John Grant’s 1st encounter

Before the NW motorway was opened in 1956, the Northern Sportscar Club organised a standing quarter-mile sprint followed by a flying quarter mile sprint along the new motorway near the Te Atatu offramp. I went along on my pushbike, having recently arrived in NZ and living at the top of the Waikumete Hill. This was where I saw my first Peugeot 203. Ron Roycroft had brought one along as well as his Bugatti. It was actually his wife’s car. Campbell Motors had given it to them as a discount when they bought an Alfa P3B to compete in the Grand Prix.

When I came to NZ, my first rally efforts were in a Standard 10 which I owned for a few months to do up. I joined to the MG Car Club, but the MG itself became unsuitable for reliability trials, which in those days were likely to be 12-24 hour events. I had limited success with the Standard 10. It was reliable enough but being a typical English car, the brakes were minute and they never lasted the route – even if they were adjusted halfway.

In 1956 I bought what was to be the first of many Peugeots. It was a 1954 203C with 40,000 miles on the clock. By the time I sold it in 1967 we had covered over a quarter of a million action-packed miles and I had become a lifetime fan of Peugeot handling and reliability.

The Peugeot 203 was great. We competed in both the North and South Islands. Peter Elford or John Dowling were my usual navigators and we were often placed in the first half dozen. I never won any of the really big ones, but we came close enough to keep us really keen.

Initially I tried to keep the mileage down on the 203 and used the Standard 10 as it was a little peppier, being a smaller car with almost the same size engine. It didn’t handle, steer or stop as well as the 203, but I had no compunction about drilling holes in it for extra lights etc. For the year or so I had it, we tended to alternate the use of the two cars.

The 203 was used for towing the racing car as well as for trialling. The engine was very slightly modified. We took the plate off the head behind the distributor and made an inlet manifold on that side. It was an approved factory modification which made it into a true crossflow motor. This made it go very much better. It revved a lot sweeter and it made about 10mph difference to the top speed without affecting fuel economy. We added a Weber twin choke carburettor too. The only disadvantage was that it occasionally iced in winter, which was the reason it hadn’t been done that way in the first place although the Darl’mats were modified in that way.

Basically the 203 was always absolutely reliable. It only had one failure at about 250,000 miles. Coming back from Napier one Sunday afternoon after one of the Blossom Rallies, a universal broke at 75mph near Te Puke. All of a sudden there was an almighty crash from under the car. My first thought was that I had broken a crankshaft or a conrod so my foot went on the clutch smartly and we coasted to a stop. To my surprise and relief the engine was turning over sweetly when we stopped.

The universal is out of sight inside the torque tube, so it took a while to figure out why we had no drive. Maurice Washer Motors in Te Puke serviced some local Peugeot taxis and had it back on the road by the following afternoon and I flew back down to pick it up. This was the day after the plane crash in the Kaimais.

I sold the car in 1967 as I was going overseas and got almost as much as I had paid for it. It made such a lasting impression on me that when I had the opportunity to buy a 1955 203C in 1990, I did not hesitate very long – and all I have had to do to it is to give it some cosmetic improvements. It still rides and handles extremely well for a car older than my sons.

Looking for Peugeot 504 in good condition

I am currently looking to purchase a Peugeot 504.  Any model in good condition considered.

Edmund McWilliams <>


[This information came from the F.O.M.C.]

In addition to the forecast threat to fossil fuel supplies in the emerging age of electric cars, finding the replacement parts to keep our prized classics roadworthy is becoming increasingly onerous.
Tracking down the bits needed to complete a restoration or pass a mechanical inspection can be part of pleasure for some heritage vehicle owners. But for others the failure to find needed spares or services can result in frustration and sometimes even the long term abandonment of a still viable project.
Of course the problems finding the parts needed to restore or repair classic or vintage vehicles are not confined just to New Zealand but are shared right around the world.
So late last year FIVA (the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens) entered into a global partnership with an online platform to provide members with access to highquality historic vehicle parts, tyres and wheels on an international scale.
The agreement between FIVA and classicparts4you was signed on 18 November 2017 and it is planned for the site to go live just a few months from now, with its usefulness and reach increasing over time. A worldwide federation of historic vehicle owners, FIVA’s members include New Zealand through the Vintage Car Club. As well as offering access to high-quality appropriate parts for older vehicles, the classicparts4you website is also planning to assist enthusiasts by providing a database of specialised workshops and garages, as well as producers, experts and assessors
Senior Vice President of FIVA, Dr Mario Theissen said: “This ambitious and exciting project will have far-reaching benefits for a huge number of classic vehicle enthusiasts around the globe. Our key aim is to ensure that high-quality components are readily available for the widest possible range of classic cars, motorcycles and commercial vehicles.”
To directly address the same problems here in New Zealand the executive of FOMC has been developing a project to compile a similar national database of parts suppliers and repair service providers.
We propose to work with member clubs to accumulate the details of reliable individuals or firms known to undertake work needed to preserve or restore historic and heritage vehicles in their areas. This information will be included in a national register of firms and tradespeople involved in the repair or restoration of historic and heritage vehicles and made available to member clubs for the benefit of their members.
Similar research in the United Kingdom by our sister organisation the FBHVC found the heritage motor industry contributed $10 billion a year to the national economy and was a significant earner of overseas funds. With the help of our member clubs, the FOMC hopes to demonstrate heritage motoring in New Zealand is not just a hobby but a major generator of jobs and economic activity which justifies appropriate Government support and exemption from or further reductions in the various costs and fees inflicted on classic motorists.


[To the tune of ‘KANSAS CITY’]

We picked up our new Peugeot on a Friday,
By Saturday we’d learned a thing or two.
‘Cause up to then we didn’t have an idee
Of what the modern car was coming to.
Seatbelts we were used to, but airbags were new,
The windscreen wipers started on their own.
Somewhere a computer is hidden out of view
And it’s even got its own car telephone.

Ev’rything’s up to date on our new Peugeot,
They’ve gone about as far as they can go.
You can turn the radiator on whenever you want some heat
With ev’ry kind of comfort this new car is quite complete
You can open boot & bonnet now and never leave your seat
They’ve gone about as far as they can go
Yes sir
They’ve gone about as far as they can go.

Ev’rything’s like a dream in my new Peugeot
It’s fast and smooth and quiet don’t you know.
The doors have central locking for the front and for the back
The agents will supply you fast with any parts you lack
You can drive it in a hillclimb or around a racing track
And push it just as fast as it will go
Yes sir
We’ll push it just as fast as it will go!

Driving is a dream in my new Peugeot
I pushed it just as fast as it would go.
The rev counter’s before me but I don’t know what it means
The tyres are fairly howling as the whole car sideways leans
I wonder if those flashing lights are real or in my dreams?
I think the cops may want me to go slow
Yes sir!
I’ve gone too fast in public don’t you know.



I was recently reminded of an occasion when I had a problem with water in the sump of a 203. I feared it was a blown head gasket but it turned out to be a leaky liner seal.
I fixed it with the aid of RISLONE BLOCK SEAL which is available from Repco and I thought it might well be worth telling others that this can save stripping an engine down.
John Grant


Not many people these days get personally involved in overhauling engines, which may make these ‘Ten Commandments’ even more useful for the novice at his first attempt.

1. Thou shalt remove the ring ridge before pulling the piston lest thou render thy pistons unfit to hold oil or compression.

2. Thou shalt remove with hot soapy water every last trace of dirt or abrasive material before assembly, or verily the owner shall later return and beat thee with rods in anger that his new rings so rapidly wore out.

3. Thou shalt make sure that the piston ring gaps are spaced an equal distance apart and arranged so that there is no gap over the piston ring boss and all the drain holes in the pistons are clear lest the job haunt the owner with a pillar of smoke all the days of his life.

4. Thou shalt follow closely the manufacturer’s instructions concerning ring and bearing fits, piston clearances and the like, for this is indeed the only true gospel and the way to real peace of mind.

5. Thou shalt not fit piston pins too loosely or too tightly, lest it causeth the motor to make the sound of many hammers, requiring the job to be done again without the benefit of shekels.
6. Thou shalt not stretch the rings over the piston without a ring installer, nor fling thy pistons into the bores without a ring compressor, or verily will both the rings and thy reputation be damaged.

7. Thou shalt NOT reuse the old head gasket. Cast it from thee as though it were a pestilence – drape it not upon the top of thy locker, but drop it into a container for rubbish.

8. Thou shalt use a torque wrench to tighten thy bearing caps and head bolts all the days of your life for this is the only true path to substantial reward.

9. Thou shalt not start the engine that is so stiff the starter will not turn it. Verily does this mean that thou hast sinned in thy fittings and clearances therefore I say “retrace thy steps in order to discover in what manner thou hast sinned.”

10. Thou shalt use a light oil until the rings are seated in or they may NEVER seat in, then the cylinder head shall be anointed with oil for evermore and the owner shall bring down curses and the wrath of the Department of Consumer Affairs upon thy head.


Modern parents are afraid to let their children roam,
Not even on the daily trek to school and back to home.
In their own youth some rode a bike while most just used their feet.
Good exercise was earned each day just walking on the street.

But now we see a waiting throng outside each school’s front gate.
Parental cars all ready, hoping their kids won’t be late.
For even after school today the children are not free
They go to netball, scouts or squash, swimming or rugby.

Today the traffic is obscene; the roads are choked and slow.
You need to multiply the time to get from go to whoa.
The bus lanes and the bike lanes are attempts to ease the crush
But only staying home will make much diff’rence to the rush.

Crawling round a roundabout, then stop/start down the straight.
Everybody driven by the fear of being late.
Impatient drivers duck and dive but seldom make a gain
That’s worth the stress and agro that’s involved in changing lanes.

The radio informs us of disasters on the way
Advising us of detours to reduce the new delay.
A breakdown or an accident can cause us all to stop
While sirens sound the message “Let me through for I’m a cop”

First Encounters: John Grant and the 203

The first Peugeot I owned was a 1955 French assembled 203C which I bought at 30,000 miles for about £200 after I had been in NZ for a year. I needed it for everyday use and to tow my MGTC on an A-frame to race -meetings as it had become too highly tuned to drive on the road.
It proved very reliable – just kept going and going. It cruised and stopped very well – even when towing – something you could not say about a lot of its contemporaries. I started trialling it in the winters and my navigator, John Dowling, and I saw most of the back roads in the North Island as we entered Trials organised not only by the MG and Auckland Car Clubs but by others in Northland, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu etc.
We ALWAYS finished.
However we were not often in the top ten as there were just the two of us while serious rally competitors had a team of four – driver, navigator, time keeper and map reader. Keeping on course could be a real problem as the instructions were often designed to mislead. As timing was vital, if you went off course and had to backtrack, it was very difficult to make up the time – often impossible within the speedlimits. In addition there were frequently secret checks – on and off the correct route – which would record the passing and time of all entrants. However we had a lot of fun and as petrol was only about 2/- per gallon in those days it was not even too expensive, particularly as we usually stayed in cabins in camping rounds. We never actually slept in the car, even though that model had seats designed to lay back for that purpose.
After I had owned it for a year, I got Campbell Motors to bring a special inlet manifold out from France. The carburettor had twin chokes, one on either side, and that increased the top speed by 10mph – up to 85mph.
The only mechanical failure it suffered was near Te Puke on the way home after a rally. The universal joint blew apart and as that was in the days well before cellphones, we had to knock on a door and ask to use their telephone to ring the AA. A towtruck came out from Te Puke and towed the car to Maurice Washer Motors while we went back to Auckland by train. Campbell Motors sent down a new universal which they fitted and I flew down to the Mount and then took the bus to Te Puke to pick the 203 up. This had been the same weekend as the DC3 crash in the Kaimais and the airline subsequently became very wary of flying in cloud.
Many of the roads we used were not even gravel. Let alone sealed; real mudplugging. I had thoroughly rustproofed the car but inevitably the stone chips accumulated, so I got Ivan Cranch to repaint it and change the colour from its original grey to a pale blue – just as I have had done to my present 1955 203C which I acquired in 1992. [Its chassis number is about 100 cars later and it has had several changes, eg wider springs].
I sold this first 203 in January 1967 as I was going overseas for a year or two. I took it to the Grey Lynn Testing Station to get the required WoF – and a front spring broke at the centre bolt while they were slamming on the brakes. We pulled the car out of the way and I went into Queen St to Campbell Motors, bought a new spring of the correct size, took it back to the testing station, and as I always had my toolkit on board, was able to fix it on the spot – and get the new WoF. The new owner then drove me and my luggage down to the Arcadia to see me off on February 10th 1967.
A day or two later I met Jeanette on board – but that is another story.
About 15 years later, I was In Wiri on business and saw the car. I went into the office and found it still belonged to the guy I had sold it to. I had increased its mileage from 30,000 to 280,000 miles – without doing any work on the engine. He was living at Swanson and driving to work at Wiri every day so it had been round the clock a couple of times more. All he had done to it was one new tyre, and new spark plugs and points in the distributor. I’d like to see a modern car match that!


TIME – 4pm on August 19th
PLACE – Armstrong Motor Group – 227 Gt South Rd
COMMITTEE – The current committee members have all indicated their willingness to stand again, but Don & Wynne Howarth have made it clear that this will be the last year for them. Don has been on the committee in one role or another since 1990 and Wynne has been secretary since 1995.
John Grant has been on the committee since 1979 and Jeanette has been doing the newsletter/magazine since 1982, so I really really think it is time we had more new blood on the committee.
You don’t need to be nominated. You can actually volunteer.
Contact Brent or any other committee member if you would like to help.

After the election of officers, the Treasurer’s Report will be presented and the fees set for the coming year. No increase is anticipated. One major item to discuss at the AGM is the fate of the website. Contact Wynne if you want any other item/s added to the Agenda.
The trophies will be presented.

President’s Ramble – July 2018

Most Julys the committee is gearing up for the AGM and I am telling you to be there. This July you have more notice, the AGM will be in August. We are being hosted by Armstrong Motor Group at the Peugeot showroom in Greenlane, Sunday 19 August 2018, 4pm. Please put aside this time and come and attend, we look forward to you joining us there.
On the subject of Peugeots I have been enjoying the latest Peugeot SUV advertisements on television. A lot better than some of the competitors. The grapevine is telling me that the 3008 is selling well from Southern Autos and they are receiving great feedback from their new owners.
I recently had a minor repair and got my warrant for the 505 from Auto France, David informs he is looking for a new workshop, rising rents are not working in his favour. Watch their advert in the magazine to find out where he lands, it may even initially be from his house in Clarks Beach. I can tell you the same is happening for the Department of Conservation who are also shifting from their offices in Carlaw Park to the Bledisloe building, apparently not as well set up, but so much more affordable. The staff aren’t looking forward to the shift, but at least our taxpayer money is going to go further. I guess that should be no surprise to those of us who are Aucklanders and have heard so many stories about the residential market; the commercial market has similar drivers as well.
`I am a little unsure what to think about the regional fuel tax, 10 cents for the region to spend, add GST and the government gets another 1.5 cents. It is no wonder they are willing to pass more Regional Fuels taxes in the future. I will certainly be looking to fuel up whenever I am returning home whilst close, but not too close to Auckland. The already relatively cheap prices in Morrinsville will be looking that much better again! The only question is how do I get all of my vehicles there at once! Don’t get me wrong, I believe something needs doing to fight Auckland’s traffic issues, and for someone who is commuting each day having a viable train and bus service is a must, and dedicated cycleways – if used – which I believe they are increasingly so, are good for the health of the nation, both in that the cyclists are getting good healthy exercise and they are kept away from the hazards and costs of battling traffic. However I am not sure that the government should really get a second bite of the cherry pie, why should there be taxes on taxes? This of course is nothing new, GST has applied to all of the past taxes on fuel, road user charges for diesel vehicles and applied to all of the various levies on cigarettes, fire service levies on your insurances, ACC levies on your vehicle registration and goodness know what other products too.
Granted I haven’t complained particularly about them all in the past, just this time it feels like maybe it is a step too far, at least that is my opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining specifically about the current Labour led government, this is an issue that runs through many decades of Governments from both sides of the political spectrum. I’m just thinking that some of these levies and GST attraction perhaps need some rethinking and made exempt, just like bank fees do.
Anyway that’s enough, enjoy your July, see you at Armstrongs in August.