1969 Trekka: Sit up and beg for earplugs
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Peter Lloyd bought his 1969 Trekka about two years ago, from Winston Matthews at the Matthews Vintage Collection museum, 5km north of Taipa.
He wanted a Trekka because, “it was the only vehicle New Zealand mass-produced, and we didn’t have one in the Vintage Car Club in the top of the North Island. There are only 27 registered and on the road in NZ and some aren’t really used”.
Dig a little further, and you’ll find Lloyd has a history with this quirky vehicle that goes back to when it was still in production, before 1970.
“I had one as a work runabout, brand new. I was a heavy engineering foreman and that was my work car,” he says.
This Trekka was in sad condition when Lloyd bought it, with tired or missing paint, rust and an engine sitting in the rear tray.
“It was recognisable but not tidy.”
He had to replace the body from the waistline down, as it was rotten. It was not an easy job, given the swage lines. He undertook the task with help from the crew at Silverdale Panelbeaters Ltd, along with redoing the door tops.
The colour isn’t as original, he just liked it. And it isn’t the original engine, though it came from another Trekka.
“The whole running gear and chassis are out of a 1960s Skoda Octavia. They kept building them until 1990 in a little truck version, so you can still get mechanical bits out of the Czech Republic, if you speak the language. When it comes to the body there’s no option, you’ve got to make it, which isn’t hard.”
It’s fairly basic. “The body panels were pressed by H J Ryan, the outfit that did the Morrison motor mowers, over in Mt Roskill. They were assembled in the factory at Otahuhu, where Fiat and VW were assembled. It’s still there and intact, I think, Car Haulaways uses it to store overseas cars.”
Somewhere during Lloyd’s Trekka saga he bought another, a wreck, from Hawera.
“It was so rusty you could see through it, but it had some good parts, including the BT diff, designed and altered in New Zealand to give a little 4WD ability in the paddocks.
“When I finished pulling bits off, it had only two wheels, though it did have a gearbox, steering and front suspension. I put it on Trade Me and got $110 for it — and it would have cost me $50 to take it to the wrecker!”
Overall, he got enough bits to get it back into full working order.
His Trekker still had the windscreen and windows, cut in NZ but easy to replace as they’re flat. The seats – which were usually vinyl-covered – were fairly rotten, so he repaired them and had them recovered.
The instruments are all the original Skoda ones and they still work. That said, there aren’t many to go wrong. “And who knows if the odo is correct, it read 32,100 miles [51,660km] when I registered it two months ago.”
That’s when he finished it. Since then it hasn’t gone far. It is, as I found out, far too noisy to want to go far in it. The cabin is roomy enough, but there’s no sound-proofing, not even lining for the doors.
“There’s no insulation, it’s just tin, and it’s square,” he says.
Lloyd’s tempted to put a quieter muffler on, though the current set-up is welded in one piece, so that’s not a small job.
He uses the Trekka as they were originally used, as a workhorse. When his sheep were sheared, “I took the bales of wool to the wool buyer in it.”
Driving takes a bit of thought at first. The shift pattern for the four-speed transmission is reversed, “So first is where third usually is.”
Those gears work on a 1200cc engine, which drives only the rear wheels, and it’s geared so low it gets along in top gear most of the time.
There are no modern features, and even the seatbelts are lap only.
“You can’t have lap-diagonals because of the fibreglass canopy,” says Lloyd.
Stopping is easy, with hydraulic drums all round, and the ride from the coil front suspension — “torque tube with a singing arm out back, like a Triumph Herald” — felt okay during our admittedly brief drive. You sit high, as if poised to fire over the bonnet at a sudden stop, but it’s the sheer noise you are most aware of.
There’s not much to distract you inside the cabin. Three switches operate a heater fan (all South Island Trekkas had heaters), the wiper and the choke — that’s it. The pull start is on the firewall, by the floor, and the indicators on a steering wheel-mounted stalk.
Lloyd’s Trekka started life in the Waikato, but he knows no more than that this is the original rego. He’s always keen to hear from anyone who recognises it, and may be able to fill in some more of its history.