Willys resumes its long journey

Thirty years ago, an example of one of the rarest vintage cars in New Zealand was nothing more than a pile of rusted metal on wheels, with a tree growing out of it.

This week, Keith Moore put the finishing touches on the 1927 soft-top Willys Overland Whippet tourer, and next week it will be rolled out in all its former glory, for all to see.

The 67-year-old Dunedin vintage car restoration enthusiast said it had been a long, hard road to finding parts for the restoration, but the jigsaw had finally been finished.

Mr Moore said he discovered the American-built car near Gore in the early 1980s, when he travelled around Southland, Otago and South Canterbury as a soap sales representative.

''I was always looking for a tourer to restore. A friend in Mataura told me about it.

''It was just a relic, a pile of rusty parts.''

Fortunately, the original engine was still in good condition, with only about 64,000km on the odometer.

Mr Moore said the cost of having a vintage car professionally restored was ''astronomical'', so he tried to do as much of the work as he could himself.

''I went to panelbeating classes and welding classes at polytech in Dunedin, and I thought I could learn that in one year.

''But it was four years later before I was able to do a nice weld, and complete the intricacies of welding on panelbeating.''

By doing most of the work himself, and using his sales skills to swap parts with other vintage restorers, he was able to complete what could have cost tens of thousands of dollars, for about $8000.

Mr Moore said the vehicle was the second-rarest tourer in New Zealand, and he was delighted to have it restored to its former glory.

The car could still travel about 80kmh, but the brakes were not high performers AS in modern cars.

''The way they are, you wouldn't want to go that fast.''

Mr Moore has already completed two other restorations, of 1916 and 1917 Oaklands, which he has since sold.

And he probably would eventually sell the Overland, too.

''I'm about six-foot-four and when I'm driving it, my knees are just under my chin.

''It's not the most comfortable car to drive for me.''

His next project is a 1936 Chevrolet Master Deluxe.

But, in the meantime, he will enjoy the fruits of his labour on the Overland by running it on the Otago Vintage Car Club restoration rally next weekend.

ODT/directory - Local Businesses

CompanyLocationBusiness Type
Venture Voip LimitedDunedinTelecommunications
Martyn Fields ENT Surgeon LtdDunedinHealth Specialists
Balclutha New World SupermarketBalcluthaSupermarkets
The Firewood FarmLawrenceSpecialist Trades