From a spectacular alpine setting to the ocean, those taking part in this year’s Classic Alpine Tour experienced it all.
This year was the third running of the biennial event, and co-organiser Jeff Williams, who plots the route, said he always endeavoured to put together a varied programme, showcasing the beautiful scenery of the lower South Island.
The tour started in Arrowtown, as is tradition, with a cocktail and registration party on Friday, April 1. The cars left the following morning from Thurlby Domain, and travelled through the Ida Valley to Naseby, where their first stop was for a lunch, organised by the Lions Club of Maniototo, as a fundraiser to send the New Zealand Curling Association’s junior men’s team to the World Junior A Competitions in Sweden.
From there, the 42 classic cars continued on to Hyde, over Macraes-Dunback Rd – ”it’s a magnificent road” – and then to Oamaru, via Kakanui. The tour attracted people from across the country, and the roads were new to many of them, Mr Williams said.
“They came from as far away as Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, Wellington, Taupo, Whangaparaoa, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Queenstown, Dunedin – from all over the country,” he said.
“Even Southlanders and Otago people had never been on some of the roads that I had plotted for them.”
The tour stopped in Oamaru for the night, with all of the participants gathering at the Loan and Merc for dinner. On Sunday morning, the 42 cars lined up down Harbour St for people to admire, while the drivers and passengers enjoyed breakfast in Oamaru. Mr Williams was surprised to see Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher turn up to help organisers set up for the car show.
“I was hugely impressed that your mayor came down, rolled his sleeves up and parked cars in Harbour St for a car show.”
Hundreds of people walked through the Victorian precinct for a glimpse at the European and British cars, some of which were worth “well over $1million”, built by manufacturers including Ferrari, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo.
“We had a really good crowd in there,” Mr Williams said.
Mr Kircher then waved the cars off, as they left Oamaru for Lake Ohau.
They travelled up the Waitaki Valley, stopping in Kurow for lunch before continuing on to Lake Ohau Lodge for the night. The tour ended in Twizel the following day, with a prizegiving lunch.
The tour was targeted at couples – it was not a ”blokes anorak-wearing tour” there was a very defined entry criteria for vehicles, Mr Williams said.
“The cars must be of either UK or European manufacture, two-doors sport and GT-type cars.”
Mr Williams is a car collector, and former journalist and TV cameraman. He lives in the Queenstown-Lakes district at present, but has worked across the southern South Island.
“I know the roads very, very well,” he said.
“So I sort of know what roads will appeal to the people, without travelling over the roads that we’ve done on our two previous tours.
“We try to keep it very varied.”
Mr Williams and co-organiser Paul Halford had received great feedback from this year’s participants – ”everybody really loved it” – and the weather provided the “all important ingredient for classic car touring”.
“We had magnificent weather. It was stunning, and anybody with a convertible had no reason to still have their top up,” he said.
Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust chairman Graeme Clark was thrilled to host the tour in the Victorian precinct, and hoped the influx of people had provided a boost to local businesses.