Spotlight – Napier Classic Cars

Name: Paul Sweeney
Business: Napier Classic Cars

Tell us about your business?
Napier Classic Cars is not a corporate entity, but a group of good friends working together. Each of us owns a lovely classic car and is involved in professional driving for tours, weddings and events in the Hawkes Bay area.

We decided it would be a more appealing proposition for you and more fun for us to work together, offering all of our classic cars under a single banner. So, over dinner one evening mid 2015, Napier Classic Cars was born.

Napier and the wider Hawkes Bay area that includes the city of Hastings and the gorgeous village of Havelock North is an awesome tourist destination as it benefits from a wonderful Mediterranean-type climate (think of the South of France, Spain or Italy) and is as a result a real ‘fruit bowl’ producing a wide range of fruit including apples, apricots, kiwi fruit and all manner of citrus fruit in addition to figs, olives and of course grapes.

Hawkes Bay is an up and coming wine producing area that is making it’s mark on the world stage having more than 30 wineries within a few miles of the tourist centre of Napier.

Then there is the beautiful city of Napier itself – an authentic Art Deco city which was created in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake in 1931 that totally destroyed the old city.

All this and more including stunning scenery, a genuinely eccentric car museum and even a chocolate factory can be enjoyed in the period luxury and comfort of our stunning classic cars. Why squeeze onto a crowded tour bus where you are herded around to a tight schedule, when you can have your own private chauffeur taking you where you want to go at your own pace?

Do come to Napier and give us a call; we are looking forward to showing you some of the wonderful sights our stunning little corner of New Zealand has to offer.

What have been your greatest successes?
We are a new operation so our greatest success so far has been getting the business up and running!

Luckily I am a web designer and having designed numerous web sites for others, it was so easy designing one for my own business – turns out I was a model client(!) and I’m really happy with the finished site.

Aside from building the web site, there was far more to do (and money to be spent) than anyone would anticipate, but we are looking forward very much to the coming new tourist season.

What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
The greatest challenge to date was that I didn’t even own a classic car (and never had) when the idea for Napier Classic Cars first came to me.

When I started looking for one, I had already decided that I wanted something from the 1950s as it would be a point of difference from other classic cars already in the Hawkes Bay area and just as importantly, its an era of car design that I love.

So, my mental check list ( I never wrote it down) went something like this:
– 1950s or thereabouts and evocative of the period
– English (because I am!)
– Limousine-type styling but not too large
– Classy with an air of luxury and quality – it had to have leather, wood and be well appointed generally
– Fairly large engine to manage full loads and the hilly local roads
– Reasonable fuel economy by the standards of the day
– Pleasant to drive
– Not too rare – parts need to be available
– Already restored and able to pass the NZTA Certificate of Fitness test easily

After talking to friends, one suggested a local guy who had two Daimlers for sale. They were large 1960s limos and just didnt float my boat, lovely as they were. Too modern, too like a Jaguar and not distinctive enough somehow. I needed to really think about this.

A few weeks later I was wandering around the British Car Museum in sunny Te Awanga near Napier one day when I spied two half-forgotten lovelies tucked away in the corner. The first was a Lanchester Leda and the second a Daimler Conquest with an intriguing notice fixed to the windscreen that read, “1953 Daimler Conquest – used for the Queen’s Visit in 1953”.

My curiosity piqued, I sought out my friend the museum’s owner Ian Hope to ask what he knew about it. Ian told me that it was believed his Conquest had carried Her Maj’s official manicurist during the tour. That lodged itself firmly in my brain … this was something special!

My interest truly piqued, I asked some people more au fait with classics than I am if they had any knowledge of the Conquest and if so, their thoughts about whether it might be a good buy. The answers were pretty much positive (thanks particularly to Mr Anthony David Clayton in this regard) so I decided to look for a Conquest for sale.

A quick search on Trade Me in New Zealand revealed no less than four Conquests for sale – suggesting they were not overly rare so parts should be reasonably easy to find. I first attempted to investigate a lovely red Conquest advertised for private sale, but the seller failed to respond to my enquiries, so I moved on.

Next I found a dealer called Waimak Classic Cars located near Christchurch on NZ’s South Island who – remarkably – had two 1954 Conquests for sale at the same price. After poring over the photos and a video Jesmond (the owner) had posted online, I decided to make contact with him.

Confounding all the usual car dealer stereotypes, Jesmond turned out to be not only a thoroughly decent chap, but also a bona fide classic car lover and he couldn’t have been more helpful. After several discussions about what I was looking for, he recommended one of his Conquests as the better option for me and the deal was soon done, subject to an independent technical appraisal which uncovered no nasty surprises.

Short cut to two or three weeks later and Queenie arrived safely in Napier on the back of a huge transporter truck, ready to begin a new phase in her already long life story here in sunny Hawkes Bay. What did I find when I climbed in for the first time? Power steering and a heater – luxury indeed!

So far, I’m delighted with her and hope this is just the start of a long friendship. Her last private owner was 94 years old, so I have quite a way to go to match that!

What advice would you give to other small businesses in appealing to the LGBT+ community?
Don’t assume all LBGT people are the same – don’t stereotype us. We are not all flamboyant types you might have seen on TV. We are simply people looking for pretty much the same things as everyone else, but above all we want to be made welcome and to be accepted for who we are. ‘Respect’ is the key word.

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