Moss in New Zealand: The Pirelli Classic Tour


Saturday—JAGUAR READY! All aboard! George, Heather, Jeni, Ralph, and Russell pile into the Jag and we head 225 miles south to Dunedin to attend the mayoral reception and check-in. This was the start of a week of talking and eating, eating and talking, plus the normal extensive sampling of the local wines and beverages when we weren’t talking or eating! (Of course, there was some hard driving to do as well!)

For the official start, the main center of Dunedin was closed off and all the cars were lined up and then flagged off by the mayor at intervals of one minute. The day was perfect, with the first part of the route along the coast in and out of deserted beaches, small villages, and wonderful back roads.

The first victims of the rally succumbed to an unmarked dip in the road, which damaged at least half a dozen cars including a Jensen Interceptor, whose entire 7 liters had bent its engine mountings!

The days settled down to the format for the whole week, with local primary schools providing morning and afternoon refreshments, plus three-course lunches for the crews at very reasonable cost. Not to mention that the wonderful cars provided great fun for the children as they arrived at the check points. Every evening we had an “after march” discussion to cover the day’s joys and pains—over yet more food and drinks! (Weight gain sets in for Russell at this point!)

Each day’s route is handed out minutes before the start with an attached question sheet. This last item has been compiled by lawyers who have majored in divorce proceedings, as the time taken trying to find obscure items of information or locations raises Russell’s blood pressure. For example, the final day’s task was a son of treasure hunt, and being in the center of a National Park caused much heartache, especially when trying to find some pink panties (with or without occupants) or unused diapers!

However, enough of these diversions from the real task at hand, which is how to get from start to finish of each day’s stage without losing the way or the car. All to be accomplished within tightly set time schedules and without being “fined” by the “Sheriff” or his deputies!

We were given tour money, called “Bonderleros,” to bribe our way (or to be bribed!) into keeping a clean, accurate passport which was to be kept on our person at all times.

I was informed that several competitors were careless with these aforementioned passports and had to buy them back from the Sheriff! (This man drives a large 1956 Mercedes 300 saloon, powered by a 350 Chevy motor! Would you trust him?) Our Ralph managed to abandon our ship to navigate for the Team R&R Moss MGA Coupe. Then, just when things were starting to go well—ROAR-R-R—the Jaguar’s flexi-couplings expire! The next source for any replacements were 450 miles into the future, and then, to complete our misery, it started to rain! Eight inches in the next six hours—they don’t call this the “Wet Coast” for nothing. At least we were in a closed saloon!

As Greymouth comes into view, George and Heather depart to return to work and Claire arrives to try and cheer Ralph up. Back in the Jag with a new team aboard and the exhaust fixed, we head for Nelson. More rain—but only two inches today! We all feel very sorry for the oldest car on the event, a 1908 Vauxhall Y—no windscreen—no roof—but the two 70-year-olds onboard are made of stern stuff!

We all got lost on the route to the checkered flag at Nelson, but somehow all arrived to a perfect day, warm and sunny, and began recalling the past 1,500 miles, full of wonderful, and to say the least, interesting roads!

We were asked, “Was it worth it?” Well, thanks to the friends we made along the way and the great experiences we all underwent, we felt it was worth every last, wet mile! Our thanks go to the organizers and to all our sponsors, including Moss Motors Distributing USA.

—Ralph Roden

(Ralph Roden is the proprietor of R&R Sportscar Spares in Christchurch and one of our valuable Moss distributors down under!)

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