Auckland, New Zealand in the late 1940s/early ’50s was an international backwater, still suffering from the deprivation and restrictions of the post-war retrenchment. In hindsight it was a rather colourless era. The importation of goods was tightly controlled, and quite corrupt, with some officials often taking ‘favours’ from those wanting to bend the rules. Behind that lay a culture that had weathered the Great Depression, the war and the lack of abundance in the aftermath.

The pubs still shut at 6pm (a throwback to the First World War) and you couldn’t buy an edible meal anywhere! The populace, as a result, were generally victims of the constrained social framework of the times. There just wasn’t much buoyancy out there and shooting for the stars was looked upon with a certain distrust. Unless, of course, you were Ed Hillary or an All Black and displayed the physical representation of manliness viewed as ‘the right stuff’ – the acceptable recipe for a Kiwi battler, beating the odds.

Grahame exits the Pukekohe hairpin during his first season with the Elfin 400 (Photo Terry Marshall)

Grahame Harvey was not one of those characters, beaten down into that mould of accepting his lot and grinding out a minimal existence. Instead, he had a burning desire from adolescence to go motor racing.

Born in the heart of Depression Auckland in 1933, he entered the workforce in 1949, smack dab at the start of the drab and shackled social- and commerce-constrained New Zealand of the 1950s. Not what you would say was a confidence-boosting backdrop to his aspirations.

Grahame guns the Elfin out of the Levin hairpin during the sports car race at the Levin Tasman meeting in January 1969 (Photo Terry Marshall)

However, Grahame was made of sterner stuff, and with the bit firmly between his teeth he set out on the long road to learning his automotive skills. This would give him the means to eventually set up his own business, which would be the platform for him to go motor racing. The first stop on the trail took him to the Electric Construction Co in Fort Street, Auckland, where he trained as an auto electrician. From there he moved to Tappenden Motors Truck and Car Workshop in Stanley Street (near the tennis stadium of the same name), where his valuable skills of repairing cars by applying Kiwi ingenuity were honed. He discovered that he possessed a flair for working on engines and cars in general and this experience was vital, but the problem was he wasn’t making any money. Well, not any decent money that is, and certainly not enough to feed his hunger to go motor racing.

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