BY: Martin Schacht
We recently returned from our annual vacation, this year a “Carrera” (Race in Spanish), so called because for two weeks, we raced across the land of the Kiwi, New Zealand. Our journey started in Auckland, at the northern end of North Island and ended, all too soon, at the southern tip of South Island. The prospect of going to an unknown land, although reputed to be safe and friendly, was a bit unnerving. I would have no Porsche car to drive, no current Porsche news to read, and little or no e-mail access.
About 15 hours after we left Los Angeles International Airport, we touched down in Auckland, New Zealand, courtesy Air New Zealand. A quick walk over to AVIS and soon were on our way. Well not quite “soon”, nothing happens too swiftly in New Zealand.
And note that driving swiftly in New Zealand is not to be experienced legally. The national highway speed limit is 100 kilometers per hour. The law is enforced with Speed Cameras (Photo Radar), mounted in small station wagons parked unobtrusively on the side of the road. When you get “busted”, as I was told by a local, you know it when you observe a flash or orange light. Being a lucky Porsche driver, I never saw the orange light. This trend to speed cameras for speed enforcement continues unabated as the New Zealand government just ordered 100 new cameras. The local speed junkies are furious about this. Fortunately a national custom has evolved where on-coming traffic warns potential victims of an upcoming speed camera with a near universal gesture, a flash of the headlights. In addition, radar detectors are legal, so this too is available as a defense.
My wife Vicki and I had thoughts about the process of driving in New Zealand, and especially about some potentially trying moments such as negotiating through a “round about”, known in the U.S. as Traffic Circles. Traffic is metered through intersections on the honor system using the following process. Entering the circle from the left, you yield to the incoming traffic coming from your right, proceed through, and then incoming traffic on your left yields to you. Believe it or not, it works! As some of you are aware, once upon a time there was a huge traffic circle in Long Beach, CA, home of Circle Porsche. It may still be there for all I know. The really good news about the prevalence of the “round about”, you will encountered very few traffic lights in the entire country, with the exception of the Wellington area. All you need remember in traffic, upon entering an intersection is Look Right, Stay Left. Also note, it would be wise to reverse this process upon your return to the States. Be advised that your first few miles (Days?) as a passenger will be unnerving, as the driver tends to shy away from the center dividing line, consequently the left side of the car is very close to the edge of the road, and any road side hazards that may be present appear larger than life. We both learned to close our eyes when it got too scary.
We made it successfully through our first traffic circle and commenced our journey southward. The first big rig we observed heading straight at us on the “wrong side of the road” was a bit unnerving; you do get used to it, but you must say in the moment or face potentially serious consequences.
My next observation, where are the Porsche cars? I see Holdens, I see Ford (of Australia) Falcons, Rice Rockets galore, but where are the Porsche cars? This trend went unabated for days. Finally, I spotted my first in-country Porsche, a racecar on the back of a trailer. It was clearly headed for the track. Racing, especially sedan racing, is really big in New Zealand. My search went on for days; zero Porsche cars were to be seen. About 8 days into the trip I spotted a “water pumper”, a Boxster, and that was it, until….
By the tenth day, we had made it all the way down to the Christchurch area in South Island. We were headed for our final destination, Grasmere Station Lodge, 1-½ hours west of Christchurch, located at about 3,000 feet of elevation in the Southern Alps. You can call your farm a Station if it is 5,000 acres or greater.
Around dusk, we pull into the Grasmere Lodge. Coming down the long driveway, greater than ½ a mile, I observed a four-car garage, and a familiar snout. Could that be what I think it is, a 1973 911RS car? And then off to the left I observed the Porsche Haus building (See below: Figure 1.), a “shrine” holding the following gems from Stuttgart: A 1958 left hand drive Speedster restored to original condition, a 82 930 right hand drive and a very clean little 914-4.
As I was to discover at dinner that evening, the Grasmere Station Lodge is owned and managed by Oliver “Ollie” Newbegin and his wife Vicki.
I inquired of Ollie, why the mix of these very different Porsche cars? It seems Ollie is in the process of collecting a representation of every major oil cooled model made by Porsche. For the 356, he has the Speedster, the 911RS Touring representing the early 911 years. The 914 is a fun little car Ollie to scoots about in. He feels that it is a significant model. With their prevalence around the world, who can disagree? The 1982 Euro 930, complete with a fan assist on the intercooler rounds out the collection, for now. He is acquiring additional garage space, and it is anyone’s guess what will be the new additions to his collection. Also note, he had a Boxster S but sold it. He needed a station wagon to transport guests about, and the Boxster S seating was too much of a challenge.
Going back some 20+ years ago, Ollie purchased his first Porsche car. He later went on to be the co-founder of the Porsche Club of New Zealand, counterpart to our Porsche Club of America. Ollie was very much involved with Porsche Club racing, organizing and participation in numerous events over the years. His last dedicated raced car was a 964 RS, which was sold when Ollie and Vicki came south and went into the sheep farming and lodge business. I suspect we’ll be seeing a 964 RS in his collection soon. Below you see Ollie (Figure 2.) next to his super, sanitary Speedster, which also has an interesting history.
It seems that Ollie had heard of a very clean Speedster for sale in California, and had been looking to add one to his collection. He the car inspected (A PPI) in California. The Speedster was given a clean bill of health. Ollie then wired the money to the US and the car was shipped to New Zealand. Upon arrival, and a closer inspection, it became apparent that the PPI was not very thorough. Nearly the entire bottom of the car was rusted out and needed replacement. Ollie had the work done, and as a result, the Speedster is nearly flawless. Ollie has won Concours awards with this car. It gets its exercise too: All of Ollie’s cars are driven as frequently as he can make the time to do so. If he can’t make the time, he has one of his staff take them for a spin. Ollie, do you need any help?
As I mentioned earlier, I thought I spotted a 1973 RS upon entering the property, could this be true? As I chatted on a bit with Ollie at dinner, he confirmed that I did see 1973 RS (T) Touring model (Figure 3 below) with approximately 100,000 miles. It was a real RS, not a “Fakey Doo”. As a Touring model, it was ordered and delivered with “luxury” items not found on the 1973 RSL Lightweight car. This RS has a radio, a sun top and a full interior. Can this be?
Yes it can. Ollie provided me with access to a limited edition book on the RS cars, of which only 600 copies were printed, the title of which escapes me at the moment. In this book, the details of all 1,700 RS cars built is contained. It is similar to a Cardex history with the chassis number, the paint color, the country of origin to where the car was to be shipped as well as any extras added or deleted on the car.
Below is (Figure 4.) a rear view of the car, and yours truly, in the moment, with Pastis in hand. Note the customized plate.
I also took a few shots of the engine bay (Figure 5 Below, a macro view). Note below, an absence of decals in the six spots where they could have been inserted. Was this a repaint? And as you can imagine, no air-conditioning compressor is to be found in the engine bay.
Also, examine (Figure7.), what looks to me to be 84 Carrera hydraulic chain tensioners, could this be original?
What would it be like to have a ride in such a piece of history, the 1973 911RS T? Or better yet, how would it drive? I soon had the answer to both questions.
At the dinner, Ollie promised to “take me out for a squirt” the following morning. What fantastic news? And then it hit me, what if this guy is some kind of a nut driver? What if he takes me out and intentionally tries to scare me to death, or worst case scenario, in the process of “the squirt”, we hit a tree, or? About then, a great calm came over me. If I die, at least I’ll die doing what I love doing, going fast in Porsche cars. Let’s do it…let “the squirt” begin.
The following morning I met Ollie after breakfast and we fired up the RS, what an incredible sound. We buckled up in our 3-point harnesses and headed down the long, long driveway, turning on to the main highway. Now mind you, this is a left hand drive car, and as a consequence, the passenger is on the right side of the car, facing oncoming traffic. As they say in New Zealand, “No worries”! Ollie’s drive down the road was uneventful. Speed Cameras or not, we got up to 5th gear. What an incredibly smooth car.
Midpoint in the drive Ollie turned the car around and said, “It is your turn to drive.” Can it get any better? We swapped places, and I drove the RS back to the “barn.” All I can say is if you can get your hand on one of these cars, Do It! Now to the moment of truth, we turn on to Ollie’s driveway, very long driveway, and one that could be expected on a 15,000 acre sheep station. I made the turn and a dip required me to get into first gear. As I eased it into second, Ollie said, “Put your foot into it!” Who am I to disobey an order from my landlord, so away we went. I took it up to 6,500 in second and third, 700 RPM shy of Red Line. Porsche decorum dictates that you don’t thrash other’s cars. As I mentioned, it is a very long driveway.
Incredible throttle response and an indescribable engine growl, far less contrived than the induction noise I hear with my foot to the floor in our Sound Package equipped 993. Below (Figure 8.) is my arrival at the garage after the ride (I know, the mirrors are not original. I was going to “rag” Ollie about this, but felt it was best to leave well enough alone).
The trip to New Zealand was wonderful trip. I will always wonder how my wife Vicki found out there was an incredible Porsche collection at Grasmere Station Lodge, the final stay of our journey, and that a ride and drive could be arranged for me in a 1973 RS car. What can I say, I have the perfect wife!
Grasmere Lodge: If you are in New Zealand’s South Island, and on the way to see the glaciers, spend a night or two at the Lodge, chat with Ollie and see the car collection http://www.grasmere.co.nz/ In addition to 1st class accommodations, the food is of the best quality. You won’t loose any weight at the Lodge.
We are going back to New Zealand. I have
to see what cars Ollie is adding to his collection. Below are pictures
of the lodge off the above web site.
Also note, that Ollie gave me a Club Pin
from the Porsche Club of New Zealand. In exchange, I gave Ollie my Porsche
Owners Club Instructors “T” shirt, the only Porsche related item in my
suitcase. So if you are walking around Christchurch, or you are out in
the bush on a hike, and you see a chap in a POC Instructor’s shirt, that’s
Ollie. Stop and say hello.