If you’ve got a thing for American pickup trucks, the NZV8 Pickup Round-up 2015 was made for you — an event dedicated to the humble American workhorse

Given New Zealand’s strong agricultural roots, it’s hardly surprising that — with the huge popularity of old, American vehicles here — the humble American pickup truck is blessed with a legion of diehard fans.

It is with this in mind that, around a year and a half ago, Katikati’s Allan Smith and his partner Katrina decided to create a club dedicated to pickup trucks of American origin. Speaking to a number of friends, it soon became clear that there was a market for such a club — cue the formation of the USA Haulers.

Allan spoke to Willy Pelzers — whose Chev COE we featured in NZV8 Issue 108 — at Beach Hop 2014, and the idea of a club run to Taupo was floated, due to Taupo’s central location. The event would take place over Labour Weekend (October 25–26) 2014, with a cruise to Rotorua on the Saturday, followed by a park up with live entertainment, judging, and prize-giving in Taupo on the Sunday. For the inaugural event, 50 entrants were expected, but the organizers were overwhelmed by the 107 that signed up.

Last year’s NZV8 Pickup Round-up was a success for the first event of its kind, and with that in mind, we were looking forward to seeing how this year’s would play out. Unfortunately, the initial weather forecast wasn’t looking promising, with intermittent rain and overcast skies hanging over the initial gathering at the Rotorua Lakefront Reserve.

Even so, owners of American load-luggers — from as far north as Whangarei and as far south as Wanganui — were out in force, despite numbers being slightly down thanks to the number of events on around the country this Labour Weekend. Mike and Kim Gooding made the drive up from Wanganui in their beautiful 1947 Chev 3100, featured in NZV8 Issue 123. Almost as soon as they rolled through the gates, a crowd developed around the truck, including the crew producing the NAC Car Culture TV series — keep an eye out for some NZV8 Pickup Round-up coverage on a future episode.

The variety on offer was a bonus, too, with a diverse spread of trucks covering all manner of styles and ages. The 1950s Ford F-series is always a popular choice, and this year would be little different. This example has been gently dragged into the modern era, thanks to the injected five-litre V8 from a 1990s Ford Falcon. With what looked like Falcon disc brakes at each corner, and a Falcon centre console, there’s a good chance that, underneath, this truck is more Falcon than F100.

And, where possible, underneath was a good place to be looking. This well-presented Jaguar independent rear end sits beneath an immaculate 1930 Ford Model A pickup, which has undergone an extensive rebuild. You can find out a little more of the Model A on episode two of NAC Car Culture here.

Of course, a fair number of entrants had their bonnets open, making for easy access to the treasures within. Just as diversity was the flavour of the day with the ages and styles of trucks on offer, so too was it the case with their mills. Blown big block? Check.

Traditional-style small block Chev equipped with triples? Double check.

And even more triples — these ones adorning an incredibly presented 235ci straight-six. The 1954 Chev panel truck that this engine powers is worth special mention for its immaculate finish, and you can see more of it in the image gallery below.

Taupo-based upholsterer Grant Wallace also had his ’39 Plymouth Woody in attendance, and it was hugely popular with the crowds. The Plymouth has come a long way since last year’s event, where it was sat on a trailer, resembling a rolling chassis with a Plymouth bodyshell and some wooden framing perched on it. The Woody is nearly complete, and we’ll have a full feature in an upcoming issue of NZV8 when it’s ready.  

Being an upholsterer, the interior of Grant’s Plymouth is pretty well done, as you’d expect. Unfortunately, the dodgy weather was not conducive towards getting a better look at interiors, but there were still some gems to be found. This 1966 GMC is an obvious example, looking more like a ’60s kustom than a vehicle used for hauling loads. The smooth pin striping on Granny Smith green paint ties in with the exterior detailing, and the metal flake green lathered upon the gauge cluster is a cool touch, mirroring the kustom-style metal-flaked roof.  

Quite possibly just as cool was this 1986 Dodge Ram, although for entirely different reasons. Why, though, when it doesn’t outwardly look like anything much? Well, there’s that ‘V8 426’ plate for starters — those three numbers, 4-2-6, are enough to pique the interest of any Mopar fan. Then you’ve got the late-model Dodge Ram wheels, exhaust dumping before the rears, an Auto Meter tacho perched on the dash, and, perhaps most significantly, a floor-mounted Hurst four-speed shifter. Want to know more? We’ll have a little more info in our full event report in NZV8 Issue 128, so you’ll just have to wait.

The Sunday was a touch better, as far as the weather was concerned. With the prize-giving to take place later that day, most of the judged finalists were up early, prepping their trucks for the big day.

Jens Wulff was one of them, getting ‘OL RED’ nice and shiny for the day. An unquestionably well-finished truck, the 1955 Chev 3100 is more than meets the eye, thanks to a GM six-litre Vortec V8 slotted in the engine bay as if it was meant to be there.

Favourable weather and an accommodating setting also encouraged many people to just park up in a deck chair and make the most of the day — if you’re gonna get sunburned, you may as well do it in comfort!

The Sunday also saw an increased entrant count, with a number of trucks present that weren’t at Rotorua the day before. John ‘Harpo’ Harpham took the chance to bring his well-restored, and thoroughly driven, 1942 Dodge Fargo down to the show — a fitting reminder that all of these vehicles were built to be used.

Just as well-used, albeit in a totally different style, was Valley Custom’s awesome work hack. The ground-scraping 1967 Chev still wears its original, patinaed paintwork, with some vintage-style brushwork by the Valley Custom team. Despite its low-slung stance, it’s a surprisingly practical work beater, and we’ll have a little more info in our print coverage of the event.

This was also the day for prizes to be doled out, and this was a piece of cake, thanks to the event’s sponsors who made it possible. Here, we see Willy, Katrina, and Allan getting ready to announce the lucky winners and present them with their prizes.

Congratulations to all the winners, and to Allan and Katrina, Willy Pelzers, and Nic Wood, who all helped organize the event into the success that it was. And, of course, to the many truck owners who took the time to make the event what it was — catch you next year!

We'll have a full event report in NZV8 Issue No. 128, on sale November 30.