My first year’s worth of involvement with the MV community was to culminate with attendance at the Easter rally, hosted by Taranaki Branch at Stratford. I’d done my research and I’d read about these ‘Easter Rallies’ in back issues of The Bulletin published in pre-Philip Avery times – legendary gatherings of families and friends enjoying companionship and banter about all things MV, olive drab and occasionally armour-plated.
I’d also read the email about the dire weather forecast and was suitably attired in warm clothes, woolly socks and wellies (rhymes with Rallies) as I set off from Auckland towards New Plymouth with Greg Pittams in his 8cwt PJ. Now, I’m not ‘Taranaki Hardcore’ and so a woolly hat and more socks were stowed in various PJ nooks and crannies. (I’d done my research remember!) The first indication that this journey may be a bridge too far came not 100m from home when the 2 tanks of Shell’s finest fuel we just added had an adverse reaction in the engine bay and dear old PJ refused to start. Twelve minutes, much anguish and some swearing later and we were underway on the NW motorway passing the turn-off to the airport at Mangere, the engine purring through the ear-muffs. I did think the fan-belt looked a bit loose. In hindsight, the plane may have been a better option …
We roared up the Bombay Hills and cruised down the other side into a warm Waikato and I’d barely had time to check my text messages of bon voyage from work colleagues when Greg pulled over in Ngaruawahia and announced it was my turn to drive. Te Kuiti here we come! Some things are meant to be and the decision to turn left into the main street ensured we were to chance upon our Branch Chairman parked outside The Warehouse in Te K. The opportunity to purchase shorts to replace the thermals we were wearing was very opportune as was the much-needed lunch, with Peter Yates, at the BP station. The PJ likes BP and with no adverse reaction to full tanks – off we went. No sign of fellow JAFFA’s Vern & Mrs Ballance or Tankboy & Tankgirl, yet.
Onward and upward, out of the King Country and over Mt. Messenger for a welcome whitebait fritter at Mokau before cruising along the Taranaki blacktop, always with Mt. Egmont (I’m Old Skool) in the starboard window leading to a graceful arrival at our accommodation for the weekend at the ideally appointed St. Mary’s school. (an inspired choice by our host branch). We were to view Mokau in a different light on the return journey!
The Thursday evening was spent in the company of new friends led by the irrepressible Kevin Longshaw (aka Long Drop), the ever-busy Mrs. Drop and their daughters The Droplettes. Special thanks to our catering guide, the world-famous Bruce Alexander.
Friday dawned with no sign of a hang-over and Greg & I had made plans for a foray into the Stratford metropolis for breakfast. First we had to get PJ started and a frustrating hour was spent removing the starter motor for campside repairs. Thus we missed the Glockenspiel clock. Never mind, there were three more days. Over bacon & eggs with latte (we are JAFFA’s remember) there was time to wave to various MV’s and crews passing through town. We knew where they were going and before long hands were being shaken and acquaintances being renewed back at base camp. In my case putting faces to names I’d read about was fascinating. Research pays off.
The afternoon was occupied with a Gymkhana at a nearby farm field. Much fun was had during attempts to drop balloons in toilets, drag beer bottles, not sound horns, spear paper cups etc. Congrats to all who managed to hand in completed Gym Slips and score points. A Driver of the Day was decided by a narrow points decision. An appearance by the immaculate Stuart tank of Ross Allen was a highlight and it completed several circuits of the field as well as being much in demand for photo opportunities. Weather was fine, warm and totally at odds with the forecast. So much for research. At the Swap Meet session I persuaded Greg to buy a spare starter motor. We decided to pass on the generator though and came to rue that decision. (Think Mokau)
The evening meal was followed by socialising over beverages (I researched ‘beer’) and more new friends to add to my list. So many names to remember for me. They all only had one newby to memorise.
Saturday dawned fine and warm. Weather forecasting must be an art, not a science! Woollies were packed back into PJ. I was getting the hang of the dining arrangements and breakfast was fun. A convoy was formed and a run up the main street of Stratford drew a large crowd, some applause and many curious locals to the car park display at the Art Centre. Well done to the organisers for the reservation of the car park, pre-publicity and the display in the local Paper Plus shop window. It sure pays to do your research! An off road excursion across the fields, paddocks and tracks of the Marshall’s farm provided the after-lunch entertainment. The drive out there was enjoyably scenic and I was reminded just how beautiful New Zealand can be south of Bombay. MV’s gathered in one field for a display of ballistics from the Stuart which fired five blank rounds. Most impressive! Ian Marshall’s RL Bedford and trailer were in attendance and the Scorpion tank also demonstrated its speed over soft ground. Great fun! Attention to detail and research was continually demonstrated by Taranaki members and First Aider Pam Corpe administered Band Aids to those who needed them as necessary. Thanks Pam.
Substantial dinner preceded the AGM and supper was even more substantial and I was considering researching diets and Gym membership rather than Gymkhanas! More socialising and research of brewing techniques followed.
The Pub Quiz, compared by Ian Jamieson, was won by Team JAFFA as expected ( we don’t travel long distance to return empty–handed you know!) and our gratitude goes to our Quizmaster for his lucid pronunciation and patience with the hard-of-hearing! The huge prize pack of chocolates was nobly shared with our competitor teams.
Sunday was disappointingly fine and sunny. More woollies consigned to the back of the PJ. So much for research! After breakfast we departed base camp for the ‘Observation Run’ around the lanes and by-ways of North Taranaki. Keen eyes and sharp pencils were the order of the morning (There were 5 Pukeko’s on the letterbox but I don’t know how many types of aggregate at the quarry!) and we opened our packed lunches with bleary eyes and blunt pencils. Should have done more research! In the meantime the radiator in the PJ sprung a leak and a bottle of Bars Leaks was pressed into service.
Some participants carried on with the country lanes while others of us chose Plan B and journeyed to the nearby Tawhiti Museum to view a collection of machinery on display owned by Bruce Alexander. This fine gentleman gave us a personal guided tour with running commentary. (Entrance fee $10. Guided Tour – Priceless! ) Thanks Bruce!!
The evening was given over to fancy dress, fools and female impersonators. Well, the dress theme was “M*A*S*H” and some of our younger members qualified for all three categories… Special thanks to the kitchen ladies – not only for their efforts on the catering front but also for being impartial judges in the dress up competition. How do you choose your favourite Radar, Hot-Lips or Klinger etc. ???
More beer research ensued… The prize-giving will be detailed elsewhere in this issue but special mention must be made of the clairvoyant Mr. Long Drop who announced the winner of the Hard Luck trophy as being our very own Greg Pittams for the trials and tribulations involved with starter motors, radiators and fuel problems. How clever is this man for we hadn’t even begun our journey home? (!)
Monday dawned fine and sunny (yawn!) and the JAFFA’s were forced into wearing shorts and Jandals yet again. Giving up on the concept of research by now. In order to ensure some chance of arrival in JAFFA-Land we ‘borrowed’ a fan-belt from the Yates M38A1 and confirmed that Tankboy would follow us up the scenic west coast rather than the central route favoured by most. During the fitment of the fan-belt we discovered the front engine mount to be broken. Anyway…
All was going well until we descended Mt. Messenger and I noticed my feet were getting wet despite the absence of the promised rain and fog. Greg opened the engine hatch and pronounced that the fan was failing to rotate where-upon I pulled over and we made the grim discovery that the generator pulley had split and fallen off. (Remember the Swap Meet decision?)
A short while later (during which we had observed a crack in the front chassis rail between the spring hanger and steering box mounts – eek!) and along came Tankboy and Tankgirl as expected. The towing capability of the Humvee was then demonstrated over a period of seven hours during the journey to Otorohanga , thence to a farm in Kawhia for storage while repairs to the genny were organised. En-route we made several stops to allow the Humvee to cool (Lunch in Mokau was compulsory) and for photographic evidence of our worthiness of the Hard Luck trophy to be collected. A fellow JAFFA was summoned to collect us from Kawhia and we made it home around 11:30pm, thirteen hours after leaving Stratford!
Epilogue: The following Saturday we convened to journey back to Kawhia to collect dear old PJ. All was going well until after breakfast at the Bombay services when we emerged to discover the battery in Greg’s Volvo had failed!! More hard luck. Thank goodness for the AA. Good job I had done my research!