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Manfeild meet's wedding belle

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

LONG-lost love, romance renewed and now wedding bells - as a core member of the group organising the vintage car swap meet at Manfeild, Trevor Hardy always knew he'd have to have a very good reason to be excused from the October 1 event.

And he has. He and the Chrysler vintage car he owns are special guests at a wedding in Tauranga next Friday (September 30), the day before the Manawatu Vintage Car Club's big annual auto jumble.

Actually, the centre of attention is the rare 1924 Brougham, which Mr Hardy quips could well be "the oldest living relative there."

Yes, the car. Mr Hardy doesn't yet know the family, but the family certainly knows his car.

The bride-to-be is a direct descendant of the ancient auto's original owners. The Canterbury man and his descendants ran the two-door model for almost four decades.

It then was sold on and disappeared, as so many old cars do. After a couple more owners, the vehicle succumbed to mechanical malady, and was retired to a shed. Years of neglect and flood damage took a heavy toll.

It was real wreck when Mr Hardy rescued and restored it.

Which is where Manfeild comes in. A press release from the park previewing last year's swap meet also highlighted the car's resurrection. The piece went viral. The show came and went.

Then, a few months ago, Mr Hardy's phone rang. It was a Tauranga man seeking an against-all-odds answer.

For five years, Harry Harris had been trying to track down the car his grandfather bought new. Could the Brougham be that very car?

The ownership papers, tatty and barely legible, were checked. Yes, indeed, the first owner was James Duncan Matheson, who'd taken receipt of the Chrysler in July, 1925.

Next question: Could the car be borrowed for the wedding of Mr Harris' daughter, Renata, on September 30? Well, how could Mr Hardy turn that one down?

"It's a pity I won't be at the swap meet, because I really haven't missed many of those in all the years," Mr Hardy says.

Assuredly, there'll still be a crowd. The swap meet has high national stature as one of the best places to lay hands on hard-to-find bits. Sellers and buyers of old stuff come from all points in the hope of locating that special something.

Shifting from an outdoors venue to Manfeild stadium four years ago was a big lift. "Coming indoors has been really good. People really like being under cover."

Manfeild Park Trust chief executive Heather Verry says the stadium's suitability reflects the versatility of the venue, and the Trust's long-term aspirations.

"We're proud to host the swap meet, and not just because of the obvious link with Manfeild's motorsport side. It is one of those evergreen events, quite a fascinating day out and a very social occasion."

Several hundred stallholders are expected to offer goods for sale. In addition to car parts, fare includes tools, books, craft items, accessories, household items, model cars, collectibles and goods of general antique nature.

And, of course, the meet can now claim to have a match-making role.

Mr Harris says the car was very much a member of his family.

"James D Matheson was my grandmother's brother. Ownership subsequently passed to my grandfather, John Brunton, and then to his daughter, Winifred Brunton, my mother. It stayed in the family until 1957."

It was amazing that Mr Harris made contact and even more amazing that it turned out to be the family car. But the most incredible part of the story, perhaps, is that the Brougham had survived the scrapheap.

Mr Hardy says the model was never a common sight even in its heyday, and while it's not known if any others still survive, it is probable that this is the only one still running on New Zealand roads.

In turn, he has benefitted from receiving a wealth of family photos of the car, including some showing it being put to use in rural roles best-suited these days to a tough four-wheel-drive utility. Particularly memorable are the images of the car with dead deer slung across the boot and bonnet.

It will be looking in tip-top condition for the wedding, of course, when Mr Hardy as the wedding car chauffeur will have but one aim: Getting the bride to church on time.

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