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Early History of the Taranaki Mustang Club

 (The following article is reprinted from the 1st Taranaki Club Magazine, Oct 1979)

THE HISTORY OF THE TARANAKI MUSTANG CLUB

1975 to Oct 1979

 by Roger Swetnam

In this, our first magazine, it would seem appropriate that an outline of the history of the TMC, with events leading up to its initial formation and beyond, would be of interest to all club members in NZ, and especially so since many new members keep coming onto the scene.  

Right from the outset I would like to mention that the writer and wife, Gwendoline, are the longest serving Mustang Club members in NZ and consequently the only ones left who know the full story from the start. Non TMC Mustanger’s reading this will have to forgive us if we seem to be blowing our own trumpet - or should I say - airhorns, but as the story develops, readers will appreciate that history is history. It will cover just the main events and is compiled from my files, records, photos and our memories.  

First Mustang Club Formed  

About 10 Mustangs were galloping around Taranaki by the beginning of 1975. Although strangers at first, each one got to know at least 3 or 4 others, either by stopping on the road for a chat or calling on an owner out of the blue simply because he drove a Mustang. Introductions ran from "Gidday! What have you got under the lid?" to "That's a funny looking car you're driving". As a result of these periodic chats, it emerged that Patrick Schicker, Michael Walker and myself had each put forward at different times the suggestion that we should get all our cars together for a gathering.  

The word went out and it was decided the gathering place would be at Peter & Jocelyn Brouwers’ at 75 Carrington Street, New Plymouth on Sunday, April 27 at 12 noon. Three cars from North Taranaki met three South Taranaki cars opposite the Farmers' Co-op in Devon St, and escorted them to the meeting place.  

For the record, these six cars and owners were as follows: 

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 Patrick & Anna Schicker, Kaponga. 1971 351 Boss 4-speed Colour blue (later white). Interior Dar blue Reg. No. GK 2395.

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 Barry & Mary Corbett Auroa. 1970 Mach I 351W 2V Auto. Colour blue. Interior Black. Reg. No. Not recorded.

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 Michael & Marie Walker Eltham. 1972 Mach 1 351C 2V Auto. Colour Metallic silver(argent),later bright yellow. Interior red. Reg. No. GR 6117.

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 Peter & Jocelyn Brouwers New Plymouth. 1973 Mach I 351C 2V Auto. Colour Red. Interior. White. Keg. No. HE 8112.

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 Brian & Judy Moss New Plymouth. 1969 Hardtop 351 2V 4-speed close ratio. Colour Khaki-green (later bright yellow) Interior black. Reg. No. FI 74.

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 Roger & Gwenda Swetnam. New Plymouth. 1971 Mach 1 351C 4V 4-speed. Colour Green. Interior Black. Reg. No. FZ 3030.

Three of these original cars are still present in the TMC: (Oct 79) 

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Peter Brouwers’ is now owned by Dr Peter Rich;

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Brian Moss's ‘69 Is now owned by Malcolm Gunson who is just recently connected with the TMC;

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And of course, the Swetnam’s, which is the only car still retained by the original owner.

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Patrick Schicker's 351 Boss belongs to a MMOC member in Feilding;

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Barry Corbett has recently sold his '70 Mach 1 and moved, over (I wont say up) to a Porsche. The new owner has expressed an interest in joining the TMC as soon as he returns from the UK;

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The whereabouts of Michael Walker's car is unknown.

As a result of this first rally, it was decided to meet again two weeks later at the Corbetts' farm, This was on Sunday May 11th 1975, and a club was formed - The Taranaki Mustang Club. I had the honour to be elected the first President, with Michael Walker Secretary/Treasurer. The caption in the Daily News photo of Monday May 12th was entitled: 

“Expensive Line-up” and, “... the 1st Mustang Owners' Club in NZ. ...”.

Michael’s brother Dennis had also joined the club and later bought a Boss 302.

The New Zealand Mustang Club 

Later, it was decided that we look into the possibility of setting up a NZ Mustang Club. With his connections with Graeme Jones of Garry Keith Motors of Hamilton, Michael Walker arranged a meeting to be held in the Gentlemen's Club in Stratford. Graeme Jones & Trevor Hartley attended, arriving in a Ford Falcon 351 GTHO. We decided to meet in Hamilton for a week-end, and formally set it up.  

In the meantime the Waikato Mustang Club was set up, with Graeme Jones President, Trevor Hartley Secretary and Peter Williams Club Captain.  

Graeme rounded up the Waikato Mustangs and the late Len Walker rounded up the Auckland cars and we all converged on Hamilton on June 21st. 1975. The meeting was held in the evening in a Hamilton hotel after a quick day-run to Bay Park Raceway for some quarter-mile runs.  

The meeting resulted in the TMC President and Secretary holding the same positions in the newly-formed NZMC. The membership fee was $10.00 and I hold the first receipt, issued as the first financial member.  

Meanwhile, Len Walker was elected President of the new Auckland Mustang Owners Club. With a view to incorporating the NZMC, three TMC members went to Palmerston North to recruit new members on Saturday July 19th. In response to our earlier advertisements, we met four local Mustang owners at noon in The Square, and also two others - one a Shelby - who drove up the 100 miles from Wellington to meet us.  

Through my solicitor, I then had the name "The New Zealand Mustang Club Inc." formally cleared for registration under the Inc. Societies Act of 1908. However the TMC did not complete this registration as unfortunately the NZMC did not flourish and it was decided to hand it over to the more central Waikato Club to put it on a firmer footing.  

Despite a further meeting - again In Hamilton - on the 27th Sept 1975, similar problems eventuated and the NZMC was allowed to lapse. It was found more practicable to have each area with its own autonomous club, but with inter-club exchanges of activities, newsletters, information, drag-meets, etc.  

Taranaki Club Activities. 

One of the big gatherings the TMC attended was the Easter Meeting at Bay Park Raceway on April 18th. 1976. This was organised by Len Walker. Led by Leo Leonard in the official start car - also a Mustang - 47 Mustangs did 2 circuits of the track in front of a large crowd. As I understand it, this was the largest assembly of Mustangs in the Southern Hemisphere up to that time.  

One day-trip the TMC did with the AMOC was to the Waitomo caves. This was on 15th. Aug. 1976.  

Another memorable gathering was the Benson & Hedges 1000 Meeting at Pukekohe Racetrack on Sunday 12th. Sept. 1976. From Taranaki, Dennis Goble, Royce Schrider and yours truly attended. In all, 46 Mustangs, led by Paul Fahy, did 2 circuits of the track and were then lined up in order of model year, and created a tremendous amount of interest.      

Decline 

I did not make myself available for re-election at the 1st. AGM, and stood down. Michael Walker was elected President and Anna Schicker Secretary. Anna resigned shortly after. It was about this time that four TMO members sold their cars over a short period, as a result of business ventures and other reasons. Interest was allowed to wane and formal activities of the TMC ceased. The last formal gathering, was (appropriately?) a Xmas wind-up on the 22nd Dec 1976 at the Tariki Hotel.  

Officially the TMO was now dormant but Gwenda and I still received regular newsletters from the WMC and the AMOC. We attended a drag meeting on Meremere on 13th March 1977 and we won a bracket for the (nonexistent) TMC. By this time Gwenda & I considered ourselves the only TMC members left. I well recall taking a Monday off and driving the 100 miles round Mt Egmont visiting old members in an attempt to re-kindle interest.  

New Era  

By November 1976 I'd met my good friend Senior Traffic Officer David Walter who ran a yellow 1971 351 Cougar 4- speed very quickly. We had similar interests. In association with Peter & Jocelyn Rich, Brian & Wendy Quinlan, Dennis & Eva Goble, David & Maryellen Walter and others, we took the plunge and invited the two northern clubs down for a Get-together on Queen's Birthday Week- end on June 4/5/6 1977. It was a great success.  

Enough interest was generated to reform the TMC, and the 1st meeting took place at the Walter's at 99 Ngamotu Rd. One week later on June 11th 1977,  Gwenda & myself were elected Secretary & President respectively, with David Walter Club Captain. Twelve members attended and with new enthusiasm the club flourished. Correspondence with clubs in Australia was started.  

At the 1st AGM (1st July 1978) of the re-constituted TMC, I had intended standing down, but somehow I ended up getting arm-twisted into another term. Maryellen Walter was elected Secretary. Shortly after, the Walters were transferred to Wellington and Peter Rich was elected Secretary.  

The 1978 year highlight was the combined clubs 2nd meeting in New Plymouth with the NZ Cadillac Club and car show. There was much publicity and we even made the TV. Our overseas contacts continued to grow under the able penmanship of Secretary Peter.  

Lee Iacocca

In Oct 1978 we wrote to Henry Ford II at Ford World H/Q in Dearborn, Michigan, informing him that "a motion was passed unanimously that we condemn the manner in which you fired Mr Iacocca, the Father of the Mustang", and with a reference to "Time" magazine's description of the action as a "stunner" describing our feelings exactly. We then wrote to Lee expressing our commiserations.  

To our surprise we received a nice reply from Henry Ford II personally explaining his reasons for the changes in the management of the giant Ford Motor Co. Then, to top it off, we received a letter of thanks from Lee. We followed this up with a request for him to be our Honorary Patron. Lee Iacocca, the Mustang creator and now Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, accepted! Needless to say, these original letters have been framed.  

The Future

For the 3rd year in a row, the TMC will stage an interclub gathering - the 1st NZ National Mustang Convention no less. We continue to grow from strength to strength and with the co-operation and friendly atmosphere evident in the TMO, how can we fail?  

We've come a long way from the first faltering steps of 1975. Who could have foreseen that from that 1st meeting in New Plymouth it would grow into 5 clubs and hopefully more to come. The big issue being considered at the moment is the possibility of forming - guess what - the NZMC!  

We have gone full circle.- The Mustang Club Movement in NZ has come of age.

 

LIST OF TARANAKI MUSTANG CLUB MEMBERS (as at Oct 1979)

Lee A. Iaeocca. Honorary  Patron. Detroit, Michigan USA.  

Eleanor & Ray ("Air Shocks") Charteris. Ray reckons you need them for Taranaki roads. They run a 1972 351 2V Auto Hardtop in white.  

Joanne & Michael_("Hot") Dromgool. Why "Hot"? - Hope-Of-Taranaki! They move around in a modified, rare-(only 2 in NZ), 1972 351 4V HO Mach 1 with a 4-speed. Colour Red/black. Been secretly packing wads of compression under the hood lately, mostly by night.  

Dawn & Bruce ("Revs”) Eckdahl. His right foot is 'Connected to a limited production 1971 351 Boss 4-speed (5 in NZ). Colour Red/black.  

Eva & Dennis ("Cam") Goble. At the moment Dennis has a Cleveland firing order under the lid of his 1969 Sportsroof 351 2V Windsor. Colour white with a 3-speed manual.  

Anne & Calvin ("Headers”) Henry. Calvin wants every horse under the lid he can find. Claims his surname has no connection with the hierarchy of the Ford Motor Co. but wouldn't mind if it did. The Henrys rumble around town in a 1970 Mach 1 with a transplanted 1971 429 CJ 4v connected up to a 4-speed shifter. Colour white.  

Jocelyn & Peter ("The Flying Doctor" - what else?). They juggle between a 1968 Fastback 302, 2V Auto in blue and an immaculate 1973 351 2V Mach 1 Auto in Red/black, with white interior. ("It reminds me of the surgery").  

Gwenda & Roger ("Mad Rog") Swetnam. Their gas goes into the back-end of a 1971 351 4V 4-speed Grabber green metallic Mach I. Some say, "He drives too fast!" Others, more In the know say "A Jekyll-and-Hyde madman!" 

Sarah &-Harry ("Pom-Kiwi-Aussie") Needham. Recently deported to Melbourne Australia.  

Wendy & Brian ("Brain") Quinlan. Also deported to Adelaide, Australia.  

Norma & Ray ("Air Horns") Simpson. Late of Spain, now UK. Recently sold his Mustang II but manages to keep going in his 1976 Pantera GTS. Still has a 1971 351 4V 4-speed in his Inglewood (Taranaki) stables.  

Plus 3 more prospective new members about to join the TMC.

(We hope so, after reading this - Ed.)