Fancy a classic British motor? Hundreds from one man’s passion project on sale

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

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

After close to 40 years, a Hawke’s Bay museum, home to what’s thought 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 old packhouse in Haumoana with more than 500 classic British vehicles along with memorabilia, road signs, petrol hoses, car parts, and vintage models.

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

For Mark, visits to his grandparents in the coastal community of Te Awanga often involved calling in to the local petrol station and mechanic’s shop owned by his uncle who “loved cars and anything to do with them”.

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

Ian, who had no children, died in 2019 at the age of 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 he passed away,” Mark said.

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

Gianina Schwanecke/Stuff

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

However, the collection had outgrown the site, with its rows of double-stacked cars and too-narrow pathways, and the family decided to put the collection and the 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 some cars for a much smaller-scale museum.

Mark and wife Kathryn​, bought the remainder of the collection and have the next 12 months or so to clear out the site.

He listed about 40 cars on TradeMe in one night – many auctions close this week – and had another 200 or so to go with the aim of selling an average of five cars a week.

He wouldn’t be drawn on price but said one car, the convertible 1953 Austin Healey, was likely worth over $100,000. Most though ranged between $2500-$10,000 and others might only go for a couple of hundred bucks.

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

Gianina Schwanecke/Stuff

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

Mark said he was trying not to “get attached” to anything else, but was also conscious of ensuring they go to the right home. He had fielded hundreds of queries, including those who got in touch directly, and was enjoying meeting others as passionate about their cars as his uncle.

He has decided to hang on to about 40 of his uncle’s “treasured pieces”.

“Kathryn and I are putting in a lot of effort to make sure we can preserve Ian’s memory, as best we can. I wanted to make sure we were keeping some of the key vehicles that were important to Ian.”

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

Gianina Schwanecke/Stuff

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

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

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

Dave Seymour​, of Seymour Aranui Ltd, plans to keep part of the museum, with hopes to further develop the site and develop it as a “destination site”.

“I do love the old cars, but I’m no mechanic.”

He hoped to possibly develop a brewery in the popular wine trail destination and other eateries which would bring people to the coastal community.