it was all go. Chris had a production line going where he could build one complete truck in three weeks. Three trucks had to be front wheel drive, as they had to have very low decks so I mounted the motor on top of a front four-wheel drive Suzuki diff. We finished the contract on time but it was hard work, especially for Chris.

While in Old taupo road we built the Heron XR1 Sports Racing Car at this time. This was a very light aluminium monocoque chassis with a modified Heron MJ1 body with the top cup off. It ran modified Triumph Vitesse front suspension, a Rover V8 motor with 4 x 45mm Webber carbs, a five-speed Heron/Skoda gearbox and unequal length wishbones on the rear. The uprights were cast in two pieces then welded together to give strength as well as keeping them light. This was a beautiful little car but by then I had lost interest in racing and it sat for years at the back of the garage. I did race it once at Pukekoe where it went very well but too quick for the now "Old Guy".

HERON MJ 2 + 2
In 1998, Roy Hoare approached me about building a Heron MJ 2 + 2. I told him the plug was all finished but there was no moulds. He agreed to pay to have the moulds made if he could have a body shell. We made the moulds and a body and he came up from Wellington to pick it up. I also made an extra body, which I was assembling with a Rover V8, motor and five speed Subaru gearbox. I decided to sell this half finished car to a friend of Roy’s. Roy finished his MJ 2 + 2 and drove it to Rotorua to show me at Christmas 2000. He had made a beautiful job of this car; it was a credit to him. He had fitted a Mitsubishi 3000 V6 motor and gearbox. He has just fitted a turbo to the car and tells me it goes like a rocket. I am sure it would, as everything I have seen Roy do is a credit to him and Heron. I thank Roy for the faith he has shown in Heron Developments Ltd. With people like Roy, Don Hague, Cleigh Hartley, Paul MacDiarmid, John Evans and all the others who have maintained their Herons in good order, thank you, you made it all worthwhile.

In 1998, Chris and I decided to build a Holden Commodore Transam Light racing car to go racing without the pressure or risks of a very light sports car such as the Heron XR1. The car was a VK Holden Calais with all new racing gear which cost about $35,000-00 in parts to build. It was suppose to be a cheap form of DIY motor sport using a controlled mildly tuned motor and suspension with good handling and on narrow rubber but unfortunately the money boys who couldn't drive or build cars themselves for that matter, got involved and before we had even finished the car the continuing changes to the rules changed all this. It then became a very expensive class. Before this car was race it was stolen from the old workshop at Te Ngae Road. To take the car they had cut the lock off the storeroom door, kicked a hole through the wall into the workshop and then opened the workshop roller door. It must have taken two people to push the car out of the workshop then either tow it away or load it on a trailer. I advertised in the paper as well as posting adds on all the service station and truck stops in Rotorua but had no response. This surprised me as it had to be moved down Te Ngae Road, which is a very busy road at all hours of the day or night. Someone must have seen it being moved but no one came forward. Some one out there knows where it is. I am still interested in any information into its whereabouts and the reward for its recovery remains in force.

Marny, who had been living in Sydney for five years or so decided to get married so came home for the wedding. Since then they have had a little boy called Alex and have moved up to Maroochydore to be with us. While he is only two years old he knows all the cars, can use most of my tools and knows their names. While I know he will never be able to design, build and race cars as I have because of the technology and legal requirements today, I hope he has as much fun, success and friendships as I had over the years in my chosen field.

In 1999, a group called VANZ of which I helped set up took control of the disabled modification scene in New Zealand. They wanted to control and police the equipment being made. While I agree, there must be controls on the equipment; they became a little click that wanted to take full control for their own ends and not the people they claimed to represent. I did not agree to this and resigned from the committee. I had designed a swing out hoist seat which fitted in the side door of a van and swung out and down to allow the disabled person to transfer from their wheelchair to the seat then lift up and swing in to a normal seating position. This meant the rear of the van was not taken up with a hoist. We also were making quite a few of our own hoists and hand controls plus designing and building special equipment for people with special needs such as the vehicles for Brom Wells and Cherise Hobbs, something the others were incapable of doing. This upset this little group as we were making our own one off equipment custom built to suit the individual and not using their mass-produced compromising equipment, so they ganged up on me and would not certify the equipment we made. We had been building this equipment for over 15 years and had never had a problem but I was too much of a threat and they wanted me out. I tried to fight them at first but then decided to give it all away. While I felt sorry for all the disabled people we had helped over the years and those who we would have helped in the future, I had had enough. I had fought these sorts of people at Summit and Mobil for thirty years and wasn't prepared to go through it all again with these small minded self-centered and selfish people. I also decided to slow down making the electric trucks and start to take it easy. I felt I had done my share and it was time to take it easy, so Bev and I decided to sell up and move on.

We decided to sell our house at 14 Parkcliff Road after 36 years and build a new house on our other section on the lake. This was a beautiful section as it overlooks the lake to Mokoia Island and the city and stairs went down to the private beach through native bush to the lake. It also had my workshop on it. The only problem was the invasion of millions of minute trout flies each year just as the BBQ season got under way. We had the house on the market for about 18 months as I would not drop my price or go to auction. Eventually a man turned up at the door one day and asked Bev if he could have a look around. He rang the next morning to ask if he could bring his wife out the following night. The following morning he rang me again to say he would buy it and how much did I want. I told him the price and he said no problem and paid the deposit the following day. He then asked if we would leave some of the furniture as he said it suited the house. This was great, as our new house would not suit the old furniture. He ended up buying all the furniture and contents of the house. We moved out some six weeks later with just our clothes and personal items. I had half finished a flat in the workshop, which we were going to live in while I built the new house on the lake section. I now only had six weeks to finish it. We had problems getting the OK to put sewerage in, as we were so close to the lake. The sewerage was finished late on the night we moved in but I had still not hooked up the toilet so I had to get up at 6-00am and finish it with both legs crossed to finish it. Luckily it all went well and I made it just in time with out an accident.
I drew up our dream home, which I was going to build with steel frames. We were in the process of having a quote when the firm who made the steel frame kits went into receivership. Luckily we had not given them any money, as I believe they stung quite a few people. We decided to take a break and have a holiday with Marny and Alex at our unit which is right on the beach at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. We all fell in love with Maroochydore and decided to sell up everything in New Zealand and move to Queensland. Marny also convinced Yaser, her husband, to move to Queensland from Sydney and while it was hard to leave family and friends we thought it was time to make a break and it would be great to be with Marny, Yaser and see Alex grow up. We came back to New Zealand and I told Winston, the man who bought our house what we had decided to do. He straightaway said he wanted to buy the section and anything else we wanted to sell. We could not believe our luck. Not only did he buy the section, workshop, flat and contents, he bought my Holden Commodore, and four-wheeled trailer. It was quite spooky to know the house; workshop and both sections are exactly as we lived in them. Still it was also nice to know that someone loved the way we had it all set up. We left New Zealand on the 8 March 2002 with only our clothes and personnel effects to start a new life in Queensland with Many, Yarer and Alex.

There are many people who I owe a great deal. Especially, those who showed faith in me and helped me build the hundreds of vehicles and equipment over the years. Some being paid and others for the fun of it. Unfortunately, they are too many to mention but I am sure they will know who they are. Without them I could never have built this many vehicles or had such success with them. There are people who I must mention as they did more that anyone could ever ask or expect of anybody, they are; my father, my mother, my brother Tony and his wife Marlene, my wife Bev and daughter Marny plus my very loyal and trusted friends, Bob Gee, Chris Cooke, John Grant, Eddie Jones, Peter Guilford, Paul MacDiarmid and Allan McKay. While my life is far from over, I am just starting phase two, these people plus many others to numerous to mention here, helped to make this story possible. THANK YOU!!