Some regard Ralph Watson as Auckland's answer to Southland's
The difference is that Burt Munro's obsession with speed led
to the movie The World's Fastest Indian and fame, while
Watson died in the mid-2000s in relative obscurity.
The Warbirds and Wheels Museum in Wanaka has redressed the
balance a little by securing a piece of Watson's history
before it disappeared.
A fan, who prefers to remain anonymous, arranged for Watson's
entire workshop to be shifted from Point Chevalier in
Auckland to the museum and everything returned to its
original place - from the old belt-driven lathe on which he
created engineering masterpieces down to the slippers he wore
while he did it.
One 1965 letter addressed to Mr Watson puts his abilities in
It is from New Zealand motor racing legend Bruce McLaren, who
mentions he is designing a ''secret'' Formula One car.
Mr McLaren wrote he would be delighted to receive any letters
from Mr Watson with his thoughts on the design.
One of Mr Watson's achievements was his Lycoming Special
open-cockpit racing sports car.
It is in the museum until after Easter, on loan from Dunedin
engineer Ralph Smith.
The car has a low-revving 4733cc Lycoming aeroplane engine
and a gearbox installed back-to-front in order to achieve
Mr Watson got his chance to build the car in the mid-1950s
after being offered a Lycoming engine that was being
scrapped. It had a cracked cylinder head and valve trouble.
Even when it was restored, Mr Watson described the engine as
sounding like ''a team of panelbeaters working in rhythm''.
Consulting such publications as Sports Car Design, Mr Watson
designed a car for his engine - a car he could both race and
drive on the road between race meetings.
Over many years and at many race circuits, including Dunedin,
Mr Watson raced it and improved it.
He reached a speed of 219kmh at Ryal Bush, Southland, on one
occasion in the mid-1950s.
And, as he toured the country, he always kept an eye out for
spare parts for his engine.
That took him to aerodromes where he was often invited to
give demonstrations on runways when there were no planes
Mr Watson sold the car at the end of 1959, and later recalled
the car's most memorable race was when new owner Malcolm Gill
allowed Bruce McLaren to race it into fourth place at a
national event at Wigram in 1960.
Its drum brakes did not stand up well under McLaren's driving
and at the end of the season, McLaren sent a set of disc
brakes to be fitted.
The Lycoming Special changed hands several times, and in the
process won two New Zealand Sports Car Championships.
It won the 50-mile sports car race in Dunedin in 1965 and is
regarded by Mr Watson's fans as ''arguably New Zealand's most
iconic race car''.
Also on display is the 5113cc rotary valve aeroplane engine
Mr Watson built on his belt-driven lathe.