The history of the universe is a pretty big job, so we set our sights a little lower, with the history of a Galaxie located in a place not so far away.
Words: Gordon Campbell
Josie and Neil Guy of Huntly bought their gleaming black 1960 Ford Galaxie hardtop sedan in 2006. They didn’t know a lot about its history and there was a suggestion that, being black, right-hand drive and New Zealand-new, it may have been a Public Service car.
Several years later, through the car’s previous owner they discovered the original ownership papers and learned that its first owner was Robert James Clegg of Sandringham in Auckland. Neil did a Google search and found a Robert James Clegg in Wellington. He wrote to him and received a reply that Mr Clegg was very surprised to learn there was someone in New Zealand with exactly the same name as him, and that he was a Holden man and wouldn’t be seen dead in a Ford. Slightly taken aback, Neil knew that he’d reached the end of that path of discovery.
Several years later, a chance meeting with John Stokes, NZ Classic Driver contributor and author of Ford in New Zealand Volumes I and II, rekindled Neil’s interest. Another Google search produced a death notice for a Robert James (Jim) Clegg. At Stokes’ suggestion, Neil contacted the listed funeral director and soon received a response from Suzanne, one of Jim Clegg’s two daughters, who lives in Whangamata and who wondered whether Josie and Neil had ever been to the Beach Hop Rock ’n’ Roll Festival. As it happens, Neil has owned a hot-rodded Ford ‘Jailbar’ pickup for more than 40 years, and he and Josie have hardly ever missed a Beach Hop, as well as being long-time members of Howick-based Southside Streeters Inc. It was agreed that Suzanne, her sister Caroline, Josie and Neil would meet during Beach Hop 2023.
Jim Clegg passed away in August 2020 at the age of 98, having lived a less than ordinary life. Keeping a happy family became a financial struggle during the Great Depression of the early 1930s and, as noted in his eulogy, Jim’s school days were peppered with truancy, mischief and the strap. That ended when, at the age of 13, he started work to help support the family, initially as a luggage handler at the Port of Auckland. He never forgot the first time he was able to buy a ham sandwich for lunch on pay day. A succession of jobs followed – radio assembler, grocer’s assistant, car battery specialist, wharf porter, finally joining the Post & Telegraph Department as a telegram boy, postman and Morse telegraphist.
At the start of World War Two he enlisted in the Army and was posted to the Signals Corps in the Bay of Islands. He transferred to the RNZAF and a posting to Harewood in Christchurch saw his life take a new turn. A stint at the Electrical and Wireless School in Christchurch resulted in a ‘First in Class’ award. After graduation, he was posted to the RNZAF station at Ardmore, and then to the New Hebrides as a radio mechanic with the No 5 Catalina Flying Boat Squadron in the Pacific.
After the war Jim worked at Newmarket Post Office as a Morse telegraphist, a technician at radio station 1YA, gained a certificate in Radio Broadcasting Technology, and enrolled at Auckland University in Science – a late starter at the age of 24. During the university years, he also worked as a technician at the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, and a scientist at Fisher & Paykel’s lab.
Continue reading in our September/October 2023 issue of Classic Driver Magazine - Out Now!