President's Report - May 2012

Greetings All,

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of one our club’s great personalities, John Nicholas, aged 78. John was a long-time member of the club. Indeed he was our first appointed Honorary Life Member. Peter Rees, Graham Taylor and I attended a very moving funeral for John at the Gold Creek Chapel on Tuesday 8 May

On a lighter note, I met a very nice old bloke (older than me, that is) at the local car wash recently. He admired my 508, and then recalled he’d owned a Peugeot years ago – a 203. He said he’d worked for a car dealer in Temora, in the 1950s, where they sold Peugeot 203s and Dodges. It reminded me of the days, both in Australia and New Zealand, when people had few choices when it came to buying cars – they simply bought what was on offer at the local dealer. I well remember being quite astonished to see Citroëns on almost every dairy farm in one part of south Taranaki, when I first visited the North Island of New Zealand in 1975.

It turned out that there was a local Citroën dealer and nothing else on offer for miles around. The dealer was something of a local legend, renowned for taking people on hair-raising test drives. His favourite trick, apparently, was to roar along the narrow farm roads then suddenly veer off into the grass to demonstrate the great Citroën suspension. His nickname was ‘Mad Max of Manaia’ (Manaia being the small town where he had his dealership).

In those days, in New Zealand, cars were expensive and people kept them for many years. Thus the Citroëns that I saw in 1975, were not the latest model but mostly Light 15s and Big 15s, as I recall – these would have been UK-assembled and therefore gained tax concessions that strongly favoured British-built cars in New Zealand at the time.

Peugeot, of course, had gone one step further and built an assembly plant, at Thames, just south of Auckland. My dark blue 404 is one such Kiwi-assembled Pug, which, in turn, allowed me to avoid paying an import duty when I brought it back to Australia in 1994.

An interesting thing about buying and selling cars in New Zealand, when I lived there from 1983-1994, was a set of ‘papers’ that went with a car for life. The ‘papers’ recorded the name of each owner, the dates of sale/purchase, and the odometer reading at the time of sale. This was an excellent way of keeping track of the ‘real’ odometer reading on older cars that only had 5 digit odometers – no more pretending that an odometer reading was 60,000 miles when it was actually 160,000, 260,000 or even 360,000 miles. The papers with my 404 clearly show only one family owner, the ownership passing from mother to son, before being sold back to the original dealer who sold it to me. A nice bit of history to go with the car!

Unfortunately I will miss this month’s club meeting at the Weston Club, but that should not deter people from attending. Meet at 7pm for dinner and a chat, followed by the meeting at 8pm, on Tuesday 22 May. However, I will be back in plenty of time for the annual Battle of Waterloo to be held on Sunday 17 June at the bottom of ANZAC Parade, with entry from near Blundell’s Cottage – see calendar for details. The British forces have had the upper hand for the past two years, so I am keen to encourage a strong French contingent of cars this year.

No army runs on an empty stomach, so the club will be running a BBQ on the day. If anyone would like to volunteer to assist with running the BBQ please let me know. Looking further ahead, the annual Bastille Day celebration is planned to be lunch at Le Très Bon Restaurant in Bungendore on Sunday 22 July. Those of us who went there last year can vouch that this a great place to dine. Details to follow in next month’s magazine.

Keep on Pugging,

Brad Pillans

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