Inventor's mum rescues Roofliss

Dan Melling and Adam Turnbull on board amphibious van Roofliss during their voyage across Cook Strait.
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Dan Melling and Adam Turnbull on board amphibious van Roofliss during their voyage across Cook Strait.

A mother's love has saved Marlborough's history-making amphibious van from the scrap heap.

Roofliss, which went down in history for crossing Cook Strait, will make its way to Golden Bay after she retires from the Edwin Fox Museum, in Picton, next month.

It is all down to creator Adam Turnbull's mother who is determined to keep a family connection.

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Roofliss, a converted 1990 4WD Toyota Tarago van, was built for $2500 by aeronautic machinists Dan Melling and Turnbull as a winter project while they were stationed at Woodbourne, outside Blenheim.

In September 2009, they achieved international attention and maritime history when they crossed Cook Strait in 10 hours, feasting on hot pies along the way.

Turnbull spotted a story on Stuff.co.nz earlier this month that Roofliss had to find a new home after five years on public display in Picton.

Blenheim's Mark Stevenson First National Real Estate, who donated Roofliss to the Edwin Fox Museum, was offering to sell her for $1 if she went on public display in Marlborough.

Turnbull, who is based with the Royal New Zealand Air Force in Fielding, texted his mother Averil Grant that Roofliss was on the market.

Grant immediately rang Mark Stevenson to snap up the maritime marvel for prosperity.

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Stevenson said he had interest from a museum and a private collector but Grant was the front runner.

He was delighted Roofliss was staying within the family.

Stevenson said he had not decided if he would give Roofliss to Grant for a $1 or for free.

"Roofliss is typical of Kiwi ingenuity. It's a serious piece of maritime history. On the other hand it has a really quirky and humorous appeal.

"Everyone has a fond memory of Roofliss."

Grant said she was prepared to bid $5000 for Roofliss when she was auctioned on Trade Me in 2009 but Stevenson snapped her up for $9100.

"I knew we had to keep the family connection with Roofliss. I didn't want to see it end up on the scrap heap."

She had received some mixed reaction to the unusual addition.

"Some think it's great, some say 'what do you want that heap of rubbish for'?

Grant lived on a beach front property in Golden Bay and Roofliss could come in useful, she said.

"On land it was quite bumpy because the springs had been removed. In the water it was amazingly stable. Adam said the rudder may have seized but there is no reason she shouldn't go."

Roofliss could have another lease of life.

Grant was keen for her son to fine tune her for a stint back on the water.

If someone in Marlborough or Tasman wanted to put Roofliss on public display Grant would hand her over.

In the meantime Roofliss would go into Grant's garage alongside a 1939 Chrysler.

"Adam is getting married in February and I thought he could go on a honeymoon cruise in Roofliss."

Roofliss had proved a long-running joke in the family. 

"People thought Adam and Dan were crazy doing it. They were bored watching Top Gear and thought they could do a better job. Adam's always been a bit rebellious, or should I say creative?"

The duo started making it in March 2009 and completed it six months later. 

Only 10 litres of water seeped in during the journey across Cook Strait.

"People were sceptical that it would sink," Grant said. "It made them more determined and they proved them all wrong."

 - Stuff

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