The annual Christchurch swap meet would now be the biggest swap meet in New Zealand. Organised every October by the Canterbury Branch of the NZ Vintage Car Club it is held at the clubs premises at McLeans Island, inland from the Christchurch city centre. Not really an island, it still seems to draw in buyers and sellers from all over New Zealand.
Like any report on any swap meet in any part of the world the story is, went there, bought stuff, and went home. But what about very thing that happens in the middle? The Christchurch swap meet is not just a chance to buy stuff, it is also a chance to met up with people that we haven’t seen for a while, make new friends, and to do a bit of sightseeing. And that is why The Knob and I headed down on the Red Eye flight at 6 am on Thursday. By 7.20 we were in Christchurch sorting our pre booked rental car, and literally being taken for a ride (to the pick up point). Lesson one for the weekend – don’t book rental cars on line unless you know that it is a reputable company! We thought we had but what turned up was a high k’s junker with 333,333kms on the odometer, not a panel was free from stone chips, scratches, dents, gouges, the inside hood lining was that grubby that it was close to supporting a new type of vegetation, and when the motor was started the high pitch scream from the slipping fan belt was enough to wake up even the most dead of the dead! Residence at our motel unit definitely thought so at 6am! Accelerating away from traffic lights was the most entertaining as the squealing drew attention from bystanders who though that the 2 grumpy old men inside were doing a burnout, the smoke from the rear coming from the exhaust though and not the tyres. But it added to the delight of being in Christchurch. And we just laughed!!
The next issue was to convince Knobster that since we were in another part of the country it was probably best that he not wear his favourite T shirt, the one with “ I Heart Auckland” printed clearly on the front. A target if I ever saw one. As much as he believes in New Zealands Super City it is not a good look when visiting our cousins ‘down souff’.
Did I mention the rain yet? No? Well yes there was rain, lots of it, and the weather report said that it was going to be worse for Friday. Did I mention the cold? No? Well that had arrived as well. I work outside normally so was used to it, but poor old Knobby is a office janitor and not used to such extreme weather situations. With his quiet sobbing and muffled bleats about said weather it was going to be a looong weekend! And moving on.
There is always something new or different to see when we infrequently visit Christchurch, and naturally so, as it slowly manages to crawl its way out of the devastating earthquake of 2011. New buildings are appearing all the time, businesses are coming back, and finally a decision has been reached to rebuild the Christchurch Cathedral, an iconic landmark for the Canterbury region. So our plan on Thursday was just to drive around taking in these changes, whilst visiting a few places of interest. New Brighton beach was the first. I have always been fascinated with this place. Standing on the pier taking in the vastness of the beach and envisaging motorcycles from the 1910s to the 1930 racing up and down the sandy foreshore to see who was the best is just breath taking. If one was able to step back in time this is where I would want to be. There was a bit of personal time doing non motorcycle stuff (cars) and then we came across what appeared to be a rather oldish looking sign high up on a brick building pointing down an alley to Motorcycles Down Under. Not really sure if there was anything down there, as there seemed to be very little activity we decided to venture forth, prepared to retreat quickly should a big dog called Brutus wearing a barbed wire collar appear from around the corner, with drool dripping from his joules looking for his next meal. Instead we were greeted with a real wooden door which opened into what one would describe as a ‘real motorcycle shop’. A nice selection of motorcycles for sale, or being worked on, riding gear, and motorcycle people interested in talking about motorcycles, old and new, rallies, and anything else that took their interest. Carn’t remember the counter guys name, Bob? Eugene? Scott? Possibly Tarquin? No matter really, just a nice guy. Felt a little guilty about taking up so much of their time.
Did I mention the rain? I did. Well I just have to mention it again. It hadn’t got any better.
After the earthquake an area was created called the Red Zone. This is an area that has been recognized as unsuitable for rebuilding on because of the nature of the substrata. In some areas the ground level has dropped up to a metre which increases the likely hood of future flooding. In this Red Zone the roads still had driveway crossings but no houses. Some gardens that used to adorn homes now stood alone and property boundaries had disappeared to what was now a giant park with mowed grass. The residents may have gone but one could see the sadness in the occasional mailbox still standing.
Previous visits to the Canterbury region through work and pleasure have allowed us to spread out and visit surrounding townships, the roads are lovely and the scenic views looking down into Littleton Harbour or from the Port Hills are just beautiful. This would make vintage riding a pleasure which just adds to the enjoyment of wanting to return. If there is ever another vintage motorcycle rally held down there I might just have to take a bike.
Back to the swap meet, Friday dawned and there was no change from the previous days weather. This was evident from listening to the rain on the roof of our motel from about 3 am. We arrived at McLeans Island about 8am and it was just miserable. The cold and wind was stopping sellers from opening up their stalls, so we just walked around aimlessly looking at other swappers looking at us probably thinking the same “why are we here”? I thought Knobby was joking when he suggested that we have an ice cream to try and warm us up (what a great guy)! But persistence has its reward and slowly as we jumped from tent to tent, keeping out of the rain, a few purchases were made. However by 1 oclock we decided that it was time to leave. The wind was getting up and supposed to be be even worse later on. This was evident by the increasing pile of bent and buckled gazeboes that were being deposited in and around various skip bins. Some stall holders came prepared for such eventualities, like the guy who had lashed the middle of his gazebo down to a BMC A series motor. Bet he wasn’t keen to sell that motor that day.
The only planned activity for the rest of the afternoon (besides finding dinner) was to visit Mike Peros Motorcycle Museum. Located in a residential area, actually right next door to Mikes residence, the museum houses a fine selection of Japanese machinery from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and for those of us that have shared the pleasure of owning (and still own) a lot of these motorcycles from both new and second hand it was good to see them again in their shining glory. Mike doesn’t personally own every motorcycle on display but must be respected enough by others for them to lend their motorcycles to the museum. If you are in Christchurch it is a recommended place to visit and will take up about an hour of your time.
And back to the rain. Yes it was worse, getting colder, and by the way the locals were crashing into each other they were keen to get home (2 separate crashes in 500 metres).
So what about Saturday? Well what a change! It dawned bright and sunny with a slight breeze. The ground was drying out and stall holders that hadn’t opened on Friday because of the weather were doing a roaring business with the crowds of enthusiasts piling in through the gates. With more stalls open there was even more spending to be done.
Could you believe this beautiful weather compared to the previous days torrent?
Motorcycles that were for sale, or the owners just wanting parts to complete their projects.
One of the attractions of attending the swap meet is the weekend displays of other clubs interests. This was anything from car clubs, to vintage engine displays, the vintage railway in full steam next door to the Vintage Car Club complex, and military vehicles and equipment.
The sort of cars that you could see on display.
An interesting display of German military equipment. If the later vehicles weren’t visible in the background then this photo could have been a WW2 German outpost waiting for their orders. There was also a 3.7 inch anti aircraft gun capable of firing its shell 28000 feet skywards (or horizontal if the gun aimer left his glasses at home!)
What do you do with an old retired domestic airliner? Turn it into a mobile caravan/covered in trailer. This is what remains of a Metliner that was used for domestic flights by Air NZ in the 1990s. And entry is still by the original cockpit door. Kiwis have all the ideas!!
Stepping back in time – This was an interesting placard that we spied at the Christchurch Swap Meet way back in 1994. A small operator recognising a demand and doing his best to provide it for some local residents. I wonder if he is still in business?
Saturday afternoon and swappers were still walking around smiling, carrying treasured purchases, but for the Knob and I it was time to leave to catch our late afternoon flight back up Norff!! Even though the swap meet is 3 days we never stay for the Sunday, past experience has never warranted it. So with a friendly wave goodbye we headed off back to the rental car company to do battle over our bucket of bolts.
Finally, tallying up our booty of prized purchases for the weekend we had some old motorcycle photographs, Ewarts fuel taps, a tool box, fork parts, a vintage tail light, an interesting Valintines catalogue, tank badges, petrol tank knee rubbers for vintage Royal Enfields and the 102 year old pictorial book from a second hand shop. A great weekend for stuff gathering. And the official report on the customary punet of chips that one has to sample at such events, well that definitely past muster on the cold and bitter Friday. A return visit next year? Most possibly.
For something just as interesting we put together an article way back in 20xxx on early motorcycling in Christchurch. Some great photos from a private album taken between between 1918 and 1923. Have a peek here.