It’s hard to know when Laurence Mahony’s collection started and equally hard to know when, or if, it’s ever going to stop!

Nestled under the shadow of Mount Egmont is the property of Laurence Mahony. Laurence successfully farmed the fertile Taranaki pastures for more years than he’d care to admit, before deciding to hang up his gumboots. After moving away from early morning milkings and all things rural, he started up a company, Mahony Hire, specializing in vehicle and machinery hire.

Now, being a wily old fox and having a good head on his shoulders, it wasn’t long before the business was ticking along quite nicely and essentially running itself. This meant that Laurence was able to shift his attention to a couple of other passions: American cars and collecting cool shit.

For years, he’s always had a Yank tank — or four — at his disposal, which until now had usually resided in various implement sheds scattered around his property. But like all things in life, you can either choose to accept what you have and live in blissful ignorance happily ever after, or you could do what Laurence did and somehow manage to accumulate eight more cars in a year and have no place to store them …

When things got out of hand — like they did for Laurence — there was only one thing he could do: build a suitable shed to house all of his cars. And with his cars totalling 13, only the biggest and best shed would do. So, in 2011, the front paddock was dug up and flattened, a large concrete pad measuring 30 metres by 18 metres was poured, and a shed that you could easily house a small squadron of aeroplanes in was erected. Quite fitting really as the local aerodrome is just metres away …

The first thing you notice when you arrive at Laurence’s place is the mailbox. Mounted on a 30-foot tall pole at the front gate with the words ‘air mail’ stencilled on the side, it gives you an inkling of the man’s sense of humour. The next thing that grabs your attention is the sheer size of the shed — it’s absolutely massive! And if that fails to grab your attention, then the various vehicle-inspired signage and ancient rotting petrol pumps flanking the roller door should get you thinking, This ain’t no ordinary tractor shed.

Once through the door, everything is laid out beautifully. There’s not a spec of dust to be seen and everything is organized into neat, tidy rows; there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place … not bloody likely! When questioned about his ‘organisational logic’, or lack thereof, Laurence’s answer is simple and to the point, “It would be tidy if I liked to tidy it.” Fair comment.

So let’s try that again … once through the door, the contents of the shed is basically where it has to be: inside! Bonnets are up; cars are pointing in all directions; the ones that leak have whatever has leaked out of them smeared on the concrete beneath them; the ones that have been driven recently are still covered in last week’s decaying bugs; and, the ones that haven’t been driven recently are patiently waiting their turn to collect whatever happens to be in the air at the time of their excursion.

Laurence’s philosophy is simple when it comes to his cars: “They have to be the right price and they have to be good!” Looking around at his purchases, more often than not he’s got things pretty well right. His unmolested ’65 Mustang notchback was the tidiest one he’d ever seen, so he just had to have it.
This in itself is quite funny as Laurence freely admits that he hates Mustangs, “I wish it wasn’t so damn tidy or I wouldn’t own it!” 

The ’55 Chev Handyman (that incidentally belongs to his son, John) has a brand-new 350ci fuel-injected Ram Jet crate engine in it. You can turn the key and drive wherever you want, whenever you want. 

Lurking at the back of the shed is an absolute gem of an orange-and-cream Chev. Stock as a rock and fitted with every conceivable extra available when it rolled off the production line back in 1955; not surprising really when you find out that it was owned by the former General Motors parts manager. It has electric everything, twin exhausts and is all matching numbers — quite the find!

When you already have two ’55s, you might as well have three … This is exactly what Laurence did on one of his many buying trips overseas, and when you see what he found you can understand why he just had to have it.

Tubbed, with 33x22x15s jammed under the arse, a blown 400ci motor under the hood, and a six-figure build sheet stuffed in the glovebox was enough to pique Laurence’s attention. Shortly thereafter it was loaded into a box and shipped home. Once landed and legal for the New Zealand roads, things went pear-shaped, with the blown 400 deciding to lunch itself. The ’55 was too cool to park in the back of the shed in disgrace though, so an all-alloy block and matching alloy heads were purchased, a brand-new combo was built up and then fitted back into the hole. That six-figure build sheet just got a whole lot bigger!

Looking around at the rest of the cars, the ‘buy it ’cause I like it’ theme is fairly obvious. There’s no real pattern as to what’s in the collection; every car is different and unique in its own right. 

There’s the ’70 Chevelle that was built in San Jose, California, in the late ’70s. With its blown 454 and jacked-up rear housing enormous tyres under the guards — as they all did during that era —it’s perfectly finished off with in-your-face ‘Makin Magic’ graphics and a wild candy paint job. It’s hard to believe, given how blemish-free the finish is, that the paint is actually 33 years old!

The ’71 Camaro has a 6–71 huffer on top of 483 cubic inches of Detroit’s finest — mated to a four-speed manual! Unsurprisingly, this thing is a real handful, or as Laurence puts it, “It scares the shit out of me.” As such, the car’s only been driven on the road twice and never fully wound out due to the fact that it “jumps every time you shift gear”. Madness!

The wild-looking Gatsby convertible was bought at a swap meet in Reno off the son of the guy who had originally built it, but who had since passed away. The only condition of the sale was that everything in the car had to stay with the car. Five years later, Laurence has kept to his word and nothing has been removed from the boot — even the old boy’s hat is still in there. And the stories just go on and on …

While first and foremost this is a shed to hold all of the cars, there’s a nice ‘man cave’ touch to it too. There’s a vast collection of almost obligatory tin signs and old number plates screwed to the walls. In one corner is a bar, complete with a chequered floor and a couple of couches where you can sit down, have a couple of quiets and reminisce about old times. In another corner is a pretty cool collection of coin-operated kids’ ride-on toys and old gaming machines. The pool table is out of the Egmont Hotel, and still covered in Egmont Hotel bird shit, it sits next to a bagged ’57 Buick. And over the other side of the shed, propped up against the wall behind three massive DB Beer signs, are the glass front doors from the exact same pub! 

Everywhere you look there’s something that catches your eye. Whether it be one of Laurence’s many cool rides, or a piece of local history that he’s managed to get at the right price and save from extinction.

As with all good things, Laurence’s collection is not yet complete and he plans to keep adding to it. With his dream car being a ’68 Chev convertible with a 572 big block in it, we’re sure it won’t be long before he finds one and adds it to his already pretty impressive list of cars in his already pretty impressive shed. 

Shane Wishnowsky

My first experience of the V8 engine was not a good one. Picture a white-haired young boy bawling his eyes out when an un-muffled sprintcar was fired up. My Dad, who had been car mad all his life, thought I was broken and he’d produced a dud! He persevered though and a few years later took me to Thunder Park; it was here that I fell in love with the V8 engine and I was hooked! Since then I have been a regular on both sides of the fence at drag strips in the North Island, both as a spectator and a crew member. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that 40 years down the track I would end up photographing and writing about them, not that I’m complaining!