A redoubtable combination is contesting tomorrow’s 59th annual Windsor Rally.
Retired Oamaru lawyer Ivan Main will be driving his 1920 Fiat 501. The car is 99, its driver a month short of his 92nd birthday.
The duo have won the North Otago Vintage Car Club rally several times in the past, including the inaugural one and last year’s.
However, one year the Fiat broke down and Mr Main suffered the ignominy of being towed home.
The foundation member of the car club has owned the car for nearly 60 years. It’s the only vintage model he’s ever owned.
Mr Main’s father, John Main, was good friends with Oamaru identities Major and Mrs Orbell. Before her marriage, Mrs Orbell used to drive the Fiat on the Pukeuri farm where she lived.
When the Orbells moved into Perth St, there was not enough room in the garage for the Fiat as well as their other vehicles, and Mrs Orbell said she was too old to drive it.
So Mr Main went to see Mrs Orbell, who named her price.
“I paid it. The ownership was transferred to my name and has been there ever since.”
Mr Main said he was not a mechanic, but “I’ve been fortunate down the years of having numerous friends who have been very good mechanics and have always been interested in the car and only too happy to tackle any problems I might have had”.
However, Mr Main is the only one who drives it.
It has a gear stick on the floor, with four forward gears and reverse.
It seemed to have been several years ahead of other cars produced at the time, Mr Main said.
“It has an electric self-starter. All other cars of that vintage you had to crank to start.”
The Fiat has a crank handle, in case the battery went flat.
“I’ve never had to use the crank handle to start it, as long as the battery is charged. That’s one of the problems when I only use it a few times a year.”
He disconnects the battery if the Fiat will be in the shed for any length of time.
Having sat there since last year’s Windsor Rally, it started first time when he was taking it to get its warrant of fitness on Tuesday.
Mr Main’s son William will be his navigator tomorrow.
The rally is open to vintage car club members from throughout New Zealand. The vehicles must be at least 30 years old.
Entrants participate in time trials on three different routes west of Oamaru and through Windsor to the Enfield Domain. Field events take place there in the afternoon.
More than 40 cars will set off at 10am from Tyne St. The public is welcome to watch the start and the field events at the domain. Entry to the ground is free.