Five-car convoy connects the KiwiGarage crew with the characters and coastal wonders of Chatham Island.

Holden New Zealand has been in operation for 65 years now, connecting several generations of Kiwis via every roadway in the country. The current HNZ team is a far-sighted bunch who value their heritage, so 65 years of toil was cause for a proper celebration rather than an excuse to cash in the KiwiSaver account.
To go one further than any other car company to date, Holden dreamt up an ambitious scheme to ship a convoy of new cars to the Chatham Islands to allow motor-noters to explore one of our most far-flung outcrops. This cluster of islands sits in a time-zone 45 minutes ahead of the mainland, making it the first place on the planet to see the sun rise.
By coincidence, the Chathams emerged from the sea about 65 million years ago and the main island is an idyllic place with dramatic coastlines, unspoilt beaches and clear waters teaming with blue cod and crayfish. Strike it right and you might even see a black robin going about its business.
Chatham Island itself is home to a plucky population of about 600 people. It’s possible that more locals own Harleys than they do Holdens but from what we saw, both are held in very high regard!
Given the network of mostly unsealed roads and some untamed terrain, Holden’s unpretentious range of high-riding road warriors was more than fit for the purpose of connecting mollycoddled journos with the resilient characters dotted about the main land mass. The current Holden range, assembled from far-flung GM plants, is more versatile than any previous generation of Holdens. The vehicles also boast more creature comforts and have more tricks up their sleeves than the man in the hotel bar appreciates.
Roughly 250km of entertaining driving over two days produced more scenic highlights than you’d hope to recall and some priceless encounters with locals that will live undimmed in the memory bank. Helen Bint is a prime example. Photographed outside the mid-19th century stone cottage that was built by German missionaries and became her childhood home, Helen said her lifestyle resembles rural living in the 1950s, when Holden first started selling new cars in our market.
Keeping things current, Holden showed off the utility of its all-wheel-drive newbies, underlining how adventurous a Trailblazer can get, how comfortably an Acadia can shift a group, and how responsive and refined a Commodore Tourer remains on and off the smooth stuff. And, as always, Holden proved that good, keen Kiwi motoring need not carry a premium pricetag.
Once back on the mainland, we pressed on with the anniversary theme and tracked down some early Holdens well worth celebrating, including three family saloons from the 1970s that have seen more than their fair share of New Zealand, if not the coastal highlights of Chatham Island...




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