A story that goes full circle

Alyssa and Keir Dolphin with the fabulous book they and their parents gave their Great Uncle last Christmas. Hopefully Santa will be kind and in the New Year we’ll have a photo of Noel Lowe with a similar book.

That which was first shall be last.

And that which was last shall be first.

And that’s what this story – the last for 2018 – is about.

Well, sort of.

The first story for this year and this the last story for 2018 have something in common – a fabulous book called We had one of Those!

Just to recant, written by Stephen Barnett, the book was a gift to this writer last Christmas.

Beautifully illustrated using sales brochure artwork, the book recounts New Zealand motoring history covering the period from 1950 through to 1970.

The author is a writer and editor who has an obvious enthusiasm for old vehicles.

Marques from around the world are featured and the book provides a nostalgic look at the cars we saw or drove back then, but which are not seen so often these days.

A very proud young man with his flash Austin A40 Devon.

Back in January this writer made a prediction – “We had one of Those is a much appreciated gift which is going to go on giving for a long time as descriptions and pictures of various cars bring back many pleasant memories”.

A prediction which has proved correct.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve picked up We had one of Those and enjoyed browsing through it.

And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve noticed something not previously spotted and the number of times a new fact has been discovered.

Others who have seen the book have also found it fascinating, so I was intrigued when Noel Lowe mentioned the book to me recently.

Not my copy, but one he saw in a bookshop.

And in fact the second version – or if you like in motoring terms the Mark Two model.

It’s a book he’s hoping won’t be in the bookshop for too much longer.

Santa or maybe Audrey please take note!

Or a hint …

Take it from who knows. this book is a perfect gift and we know Noel’s been a good boy so he deserves it.

All the content of the book appeals to Noel, but it has particular appeal because it features an Austin A40 Devon.

Noel’s own first car was an Austin A40 Devon, which he bought from Autolines.

The salesman at the time was Ray Hungerford and the first owner was local identity Frank McIntosh, of Tekau Knitwear fame.

Noel thinks Frank McIntosh actually bought the car for his daughters.

What prompted Noel to buy his Austin?

He liked the look of that model and at about £500 it fitted his budget back in the late 1950s.

“My Austin A40 Devon was a really good reliable car,” said Noel.

During Noel’s ownership the motor had some work done on it, and Noel tinkered with it too.

The A40 Devon, which was the first post-war saloon produced by Austin, featured a mix of old and new technologies.

It had a 1200cc four-cylinder motor and column change gearshift.

After his tinkering Noel says it would get up to a very respectable speed especially – as he puts it – on a downward gradient with a tail wind.

Noel kept the car until about 1964, the year he and Audrey got married.

They then had a Mini, which cost around £670.

Noel has always liked vehicles and he’s had a few for both for farm and personal use.

All good, some better than others, but his first car the Austin A40 Devon has always stuck in his mind.

Hopefully in the first story for next year we can report that Father Christmas has been good to Noel, which means in the case of this story first has become last and a last will become first.


Having just written a last story for the year which relates to the first story for 2018 brings to mind it was only like yesterday the first story was written.

How quickly the year has gone.

Many readers have as in previous years shared their interests and enthusiasm, provided story ideas and given encouragement.

All of which is hugely appreciated.



Thank goodness our ever obliging sub-editor Steve does not perform performance reviews!

He set a task recently to do some investigation around the model name adopted by Chevrolet for their Corvettes.

Observant Steve noticed sometimes these iconic American sports cars are defined as a Sting Ray (two words) and other times as a Stingray (single word) and he felt we – or more particularly I – should find out why.

At this stage if Steve does decide to conduct a performance review requiring an update hopefully he’ll accept the response “work in progress”.


There is plenty of great motoring to look forward to in 2019, including the 2019 Vintage Car Club National South Island Easter Rally.

An enthusiastic organising committee have plans well in hand for this special event, which will attract a lot of people in interesting vehicles to our town.

The rally coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Ashburton Branch of the Vintage Car Club.

– By Bernard Egan