Centre Island Run
BY Bryan Lawrence
At the kind invitation of Sonya and Rob, Beth and I drove over the hill on Friday morning, left the MX5 in their garage in Masterton and spent the rest of the weekend as passengers in their P76. Most enjoyable! Although the "official" start point for the run was Whanganui, in traditional Leyland Club fashion, we travelled a few minor roads to get there: Feilding via the Pahiatua Track, Marton, and Whanganui via the Turakina Valley.
The detour to Marton was to pay a visit to (soon to be) newest club member, Robin Coleman. Robin, a sculptor of some renown, had very recently purchased a local P76, and had been in touch with Rob. To cut a long story short, upon our arrival, Robin joined the club, threw a bag in the boot and joined us for the weekend - this despite the fact that the car was only just back on the road after a 10 year lay-up. He's a brave man!
Our motel in Whanganui saw a gathering of the cars of Rob, Robin, Paul, Merv, Fred, Don and Ed. For a change, it was not us travelling in non-P76 transport, but Ed, who brought along the bright yellow Monaro GTO.
We were up and away in good time on Saturday morning. Ed thought we in Rob's car should lead, as we could navigate "by committee"! Ed was tail-end Charlie. The bright yellow Monaro was very handy in this role - easy to pick out at the back of the line of P76s in the rear vision mirrors.
We travelled the back roads via Fordell to Hunterville for our first coffee break. Hunterville is also home to a small flock of Robin's sculptured sheep in the middle of the main street! We conceded we had to travel SH1 from Hunterville to Taihape, where we stopped for lunch and also caught up with Mike and Annette and Alec and Lois, who had travelled from points North in the morning.
After refuelling bodies and cars, we headed off up the Taihape - Napier "Gentle Annie" road. This is the third time the Centre Island Run has traversed this road, but each time, the conditions have been completely different. There remains only a short section of unsealed road, but this was extended somewhat by road works. Interestingly, the road works section was much rougher than the "official" unsealed section.
The weather on the Taihape side was overcast and pleasantly cool, but as we got over the summit and into Hawke's Bay, it got hotter and hotter, so a decision was taken to make a minor detour to the Puketapu pub for a much-needed cold drink before proceeding to our motel on Marine Parade in Napier.
Dinner that night was arranged at the Napier RSA - a short walk from the motel. On the way we passed a group of Austin Healey's parked up at a nearby hotel, obviously on a run similar to our own. Unfortunately, we didn't find anyone from their group to talk to, so we don't know where they were from or where they were going.
After dinner, a dance band started up, and very soon Alec had a bunch of people up on the dance floor. A very pleasant evening was had dancing (or trying to dance!) or just sitting chatting and watching the others on the dance-floor.
The “Northerners” headed home (well North, anyway) on Sunday morning. Robin also headed for home, leaving Rob and Sonya, Beth and I, Rose and Merv, and Linda and Paul, all of whom had places to go and people to see on Sunday. That evening we re-grouped and headed to a Thai restaurant on the other side of Napier. Not within walking distance this time, but they sent a courtesy car to collect us and return us afterwards. Very civilised!
On Monday morning after a coffee and a stroll around the shops in Napier, we headed our various ways. Of course, travelling with Rob, even a straight run back to Masterton had a couple of car-related diversions. One was to check out a P76 parts prospect on the outskirts of Norsewood (to no avail, as it turned out). The other was a coffee stop in Woodville that "just happened" to be directly opposite a small yard with several interesting classic car projects, including a Daimler (Majestic Major, I think) and a beautiful Signal Red MkII Jaguar. Bryan, don't forget the Rolls Royce, Capri, Westminster 110 and 1930 Pontiac about to be started on the long road to restoration.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the chocolate factory we were hoping to find open in Pahiatua was closed, so we made good time back to Masterton, where Beth and I transferred back to the MX5 for our journey home to Wellington.
As always, a great weekend was had by all. Many thanks to Ed for his usual high-quality planning and organisation, and many thanks to Rob and Sonya for inviting Beth and I to join them for a "real" P76 experience. The only thing that could improve this annual event would be to see more cars (P76s or not) on the run. Try it. I know you will enjoy it.
Rob's bit. For the record we had eight P76's and one Monaro GTO on the trip. All the P76's were different colours. One each in BA, Pimento, CW, AEB, AG, B as B, DR and Persian Sand and even if Pauls car was original it would have been in OF and so still be different. This was made up of 7 V8's, 6 Supers and 1 Executive and our lonely 6 cyl Deluxe.
I must apologise to the local Hawke's Bay members whom I did not invite to join us for any specific part of the weekend while in Napier.
It came to pass that most of the Central Group participants decided to stay on until Monday so on Sunday morning I took the opportunity to show them another P76 in a different colour, the Nutmeg Executive of Calvin and Beryce Mackie. I phoned Calvin to ask if a couple of us could visit him and he was happy for us to do so. We were about 40 minutes late arriving but that was ok. Four P76's carrying 7 lucky members parked up in their quiet suburban street and were welcomed by Beryce with fresh mixed fruit scones with apricot jam for morning tea. Delicious. A quick photo session followed because there had NEVER been that many P76's in the street before. The neighbours were quite curious too.
Funnily enough Calvin had not met any of the members present except for Sonya and I. At the only event he has attended, other than by himself, he met another bunch of Central Group members. This gave Robin a greater insight into the Leyland colour range and hopefully was an encouragement to the Mackie's to get out and about in their P76 a bit more this summer.
Watch out Mr King, you will be next on the visiting list. And your car is a bit special in NZ isn't it Ron.
It seems not many photos were taken over the course of the Centre Island Meeting!
I will show what I can from my small effort.