Immaculate restoration of this 1960 PA Vauxhall Velox
Ernie and Margaret Harvey’s 1960 PA Vauxhall Velox was a basket case when they acquired it, but it’s immaculate now, and they did almost all the restoration themselves, in their home garage and on a tight budget.
Originally sold by Cooper and Curd Motors in Pukekohe, it was a one-owner car that belonged to the father of their friend, Pauline. She dropped it round in 2006 or 2007 after they’d finished restoring another car.
“She said, ‘what are you going to do with your time now?’ I told her I’d find something, then she said she had a project for me. I didn’t agree or disagree, and three months later they turned up and asked me where I wanted it put,” Ernie said.
It had been caught in a flood before the family half-stripped it, then abandoned in a paddock until, “it wasn’t worth anything”.
Ernie started work, but “it had rust where we’d never seen rust in a car. Some parts you thought you’d get rust didn’t have it, but others... and it’s all through sitting in the long grass.”
But just as Ernie had second thoughts, Pauline unexpectedly passed away, and the couple felt they had to carry on.
And so the work began, on the most frayed of tight shoestrings, as not long after they started the couple got caught out in a finance company collapse, and they lost their savings. Selling as much as they could, they moved themselves and the two old cars into a rental, and got on with life, and the car.
Ernie cut out areas riddled with tin-worm, and welded patches in. He stripped the paint from stem to stern to the bare metal, using a wire brush on a hand-operated four-inch disc-grinder – he now knows every centimetre of the car intimately – and each panel was painted in undercoat before he moved on.
The couple were gobsmacked by their first paint quotes, so Margaret got on the phone, and eventually took a fragment of glovebox liner still showing some original paint to Papatoetoe Colour Centre, which matched it.
Ernie painted it in the shed with Dulon lacquer paint, which dries instantly, and between coats he dusted it down and ran a tack rag over it. The photo albums show Ernie at work with his hand-operated spray gun, and his patience and attention to detail are reflected in the car’s gorgeous shine.
As for doing up the in-line six-cylinder motor, Ernie knew more about Zephyrs than Vauxhalls, so Margaret sat in the shed and read out from the manual as he stripped, cleaned and replaced the engine from her instructions, “and we did the gearbox the same”. Ernie says it’s amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it. This dynamic duo even upholstered the dash themselves.
Only two items were rechromed, as most of the bits were found here and there; the rear indicator lenses came via Trade Me.
The roof lining is the tidy original, as are the door linings, but the seats were re-upholstered — the only item to be outsourced. Overall, this restoration was a long, slow process, done in fits and starts as the money was found, and the car was finished at last in February 2013.
They immediately drove round to the original owner, now in his 80s, who must have loved it once, “When we pulled it down we found a little notebook, what petrol he’d used, where they’d been, what they’d spent on it, all in pounds and shillings back then.”
The car is used regularly, “even if it’s only to run in to Pukekohe for a haircut, or to get lunch”. Their classics are for when they both go out. “We worked on both cars as a team, and we both love getting in, and going for a run.”
They’ve even driven the Vauxhall to Greymouth — after the 2014 Blenheim rally, returning via Nelson. “This year we’re booked to go to the national rally in Oamaru.”
The car cruises comfortably at 90kph via its three-speed gearbox, and it’s certainly comfy to tour in, especially after Ernie made a wooden cup-holder that sits over the transmission tunnel. That and the radio are the only non-standard parts.
Ernie says their projects are proof you don’t need to spend a fortune restoring cars, though they are unlikely to add more to the stable.
After all, the Ford and Vauxhall bring them full circle — Margaret grew up with these models, and Ernie is now the president of the Vauxhall club, and Margaret the editor and treasurer. “Joining was one of the first things we did, to learn about the car.” And now they’re teaching others. That is, when they’re not going for a drive.