Passionate British Car Museum founder passes
Ian Hope, motor mechanic and long-time resident and property owner along the Cape Coast who created and curated ‘the largest collection of British motor vehicles in the world’, passed away on Sunday June 16, 2019.
His passion for Morris Minors, initially handed down from family members, turned into a classic collection of British cars that soon outgrew its original Te Awanga showroom to overfill an old kiwifruit packhouse in East Rd, Haumoana.
Ian Hope first moved into Pipi St, Te Awanga in 1973 after completing his apprenticeship at Baillie Motors in Hastings and working for Hibbert and Mathers in Havelock North. He purchased what had been Tim Hollis’s grocery store on Clifton Rd and converted the premises into Ian Hope Motors, where he kept local and visiting motorists on the road engaging in his trade repairing motor vehicles, completing warrants of fitness and operating the Europa petrol bowsers. When BP wanted to charge him $70,000 to upgrade the petrol bowsers, he decided to end that part of his business and leased his garage to Jim Lord who operated as a motor mechanic before taking over from competitor Brian Emerson down the road at Haumoana Motors.
Hope was designated the local Civil Defence representative and over time purchased several neighbouring commercial premises. From 1975 he took on a lawn mowing contract for the Hastings City Council, mowing all the verges and public lawns from Clifton to Haumoana until the council took over. When his mechanic moved on, Hope transformed the premises of his former mechanical business to house his growing collection of British cars, including a number of Morris Minors he acquired from older family members. The museum opened on 14 July 1995 with 36 cars, including 18 Morris Minors. Converted Packhouse He then learned the K Pac Packhouse, a kiwifuit packing shed in East Rd built on the site of a former trotting stables was coming up for sale in 1998, so he put in a bid. The massive building next to Keighleys Poultry farm had employed 90 people at its peak until root stock was sold offshore undermining local supply opportunities for the former Chinese gooseberry. It was also an apple packing house for a time.
His application for consent initially met resistance as a non-complying activity with Hastings District Council limiting commercial activities such as museums to 560sqm. The packhouse was on 2.43ha of land.
Neighbours Keighley’s Poultry Farm feared visitors would complain about the smell, dust and flies and force the closure of the 50-year old poultry business. In giving the green light for the museum, the council said the effect on the environment was minor and the museum was a sustainable use of the disused building.
With some conversion, the factory now became home for Ian Hope’s ever expanding British Car Museum.
Hope believed the first experience of owning a motor car for most New Zealanders over 40-years of age would have been British made; an Austin, Morris, Triumph or Vauxhall or Jaguars, Hillman Minxes, Triumph Heralds and 2000s, Oxfords and Princesses and Rovers.
Quake Fire History Overall he collected more than 450 of them, 80% of which still run. He even had the 1923 Dennis Fire Engine used by Hastings Fire Service at the time of the Hawkes Bay Earthquake Disaster in 1931. The hand-cranked siren still amuses visiting children when they’re allowed to crank the handle.
“My aunt and uncle had a Morris Minor which I looked after while they were alive, then when they passed away in 1986 it was sitting in the Hawkes Bay sun deteriorating. I bought it as a ‘do up’ for my first great nephew, so he could have it when he was old enough. That was the start of it. Now I have 20 great nieces and nephews - and I have a Morris Minor for each of them!”
Last count there were 38 Morris Minors including 'ute' and station wagons all in working order; add up the ones not quite up to standard or being cannibalised for parts and the number heads toward 70. Ian Hope was a well known local identity, often referred to in earlier days as the ‘mayor of Te Awanga’ because of the many properties he owned and his involvement in local civil defence and other community groups. Former Haumoana School secretary, Moira Lindsay recalls Ian’s generosity in the days before the school had its own hall: “One year we had persistent rain in December and had to postpone the school breakup two nights in a row, so we were looking for a large space. I phoned Ian and he cleared one of his bays and we held the breakup there on the morning of the last day of school. It was amazing, sitting on hay bales, the theme was based on the newly released Lord of the Rings film. It was just so cool and kind of Ian. He loved everyone being there.” Ian Hope passed away on Sunday June 16, 2019. What will happen to the iconic museum and tourist attraction is unknown for now. Finding someone with his passion for British vehicles, each of which each had a story behind them, will be a difficult if not impossible task Sources: Personal interview with Keith Newman 2018 British Car museum to open, 14 July 1995, HB Today Council gives green light to car museum, 25-03-2000, HB Today Car Museum web site: https://www.britishcarmuseum.co.nz/story.html Photos: Car Museum archive, Bay Buzz, Feb 2019 issue 45 by Tom Allen