AUCKLAND, New Zealand — New Zealand celebrated motoring history in November with a fleet of original Ford Model Ts taking to the road to re-enact the first Wellington to Auckland journey made by an automobile.
The original ‘road’ trip
In November 1912, three New Zealanders made motoring history by driving a Model T Ford Roadster on the country’s first road trip from Wellington to Auckland. Things were a bit different back then. The main difference being there were no actual roads for the ‘road’ trip! In 1912 New Zealand, there were no sign posts, road maps and few rivers were bridged. There were no fuel stations either. Fuel had to be despatched in cases by train, to arrive at stations along the way.
But Arthur Chorlton, journalist, Ernest Gilling, photographer, and Harold Richards, driver, were determined and set off to travel through the central King Country route – a route with only minor cattle tracks and horse paths.
They drove a new Model T Ford Roadster, made available by The Colonial Motor Company Ltd, New Zealand’s Ford Agents of Courtenay Place, Wellington. The trio left Wellington under sunny skies and at first the travel was relatively easy going. That quickly changed as they got deeper into King Country and heavy rain came.
From Waimarino (National Park) there was no known way through. And in those days there was only one known car in the area, belonging to the Taumarunui doctor, who had railed it in for town use only. Heavy rain reduced the churned New Zealand clay to a thick soup into which the Model T quickly sank. Shovels, pulley blocks and ropes were used at many points. Even a team of horses was called upon to get them out of one gulley. On the most challenging day they progressed no more than four miles.
Along the way, they discussed route options with locals, many of whom had never seen a car before, and continued on in appalling conditions. The weather improved and eight and a half days later they arrived in Auckland, cementing their place in history. The route those original motoring pioneers chose has since been replaced with modern roads with bridges and plenty of service stations along the way. And it is still the shortest way to drive from Wellington to Auckland.
Celebrating 100 years of Going Further
The Model T Ford Club of NZ re-enacted the journey this month with a fleet of beautifully maintained and meticulously cared-for original Model Ts. The group set off on the journey following the original route over five days. Along the way, the group stopped at schools and important places to share the living Model T Ford New Zealand history. Four of the Model Ts also made a special visit to the Ford New Zealand offices in Auckland. The historic re-enactment captured the imagination of many New Zealanders. The event was covered in national newspapers as well as national television.
As testament to robust build of the original Model Ts and the passion of their owners, 27 of the 29 of the vehicles completed the entire re-enactment road trip from Wellington to Auckland, with only one pulling out due to mechanical issues. The new pioneers completed with a celebration lunch at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland.
“It was fantastic to see our living heritage on the roads, celebrating Ford’s New Zealand history,” said Neale Hill, Managing Director, Ford New Zealand. “The Model Ts looked spectacular, which speaks volumes for the commitment and pride the owners have in their Fords. It’s our heritage and makes you proud to be a part of Ford.”
Some beautiful Model T models were a part of the rally: