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Keeping up with the Carnales

15 March 2016

The Carnales are not the biggest — in terms of member numbers, or car line-up — or the longest-standing car club out there, but in just five years, they have become one of the most prominent car clubs of any flavour in New Zealand’s car scene.


‘Carnal’ is Latin-American slang for ‘brother’ or ‘close friend’, and the club’s entire existence and ethos can be quite adequately summarized by this one word. For a car club, they take a very laid-back approach to the ‘eligibility’ of cars, focusing instead on the human aspect of things — the fact that all members’ cars are quality builds is obvious, but, for them, it’s secondary to the quality of friendship they enjoy.

Five years on and they’re as tight as ever, and the club is growing, albeit slowly, as a group this close warrants. And while we were able to catch up with them two years ago, it was a privilege to have been extended an invitation to the small private function held at Don and Gloria Jones’s — from Jonesy’s Garage — Waikato property.

Don and Gloria are frequently seen behind the wheel of their ’37 Chev sedan, pictured on the right — a car that they’ve owned for well over four decades. With a warmed-up original 216ci straight-six engine, and subtle lace painting on the exterior, it’s a reliable cruiser that happens to look the part, too. The Jones’s son, Dan, is also working on a low-rider of his own, which was unveiled with a request of ‘no photos’ — though we can hopefully reveal that the upholstery contains no less than 5km of thread, to give an indication of the build scale. They’re aiming to have the car ready for a debut at Repco Beach Hop 16 in Whangamata, and you best believe that it’ll be a crowd favourite.

One of the Carnales’ more prominent members, in terms of both the person and his car, is Fergus Hope. Fergus is the man behind Whangamata-based Peninsula Panel and Paint, and owner of ‘Sancha’, the crazy ’73 Chev Monte Carlo, which is one of the club’s standout vehicles. He’s only recently finished and installed the custom nose cone you see here, somehow giving the Monte even more presence.

With an incredibly detailed and multilayered paint job, the entire Monte is a testament to Ferg’s ability as a painter. The custom paintwork even extends to lacework adorning the rear shells of the swivel seats. And then there’s the rest of the interior, with the ceiling painted to match the intricate exterior, and just about everything else upholstered in plush velour. This attention to detail, and the outrageous impact it all has, earned Sancha the Judges’ Choice trophy at the 2016 NZ Lowrider Nationals in January 2016 — a fitting result for Ferg’s workmanship.

‘Chicho’, Kenny Harrison’s ’78 Camaro, needs no introduction; we featured it in NZV8 Issue No. 131, and it’s not exactly an easy car to overlook. When was the last time you saw a Camaro low-rider of any generation in New Zealand? It also boasts a stunning paint job courtesy of Ferg, with touches added by Kenny, a plushly upholstered interior, and a Hoppo’s 24V hydraulic system taking care of the all-important altitude. Kenny’s also got a beautifully restored ’46 Chev Fleetmaster in the garage, which unfortunately did not attend this event.  

Kenny’s dad, Grant, is also a Carnales member, bringing his ’37 Nash Lafayette down from Tauranga. Grant’s car may look reasonably period-correct, but it’s had a Holden HG front clip grafted into the chassis, with HQ discs and calipers, and a nine-inch diff with Holden HQ axles and axle tubes, to keep a consistent 5×4.75 stud pattern at all corners. Power comes courtesy of a 355ci small block Chev and TH350 transmission, and having first acquired the car as a roller, this was a bit of a no-brainer. The Nash’s stance comes thanks to Grant’s love of low cars.

“I would have been around 17, at a car show, and I saw a ’39 Ford that had been lowered. Ever since, all my cars — British, Aussie, or American — have had to be low!” he explains.

And the similarly shaped ’38 Pontiac Six parked alongside it belongs to Grant’s other son, Chris. By day, Chris works in the depths of Cambridge-based Valley Custom — specialists in quirky custom builds, and a one-stop shop for ‘altitude’ correction. Chris has modified his Pontiac with the aim of including as many factory-option accessories as possible, including the sun visor and headlight visors, spotlights, and Thermador air-conditioning unit, among many others. The Pontiac, like many of Carnales’ cars, is a fitting statement that it doesn’t need to be on hydraulics or bags to be considered a low-rider.

But, as far as classic-style sedans are concerned, the ’42 Chev Fleetline ‘Aerosedan’ owned by Murray Storey — proprietor of Valley Custom —  is something else entirely. Murray is a big fan of the ’40s Chev sedans, and the ’42 has been tastefully restored, featuring only period-correct additions. That said, it’s been tastefully lowered — the best way to improve on the Aerosedan’s already beautiful profile.  

Ross Bennett’s ’83 Cadillac Coupe DeVille has been finished in a simple ’90s style, essentially requiring only a smooth paint job, 13-inch 72-spoke Daytons, and an abundance of low, courtesy of hydraulic suspension. And how about that wood-rimmed Nardi steering wheel, for the finishing ’90s touch? While the big Cadi was one of the most subtle vehicles in attendance, it was also one of the cleanest, and its finish was recently rewarded by Ross earning the Best New School award at the 2016 NZ Lowrider Nationals.

The other bombs, low-riders, and classics in attendance included Warren Larsen’s ’39 Chev Master Deluxe, sitting to the right of William Ardern and Sarah Ardern-Jones’s ’37 Chev Master sedan. Warren’s ’39 is currently sitting low on 13-inch Astro Supremes, and the body has recently been stripped back to bare metal, with a maze of ‘painter’s green’ tape on the roof marking potential paint job ideas. Whatever results, it’s guaranteed to be spectacular.

William and Sarah’s ’37 Chev Master features a custom paint job, done in subdued period-style colours, with subtle custom touches throughout. With Sarah being Don and Gloria Jones’s daughter, whatever car they cruise in is guaranteed to be good, and the ’37 is hunkered down nicely over 14-inch wires, thanks to reset leaves and lowering blocks.

The other low-slung cruisers present included Ben Webster’s ’68 Chev Impala sedan, finished in a clean and simple ’70s resto low style; Mike Nolan’s ’46 Chev custom; Sara and Josh Nicholls’ tidy ’39 Chev sedan; and Elmo’s clean ’82 Cadillac Sedan DeVille.

It’s evident, from the camaraderie displayed within the Carnales, that this club is here to stay. Five years have come and gone, but you can be sure that you’ll be seeing Carnales-plaqued cruisers on a street near you for many more years to come.