William Vining cranked the starting handle on his little open-topped Cadillac, joined his three passengers and began the first trip from Nelson to Christchurch by car.
It was a torturous trip filled with breakdowns, fording rivers, and having to have the car towed.
They started out on March 26, 1906, in a 10hp single cylinder car with rain coming down. The car laboured up hills and along trails where only centimetres were between them and a sheer drop.
Progress was slow and at Havelock they invested in an umbrella - which along with wraps and waterproof coats were their only protection against the rain.
Several times the car got bogged down, once in a cattle stop, often in mud. During one mud-logged stop, even using tussock under the wheels they were unable to move the car, ending up walking five miles to a homestead where men with a cart horse dragged the car out.
At the Hapuka River, another horse was used to pull it but it became stuck. Several onlookers helped move boulders from the river bed to get the car to the other side.
More horses had to be used at the Kowhai then Stormy Creek.
Finally they arrived in Cathedral Square on March 31. But it wasn’t the end - after a few days' rest they turned around and drove back!
They arrived on April 8 having gone 2000 kilometres.
William Graeme (sometimes spelled Graham) Malone Vining was born in 1865 in London to barrister and solicitor James Tully Vining and his wife Emma Mayo.
In 1892, he boarded a ship to New Zealand and spent weeks horribly sea sick. Eventually he landed in Nelson and opened a business. He imported and sold bicycles, believing them better than horses.
He was also the organist for the Nelson Cathedral and he also sold pianos.
Vining became fascinated with motorised transport and imported into New Zealand one of the first cars, a Benz. It had bicycle-like wheels.
The trip between Nelson and Christchurch was in part to promote cars to the public.
He had opened a garage and later established a car assembly factory putting together Cadillacs, Maxwells, Beansm Haynes, Darracs and Unics. He imported Model T Fords and Nelson’s first bus.
Vining married Margaret Kebbell of Wellington in 1895, and they had two children together, a daughter, Vera, and a son, Phillip.
He retired in 1927 and sold the garage (to the disappointment of his son who opened his own)
Vining died on October 18, 1948 and is buried in Wakapuaka Cemetery in Nelson.
Photo by Yoal Desurmont.
Fran and Deb's updates