One of only two known 1895 Velos still existing, this car has been in New Zealand since 1900. It was bought by Mr Nicholas Oates of Christchurch, who was obviously wealthy and forward-thinking, and who travelled to England expressly to investigate the suitability of the new-fangled motor car for use in New Zealand. At the time, most Benz cars were actually built and sold in France, thanks to the efforts of Émile Roger, who’d been building Benz engines under licence. Southward Museum understands that the car was shipped to England, where it was assembled by the Raglan Cycle Company of Coventry, and the car may have been secondhand when Oates bought it.
The intrepid Mr Oates covered possibly as much as 1600km in Britain before having the Benz shipped home. It arrived here in November 1900, and one can only speculate on the effect its appearance on Christchurch streets must have had on the locals. In fact, it’s recorded that Oates paid the first motor traffic-related fine in New Zealand when the sight and sound of his car caused a tethered horse to pull down a lamp post as it bolted. The fine and reparation amounted to the considerable sum of £30. In December 1900 the car featured in the country’s first motor car speed demonstration, held at Lancaster Park. Later, Oates and a friend motored from Wellington to Napier in the Benz.
Saved by the Wrecker
The car vanished until it was offered to Auto Parts, a car wrecker in Christchurch, in 1928. Fortuitously the owners of Auto Parts, R and J Tidswell, decided to restore it, and they owned it until 1969, when Len Southward (later Sir Len) bought it from them. The car was restored again in the museum workshop some years ago, to specifications supplied by the Daimler-Benz Museum. While it is mostly a static display, it’s used from time to time.
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