Looking Back is
the first comprehensive, retrospective view of our hot rod heritage that
graphically shows New Zealand’s unique way of life that only existed here in
this country. The absolute home and beginning of hot rodding is known to be
the USA. Its roots date from the early thirties and as such, the people,
places, cars, events, industries and even the past speed shops have all been
documented, published in book, magazine, video and now museum formats. All
have been acknowledged and applauded as true and correct for the USA. New
Zealand’s story, however, has been told in snippets and kept alive via word
of mouth, until now, that is, and a superbly detailed account of the heritage
has resulted at the first attempt.
Black deuce, a Model A roadster
with triple carbed 1942 V8 engine. Photo Trevor Howse
Researchers have scooped up the small shoe boxes of photos that only
existed in individual collections in pockets of the country. The result of Looking
Back is 270 all-original black & white photos never before
published, depicting NZ’s hot rods as they really appeared from 1948 to
1967. It includes the people, dates, places and the cars, all vital
ingredients of the mix that created the beginnings of the hot rod society of
The years covered predate NZ Hot Rod magazine’s first issue published
in April-May 1967 and as such, is the only formal record of our past.
Geographically it covers New Zealand nationwide with contributions coming
from Auckland, Hamilton, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Wellington, Nelson, Westland,
Christchurch and Dunedin.
Severely channelled '30 A coupe in Auckland, during the early
sixties. Photo Lennie Smithers.
Many of the important Milestone cars are seen for the first time, as they
were when originally created. Channelled, full fendered and highboy
roadsters and coupes lead the hit parade with many fine examples to ponder
over, leaving the reader to wonder if we have progressed or regressed.
This book is for all who have a passion for hot rodding. From those
senior white haired crotchety sages who were actually there in the glory
days, to the post-war boomers now 40-something who were covetously imprinted
by those mentioned above, and finally to the youth movement of today who we
could have given up on, except for the few inspired individuals who have
carried the torch, unasked, through to today.
Left - The 'Vulture' Trevor Howse's '34 Tudore
Right - Dennis Downey with his channelled 1934 Fordor sedan in
Hamilton's main street, 1958. Photo - Bob Comer collection.
In Looking Back, several white haired participants walk the reader
through life as it was during that important era, telling their unique
stories of how they got involved and what they did get up to, stories that
actually could be published.
"That Christmas we came home from holiday and one of my mates
arrived; he announced that he’d just seen a Hot Rod up the valley. We
jumped on our bikes and located it at the local swimming hole. It was a 30-A
roadster with a flathead, oxide primer I couldn’t believe my eyes... "
On the fifty-second run up Queen Street a policeman waved us down with
his flashlight and proceeded to tell me: ‘If I came down Queen Street one
more time he would arrest me for being a public nuisance.’ Wayne
Eddie Jensen's 28 roadster in Warkworth. Photo John Willis.
When you take the time to study the backgrounds in the photos they
reflect a simpler time. You notice the lack of fences (a time now gone,
where once, windows could be left open and doors unlocked at night) and the
numbers of cars on the streets are sparse compared to today’s
overpopulation. Oh for that simple life again, and the chance to buy that
thirty-something Ford we dream of.
The book is an excellent read, right from the beginning. The inside cover
depicts one of NZ’s finest early hot rods, the Black Deuce, parked behind
a 1936 Ford roadster. The photo in sepia tones is published as found, faded
and with torn and frayed borders.
‘No bonnets, no fenders, plenty of power and you could pull a doughnut
with ease. God it was great!’ Ian Stewart.
Kopuku dragstrip. Auckland's Bob Rossiter at right, winning
from Saunders & Lucas dragster from Hamilton Club, 1967. Photo Rob
History now shows us the cars that were absolute Milestones and totally
unique to New Zealand, cars like Wild Honey, Black Deuce, Misty Blue, Wild
Thing, Chizler, Exterminator, Sugar, Apache and Pink Panther were the result
of unique individuals making a creative statement in a mobile automotive art
form. The names they gave to their rods signified their style and helps
those who came after, to remember these past legends and pass along memories
to mates and siblings. In more recent times these stories have led to a
resurgence and recreation of past hot rods with new ones that copy the style
and construction of the 50s, in a mode we now refer to as Nostalgia Rodding.
Perhaps it could be said that we went off-track, building cars that others’
opinions said we should build, rather than follow those pure creative urges
to build what we really wanted.
"The bug was irresistible, especially to those who carried the
creative seed. Those who were hooked on power and speed with a yearning for
mechanical freedom and the mid fifties was the time for the seed to sprout
and manifest itself." Rob Campbell.
Peter Lodge from North Shore Rod & Custom Club driving the
'Egg Yoke Special' the Alan Smail and Lodge team coupe. Note the duals
on the rear. The car is seen here in 1965 at the Scoria Quarries at
East Tamaki. Photo Rob Campbell collection.
Through it all, you not only gain an appreciation of the way hot rods
were built in the 50s, but also for the way life was lived through the
clothes we wore and the places we lived in. Looking Back is especially
important for rodders who embrace the nostalgic traditional look, or who
want to learn more about what Hot Rodding was all about in the 50s and 60s
in New Zealand. It is, after all, our roots and it is natural to seek them
out, and to know what went before.
A 112 page soft-bound pure nostalgia trip that is a must for every home
hot rod library. A line has now been drawn in the sand, that will set the
standard for many years to come. Paul Grace.
LOOKING BACK costs NZ$39.00 plus NZ$5 post & pack (NZ$14 P&P
overseas): East Bay Rods, PO Box 89-041, Torbay, Auckland, New Zealand. Or order
This review has been reproduced courtesy of New Zealand Hot Rod magazine
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