We could have a Guinness World Record within our reach.
The Packard and Pioneer Museum is trying to get its collection of 52 vehicles officially recognised as the largest private collection of Packards in the world.
The Maungatapere museum is owned by a family trust set up by the late Graeme Craw who began collecting in the 1950s.
The collection has been virtually shut off from the public since Mr Craw's death in 2007 and came very close to being sold off.
But the project has been given a revival through a sample exhibition at the Town Basin, originally done for the Rally of Whangarei.
The exhibition led to hundreds of people touring the main museum, volunteers and sponsors coming forward, and Mr Eaton being appointed manager.
Correspondence between Mr Eaton and the Packard Club in the United States revealed the museum has by far the largest collection of Packards in the world.
"There were three other collections in the States but they have all been sold off like this one nearly was," Mr Eaton says.
He decided to apply for a Guinness World Record, knowing the official certification would help put Whangarei on the map.
Claiming a Guinness World Record is free but after four months corresponce Mr Eaton says he was told the museum would need to pay for an adjudicator to be sent from Europe and put up in a minimum four-star hotel.
The cost was up to $10,000 - far too much for the charitable trust which relies on donations - and Mr Eaton says he thought that would be the end of it.
But enquiries by the Whangarei Leader have found the museum might still be able to claim the record free of charge.
Guinness World Records English language public relations manager Claire Burgess says the record can be documented by the museum, verified by independent witnesses and the evidence submitted to London headquarters for approval.
Costs from £4500 (NZ$8700) are charged where claimants want to have an official adjudicator present at the record attempt or to verify it in person. But this is not necessary to authenticate the record, she says.
Mr Eaton says it is definitely worth pursuing and he will contact Ms Burgess directly.
"It would be tremendous publicity if we had a Guinness World Record."
The Packard and Pioneer Museum is touted as New Zealand's best kept secret and is thought to be the largest private collection in the country.
It shows the evolution of the Packard car which is known as America's Rolls Royce, and has more than 250 other vehicles and artefacts from pioneer New Zealand.
The exhibition History on Wheels is open at the Town Basin opposite Reyburn House from 10am to 4.30pm Monday to Saturday and tours are held at the Maungatapere museum from 2pm every Saturday.
- Whangarei Leader
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