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Behind closed doors: raiding sheds in Palmerston North

3 November 2015

Let’s face it, we don’t really need much of an excuse to get up early on a Sunday morning when there’s a shed raid involved, especially when there is the prospect of seeing something a little different buried in the deepest darkest corner of someone’s shed. 

However, the 8am start on Sunday, November 1, could almost be classed as a bit of a late one, due to the majority of the Palmerston North Hot Rod Club (PNHRC) members — and most likely the majority of New Zealand, for that matter — already getting up at 5am to watch the All Blacks beat our big brothers from across the Tasman in the Rugby World Cup 2015 final.

PNHRC club president Tim Olsen invited us along to ride shotgun with him in his tidy ’57 Chev. The ’57 is a little different than the norm; three pedals reside in the driver’s footwell rather than two. The healthy-sounding 350 small block is bolted to a five-speed manual wrenched out of a Rover of all things. 

With a full-on day planned and more than 10 sheds to visit it was essential to start the day with a decent feed. Bacon, eggs, and hash browns at a local pub was the deal, although it seems that this may have been the second breakfast for some club members who had just left the RSA after watching the rugby. 

The Manawatu had turned on a cracker of a day; those who wanted a bit of a sleep in met us at the pub after breakfast for a 9.30am departure to the first shed. A healthy number of club members were in attendance, which was great to see. Great weather, great cars, and great people made for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Mr ‘two breakfasts’ Ronnie Christmas was the club’s first stop, his ’23 Model T sitting out in the sun hooked up to a jump pack, with Ronnie bent over trying to coax the old girl to life. The keen eye of Jimmy Keeys noticed a wire hanging in the breeze that was stopping the 302 from firing up. Much to the disappointment of Ronnie’s wife, the wire was reattached and the bucket soon spluttered into life — no doubt waking the neighbours in the process.

The next couple of stops created a bit of a pattern for the remainder of the day: old cars being repowered with new engines. It is becoming increasingly popular these days to mix a bit of new technology with old-school looks, with the end result being something that looks cool, but is also reliable, and will start and stop when it’s supposed to — not when it’s good and ready!

Howard Wills’ 1948 F100 has had the old Y-block ripped out and replaced with an injected 302 from an EB Falcon, and fellow club member Neil says he’ll also be using anything he can from his own EB Falcon donor vehicle to make his Jailbar a pleasure to drive.

More of the new-meets-old theme was evident at Jimmy and Kerry Keeys’ place; their awesome chopped ’50 Merc has a (shock horror), Nissan under the hood.

As does son Matty’s soon-to-be slammed and bagged ’50 Chev pickup.

Thankfully, there were more cars that were a little less modern for the hot rod purists to drool over at the Keeys’ place. ‘SINBIN’, sitting in a shed far away from the Japanese hybrids, runs a multi-carbed Hemi, and was kept company by a couple of other cars fitted with much more appropriate-for-the-era flatheads.

Jason Coley has taken the old-meets-new theme to the extreme and slotted another Nissan V8 into his 1928 Dodge. Jason is no stranger to sideways glances from people turning their noses up at his choice of engines. A few years ago, he proudly opened the bonnet of his Impala at the club’s annual Palmy Swap Meet to reveal his first Japan-meets-USA transplant. When you can pick these engines up for half the price of a small block, the decision becomes a bit of a no-brainer. 

Come lunchtime, we found ourselves at The Rush Family Collection in Feilding. Everyone took the opportunity to have a breather, grab a slab of bacon-and-egg pie, and wash it down with a coke.

The museum wasn’t open to us today, which was a bit of a shame as it is truly an incredible collection of some pretty special cars. It would have been great to have another look around, but time constraints meant that it just wasn’t feasible. In an adjoining shed, Terry Rush’s son Tim is creating what will certainly be a unique COE transporter for one of the family’s many Formula 5000 race cars. 

Not only did the ‘ex–orchard mule’ Morris grab everyone’s attention, the McLaren in pieces parked next to it also received its fair share of attention.

As is usually the case, each club has that one person who, due to their ridiculous mechanical skills, just makes you shake your head in amazement. Unfortunately, possessing those kinds of skills can make for a very, very long build. Not only do you have to build the actual car, but you also have to build the equipment needed to hand-fabricate each component of the car. If a panel needs a swage line, then I guess you really need to build yourself a swager, and while you are at it, you might as well build yourself a press, too, just in case you need it — sometimes all you can do is just smile and shake your head.

With time rapidly marching on, the rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, but it’s safe to say that there are some very cool cars being built and we can’t wait to see them out of their sheds and on the road.

Thanks to Tim and the Palmerston North Hot Rod Club for the invite, and for putting on a thoroughly enjoyable day.