Bentley is this tourist's fancy

Pride and joy . . . Bentley Drivers' Club member Roy Partridge, of England, stands beside his...
Pride and joy . . . Bentley Drivers' Club member Roy Partridge, of England, stands beside his cherished 3 litre 1924 Bentley motor car at the Lake Wakatipu waterfront yesterday, the last day of the touring club's pit stop in Queenstown. Photo by James Beech
The power steering is only as strong as their arms and the turning circle needs a safety margin, but for Roy Partridge and more than 50 fellow members of the Bentley Drivers' Club, there is no better way to travel around New Zealand.

Mr Partridge and his wife, Bridget, of Wiltshire, England, are travelling in his restored convertible 3-litre 1924 Bentley motor car, the second-oldest in the fleet of 27 vintage vehicles gracing Otago's highways and valued at more than $442,000.

The retired agricultural engineer said yesterday his ''XU 3123'' was 32 years old when drunken sailors pushed it into a naval dry dock in 1956. His friend of 50 years, Donald Day, rescued the remains from a scrap yard in Plymouth.

''It was a hell of mess,'' Mr Partridge said.

''The body, all the mechanicals and upholstery I did myself and the engine was done by Donald, a specialist maker of parts and restorer.''

The car was their shared passion. Mr Partridge bought it outright in 2007.

The group of New Zealand, Australian, British, Swiss and other nationalities hit the road in Christchurch on January 21 and will crisscross both islands until March 1.

They depart from Hotel St Moritz Queenstown today bound for Te Anau, Invercargill and Dunedin.

''People are interested in these cars and you get [other drivers] flashing lights and tooting horns, which you don't get in the UK,'' Mr Partridge said.

Those marvellous men and women in their driving machines have toured the United Kingdom, France and Spain, and shipped their cars to join them in New Zealand in 2006 and South Africa in 2007.

Here, ''the weather has been beautiful''. Mr Partridge said.

''I love the South Island - it's cracking.''


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