Vintage ride rekindles memories

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Sixty years after she first got behind the wheel of a Studebaker, Oamaru woman Margaret McKenzie is now content to be a passenger.

The 88-year-old, a resident at Iona Enliven Care Home, and several other residents were treated to rides in vintage cars courtesy of the North Otago Vintage Car Club last week.

Mrs McKenzie was ferried around in a 1939 Studebaker, a more recent model than the one in which she learned to drive six decades ago.

The drive brought back plenty of memories for her.

At the age of 28, Mrs McKenzie, who moved to Oamaru from Fairlie at the age of 9, was taught to drive by her husband, Garth, in his father’s car.

That was a Studebaker with a straight-eight engine. However, she couldn’t recall the year of its manufacture.

What she does recall is exactly how her first lessons went at the couple’s farm at Waihao Downs, near Waimate.

“The garage was up an old gravel road. It was outside in the paddock there. I wanted to learn to drive, so we got in the car and put the two kids in the back and we went around and around the paddock.

“He [Garth] put bales of hay around the paddock and I had to drive around them and back, and that kind of stuff.”

After a few lessons, which Mrs McKenzie said took place without mishap, she had the confidence to drive on her own.

One day, when her children were at school, she took the Studebaker out for a quick spin – despite not holding a driver’s licence – without telling her husband.

“I just put it back in the garage so he wouldn’t know,” she said.

One quick driving test – essentially a drive up the main street of Waimate – later, she was set.

Mrs McKenzie, after being an AA member for more than 50 years, decided to stop driving last year, not for medical reasons, but because she had trouble lifting her walker into her car’s boot.

“How I wish I could still drive. It was my decision .. I said, ‘It’s not worth it.'”

She believed today’s road rules were “probably for the best” and recalled speed limits once being 30kmh.

Mrs McKenzie also thought the age of 16 was too young to start driving, as cars were faster and more powerful than they were in the past.

She was thrilled the vintage car club took the time to drive Iona’s residents around the town and its outskirts.

“I think it’s marvellous. A lot of the other people here will have the same memories of the cars as me.”

Vintage .. The 1939 Studebaker Margaret McKenzie took a ride in last week. PHOTOS: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD