SOME of the world’s ultimate touring automobiles visited Invercargill last week as part of a Bentley private tour of New Zealand.
Among the tourers were Nick Channing and his navigator and classic car enthusiast Ruba Jurdi, both from the United Kingdom, travelling in a distinctive yellow 1936 Lagonda.
Mr Channing, who lives in Surrey, described the 5000km “tour” as more of a relaxed meandering, saying although the tourers were in New Zealand for six weeks they weren’t planning on covering a lot of distance.
“It’s just a gin-and-tonic tour,” he said. “There are not many hours on the road each day… it’s more of a wander.”
Taking his Bentley on an overseas “jaunt” was old hat for Mr Channing, who had already driven his vehicle through India, Nepal, parts of Africa, Vietnam, Laos and most of Europe in the past.
Organised by the Bentley Drivers Club in the UK, this was the sixth tour of New Zealand, with Mr Channing having toured here before in a Silver Ghost Rolls Royce, a Jaguar and the Bentley.
Often described as the ultimate touring vehicle because of its ageless style, size and power, 23 Bentleys are taking part, with about 15 having been shipped in containers to the tour’s starting point in Christchurch from England, Europe, Canada and the United States.
Most were vintage, soft-top convertibles, with one modern Bentley.
Driving here was “lovely”, Mr Channing said, as there was not much traffic, unlike India, where “nobody obeys any traffic rules”.
Before reaching Invercargill, the group had travelled from Christchurch, via Lake Tekapo and Danseys Pass. At the stopover in Dunedin, drivers and passengers took the opportunity to travel on the Dunedin Railways train trip of the Taieri Gorge to Middlemarch and return before driving through the Catlins to Invercargill.
Ms Ruba, who lives in London, said New Zealand was “a beautiful place to drive in… the people are lovely, the food is great…”
As a “big fan of classic cars”, which she wrote about for magazines and also blogged, she said this was the second time she had toured the country with a classic car group, the previous time with a Jaguar club.
“Touring by the sea and mixing with the locals,” were some of her highlights so far.
Next week’s Art Deco Festival in Napier is another event they are looking forward to, especially with the opportunity to see more classic cars and beautiful art deco-style clothes, before heading to the Bay of Islands.