Surrounded by hundreds of classic cars, the Winners Circle at Ellerslie was crammed with an amazing number of stunning vehicles — everything from a humble, Kiwi-built Trekka to a mind-numbingly gorgeous, alloy-bodied Mercedes-Benz ‘Gullwing’ 300SL

It’s hard to believe that 42 years on, the Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Élégance continues to grow stronger every year. Whilst the number of participating clubs has remained fairly constant in recent years — usually a staggering 75 clubs participate every year, displaying several hundred cars — the quality of restorations and, indeed, survivor-type vehicles present on the day seems to get better and better with each passing year. Bundle that up with ongoing support from sponsors and commercial exhibitors, as well as increasing numbers of paying members of the public through the gates, and there’s little doubt that this event is the biggest of its kind in the country.    

NZ Classic Car weekend

As in previous years, the 2015 Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Élégance and NZ Classic Car Show was preceded on Saturday by the annual, and extremely popular, Meguiar’s Classic Car Tour d’Élégance, organized once again by the MG Car Club. Despite everything taking place over the long Waitangi Weekend, a healthy contingent of classic cars departed several different Auckland locations for a one-and-a-half to two-hour run that eventually saw them all gathered together along Auckland’s waterfront, at Vellenoweth Green in St Heliers.

The prologue finished, the following day it was time for the big one — with the theme for this year’s Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Élégance and NZ Classic Car Show being The Big Screen. It was interesting to see differing interpretations of the theme as car clubs went about setting up their displays for the main event. Many were vying for the Best Club Display, so the number of different movie-type cars scattered around the venue made me feel like I was on a film set.

The host club again for 2015, the Auckland Mustang Owners’ Club, was also busy at first light on Sunday, arranging some 50-odd cars to resemble a drive-in movie scenario complete with huge screen playing, of course, films such as Gone in 60 Seconds and Bullitt, plus many others featuring Mustangs, on continuous loop throughout the day.    

Movie magic

There was also plenty of activity over in the Winners Circle early on as the five Masters Class entries — Phil O’Reilly’s 1986 BMW 635CSi, Mike Bates’ Mini Clubman Estate, Garry Boyce’s 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Tony Katterns’ 1969 Trekka, and Kim Walker’s 1949 MG TC — were all being attended to in final preparations prior to the commencement of judging.

Also attending to last-minute detailing and preparations in the Winners Circle were the seven two-car teams vying for the coveted Team Event trophy — these being the Auckland Mustang Owners Club and MG Car Club (Auckland) Inc, both entering two teams, alongside the Porsche Car Club of NZ, the Aston Martin Owners Club and BMW Car Club of NZ Inc.

Due to the success of the inaugural Survivors Class competition last year, a strong line-up of time-capsule cars were also receiving final preparations, and these included Gavin Welch’s 1924 Dodge sedan A-Type, Jens Fogelberg’s 1965 BMW 2000C, Colin Upchurch’s 1973 MGB, Sheryl Boyd’s 1964 Holden EH Premier, Brian Mudge’s 1970 Wolseley 1300, Angus Robson’s 1964 Aston Martin DB5, and Philip Hurring’s 1971 Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina.

The New Zealand Classic Car magazine display was coming together rather nicely in the Newmarket Room, with a fine array of movie and TV classic cars to complement the event theme, along with a few invited exhibitors. Given this year’s big-screen theme it seemed appropriate to bring back Mat Bedogni’s DeLorean DMC-12, this time even better and more accurate after countless hours of careful attention to detail that have now transformed the stock-standard DeLorean into an almost perfect Back to the Future replica — complete with movie props. Mat also kindly brought along his Pontiac Trans Am KITT Knight Rider replica, a car that wowed onlookers all day with its dazzling dashboard display.

Other cars in the Newmarket Room as part of the NZCC display included three Minis representing The Italian Job, The General Lee (Dukes of Hazzard), a mean-looking Dodge Charger (Jack Reacher), Chevrolet Chevelle, Porsche 928 (Risky Business), Alfa Romeo Spider (The Graduate), Ferrari 308GTS (Magnum PI) and a Herbie-style Love Bug.

Judgement day

At 10am the gates were opened to the public and, fortunately, the weather played its part in making the day bearable, with an overcast sky providing the perfect protective canopy from what could’ve been blazing all-day sun. 

A slightly rearranged venue meant that there wasn’t sufficient space available to run the popular Motorkhana event, and as the team of judges descended upon the Winners Circle suitably armed with the mandatory clipboards and white cotton gloves, the unenviable task of judging the cars entered in the three main categories began. Other judging was also taking place around the venue by a select panel of judges for the Best Club Display — an award sponsored by Classic Cover Insurance to single out the club that best celebrated the show’s main ‘The Big Screen’ theme.

As the day flew past, the judges deliberated over points of originality, show visitors wandered around the venue admiring the display cars, and old mates met up to chat with everyone having a great time.

However, the show was about to reach its climax and, by 3:30pm, a large number of spectators, club members and competitors, along with their club supporters, gathered in and around the Winner’s Circle for the awards ceremony — all eagerly awaiting the final outcome of the day’s judging.

Without further ado prize-giving proceedings were soon in full swing, with the first of the awards handed out to the winner of the Gary McCrystal Memorial Trophy — Mike Swanton’s lovely 1937 Vauxhall GY25 — and the best Club Display being awarded to the Sunbeam Car Club of New Zealand, which had actually made its own film especially for the show.

The Masters Class award was the one everybody had been waiting for, and a beaming Garry Boyce happily accepted the trophy for his outstanding 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, a car that had scored an impressive overall score of 564 points out of a possible 590. 

After winning the Teams Event for two years running, the Auckland Mustang Owners Club was pipped at the post by the Porsche Car Club, with a combined total score of 1051 points out of a possible 1180. However, the Mustang owners weren’t far behind, their two teams taking out second and third places.

It was also great to see the Aston Martin Owners Club in the Winners Circle — its team of two stunning DB2/4s earning the club fourth place overall.

The hotly-contested Survivors Class was taken out by Sheryl Boyd’s wonderfully original Holden EH Premier, taking top spot with a total score 736 points, just two ahead of Colin Upchurch’s 1973 MGB, a car that Colin’s owned since new.

For many of us, the award ceremony marked the end of a long but extremely enjoyable day. It takes a massive effort from the host club and a dedicated team of committee members to bring this event together each year, and to afford the public the chance to view some very nice and rare classic cars. But at the end of the day, it’s the club members representing over 75 clubs, many of whom are reading this now, that make this spectacular event happen, along with enthusiastic support from commercial exhibitors and sponsors.

We’d like to thank you all for your fine efforts, and we definitely look forward to seeing you all again in 2016.

Ashley Webb

Ashley Webb joined Parkside Media 10 years ago as Advertising Manager for the newly created NZV8 magazine. When the opportunity arose to work on New Zealand Classic Car magazine as Assistant Editor just over eight years ago, he couldn't resist the challenge and has worked on the magazine ever since, and is now the Editor of New Zealand Classic Car.
Ashley is passionate about most classic cars and has a particular interest in late ’60s US muscle cars.