Page 21

August 2019

Page 21

1906 Cadillac Hiding in the Waikato for 60 Yrs Car, but no chassis. The farmer had bought the parts at a farm clearance sale. Another member from Dunedin told him a single cylinder Cadillac had been wrecked on a farm at Hindon, thirty miles west of Dunedin. A visit to the farm confirmed it was a Cadillac, but it was manufactured in 1903 and was very different to John’s car. John did bring the complete chassis home. A few months later, someone walked into John’s garage and said he had been told of two single cylinder Cadillacs that had been wrecked on a farm in Southland. On the way south they stopped for gas at Heriot and John asked the attendant in the garage if there were any very old cars in the area. The attendant told them someone had wrecked a very early car at Edievale. They pushed on to Southland and found the remains of two Cadillacs, but there was no chassis. Returning to Alexandra with a lot of spare parts they went into Edievale, located the farm and there was a single cylinder Cadillac chassis standing on four wheels. John was going to send the chassis by rail to Alexandra, but John said the railways saw it as car and he felt the sum they had quoted was a little expensive. He went back later with a truck and picked it up. The farmer was going to use the chassis to support a farm bridge. They discovered later the chassis had come off the car wrecked at Waikouaiti. Unfortunately, it was shorter in the wheel base than the chassis originally under Johns car. At the next major rally in Dunedin, John found a second chassis which was the correct length, which he put into use. John went on to restore the car over the next three years doing almost all the work himself. The restoration of the chassis is written up in three early copies of Beaded Wheels and in Elizabeth Nagle’s book. John never finished the story and there has been a lot of speculation as to where the body might have come from. Some have said John found it in a loft. Looking at the body on the car it looks very correct and still has a Seldon plate. You can see it once supported a hood. John did the upholstery himself. The late Bill Miller had always said the back of the body had come off a twin cylinder Buick. Stephen Kidd said he thought the body had come of a farm at Waikaia. John’s work would have let him visit many farms. John shifted to Hamilton in 1963 and the two Cadillacs came north with him. John had the car at his daughter’s wedding in 1977, but the car was never seen at a car club event. John resigned from the Vintage Car Club in 1972. He was a Professor in Earth Sciences at Waikato University and was very wound up in his work. He published forty-five books on soil sciences and history, many based on studies he made Central Otago. He had written seven papers on the Antarctica and lead teams down there. In 1992 he was awarded the MBE for his work. In Antarctica they named a Glacier after John McCraw. In Alexandra the local Museum has a room dedicated to the memory of John McCraw. Over the years he had kept copies of all the correspondence he had written on Cadillacs, lots of photos and a hand book he had found still in the original wrapper. He must have written to Andrew Anderson in 1955 and told him what he had found. Andrew had written back and said “we are finding veteran cars all over NZ”. Not long before he died, John got a call from a farmer in

Profile for Vintage Car Club of New Zealand

Auckland VCC - August 2019  

Auckland VCC - August 2019