Like all good ideas, the Jeep Club thought came to me back in February 1990 when one night I couldn’t get to sleep.
Eventually, the thought of a beautiful bush trail appeared in my mind with a long line of vehicles - and every one of them was a Jeep.
My Jeep obsession unknowingly began in the 1970’s with compulsory military training devised by the National Government. I got stuck in there for the duration and had previously never driven a four wheel drive vehicle - of any type. Four wheeling a ‘poxy’ old RL Bedford truck down a snow covered 40 degree slope was a typical NZ Army way of saying, “Harden up you lout, and by the way, we were the ones that cut your long hair off.” Back on the city streets, I couldn’t wait to buy a four wheel drive, of any type, to carry on the four wheeling bug that I was now hooked on. Lo and behold it just happened to be a pretty run down 42 Willys Jeep but even with little 600×16 bare-tread tyres it went okay.
By this time the magic and history of the Jeep vehicle and what it could do, not only during WW2 but for farmers and contactors all over the world, just added to my interest and amazement of such a vehicle. So, back to the Jeep Club beginnings... I put a small ad in the NZ Herald for any persons wishing to join a Jeep owners’ club to meet in Cambridge. The phone went pretty hot shortly after and the inaugural meeting was held in my workshop. I outlined some very basic concepts of how I thought the Club should run and somehow they all appeared to believe me. The very first run was based at the Waingaro Hot Pools Hotel in the Waikato region. We did a simple hill-country farm tour over two days and had heaps of fun.
We had an interesting array of vehicles including CJ5’s, CJ7’s, Army Jeeps, Willys Station Wagon, Cherokee Chief with most being in pristine condition. A few hair raising downhill slides were had with some fun uphill climbs and a drag session on the farm airstrip. The farm owner was a member of the Waikato 4 Wheel Drive Club and accordingly encouraged us to tear up some ground in specific non-pasture areas of his farm. N.B. all responsible Clubs in NZ operate under the ‘Tread Lightly’ policy and permission is always obtained for special events. As in most Clubs, many of the original members came and went but always new members took their place.
Over time the NZ Jeep Club became better and more official and was eventually incorporated on 8th November 1995 and we are now affiliated to the NZ Four Wheel Drive Association. Three of the founding members are still with the Club today.
The great thing about any club is forming friendships among like-minded people. We have an interesting cross-section of people from all walks of life with a wealth of knowledge to offer when help is needed - ranging from technical information to personal support. The club has always been focused on family and it’s great to have watched the toddlers in their modified full harness carseats squealing with delight or conversely saying... “Are we there yet?” or “Is it lunch time?” Several of these kids now have their own Jeeps and are showing us oldies how to drive.
Some even have their own kids now in modified full harness carseats. In summary, the Club has achieved great things in its 23 year history, with many people contributing to its success and I have no doubt into the future.