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A whole lot of vintage cars and more at Southward Car Museum

The automotive treasure of Wellington, New Zealand

A Bugatti Type 57 is just one of the many priceless cars here. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Casual tourists think of hobbits, cows, cafés, and endless greenery when they think of New Zealand, but visit Wellington if you want to get your fix of automotive history.

Opened to the public in 1979, the Southward Car Museum has an exhibition hall covering 4,400sq-m and with over 500 vehicles ranging from vintage cars to modern icons, from motorcycles to bicycles, and from fire engines to airplanes.

It was the brainchild of Sir Len Southward and his wife Lady Vera, who began collecting cars in 1956.

An ardent racer, Southward started in the New Zealand motor industry way back in 1919, working as a messenger for a motor warehouse. Eventually, he would set up a motorcycle repair business and take up speedboat racing, becoming the first Australasian to travel at over 160km/h on water.

'You can have any color as long as it's black'. The iconic Ford Model T. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
This barn-find Model T was the very first in the collection. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Their very first vintage car was a Ford Model T. You can find it along the row of similar cars of that era, but the car has been kept in the condition in which it was bought as a reminder of how it all began.

Through the ’50s and the ’60s, the collection grew and grew until it was decided to establish the museum. About an hour’s drive from the city center, close to State Highway 1 north of Paraparaumu, tickets are just NZ$15 or you can get a family pack for NZ$50 (good for four).

Grilles were so awesome back in the day. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The coming of the jet age was a clear influence on the 1951 Studebaker Commander. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Do you know this 1939 Lincoln-Zephyr? PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Cadillac Series 60 Gangster Special, complete with bulletproof doors, windows, and a windshield you could open to shoot out of. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
When limos were built like tanks. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The ’70s saw weird three-wheelers like this Tippen Delta. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
And this futuristic Bond Bug, too. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
A Trabant, a Carver One, and a De Havilland Vampire. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The vintage bike collection includes BSAs, Harleys, Nortons, Indians, and more. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Very cool, but must be atrocious to ride. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
A Ford 350 V8 on a chopper. Why not? PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Wonder how it must be like to drive this behemoth? PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
A nice collection of '90s-era performance cars. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The Dodge Viper R/T 10 was once a popular car. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
This Dodge Prowler was a turnkey 'hot rod' that flopped. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
One of Ken Block's rally cars is here. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
A '70s-era Begg FM5 01. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
A 1962 Brabham BT6 Prototype. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Race cars back in the day were so clean and elegant. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
We wonder how much the insurance goes not just for this Rolls-Royce but for the entire collection. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
A couple of old fire engines are in the basement. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The place is air-conditioned, well-lit, and lovingly maintained by the staff. Walking along the hall and gawking at each and every vehicle is like having those cars one only read about in childhood books come to life. If you’re planning a vacation in New Zealand, put this one in your itinerary.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.