Shared by: Martin Males
On February 3, 1931 a devastating earthquake struck the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand’s north island, destroying the city and port of Napier. With vision and foresight Napier was rebuilt in grand Art Deco style. In 1988, the Art Deco Trust hosted a weekend to celebrate the architecture and all things associated with the era. Shops opened selling period clothing for elegant ladies and dapper gentlemen as well as period and reproduction accessories and collectibles. Thirty years on, the Art Deco weekend has established itself in the social calendar with events including prohibition parties, depression suppers, open air theatre and concerts, Gatsby picnics, themed restaurant dinners and much more. You can hire your own 1920/30s vintage car, chauffeur driven or self-drive.
The main event on Saturday afternoon is the grand parade, three hundred plus pre-1945 vehicles drive through the semi-pedestrianised city centre. The first cars ferrying local dignitaries and high ranking naval personnel (the Navy having played a big part in search and rescue aft the 1931 earthquake), followed by cars loaded with ‘bathing’ belles, flapper girls and suitably attired gentlemen. Shop staff, bar tenders and locals all join in, visitors and spectators are encouraged to do likewise. The pre-1945 vintage car movement in New Zealand is huge and the parade is expertly choreographed by the Hawkes Bay Vintage Car Club. Much American interest here, with the majority of vintage vehicles coming from US manufacturers of yesteryear. The Hawkes Bay Club alone has two hundred Ford Model A’s on its register; other marques include Duesenberg, Cadillac, Lincoln, Chrysler, Studebaker, Packard, Auburn, Cord and so on. European interest came from Lagonda, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and Delage.
This year, to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Art Deco weekend, 30 of the best cars in New Zealand were invited to head the parade and partake in five days of touring. New Zealand, with a population of only 4.5 million people, excelled, providing: a 1934 Duesenberg purchased new by the famous actress and wife of Clarke Gable, Carole Lombard; a 1934 Cadillac V16 originally owned by Marlene Dietrich; a Packard Super 8 built for the aviatrix and Packard ambassador, Amelia Earhart. A very rare 1934 Bugatti Gangloff arrived, unfortunately its owner was otherwise engaged. Our very good friend David was asked to be custodian and driver for the five days. This meant we would have to replicate the situation with his, fabulous looking and glorious sounding, 1938 V12 Lagonda, a firm favourite with the crowds. It was an absolute privilege to have taken part in this unique festival. Should you find yourself in Napier, even outside of the ‘Deco’ week; having arrived by cruise ship, on a tour or just driving through; pick up the appropriate apparel from Charleston Chic, hire a genuine 1920/30s automobile from Hooters-Hire website and with the scene set, tour the city, visit one of the many wineries and partake in the numerous events. You will be transported back to the era of romance and glamour.