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Rare cars and vintage clothes

Walking into the building that houses Pointon Car Museum’s main collection of vintage cars, motorbikes and authentic costumes is a breathtaking experience.

Colourful bunting and vintage signage and banners festoon the ceiling.

The walls are crammed with oil cans, petrol cans, pressure dials, tools, registration plates and antique advertisements.

But it’s what’s on the floor of the World War 1-era barn that holds the eye.

Take Dr John Hardy’s 1924 Studebaker, for example.

Huge, glamorous and sumptuously upholstered and appointed, Dr Hardy was clearly doing quite well for himself when he purchased this particular wagon – brand new – from Baird Ltd.

Surprisingly, nearly 100 years later, it still only has 55,000 miles on the clock.

If the enormity of Studebaker doesn’t take your fancy, how about the slightly more sporty-looking 1918 Model A Essex, which was only in production for four years?

“This car was found on the river bed in Wairoa in 1971,” museum owner Francis Pointon said.

While Francis didn’t have a hand in reviving this particular motor, that’s not the case with the rest of the collection, which consists of over 30 vintage cars and 20 motorbikes he has expertly and lovingly restored.

These include a rare Morgan three-wheeler, which is a work in progress in the workshop near the museum entrance [and quite the talking point for visitors], a 1925 Chrysler, a 1934 Ford, a 1938 Chevrolet and so much more.

This month, the museum – which has the very apt tagline, “more than just a car museum” – and its considerable collection of cars, motorbikes, carefully curated costumes and motoring paraphernalia celebrates its 30th birthday.

It’s a bittersweet anniversary for Francis.

Earlier this year, Gaye, Francis’ wife with whom he had built up the museum over three decades, passed away.

Her “totally unexpected and very sudden” death came after a short illness.

“Really, I should have retired when I was 65. But, jokingly, we said, well, we’ll retire when I’m 75 and then we’ll do lots more rallies and things together,” Francis said.

“But, she didn’t quite make it.”

As reported in the Wairarapa Times-Age 30 years ago, when the Pointons first opened the museum’s doors to the public, Gaye’s special interest and expertise was in saving, mending and curating authentic vintage clothing.

“People don’t want to throw these clothes away,” Gaye was reported as saying. “I feel about clothes the same as Francis does about cars – if somebody doesn’t save them, they’ll be lost forever.”

Gaye would regularly change the clothing on the vintage mannequins in the main exhibition space, creating exhibits based on a particular era, complete with the correct accessories and shoes.

“This has become the biggest problem for me because I haven’t got the artistic talent to do the changing,” Francis said.

But help might be on hand soon.

“We are talking to the Coach House Museum in Feilding, who might take over the ladies’ part of the collection.”

Francis’ lifelong interest in machines, engines and cars started when he was a boy but flourished when he took a farming job in Uriti.

“One of the farmers out there had a huge collection of old wrecks. Unbelievable number of wrecks. I think that started me off,” he said.

“There was just so much stuff out there and they had an incredible workshop.”

‘Incredible’ could be used to describe Francis’ workshop today.

Such is the extent of his collection of spare parts for vintage cars, Francis often supplies a vintage car wholesaler.

“He often approaches me if he needs something. But I don’t have to buy a lot of parts myself, I’ve got so much stuff here now.”

Francis keeps the workshop and the exhibition spaces – which occupy a number of sheds across the Pointon property – immaculate.

It’s no small task. Just dusting the cars and motorbikes takes Francis a couple of hours each week.

As well as maintaining the collection, Francis, who is one of the only local mechanics skilled in vintage machines, is often called upon by garages to help out when older models come in for repair.

But, knowing he “should have retired 10 years ago”, he’s started to put in some boundaries.

“Now if they ring me up and they want something done I say, ‘if the car is not as old as I am, I really don’t want to do it’.”

With Gaye no longer by his side, some days are hard.

“I didn’t realise that she worked so hard till she’s not here,” Francis said. “She did so much, just incredible.”

As well as looking after the museum’s gardens, caring for the clothing collection and making handcrafts for local fairs, Gaye “would cater to most of the visitors to the museum. She would show them through and show them around”.

“If real motoring enthusiasts came, she’d come and get me and I’d go and help. But she did all that. So I used to keep working in the garage and restoring cars and that’s what we’ve always done.”

Despite his sadness, Francis is “determined to keep it going as long as I can, as long as I can look after it. I don’t want it to become dusty.”

Pointon Museum is on McKinstry Ave east of Masterton and open 10am-4pm most days.

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