As a youngster growing up in Whakatane, Squeak Bell made a bit of a name for himself as a car builder. In 1984, he and fellow car guy and friend ‘GT’ set off on a three-month trip to America to bring home parts and generally have a good time. And it must have been a good time, as he’s never really been back for long since.
After stopping in at a hot rod shop in Bakersfield, California, he was soon offered a job, and fast-forwarding a few years, ended up setting up his own business: Kiwi Konnection. Through the business he amassed a huge amount of contacts and ended up travelling all around America to events, and buying and selling cars and parts. We’re not too sure how many parts were sold though, as these days his shed is a treasure trove of all things old and cool.
In 1997, he sold the business to fellow Kiwi Duane Jones (who we featured in Issue No. 81 of NZV8 magazine) to retire … right across the road from where the business was. While it may not be the dream retirement location for many, any true car guy can see exactly why he’s done it — for the awesome shed that was already on the property. The small house next to it is more than adequate for Squeak to live in, as after all, the shed is where he spends most of his time. If and when he feels the need to get away from the city, he can always come back to New Zealand to hang out with his friends and family here.
After nearly 30 years in the American hot rodding scene, and always with an eye for a bargain or a deal, the amount of stuff he’s accumulated has to be seen to be believed. While there appear to be parts everywhere, we can assure you, none of it is junk. Amongst the parts are his cars: a roadster, which looks like it hasn’t been touched for the last 30-odd years, a big old Cadillac, which has been in his possession for almost as long as he’s been Stateside, a radically chopped Model A Tudor, which is theoretically being worked on, and a real honey of a ’39 Ford Coupe. He’s never short of things to do, between helping out on other people’s cars, throwing some legendary parties, and basically living every car guy’s dream.
Inside the shed is a very cool bar setup, although usually the main area of the shed is used for drinking and talking crap, with a well-worn seat in the corner being Squeak’s usual spot. With the high temperatures in the area, it’s too hot to work on cars inside over summer, so a lean-to outside doubles as a great workspace-come-storage area. While we were there, and as is usually the situation, this area was full of other Kiwi’s vehicles about to make the journey back to New Zealand.
Squeak’s got an eye for rare parts and oddball engines, and as you can tell by the line-up stored below the benches along one side of the shed, he’s had no trouble in finding some real gems. Along with the engines is an even more impressive collection of vintage manifolds, rocker covers and hubcaps of all shapes and sizes.
Reading all the old event posters scattered around, among other wall-mounted items, would take forever. But they provide a good insight into where Squeak’s been over his time. With no real commitments either in Bakersfield, or in New Zealand, he floats between the two at his own leisure and generally lives the life that many of us would love to. Not bad for a local lad who was only going to go on a three-month holiday, huh?