Me and My Car: Mini apple of his eye
ARTIST BILLY APPLE’S COLLECTION
OF RACING CARS AND GRAND PRIX MOTORBIKES IS ON EXHIBITION AT AUCKLAND’S ART GALLERY
Your collection of cars and bikes is in the Auckland Art Gallery atrium, but what’s your everyday car?
A 2002 Mini One, exactly the same model that Paul Smith drives around London. I do about 7000km a year, which is not much — most people do about 15,000km. The car has only about 85,000 on it. I love it, it’s the first BMW model. The new Minis are more like a small SUV.
And you park it outside the gallery?
The parking spot came about as a trade-off. I wanted my Porsche 911S to be part of the work downstairs but the curators didn’t feel it was part of the story — it was too heavily weighted to a road car not a race car. So I get to park the Mini outside the gallery in the forecourt. Security take a bollard out so I can enter and exit.
I also have on exhibition my 1967 Cooper Type 85, Cosworth Mae; 1971 Lola T212, Cosworth FVC; 61 AJS 7R; Matchless G50, 62 Norton Manx.
Who else drives your Mini?
My partner, Mary, while my West Highland white terrier is the only one to sit in the back. He’s called Macintosh Apple, or Mac for short. You open the door and he’s straight in the back. When he and I drive around, he will sit in the front seat if Mary is not with me.
Why do you collect cars?
A good collector is a hunter. The hunt is everything. There is amazing satisfaction.
My first car was a Standard 8 in the mid-1950s. It was an iridescent grey-blue. I painted it bright red and I had Union Jack stickers in front of the two doors. No one ever gave me a ticket, I think they thought I was part of the British Embassy. I used to drive that around the country but now I rarely drive out of Auckland, maybe to Pukekohe, Hampton Downs. When a race car is being worked on up at Albany I’ll go up there. The Mini is a fantastic around-town car.
I always did want to own a Maserati 250F grand prix car, the sort of car Stirling Moss drove. It would be nice to have a Dino Ferrari. They are aesthetically very beautiful — it would have to be Fly Yellow. If I had a coupe, an original Ford GT40, not a replica. I would have loved to own a 917 Porsche, a serious Le Mans car.
Most memorable road trip?
The first time I went from Connecticut to Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin in the early 80s, a 24-hour trip. There were 917s, Ferraris, Lolas, and it was like the sound of thunder. There was a Lola like mine and you could hear its gear changes above the others. It was staggering.
Manual or automatic?
What is your take on Auckland traffic?
I’d use the train if I could take my dog on it. And the bus for that matter.
Do you have a special number plate?
I do have KD911 on the Porsche. In those days you could go into the Post Office and ask if they had a 911 plate and they would do a search around the country to find you one.
■ As told to Donna McIntyre