Editorial: The truck stops here, we hope

Last updated 05:00 23/12/2013

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OPINION: Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but men love trucks.

The late Bill Richardson loved trucks so much he built a company that owned more than 700 of them.

When he died in 2005, he left behind not only a thriving company - still headquartered in Southland - but also an extraordinary collection of vintage trucks.

There are now 230 of them in a huge 9000-square-metre facility in Invercargill.

The collection includes a rare 1914 Stewart, believed to be the only one in existence, and a 1940 Dodge RX70 Airflow Fuel Tanker.

And these are not rusting relics, but beautifully restored examples of the vehicles that made Southland and New Zealand the rather good places they are today.

After many years of nurturing this collection, the Richardson company and family are considering opening it up for easy public viewing. No decisions have been made, but they are thinking and talking about it.

Not only Southland's men but men all over the country will be hoping that produces a positive result. There may even be a few women who would like to check it out.

Being able to tour this collection will be a treat for many. And that is reason enough to hope it comes to pass.

But we need have no shame in confessing to additional mercenary motives. Even those strange individuals who don't get jelly legs looking at an exquisitely designed petrol pump may benefit from making mince pies and cheese rolls for those who do.

The province would profit from it, because it would bring visitors who might otherwise pass by, and encourage those who do come to stay a little longer to see it.

Some people would come from a long way to see a 1926 Bean (for the uninitiated, that's a kind of truck). Southland's economy could get a nice little injection of vroom.

Mayor Tim is right that this museum has a lot more potential than the Queens Park pyramid.

The fact is, most men are more likely to salivate over a pair of carburettors than a shard of pottery from a 500-year-old trash heap, or a chamber pot used by early settlers in Bluff.

This is not a sneer at such traditional historical exhibits - nor at the tuatara, bless 'em, who grace that fine institution. It is important to know our past, to know where we have been, and in what.

These things are important, just like stormwater drains, and tax codes, and correct grammar. It's just that for most people, they are not very exciting.

But trucks are as much a part of our heritage as chamber pots. Neither we nor our fathers or grandfathers would have got very far in developing the province without them. They deserve their place.

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Thousands come to Invercargill every year for the Burt Munro Challenge.

A few might go to the pyramid or the Bluff Maritime Museum or the Pioneer Park museum in Gore. How many would go to see Bill Richardson's truck collection if it were open to the public? Probably a whole lot more.

You only have to look at the way heads turn when a 1930's Ford goes past on the road to know how our transport heritage tugs at the mind and heart.

And you only have to count how many of the packages unwrapped on Wednesday will contain toy trucks.

The Richardson collection is a treasure and, unlike most treasures, sharing it will not diminish its value. It is one treasure that would become more valuable if shared.

- © Fairfax NZ News


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