The 16th March 1963 was the day that the W113 pagoda top roadster was introduced to the world. Rallies were being planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the occasion in different countries all around the globe.
It is well known that Lloyd Marx is very passionate about the Mercedes Benz marque, especially this particular model. Lloyd felt that New Zealand should not miss this opportunity and that because of our time zone we would be the first country to start the celebration. He had a data base for the whereabouts of a good number of these cars.
Armed with this information I contacted the various owners to find that most of them had a similar passion and that most would be keen to take part in a two day rally. I then sought the help of Garry Boyce to set the format and find suitable overnight accommodation. It was decided that the Waikato Peat Lake District not only had some great views but had a number of interesting roads that are not very well known. The Coromandel Peninsular has perfect rally roads so it was to be Whitianga for the night, a drive up Rod Millen’s Leadfoot Ranch driveway in the morning and Thames via Coromandel for a late lunch on Sunday.
Saturday was fine and a little overcast, just perfect for hood down motoring for the rally, with four cars starting from Hamilton, and twelve from Drury. I had promised that all of the roads were sealed, but wouldn’t you know it, just days before our event two separate sections of majors road works had been started, necessitating in some tippy toe negotiating to protect valuable paintwork.
The team from Hamilton passed through Solid Energies Rotowaro Mine area and were surprised at what has been done to turn an open cast mine devastation back into landscape many times better than what it ever was beforehand (I wonder how many Greenies have ever been there).
It was at the junction of Rotongaro that the route instructions for both starts put all cars on the same road past some of the 31 lakes in this region.
The Waikato River was crossed at Rangiriri to travel a very short distance on Highway 1 before turning off for Te Kauwhata. As the road sign states it was a most Scenic Drive around the eastern side of Lake Waikare before the straight and flat roads of the Hauraki Plains to Woodlands near Gordonton for our lunch break. In front of the Woodlands Café is the Fletcher Oval cricket ground where we lined the up cars for our photo shoots. All entrants were requested to vote for the car that they would most like to drive home in. An interesting fact was the difference in length of ownership which ranged from Jeanette Henry who took delivery of her 280SL when it was new to just Wayne and Loraine Marmont who have had their 230SL just two weeks. The second interesting fact was that it was each of these cars were at the top of the voting with the Marmont 230SL taking the prize. The enthusiasm and passion at being part of this event was such that after lunch and all of the photography was completed most of the team seemed reluctant to leave when it was time to set off for the afternoon run to Whitianga. We set off over more Hauraki Plains to Paeroa via Tahuna. It was then to be all picturesque and winding roads for the balance of the afternoon, firstly the Karangahake Gorge to Waihi, and then Highway 25 to Whitianga. Garry had chosen Marina Apartments not only because of their quality accommodation but also included was covered garaging. After everybody had checked in there was time to relax and change clothing. It was just a short walk to the local hotel for pre-dinner drinks before a five star dinner in their Salt restaurant.
While heavy rain was forecast for Sunday, we woke to a fine drizzle. Whitianga has many good cafés, with most of them getting checked out for breakfast. It was unfortunate that Harald and Vivian Decker had to go home early but Howard Mackley not being able to make it for Saturday came down from Auckland to join us for the day.
The Leadfoot Ranch at Hahei is a 30 minute drive. We were met by Rod Millen who escorted us firstly through his barn, and then up his famous one mile driveway to the site of his planned new house. His barn contained a number of cars he has raced over the years and also other interesting vehicles and nostalgic items. The stunning view from his house site looks out to the Pacific Ocean from a rocky bay. The cameras got a good work out and although it was still drizzling, nobody was in a hurry to leave. It was a little unfortunate that it was ‘windscreen wipers’ all the way to the Tastebud Café, opposite the Thames airfield, for lunch. The atmosphere at lunch was like that of a very large family at a reunion, and the request was made by a good number of the participants to have such an event annually with volunteers to assist with the planning.
While lunch was planned as being the conclusion of the event, the internet took over for the next week with the various members of the team exchanging photographs etc. Most rewarding for Lloyd, Garry and myself.