TRIBUTE MR FRANK WHITING

A centenarian businessman and keen driver, the late North Shore resident shared some priceless career highlights.

After passing his driving test in a two-door Whippet in 1930, Frank Whiting went on to become one of New Zealand’s most proficient drivers. He certainly brought some colourful recollections to the Garage...

“I failed my driving test first time round because I had yet to master double-declutching. The test route took in Greys Ave to Upper Queen Street and rather than changing gear on the steeper gradient, I came to a halt and started off again in low gear, and the officer growled at me. But I returned a couple of days later and passed.

The first car I bought was a 1920s Chrysler Open Tourer. It was a five-seater with canvas hood, side curtains and wooden spokes in the wheels. It cost 75 pounds from a dealership in Khyber Pass. I was a road cyclist and I sold a racing bicycle to afford the 20 pound down-payment.

I was quite proud of the Chrysler but I hadn’t had the car long when I crashed it. A group of us had gone to Hamilton to visit some friends and on the way back it was raining very heavily and the primitive wiper wasn’t up to clearing the screen. When a bus came around a bend, its lights dazzled me and I pulled too far left and went into a bank. No one was hurt but the car stayed in the ditch for four days and was off the road for several weeks.

My brother D’arcy was a spraypainter and we bought some old cars and did them up. The cheapest car I drove was a five-pound Ford that Darcy and I used after the war. Carburation issues meant it could only be reversed up steep hills. I recall going backwards up Wellesley St with pedestrians on Albert St watching agog! It also had wooden floorboards that would catch fire when the brake system became hot...

While in the Army, I was stationed at Narrow Neck and drove all sorts – five-tonners, three-tonners, Chevrolet staff cars and small Vauxhalls with a hand change on the steering column. We had a couple of older American Jeeps at Narrow Neck and, in 1952, we also got the first Land Rovers that came to Auckland. I got the second one for myself because, in my role as an Army Captain, I had all the forts to look after, from Orakei to Whangaparaoa, including Waiheke and Motutapu.

I also remember driving my commanding officer and his wife and mother to a reception for Queen Elizabeth in the first Land Rover. The Queen and Duke were staying at Government House on Waterloo Crescent.

I had the use of about 50 cars over the years but haven’t owned that many myself. I had 130-odd vehicles to look after as the operations manager for a transport company, Andrew & Andrew. The Managing Director had two large cars – a Rolls-Royce and a huge Dodge. When I was married a second time he loaned the Dodge to my son, who had his brand-new Mini Cooper at that time, and they swapped for the day.

I always took pride in keeping a car spot-on, regardless of whether I owned it or it was the company vehicle. So the boss would always come and take my car to an important meeting because he knew it would be spotless!

I always looked for comfort in cars, especially good seating and a radio. The biggest road trip I’ve done was a return trip from Auckland to Invercargill in the 1950s, but I can’t remember what the car was. I think the last manual car I drove would have been a Morris Marina, back in the 1960s.”

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