Me & My Car: Riley Elf fulfils a fantasy
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Jon Reeves is an account manager at NZME.
What are you driving?
My Riley Elf is a Mk III from 1967. It was built in Newmarket by Dominion Motors (at the Farmers building that was recently demolished). I purchased it in 2006 from an old gentleman in Pahiatua. I am the fourth owner. The first owned it in Pahiatua from 1967 until 1983 when she gave up driving. The second owner, also in Pahiatua, owned it until 1999. By that stage it was getting mechanically sad. It is a four-seater, though I had six people in it once. It had no heater but I managed to find a 60s Mini heater while living in Europe and had it fitted a couple of years ago.
Why an Elf?
As a teenager I always liked the shape of the Elf, but I was into Holden Toranas then. For some reason, on one of my stints living in Switzerland and France, I thought I must buy an Elf when I return to New Zealand. I found it in 2006. Green is a favourite colour so I guess that’s why this one caught my eye.
Are you more of a classic than new car fan?
I do prefer classic cars as their style was conceived by humans, not computers. The hydro-elastic suspension means it floats well on rough surfaces. Though with original 10in wheels, I am always on the lookout for pot holes.
How often do you drive it?
Usually a couple of times a week. Old British cars hate to be parked up for long. I work in advertising and a few clients like it when I turn up to meetings in it. I am constantly receiving waves, smiles, thumbs up and positive comments from the public. People seem to be attracted to their unusual shape. Most don’t realise it’s the deluxe version of the classic Mini.
Is it easy to park?
It’s incredibly easy to swing into car parks, and sneak through gaps.
Have you done any work on it?
When I purchased it, the long drive from near Dannevirke to Auckland highlighted the cooling system and engine needed work. I have had the engine reconditioned, the gearbox rebuilt (and had synchromesh fitted into first gear) and a new radiator.
How does it fit your personality?
It’s quirky. It’s unassuming, but it does stand out from the crowd.
Any other vehicles?
A Peugeot 2008, Peugeot 207, a Ford Territory for towing my boat, and a 1965 Thames Freighter.
What do you keep in the Elf?
A few CDs, an old school map, driving gloves for winter, and some upper cylinder lubricant for when I purchase petrol.
My first car was a 1974 Holden Torana Plus 4 when I lived at my parents in Birkdale. I spent a lot of money putting in a fully worked 202 six-cylinder engine, five-speed gearbox and expensive mag wheels on it. It was stolen on my 21st birthday from outside my house. Last I saw of it was a police camera photo of it heading north through Kamo.
Who piqued your interest in cars?
Dad was into Model T and A Fords. My brother and I got the car bug from him. My brother has larger UK cars (Humber Super Snipes). I have the underpowered UK vehicles.
Any vehicles you’ve regretted selling?
In Switzerland I owned a 1997 Ford Puma — a great small sporty car that never came to New Zealand. I’d like to have one of those again. Who taught you to drive?
Dad patiently taught me when I was 15 in his long wheel base 1981 Ford Econovan. If you can learn to drive and do a three-point turn in that, you can drive anything. I did give his van a dent or two.
What irritates you most about other drivers?
They don’t realise the gap I leave in front of me is because old cars need more space to stop. Drum brakes are not disc brakes.