Clarissa arrives in New Zealand
Clarissa was in good company on her way over from the US. After being freighted from Chicago to San Francisco she was packed in a container with two Jaguars - an XK150 and an XK120 - and a Maserati Sebring and there she sat for 7 weeks until the longshoreman strike was settled and she could begin her long journey by sea to Christchurch.
I had managed to find out a little bit about the car's history, but the details were very sketchy and there were large gaps to be filled. Originally purchased by a Mr Leonard Potter, a racing driver of some repute; she was auctioned at Sotheby's in London in the early 1960s and then exported to the United States. She resided in Chicago for some time, owned by a Mr Jerry Silva; some restoration work had been done on her in the past - but there the information ran out. Does anyone have any further information or photos of her past?
When I received a phone call advising me that the car had finally arrived in Christchurch I immediately booked a flight down to have a look. I was told that she had been fumigated to take care of a family of black widow spiders that had decided to take an overseas trip so she was covered in a white dust. I got my first good look at her in a warehouse at the port. She was looking travel-worn and sad, her guards were covered in faded dark blue paint and surface rust, her tyres were thin on rubber, her hub caps were lacking in chrome and she had a large dent in her rear body tub. But underneath the dust, dirt and general dilapidation her chassis was good and all her bits were there - she was just waiting for some patient loving care to restore her to her former glory.
I made a bit of a fuss of Clarissa that day - peering at her through my rose tinted specs, touching her, polishing what chrome remained. What a magnificent thing! It was an emotional experience, coming face to face for the first time with this long-cherished dream - albeit a rather rusty and weary-looking one.
Arranging to have her shipped to Tauranga at the earliest opportunity, I removed Clarissa's hubcaps and number plates and left for home. She arrived on a coastal trader at the port in Mount Maunganui in the dead of night a few days later. One of her front wheels had locked up solid so she had to be hoisted onto the dock on a pallet and was pushed with some difficulty into an empty shed to await my arrival. I arrived early in the morning with a trailer and found Clarissa was jammed in a corner and looking as though she wasn't going to be going anywhere. After much manoeuvring and swearing (she has a light body but with 8 cylinders only an idiot would be stupid enough to lift the tow bar) she was eventually winched onto the trailer.
We set off for Romsley Motor Museum in Te Puna, stopping every few kilometres to check the rear wheel bearings for overheating, but there was no problem. At Te Puna I introduced Clarissa to Bill Davis, the museum owner, and his partner Lois, and panel beater Steve Simpson and his wife Linda. There was much tut-tutting and head-shaking as Clarissa was inspected, and I felt my heart sink in my chest as I realised I wouldn't be running in any rallies for at least a year, and then not until considerable time and money had been spent on my new acquisition.
Clarissa was in much worse condition than the photos had indicated and I realised that they had been taken quite some time before I purchased her. Recourse from the dealer was not possible, since he already had a substantial tax problem and filed in bankruptcy a short time later.
It was decided that the car needed major surgery on panels, frame, paint and woodwork - a complete ground-up restoration, quite a lot more than was originally thought - but as most of the car's parts were still present it should be fairly straightforward or so we thought!