'Beautiful' Bugattis strut their stuff

Last updated 13:00 25/02/2014

Bugattis of a bygone era, some worth several million dollars, are cruising NZ roads as part of an international rally.

Beautiful Bugattis tour NZ.
Bugatti vehicles parked at Tophouse Historic Guesthouse in the Nelson region while taking part in the Bugatti International Rally in New Zealand.

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Seeing classic Bugatti cars with drivers wearing leather bomber hats and vintage car goggles pull into the historical Tophouse Guesthouse, one could be mistaken for thinking you were in a timewarp.

The International Bugatti Rally is being held in New Zealand with cars making their way from the Tasman region in time for lunch at the Tophouse Guesthouse yesterday.

Auckland millionaire and car collector Lionel Rogers said there was something special about the Bugatti. "They are artistic and beautifully engineered. They were way ahead of their time for the day with some clever engineering ideas, which are still around."

There was consensus among owners that the engineering of the cars when they were built was advanced and the cars still cruising at 80-90kmh on New Zealand's roads were testament to their quality.

The Bugatti has a special place in New Zealand's racing history. A 1925 Type 35a blue racer was used by driver Ron Roycroft in the 1950s. He raced the car with a Jaguar engine to give it a more competitive edge and won the New Zealand championship in 1954, and was the first New Zealander to finish the 1956 New Zealand Grand Prix coming sixth overall.

That very car was being driven in the rally by his son, Terence Roycroft, who said the racer was "a quirky car not known for their docility or reliability" but was rewarding to drive.

It was not all about the racing cars. John Southward, whose family started Southward Car Museum in Paraparaumu, had the largest engine and sedan on the road, a 1931 Type 46 with a 5.3 litre engine.

He said it was great to get the car out on the road for a longer trip and all the cars were "different, but all fun to drive".

The event has attracted car owners from 12 countries.

It took six weeks for Nele and Luc Hanegreefs to transport their 1928, Type 44, 8 cylinder Bugatti from Belgium. They had never been to New Zealand before, but said it was "fantastic" cruising the country. Mr Hanegreefs said he thought "it couldn't get any more beautiful but it did".

The rally attracted car enthusiasts and spectators from the region. Viv Sellers, from Upper Moutere , said he heard about the event two weeks ago and decided to pop along to see the valuable cars.

But, for the rally drivers it was not all about the cars.

"Well the cars are really an excuse to get together for eating, drinking and fun, bugger the cars," joked organiser Gavin Bain.

He said cars in the rally ranged in value from a few hundred thousand dollars to $5-6 million.

The drivers would finish their journey in Queenstown.

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