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Summer stunner: the best of the Orewa Beach Festival

12 February 2018



In 2010, the Hibiscus Rodders hot rod club kicked off its inaugural Orewa Beach Festival — an event that would become an annual staple in the Kiwi calendar, and one that has gone from strength to strength, evolving into somewhat of a regional treasure and one of the highest-regarded events on the automotive calendar. The reason for this can be squarely attributed to the drive and passion of the team behind it, and the strong community focus prevalent throughout. 

This is manifested in a number of ways, but the most obvious would be through its dedication to supporting the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust. The event is not run for profit, and all proceeds are given directly to the trust. Sharon Morris, who took on the task of bringing the event to life with the help of the event’s dedicated committee, explains this appreciation for the service provided by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, as her older brother passed away on the helicopter en route to the hospital. The trust performs a vital service for the community, and relies on donations to ensure the service continues, with the contributions from the Rodders Beach Festival going a long way towards this. Public opinion is high, which is what makes it so popular — not just within the region, but throughout the upper North Island.

As tends to be the case with most successful events, consistency is key, which explains why the organizers didn’t change things up too much for 2018. Of course, there are the two or three extras added in each year to spice things up — this year, including the cruise to the Puhoi Pub for the NZV8 What’s Under Your Hood contest, having the main road shut down on Saturday, and the VIP marquee that sold out easily. For those coming in from out of town, or locals wanting to get the full experience, things kicked off on the Friday evening with the Hot Rods in the Park side show, followed by a drive-in screening of Deuce of Spades. 

Saturday, of course, is the big one. Gates to the Orewa Reserve opened at 8am for show car entry, ensuring a packed playing field for when the show opened to the public at 10am. And, with the main road closed off for several blocks for overflow parking, there really was too much to see in just one take. 

Sean Williams had his stunning ’33 Ford roadster out to play, and what a people magnet this thing was! The proportions are bang on, with not a single bad angle to view it from, and the quality of build and finish is second to none. It isn’t style over substance, either — with an independent Rods By Reid front end and Jaguar rear, and power provided by a 427ci big block Chev backed by a Tremec five-speed, this rod is hot! Keep an eye out for a full feature in an upcoming issue of NZV8. 

This tough ’66 Ford Fairlane was built by Greg Dietsch, to match his vision of a factory R-code car. Thanks to a 428 crankshaft and some rotating assembly trickery, the 390ci FE has been stroked to around 410ci, and could he have opted for any gearbox other than a Toploader four-speed? This thing is a proper muscle car, finished to a show quality standard, and Greg’s profession as an automotive upholsterer certainly hasn’t hurt with regards to the interior!

We recently featured his tough El Camino, and Dean Blakesley’s already found himself a new toy in the form of this sweet 1966 Pontiac Tempest. The original patina is just plain awesome, he’s got the stance spot on, and knowing how he is with cars, we’ve no doubt it’s going to see a bit of an increase in power somehow. 

Eric and Marion Livingstone’s neat pair of cars make for a bit of Mopar eye candy. Eric’s wild Hemi-powered ’23 T-bucket sure gets around, and has been a familiar sight at car shows for well over the past three decades. It’s more often than not seen with Marion’s wicked big block–powered ’68 Plymouth Barracuda fastback — a show-stopping slice of pro street awesomeness!

The designated ‘V8 Chick Parking’ was an area reserved for the ladies in the scene, offering a neat array of cars on display, including Cathy Willemsen’s stunning 1970 Plymouth Cuda AAR — one of only 36 ever produced in Moulin Rouge pink, and one of just seven models manufactured with an automatic transmission believed to still exist.

Brooke Delzell owns this choice 1962 Buick Invicta wagon, still sporting its original signwriting from the States. However, the brushwork is about all he’s left untouched, with a bit of a stance correction coming thanks to lowered suspension and bigger rims. The old Nailhead was also pulled in favour of a 454ci big block and four-stage auto, for effortless cruising ability, and Brooke mentioned there aren’t many weekends the family aren’t piled in to go somewhere. 

By late afternoon, cars had begun to trickle out from the reserve — some back home, others to grab a bit of dinner, and others awaiting the next stage of the evening. The next stage would be a cruise out to the Puhoi pub for dinner, a cold brew, and the NZV8 ‘What’s Under Your Hood’ competition. Entered cars were to gather at the Orewa New World supermarket at 6pm, with a cruise out at 6.30. 

There’s definitely something special about seeing a procession of these beautiful automobiles set against the Hauraki Gulf and Wenderholm regional park. 

And the destination wasn’t half bad, either … 

A handful of neat cars parked up as entrants into the judged competition, and it was very neat to see a diverse spread of entrants. While there could only be four winners, there was no faulting the turnout. As it would turn out, top honours went to Ian Neary’s stunning ’68 Plymouth GTX, with Sean Williams’s ’33 Ford roadster taking second, and Steve Clare’s mid-engined Mini ute claiming third, and a fantastically preserved ’57 Chev 3100 taking fourth. 

That concluded the Saturday, and the event rolled right around again on Sunday, with another massive day under the Orewa sun. What a fantastic event, and a great way to kill a weekend. We’ve got to give a huge thanks to the Hibiscus Rodders team, show sponsors, and vehicle entrants who make it all possible. It should go without saying that we will be back next year, as the event celebrates its big 10th anniversary!