Ian’s a model car owner

Ian Stratford with his hand-crafted wooden model of a Willy’s-Knight.

Flicking through The News late last month, Te Awamutu’s Ian Stratford got quite the surprise.

“I didn’t realise there were any left in New Zealand.”

But there it was – a photo of Te Awamutu Vintage Car Club member Russell Hutcheson looking over a 1926 Willy’s-Knight at the annual Vintage Car Club (Waikato) fundraiser for the Cancer Society at Cambridge’s McLean St clubrooms.

Russell used to own a 1916 Overland, made by the same company that made the Willy’s-Knight.

Te Awamutu Vintage Car Club (Waikato) member Russell Hutcheson looking over the 1926 Willy’s-Knight in the Cambridge-based clubrooms’ workshop.

And, for Ian, the picture prompted nostalgic memories of a first car which – even 70 years later – still holds a special place in his heart.

So much so, that a couple of years ago, he built a hand-crafted wooden model of one based on photos he looked up on Google.

He dusted it off to show to The News last week.

And, though Ian – a long-standing Te Awamutu woodturners group and Menzshed member – only owned his 1928 Willys-Knight for a little over a year after purchasing it at 18 in 1953, he’ll never forget it.

“I’ve got you a car,” Ian’s father told him on returning home one day.

It had been advertised for sale in Mt Albert and his father brought it back to the family farm in Riverhead in Auckland’s northwest.

“It had a six-cylinder sleeve valve motor which was called the Silent Knight because it was so quiet,” Ian said.

“And its top speed was about 75 miles an hour, or 120kph.”

For £75  – about $95 today – the car was Ian’s.

“And, as a first car, it was just great,” he told The News.

Alec Hutcheson photographed in 1920 by the vehicle in which he transported the then Prince of Wales during his visit to Hamilton.

On the farm, he’d often carry several strategically placed 20-gallon cans of milk around on the running boards.

“It had a canvas roof and a great big wooden steering wheel. Whenever we’d go out driving in town and people in modern cars saw us, they were so surprised as we pulled up alongside them.”

Ultimately, Ian swapped his Willys-Knight with a friend for a 1939 International pickup truck – a decision he regrets.

Ian went on to become a salesman with Craik Motors for 20 years.

He and wife Paulene have been married for more than six decades and have lived in the same house in Te Awamutu for more than 50.

Over time, it’s a home which has proved a wonderland of sorts for their adoring grandchildren.

At one stage, Ian even built two go-karts out of old bicycle parts so the grandchildren could “have a whale of a time” whizzing around a track he had shaped in the back yard.

His passion for wood turning – and working with his hands – first started about 20 years ago, he said, and he’s since crafted everything from vases to tables.

“He’s always been good at that,” Paulene said. “He’s a fantastic wood turner.”

The idea to build the wooden model of the Willy’s-Knight came one day as Ian looked over two other wooden model cars he had purchased – and now take pride of place in his lounge.

“I looked up photos of Willy’s-Knights on the computer and thought ‘I reckon I could make a model of one of these’”.

Finding the wheelbase measurements online, Ian then “scaled it down” to fit the model size he wanted.

The finished result – which took him about two months – features a cherry wood roof, a bonnet made from wood Ian obtained from a chopped down feijoa tree in the backyard and matai mud guards.

“Actually, getting those mud guards and the wheel spokes right was probably the most intricate part,” he said.

He hasn’t yet decided what his next wood turning project will be, but reckons there’s nothing quite like time in his happy place.

“Whenever I’m working on any wood turning project, the most enjoyable part for me is the process of seeing something taking shape,” he said.

See: A very good vintage …..

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