I made the pilgrimage this year to my home town of Napier, New Zealand – and its annual Art Deco weekend – three or four days of Golden Age Hollywood style partying with air shows, vintage car parades and more.
It’s all in good fun. And for me, the centrepiece was the car parade with its procession of Packards, Chryslers, Buicks, Chevrolets and more.
It’s not strictly historical, of course. New Zealand was one of the most motorised countries in the world back in the 1930s, but most of them were British, built to comply with British road tax laws that favoured ‘small’. Austin Dibblers and Humber Pootles ruled the roost. Although proper cars were occasionally brought in from North America, they were a rarity.
The other Kiwi quirk was the tendency to keep the cars well past their ‘use by’ date – a hazard for historians trying to date mid-twentieth century photos by cars. Even in the 1950s it wasn’t unusual to see early 1930s models chugging about.
A lot of the cars at the parade have been brought in since. There were quite a number of Packards – including some magnificent Clippers – few of which actually drove New Zealand streets back then.
The parade doesn’t celebrate what happened; it celebrates aspiration. And it’s fun to imagine Napier as it might have been in 1940 when all the art deco was brand new and Humphrey Bogart ruled the silver screen.
Along the way, I almost walked backwards into a 1937 V12 Rolls Royce Phantom III, while lining up a photo of another car. Don’t ask.
More soon. Meanwhile – do you like ‘deco’ stylings? What’s your favourite design period?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
Coming up: Writing tips, science, geekery…and more deco. Lots more deco.