New announcement. Learn more



Dunedin's Ford Dealership Celebrates Its Centenary

Last weekend, Dunedin City Ford celebrated 100 years in business.

In fact, the Ford marque has been sold in Dunedin longer than that.  A Mr W J P McCulloch was appointed the Ford dealer in 1912, and he set up the business in the Octagon.  In 1917, he sold out to the Todd brothers, who were general traders and stock agents.  They had also set up Ford agencies in Roxburgh and in Heriot.

The motor business went very well for the Todds and so, in 1923, they formed the Todd Motor Company to handle that part of their business.  But they also took on another motor franchise, Overland, which was contrary to their Ford licence.  The New Zealand Ford  distributor, The Colonial Motor Company (CMC), was required to follow Ford's global policy of exclusivity - a Ford agent could only sell Fords.  Now the Todds were required to make a choice.

Did they jump, or were they pushed?  Roger Gardner, in his excellent book Ford Ahead - The History of The Colonial Motor Company simply says that the Todds' licence was cancelled.  Now then, maybe you are wondering who the Todd people were, and what happened to them?  Yes, they were the Todd family who, in representing Chrysler, the Rootes Group, Mitsubishi and others went on to become the third big player in the motor industry in New Zealand, behind Ford and General Motors.   

But, back to Dunedin, 1923.  Dealers were soon found to take over the numerous Ford outlets the Todds had set up throughout Otago, but CMC was having difficulty finding someone to take on Dunedin.  Needing to act quickly, of course, CMC formed Ford Motors (Dunedin) Ltd.  A Mr John Phillips was appointed dealer principal - he also had a shareholding.  For a premises, they took over the former Newmarket Hotel, which faced on to Princes Street.

Below is an image of Ford Motors (Dunedin) Ltd drawn in 1923.  Clearly it looks more like a hotel than a motor car dealership!  The car next to the drawing is what would have been brand new at the time, a 1923 Model T Ford.  At right is the emblem specially developed for use for Dunedin's Ford centenary party 100 years later!

And what a party it was!

The organisers set out to create a timeline of vehicles to represent each year of Dunedin City Ford's time in business.  An astonishing array of cars were there ranging from Model A's, V8s from the 1930s, Zephyrs, Cortinas, Escorts, Falcons.... the list is endless.

Below is a very small sample of the vehicles on display.  At left is a Mk II Zephyr - a kiwi favourite.  Next to the Zephyr is a car that was never sold at Ford dealers, but it took the Ford Motor Company to great places in motorsport - the Le Mans-winning GT40.  This is a "nuts-and-bolts" replica of the car that won Le Mans in 1966 - think Ford vs Ferrari.  The so-called "trio at the top", the New Zealanders Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon and Denny Hulme were in the first and second placed car!  This replica GT40 is owned locally in Dunedin.  Just one genuine GT40 has ever graced the roads of New Zealand and its details and photos are given in the Ford in New Zealand book.  

Next to the GT40  is another crowd favourite, the Ford Anglia 105E.  These were a top-selling car through the '60s.  It was replaced in 1967 by the highly-successful Escort which, in 1981 in this part of the Ford world was replaced by the Japanese-sourced Ford Laser (pictured at right).  The white example is original and wonderful to see, as they are an important vehicle in Ford history.

A little more on the history of Dunedin City Motors...

A chap by the name of Les Napier was managing the business in 1936 when the Ford Motor Company set up in New Zealand.  (The details of Ford's arrival here are all given in the book Ford in New Zealand - Driving Ahead.)  Curiously, one of the first things the new Ford New Zealand company did was insist that the name "Ford" be removed from the dealer names!  (Sound odd?  Again, that is explained in the book.)  CMC's way of overcoming that was to re-name each of the dealerships they owned by using the current dealer principal name.  So Ford Motors (Dunedin) Ltd became Napier Motors!  And that is from where we get so many of the Ford dealership names - Avery Motors in Wellington, John W Andrew & Sons in Auckland, Hutchinson Motors in Christchurch and so on!  (The dealership in Napier was called Peach Motors!) 

Anyway, like all Ford dealerships, Napier Motors continued to prosper.  By the 1950s they'd outgrown their centre-city premises, so they purchased land in Andersons Bay and began relocating there.  The 60's saw a new retail opened (locally known as "the cathedral") and then, in the 1980s, all of the business was moved there.  That part of Dunedin is where all the major motor companies have since set up business - it has become Otago's motor hub.

In 1992, Ford New Zealand had a change of mind about the use of the Ford name in dealership titles.  (Again, read the Ford in New Zealand book!)  That is when Napier Motors adopted the much more meaningful title of Dunedin City Ford.

The dealer principal at that time was Ian Lambie, appointed in 1981.  Ian started in the motor industry straight from school and had held a variety of roles with CMC throughout New Zealand.  Ian retired in 2003, but he has not forgotten his time at Dunedin City Ford - he was a star attraction during the weekend centenary celebrations.  The photo below (right) shows him still enjoying the company of Dennis Waterman, who was himself the star of one of New Zealand's most successful motor industry advertising campaigns - see the tv advert.

But who is that other bloke?", I hear you ask.  "The one on the left - in the Mk I Zephyr convertible, with the chick?"

Well, that is Ed Woodhouse.  And, I would hope, Mrs Woodhouse!  If you want to know more about Ed and his contributions to Ford, you'll have to turn to page 137 of Ford in New Zealand - Driving Ahead.

Did you enjoy this wee slice of Ford's New Zealand history?  There's much more in the Ford in New Zealand book - click here.


This product has been added to your cart