Garage treasure

Last updated 05:00 25/01/2014

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"Made like a gun" the signage on the 1915 Enfield motor car declares.

This little beauty is owned by vintage car collector John Armiger. He admits his 10-horsepower, four-cylinder version needs a bit of work before it is firing again, however.

The Enfield, believed to be one of only two in New Zealand, has been off the road for 12 years, says John, a former Christchurch man who moved to Blenheim four years ago. He brought the Enfield with him and it shares a garage with a 1912 two-cylinder Renault and a 1948, 2.5-litre Riley.

The Enfield was built by Royal Enfield, a company which also made motorcycles, bicycles, lawnmowers and stationary engines.

The legacy of weapons' manufacture is reflected in a cannon logo and the motto: "Made like a gun, goes like a bullet".

John bought his Enfield when he was an apprentice mechanic in 1960. He is only the second legal owner and the first one had given it to their son in Nelson who had taken it apart.

The young man had fitted the car's front axles to a trolley that could cart cream cans to the farm gate and given the motor to a neighbour.

"I don't know what [the neighbour] thought he was going to do with it," John says. But he bought the vehicle and collected its parts from both properties and restored it.

Seatbelts weren't fitted to vehicles in the 1960s so, although it was only a two-seater, John, his first wife and their three small children all managed to squeeze in and used the Enfield as their family car.

"There wasn't much room in the boot . . . it was very much taking the minimal of loads if you went anywhere."

Enfield parts are not easy to find but John followed the principle that if someone else made something, he could too.

Early work included building a new radiator core.

"You scratch your head many times. I had to restore everything."

The Enfield was on the road for many years and it took John all around the South Island and even up to Auckland once. It was the car's second trip to the northern city, the first time taking its original owner and her daughter there in 1918.

John met the first owner in 1960 and a black-and-white photograph of them in the new Enfield is pinned with other vintage car memorabilia on the garage wall.

Vehicle standards are much higher these days than they were in 1960 when he did the first restoration and John admits he had started feeling almost ashamed when he was driving the Enfield around in latter years.

The next job on the list is repairing the steel chassis. It will sit on the original wheels, then the body fitted and repainted. It's not an urgent job, though, good things take time.

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Besides, there are things to do and places to go in the Renault or the Riley. This weekend John and the Renault will join a Model T and a Swift from Marlborough at the 2014 Dunedin to Brighton rally.

Inspired by the legendary London to Brighton rally, this year's event in Otago will be the 60th, making it the oldest veteran rally in New Zealand.

- The Marlborough Express

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