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One of the worlds oldest Benz resides in New Zealand

Lizzy Jones 1895 Benz resides in New Zealand One of the worlds oldest Benz resides in New Zealand

In I893 the Daimler Benz Aktiengesellschaft of Stuttgart, Germany, commenced manufacture of a motorcar called the Benz Velo Motorwagen. This was manufactured in large enough numbers that it was considered at the time to be ‘mass produced’ with over 4000 units (some sources say less while others say more). Just a bit of trivia, by 1900 there were over 200 concerns worldwide trying to build motor cars but Benz is considered by historians to be the first company to commence ‘quality production’.

Today, one of these Benz Velo’s owned by the Olsen family resides in Feilding. It is believed this car was the second car in the South Island. The very early history is not well documented and the facts are pieced together from many sources and often a little contradictory, but a life history of the car can be reasonably reconstructed.

According to an official letter from Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschaft dated 2/9/52, this car, Chassis No. 1769, Engine No. 1657, is an 1895/96 model and was originally sold through the British Benz agents of Hewetsons in Dean Street, London. It is not known who was the first owner, but in 1899 or 1900 the car was shipped to New Zealand as a wedding present for Mrs Wickliffe-Goodwin who then lived near Glenroy in rural Canterbury.

A Mr Acland records in ‘The Early Canterbury Runs’ that an "E. Goodwin took over the leasehold of Lockwood Station near Glenroy about 1893. Goodwin was the first man in these parts to own a motorcar, a Benz". The only other information Acland recorded about the car was that Goodwin "had to send to Sydney for the Petrol"!

On Friday 26th April 1901 the Poverty Bay Herald reported “On Thursday last the novel sight of a lady driving a four-passenger motor-car through the streets of Christchurch attracted considerable attention. The ease and skill with which the car was handled while driving through the crowded thoroughfares showed that the lady possessed the confidence, and dexterity of an expert. On the previous Wednesday Mr and Mrs Wycliffe Goodwin, to whom the motor-car belongs, drove from their station at Glenroy to Christchurch, a distance of 60 miles, covering the distance in a few hours, the lady doing the steering during the journey.

In 1900 the Benz was shipped to New Zealand as a wedding present for Mrs Wickliffe-Goodwin of Glenroy in Canterbury.

Not long after this, Mr Goodwin got it stuck in the Selwyn River and he parted with it in disgust! It was sold through Oates Lowry & Co., (originally known as the Zealandia Cycle Works, of Christchurch) on 12 May 1901. Mr Oates sold the car to a Mrs Shaw in June 1901 and not long after that, he again sold the car to Mr J. Stanley Monck of Monck's Bay, Sumner (Christchurch). Mr Monck owned the car for over 40 years. It travelled many hundreds of miles over the roads of Canterbury. By 1903 there were sufficient motorcar owners to form a car club in Canterbury. Mr Monck was one of the first founding members of the Canterbury Automobile Club. After a few years, Mr Monck purchased another car that was more ‘modern’ than the Benz. As trade-ins were unheard of in those days, he put the car into storage for a number of years.

Sometime around 1914/1915 Mr Monck started using the Benz to power a circular saw for cutting fire wood! The engine performed this task faithfully for over 20 years, always starting easily with a few pulls on the open flywheel.

1896 Benz used to power a wood saw | carmanualsdirect

1896 Benz used by Mr. Monck to power a circular wood saw

In the mid 1930’s Mr Monck's son, Charles, decided to restore the Benz to its original condition. After the restoration was completed, the Benz was seldom used on public roads but did do service on the Monck farm giving children joy rides around the property.

In the late 1940’s Mr Van Asch of Hastings saw the car at the Moncks property and fell in love with the old veteran. He persuaded Mr Monck to part with his old friend. A few weeks later Mr Van Asch dismantled the Benz, packing everything except the frame, body and engine into his 1936 Monospar aerial mapping aircraft (the first of its kind in New Zealand). The remaining pieces were packed in a wooden crate and transported to Hastings by sea.

He reassembled the car and for many years used it for numerous events around the Napier Hastings region. In the early 1980’s the car was purchased by the Olsen family of Feilding where it still resides.

Mercedes Benz Workshop Manuals | carmanualsdirect

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