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Motoring mishaps part of vintage journey for Doug

Posted at 8:00am Tuesday 27 Apr, 2021

Doug Hamilton’s Cadillac was considered “too modern” for the 2017 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
Doug Hamilton's Cadillac was considered “too modern” for the 2017 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

Sadly, ignition problems kept Doug Hamilton's Cadillac out of a rally in Mahurangi organised by the Horseless Carriage Club of New Zealand earlier this month.

That meant the Scotts Landing resident was unable to join in with handful of other enthusiasts taking their cars – all built before 1919 – on a jaunt from The Salty Dog Inn in Snells Beach out to Port Albert.

A fun outing, even though most cars had little protection from the weather, which went from grey and damp to a downpour.

Doug, 79, has the oldest car in the Wellsford Warkworth Vintage Car Club and says it's not like having a modern car where you can just hop in and go.

“There is always something to do,” he says.   

And long experience with vintage cars has taught Doug to be philosophical about mishaps.

He was inspired to buy the Cadillac after visiting the United Kingdom in 2013 and watching the famed London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

Doug and his wife Anne decided they would love to enter themselves and bought the Model B from a Melbourne collector, believing it was a 1904 model and therefore eligible for the London to Brighton, which insists cars must be built before 1905.   

The car had an excellent track record of participating in rallies in Australia – at one point winning a re-enactment of an early car run from Melbourne to Sydney.

But a check with factory records revealed Doug's newly purchased car had in fact left the Cadillac factory on January 12, 1905 – twelve days too late.

“The car was disqualified because it was too modern,” Doug says.

Undeterred, Doug succeeded in borrowing a near identical car from an enthusiast in Malta and managed to participate in the 2017 London to Brighton run.

Alas, things did not go well. A quick drive around the back streets of Chelsea the day before the event revealed the car lacked power, but there was no time to investigate the cause.

On the day of the run, the car conked out at Clapham Common. Doug managed to get it going again, but the car only managed to get as far as the south London suburb of Rosehill before failing completely.

Doug and Anne did succeed in completing a “virtual” London to Brighton last year, following the cancellation of the regular event due to Covid-19.

Participants were allowed to pick their own course and the relaxed rules also meant Doug was allowed to use his own car.

Doug and Anne dressed up in period costume and took their Cadillac for a spin up to the Salty Dog for lunch – a short journey that went without a hitch.

Doug, a retired motor mechanic, says he appreciates the simplicity of the car. It features a single cylinder engine, kerosene-powered headlamps and has no windscreen or seatbelts.

He has permitted himself one major modification – the installation of a starter motor – since hand cranking the car has “b*ggered up his shoulders”.    

“It will go 30 miles per hour, but that's a pretty scary speed. It vibrates like hell,” he says.


Rain fails to deter horseless carriages

The Horseless Carriage Club of New Zealand pressed on with a rally in Mahurangi featuring pre-1919 vehicles on Saturday, April 10 despite poor weather.

This 1914 Model T Ford Tourer has been owned by Murray Greig, of Auckland, for more than 20 years. Its average speed is around 50mph and it has a Ruckstell two-speed diff.


Philip and Caroline Henley, of Mission Bay, in their 1906 Cadillac.

Many cars were kept under wraps due to heavy rain, but onlookers could catch a glimpse of some of the cars during a break in the weather before their departure from the Salty Dog Inn.

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