Piha, an iconic surfing beach on the wild west coast, is a short 50 Km drive from the centre of Auckland City.  Famous for its black sand and Lion Rock, Piha is the perfect destination to watch a glorious New Zealand sunset.

At around 4.30pm casual diners at the Greenlane MacDonalds would have noticed a variety of Mercedes Benz cars lining up in the car park and a bunch of enthusiastic people with umbrellas and raincoats chatting away as even more cars arrived. Finally, at 5pm, after all instructions for the drive had been handed out by Pree Lecamwasam, who organised the event, there was a loud rumble from about 25 finely tuned German motors queuing up to get onto the motorway heading west.

Traffic on the motorway was a little busy for a late Saturday and slow due to the inclement weather.  However, that did not impede the younger sportier cars from disappearing from view, before those at the rear had even left the car park.

For me driving my recently restored 1972 350SL, this was an exciting experience, as this was just the 3rd club outing for Carol and I.  A great opportunity to meet new people and share our experiences about owning a Merc.

Once off the motorways and away from the streets of suburbia, the drive became much more interesting.  The winding narrow road ascending into the Waitakere ranges required the driver to pay attention.   I have to say I was very happy with how my 52 year old 350SL handled the corners and the uneven surfaces.

Near the top of the climb, at Waiatarua, a few more club members from Titirangi joined the convoy.   From there, the drive was an easy downhill roll with plenty of tight corners to keep you on your toes.  As we approached Piha, we were treated to an amazing vista of Lion Rock, Piha beach and the sea beyond where surfers were still eagerly bobbing about waiting that big wave.  The steep descent from the lookout took us past the huge washouts still under repair, that occurred when the storm stuck last year.

Arriving in Piha, we parked our cars in front of the Piha Surf Life Saving Club and walked 50 metres onto the beach to view the sunset.   What a fabulous place.  The rain had stopped.  There was no wind and the light coming through the clouds, and refracting on the moving water was something else.

Finally, the need for food and refreshment took over, and the group migrated across the car park to the restaurant/bar above the Surf life saving club – Brothers Beer & Juke Joint BBQ.   Here, we all enjoyed a fabulous view of the sunset from the deck, whilst filling up on tasty food and thirst-quenching drinks.  The service was quick and friendly.  I would definitely go there again.

By 8pm some of us started to depart. It was very dark in Piha, as they don’t have many street lights, making it a bit tricky for some, particularly for those without remotes locking keys, to find our cars.

This was the first time I had driven the 350SL at night and I was a little apprehensive about how effective the old school lights would be.  Everything worked just fine and we followed a local car up the hill at a very slow pace.  Once they turned off, we had an excellent drive back over the Waitakeres, through Henderson and Te Atatu South to join the Northwestern Motorway back to Auckland.   I did hear a camper van  was a bit of a road block for some who left later.

Many thanks to Pree and the other organisers for this event.  I am sure everyone who attended had a great time.  I know Carol and I did.

See you at the next one.

Ross Pengelly

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