The NZ Herald and editor-at-large Shayne Currie are on a two-week road trip to gauge the mood of the nation and meet everyday and notable Kiwis making a difference in their communities and the wider world. Today he discovers hidden New Zealand cinematic treasure in a South Island storage unit, and we catch up with one of the South Island’s leading chief executives for Nine Questions. Senior reporter Anna Leask, meanwhile, speaks with a famous West Coaster.
In a storage garage in a corner of Christchurch sits a hidden cinematic treasure – one of New Zealand’s most famous and iconic cars.
One of the four original yellow Minis from Goodbye Pork Pie – the car with the original registration number, IZ 6393, and the one that featured most prominently in the 1981 movie – has been uncovered as part of the NZ Herald’s Great New Zealand Road Trip.
It’s sat in the storage unit for the best part of 25 years, having been bought by Christchurch businessman and lifelong Mini fan, Sir Gil Simpson, in 1995.
He bought it at a Turners car auction in Auckland in December that year for $6000 and maintained its roadworthiness for several years.
“We even took it to Invercargill from Christchurch in 1996,” Simpson laughs, referring to Pork Pie’s most famous line, ‘We’re taking this bloody car to Invercargill’.
“We had a wonderful time driving it down there, but it’s been off the road since about ‘98.”
It wouldn’t take much to get it back on the road now – an electrical issue needs to be fixed, and three of the tyres are flat.
“It’s an amazing machine. It’s got an electrical fault which cuts out all the electrics occasionally, but it was a completely running vehicle, rock solid before that,” says Simpson.
The car is in splendid nick, with its famous yellow exterior finish and sheepskin-covered front seats. There is virtually no rust.
Gil and his wife, Joy (Lady Simpson), have had the odd approach from enthusiasts over the years, but otherwise few people seem to know where the car ended up.
The couple may sell it one day. “It’s not something we have pursued but if somebody someday wanted to make a reasonable offer on it, we would consider that at the time.”
Simpson reckons he’s seen the movie – the “Blondini” gang on the run, being pursued in a wild police chase from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island – three times, and believes much of its popularity is down to the way it portrayed the then Ministry of Transport traffic officers as bumbling idiots.
In those days, traffic cops were separate from the police and they were not widely popular.
Simpson also says the movie was released in the last years of Muldoonism – and the way the film “challenged the establishment” was also well received by the public.
As for an asking price? One of the Mini Coopers used in the remake of the Pork Pie film sold in 2016 – shortly before the new film was released – for $42,100.
This original film car – it had been a rental before it was bought for the movie – is likely much more valuable.
According to Pork Pie enthusiast Josh Kelly, one of the other four Minis – the stunt car with its front cut off – still belongs to Andy Grant, the mechanic who looked after the cars during filming. A Mini that was set on fire was buried at the Invercargill tip. The fourth remains a mystery – but it is out there somewhere, according to Kelly.
The Bill Richardson Transport World museum in Invercargill has a Pork Pie exhibit, featuring a replica of the burned-out mini from the original movie. According to Kelly, it has two of the Minis from the remake film.
Meanwhile, I took my own car – the VW ID.5 – from Christchurch to Greymouth on Day 5 of the Great New Zealand Road Trip.
After charging the all-electric car to 80 per cent capacity at Rolleston, it carried me over the Southern Alps, through Arthurs Pass, to Greymouth with still 30 per cent capacity left, an impressive effort given the terrain and distance (227km).
At the Otira Viaduct lookout, the weather was so dreary and wet, even the keas were absent.
But I did meet a big group of travelling family members, the Donalds and Knightbridges, heading to Hokitika for a 21st birthday on Saturday night. Nine of them were packed into the Toyota Hiace van, which they had hired in Christchurch after flying from Palmerston North.
Charlotte Donald, 13, didn’t hesitate to take the Great NZ Road Trip moodboard. And equally quick to let everyone know her mood: “HAPPY”.