Having just spent a fantastic day at the annual Stragglers Cambridge Charity Car Show at the Lake Karapiro domain, it’s hard to believe that this year it almost never happened. With all the marketing out there, and people planning their annual pilgrimage, the unthinkable happened: the council closed the usual show site at Lake Te Koutu. Some trees had fallen and almost hit members of the public, which left the council with no choice but to close the reserve and engage contractors to fell a number of the remaining trees. Fortunately, the Stragglers have a good relationship with the council, which, recognizing that this was a charity event, offered the alternative venue of the internationally recognized Lake Karapiro domain. Used for the world rowing championships back in 2011, the domain is immaculate, with space to spare. After inspecting it, the Stragglers agreed it would be the perfect venue for the 2013 event. While the old spot was a pretty damn good site for a car show, the Lake Karapiro venue, with all of its amenities, beats it hands down!
It’s a well-known fact that when the going gets tough, the tough get going and, with the mammoth task of the venue change on top of the normal logistical issues, the Stragglers must be bloody tough! A big part of the challenge, with just nine days to go, was advising the V8 and classic car community of the change of venue. This is where social media such as Facebook came into their own, and before long everyone was spreading the word! As the name suggests, this is a charity car show, and, over the last seven years, the Stragglers have raised in excess of $100,000 for their selected local charities, which must be Waikato based and benefit children. The call for help was also put out locally, and Hamilton Hot Rod Club was among those who stepped up. Amongst the beneficiaries of the 2013 show is a member of the club with an ill child, so it was great to see the club assisting with parking and other duties to help make the day the success it was.
As a result of all this hard work, on Sunday, November 24, the Karapiro domain was the home to as good a collection of classics, street machines, and hot rods as you could hope see at any gathering in New Zealand. Where the previous years’ shows at Lake Te Koutu were reasonably ‘intimate’, with tight parking for the cars on display and limited or no public parking, the Karapiro domain is huge, with easy access and plenty of space to spread out, have a picnic, and just enjoy the day. I must steal a line from the rowers and agree with their conclusion that, as a venue, Karapiro really is ‘oarsome’!
Those arriving early scored the prime spots down by the lake front, with a fine mix of vehicles showing up — including a contingent from Marineland in Napier. This collection of 150 or so cars made a fine show on their own; even the British marques were well represented, with a Pop, an MG, an Escort, and an E-Type lurking amongst the sea of American classics and hot rods. With the Casting Shadows set up in the music truck, alternating with Tim Armstrong, the music was soon belting out over the domain, and a few hours easily disappeared in wandering up and down the rows of cars. Some chose to spend the day in the shade, listening to the music and admiring the cars from afar, while sipping their coffees or something a bit stronger. A short walk up the hill revealed another mini-show of cars and caravans, once again proving that the retro caravan is becoming more popular, and not just at car shows. These little beauties have a big following of their own, but of course they really do need the right matching tow vehicle. Parked near these ‘home away from homes’ was another club whose members made the journey en masse: the Bay Rodders crew from Tauranga.
A short walk away was what I considered to be the main event, with a couple of acres of cars in amongst the trees and out on the massive upper level adjacent to the road and leading down towards the lake. There were hundreds of them, from shiny restored classics through to rat rods, and big-bling hot-rods through to low riders, muscle cars, race cars, and Harleys. Everywhere you looked there was wall-to-wall cool! With such huge diversity of cars and ideas there was something here for everyone, and a few more hours were spent not just wandering the paddocks but also catching up with mates from all around the country who had made the annual trip to Cambridge. While some had not travelled too far, such as those of us from various parts of the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, others had travelled down from Auckland and above, across from Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki, and even up from Wellington.
The turnout shows the popularity of this type of low-key unsanctioned event, where the day is all about the cars and the people. Everyone I spoke with loved the new venue. After a picnic in the shade, it was back out for another lap of the show, checking out a few more favourites, watching the rocker cover racing while enjoying the sounds of a few race car start-ups and the music before packing up and heading for home. With over a thousand cars through the gate, and with the support from the public, a record amount was raised for selected charities this year. Well done to the Stragglers! We loved the fantastic new venue, the day was awesome, and I’m sure many others are also looking forward to heading back to Karapiro in November 2014!