Rare military vehicle back on the road
A rare World War II German army vehicle has sprung back to life at the hands of Hamilton military vehicle enthusiast Ross Hopkins and family.
The Kettenkrad motorcycle half-track was used for a variety of purposes in all theatres. It could be a personnel carrier and field telephone cable layer, a gun tractor and general tow vehicle.
The Hopkins bought their example in Australia in the mid-1980s. But as Hopkins has 38 military vehicles of wide description and years of work packed into barns, it was only a few months ago that he got serious on bringing the vehicle back to working order.
Going by the serial numbers, and the best advice available, the vehicle is believed to be the 73rd built and is stamped with the authentic Wehrmacht eagle.
It was built by NSU and powered by an Opel four-cylinder petrol engine. It has three forward, one reverse gear and high and low ratios. It can top 70kmh on the open road.
But Hopkins says that as its been engineered with Teutonic thoroughness it weighs in at 1750kg and is top-heavy and will roll on slopes of more than 22 degrees.
To get it back to running order the steering mechanism and gearbox had to be repaired. A few parts are still required including the fuel, oil pressure and temperature gauges.
It has been resprayed in desert sand colour and there are plans to badge it after one used by the Luftwaffe.
"I like them because they're different," Hopkins said. "Everyone's got a Jeep."
Restoring long-abandoned military vehicles requires a wide range of engineering skills and a "never give-up" attitude as witnessed by the next project on Hopkin's list. It's a pair of mid-1930s Japanese military personnel and cargo carriers.
Hopkins had one, or rather, the remains of one. The vehicle is configured as a trike and powered by a Japanese built copy of a Harley-Davidson V-twin side valve engine.
But Hopkins' example arrived with one barrel smashed off the engine and various covers and key mechanical bits missing.
He came across another example belonging to a Christchurch man. That had an engine which had the required parts so Hopkins borrowed it and made castings of the parts he needed.
He rebuilt the Christchurch engine and sent it back to its owner.
One thing led to another, negotiations ensued and he was invited to buy the whole thing. So Hopkins was off to Christchurch with a trailer and found the remains of the vehicle spread all over the man's sections.
"Some people would throw their hands up - but I just love making things," he said.
Hopkins makes the point that with him and his wife, Leonie, everything is "ours" not "mine".
He says it's a recipe that works as Leonie is as keen on the whole business as he is. Both became members of the New Zealand Military Vehicles Club when it was established in 1978.
Military vehicles is a family business for the Hopkins and several generations of the family took vehicles including a Long Range Desert Group Chevrolet, the Kettenkrad, a Vietnam-era Mule and Ford GTB 6 cylinder side-valve truck up to the annual meeting of the New Zealand Military Vehicle Collectors Club at Kumeu late last month.