It all started with….
Mr George Barns, who was a very talented body builder, who wasn’t content with the traditional New Zealand back yard method of coach building. Which can be seen by the classical flowing lines from the front of the vehicle through to side of vehicle which are continued own to the rear of the vehicle the rear. The flowing lines and classic shape make the conversion of this Daimler into a very pretty classical vehicle, and as one classic car enthusiast put it the factory couldn’t have done a better job. Footnote: Since this article was written George has sadly passed away.
George knew of the Daimler from new as it was originally owned by Georges neighbour who was a farmer who, when it was too rusty parked it up and left under a tree until it was purchased by George. If the Daimler hadn’t been converted into a Ute it probably would have been lost. As it was in a sorry state when George started work on it in the eighties and decided to that he a needed a Utility vehicle for his own use. It took George 5 years to build the Ute in his spare time fabricating the side, rear panels and tailgate for the Ute.
The above pictures show what is now the the Club Ute in its original state. George originally built the Ute for his own use, using it for 12 years with a trailer for a weekend paper round that he had, during this time the Ute had a few minor changes and from photos had some registration number changes. The original registration number was CL2015, then MM592, and now V8UTE, ( this from photos as supplied by George).
The above pictures show the Ute in past years, the picture on the left is prior to the Clubs owner ship. The picture on the right, taken in 2012 is prior to restoration. Note in the picture the right the small lip spoiler under the bumper.
What people may not know, but George converted a number of vehicles into Utes during the eighties and into the nineties, these being Cortina’s, Vauxhalls, and a Hillman Hunter to name but a few, some of the conversions are still on the road today. The Ute was purchased by the club in 1990 after is was spotted for sale in a car sales yard in Levin, by a club member who reported that was for sale to Gordon Somerville, who promptly went to Levin and purchased the Ute. On Purchase the the Club decided that as it was such a unique vehicle that it should preserved and used for Classic Club events shows and rallies.
After being purchased by the Club, the Ute underwent a couple of minor restorations in order to maintain it and to keep it roadworthy. The most recent Restoration on the Ute has been the largest by far taking approximately 7 years to complete. It all started as a result of a small accident causing damage to the RH rear. It was taken it to a small restoration business called The Tin Rabbit originally in Rangiora but now located in Kaiapoi. While it was in the shop for accident damage repairs they were asked to repair a little bit of rust damage at the back of the cab, well we all know that there is never a little bit of rust to remove and repair. What started out as small repair turned out to be a major, complete nut and bolt restoration taking 7 years to complete, 5 years in the body shop and 2 years to put it back together.
When reviewing what has been done it ’s probably easier to say what hasn’t been repaired or renewed and that is the rear of deck section of the Ute. The complete front was removed, including the heater scuttle, and repaired, Both chassis rails were renewed as were the floor pans in the cabin area. Everything done during the rebuild was completed to an extremely high standard and to future proof it to ensure that it will be around for future generations to enjoy. As a number of body parts were unavailable plus along with the flared front guards a number of standard parts that weren’t available were needed to be fabricated, the quality of these parts is a testament to skills of the fabricator at The Tin Rabbit.
On completion in the body shop it was then painted by The Tin Rabbit in Old English white, the quality of this painted job is simply out standing. The tail lamps where changed to better suit the profile of the vehicle, with MK10 Jaguar tail lights being used. Interior Upholstery was completed by Custom and Classic Upholstery in Halswell.
While the body was under restoration the engine was given a freshen up by John Finlay Motors with a pair of locally made set of prototype cylinder heads being fitted to the engine along with a slightly modified cam shaft to improve breathing. The re-manufacture of the cylinder heads a project started some 10 years ago by the by the club finally coming to fruition with fitting of two cylinder heads. This project has taken a considerable amount of time, money and frustration. To date, while we have cast 10 cylinders heads we have four good usable heads, the current heads on the Ute being head numbers 3 & 4.
The previous heads were on the Ute, and while usable, the casting process and port shapes were changed on the current heads. Since fitting the heads the the engine has to date completed 2500 trouble free miles. Another set of cylinder heads are currently being cast in Dunedin, which should be ready for matching in early June. The restoration of the Ute was finished on a Tuesday with the installation of the West Coast beach for deck timbers, we then headed off on the following Saturday in the Ute for a North Island trip.
As a result we were a bit apprehensive, as we headed off to catch the Ferry at Picton. The trip to Picton was uneventful with the Ute running well, without any problems. As mentioned in my previous article the Ute covered 1750 trouble free miles on its first trip.
If any one has any additional information to add relating to the history of the Club please forward to me at: email@example.com