Rare Bentleys off on classic NZ trip

Last updated 08:13 22/01/2013

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Three valuable classic cars left Timaru yesterday on the start of a 40-day journey around the whole of New Zealand.

Bruce and Judy Washington, joined by two other couples visiting from Britain, set out from the Washingtons' Rosewill property in three restored Bentleys.

Their first destination: Christchurch, where they will join a group setting out on a 40-day rally around the South Island and into the North Island as far as Cape Reinga.

Their preparations ran down to the wire, as the final touches on the restoration of Mr Washington's car were only completed in the last few days and it was delivered to his home yesterday morning.

The 1926 Bentley has a long history in Canterbury, though Mr Washington only purchased it about a year ago. Its previous owner, also from the region, owned the car for about 50 years.

"It's better than a painting on the wall - it's something that you can get out and drive," Mr Washington said.

The Washingtons are joined on the trip by two couples they befriended on the Peking to Paris Rally in 2010.

Michael and Josie Thompson travelled from Britain, shipping the most famous and valuable of the trio of vehicles to New Zealand ahead of them in October.

The car, named "Smoky", is a restored former racer with an illustrious career that included 40 race starts with seven first-place finishes, eight seconds and eight thirds. Now valued at about $2 million, it was long owned by the family of Kiwi vehicle enthusiast Peter Morelli until Mr Thompson purchased it.

The group also includes Andrew and Anne Davies of Shrewsbury, England, whose 1923 Bentley, "Lizzie", is valued at more than $500,000.

The Bentley originally sold for £1295 when it was new. Mr Davies purchased the car in 2002 and has done extensive restoration work on it himself.

The Thompsons and Davies are visiting New Zealand for the first time, but all three couples travel regularly to participate in vintage car rallies around the world.

The Washingtons are planning a safari tour of Africa for their next adventure, in 2014, Mr Washington said.

"It's our way of seeing the world, from a vintage car."

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- The Timaru Herald

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