Fancy a classic British engine? Hundreds of one man’s passion projects for sale

With up to 550 cars, at one time the British Car Museum at Haumoana, Hawke's Bay was considered the largest such collection in the world.

Gianina Schwanecke / Stuff

With up to 550 cars, at one time the British Car Museum at Haumoana, Hawke’s Bay was considered the largest such collection in the world.

After nearly 40 years, a museum in Hawke’s Bay, home to what is believed to be the largest collection of British cars in the world, is reluctantly relinquishing its title.

It took the late Ian Hope half a lifetime to fill the former Haumoana packing station with over 500 classic British vehicles plus memorabilia, road signs, petrol hoses, car parts and models vintage.

His youngest nephew, Mark Hope, has now begun the difficult job of downsizing the collection and auctioning off many of the cars in view of the site’s new owner.

For Mark, visits to his grandparents in the coastal community of Te Awanga often involved going to the local gas station and mechanic shop owned by his uncle who “loved cars and everything related to it”.

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It all started with Ian collecting Morris Minors to pass on to his nieces and nephews as they came of age, but quickly grew to fill the 3600m2 shed off East Rd.

Ian, who had no children, died in 2019 aged 77 and left the entire collection and buildings in a trust run by his nephews and nieces.

“His wish was for the museum to continue after his death,” Mark said.

Mark Hope with the 1955 Austin Princess Vanden Plas, which he and his wife Kathryn borrowed from the collection for their wedding.

Gianina Schwanecke / Stuff

Mark Hope with the 1955 Austin Princess Vanden Plas, which he and his wife Kathryn borrowed from the collection for their wedding.

However, the collection had outgrown the site, with its rows of double-stacked cars and overly narrow driveways, and the family decided to put the collection and property on the market in June last year.

It was recently purchased by the Seymour family through their company Seymour Ratanui Limited. The Seymours’ plan to keep a few cars for a much smaller museum.

Mark and his wife Kathryn have purchased the rest of the collection and have approximately 12 months to clean up the site.

He listed around 40 cars on TradeMe overnight – many auctions close this week – and had around 200 more for sale with the aim of selling an average of five cars a week.

He wouldn’t be attracted by the price, but said one car, the 1953 Austin Healey convertible, was probably worth more than $100,000. Most ranged between $2,500 and $10,000 and others only cost a few hundred dollars.

With the sale of the collection, the museum will unfortunately have to relinquish its title as the largest museum in the world.

Gianina Schwanecke / Stuff

With the sale of the collection, the museum will unfortunately have to relinquish its title as the largest museum in the world.

Mark said he tries not to “get attached” to anything else, but is also mindful of making sure they go to the right house. He answered hundreds of questions, including those who got in touch directly, and enjoyed meeting others who were as passionate about their cars as his uncle.

He decided to keep about forty “precious pieces” from his uncle.

“Kathryn and I are working hard to make sure we can preserve Ian’s memory as best we can. I wanted to make sure we kept some of the key vehicles that were important to Ian.

Some cars will feature in a smaller scale of the museum, some are kept by Hope's family and many others are sold.

Gianina Schwanecke / Stuff

Some cars will feature in a smaller scale of the museum, some are kept by Hope’s family and many others are sold.

This included five varieties of Morris Minor, the ute Ian used as a recovery vehicle when Mark was a child, Ian’s mini GT and a Rover 75 which came from the UK.

These cars will be housed at their home in Waihi in a 1600m2 shed which also housed 100 of Ken Hogg’s classic British cars.

Dave Seymour of Seymour Aranui Ltd plans to retain part of the museum, hoping to further develop the site and develop it as a “destination site”.

“I love old cars, but I’m not a mechanic.”

He hoped to eventually develop a brewery in the popular wine route destination and other restaurants that would bring people to the coastal community.

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