Vinings In The Motor Industry
Throughout The Decades
When W.G. left his London home he spent eight gruelling weeks battling constant sea sickness in rolling swells, unappetizing food and overwhelming homesickness. He was in search of a land with new and exciting opportunities, as he had been cursed by constant illness through his childhood and adolescent years. Settling on the shores of the Nelson region, W.G. set about expanding his horizons. He had foresight and knew exactly what he could do to earn a living, opening a small business in upper Trafalgar Street, premises today occupied by House of Ales (formerly Chez Eelco).
Outside of business hours, W.G. was the organist for the Nelson Cathedral and his musical background saw him inspire people by selling pianos. These were the equivalent of today’s stereos, as everybody needed one in their homes. He also imported and sold bicycles, as he thought that horses were temperamental and high maintenance, whereas bicycles were an easy and exciting form of transport.page 50
W.G. married Miss Margaret Kebbell of Wellington in 1895, and they had two children together, a daughter, Vera, and a son, Phillip.
Before the turn of the century, W.G. became very interested in early forms of motorized transportation. In 1898 he found himself owning one of the ﬁrst cars imported to New Zealand, a Benz, which had bicycle wheels with solid rubber tyres. Monitoring the progression and development of the early motor car, he saw a promising opportunity to take his place in the motor industry. Seeing that horses were a thing of the past, W.G. decided to provide the public with a modern means of transportation by changing his business to promote and sell the versatility of the motor car.
On March 26, 1906 W.G. set out to make history. Accompanied by three women, Mrs. Lucy Hunter-Brown, Mrs. W. Sutton and Mrs B. Humphries, he left Nelson to undertake the extremely difﬁcult task of travelling to Christchurch in a motor car on unformed roads. The epic journey took six days in a 1906 10hp single cylinder Cadillac. Rain protec-tion consisted of only waterproofs, wraps and one umbrella! This trip was a daring venture which showed extreme conﬁdence in his vehicle, especially with the three women aboard. W.G. and his passengers overcame sheer bluffs, major un-bridged rivers, rocky coastlines and rutted tracks, before eventually arriving safely in Christchurch. The motor car had won the battle against rugged, untamed terrain.
In the early 1900s, with the increased popularity of the motor car, W.G. expanded his trade even further into the motor industry. He came under pressure to supply the people of Nelson with whatever cars were available. This high demand and a shortage of cars saw him decide to become a direct car importer. In 1908, needing larger premises, W.G. built a very large garage which covered31,500 square feet (2926.5 square metres). It was the largest garage in New Zealand at that time.
The new garage occupied a whole inner city block between Bridge and Hardy Streets, the area now known as Montgomery Car Park. W.G. established a car assembly factory to put together vehicles including Cadillacs, Maxwells, Beans, Haynes, Darracs and Unics, which were imported as bare chassis. By 1908 he was importing Model T Fords and he also owned Nelson’s ﬁrst bus. He later obtained the franchises for Hudson, Essex, Chevrolet and Rover cars, which expanded his business dramatically.
On September 30, 1927 W.G. felt it was time to close his business and go into retirement. He sold his garage to Les Montgomery, a close business associate, who transformed it into Montgomery’s Garage. Phillip was devastated by his father’s decision and, on October 1,1927, he and Charlie Scott, one of W.G’s clerical workers, started a business together. Phillip wanted to carry on his father’s legacy, so they decided to open a similar garage supplying vehicle maintenance and sales.
Under the name of Vining and Scott they moved their business into temporary premises on Bridge Street, known in those days as Bishop’s Garage. One month after moving in they felt the garage was unsatisfactory and moved page 53 again to a larger site with a Waimea(Rutherford) Street frontage.
In 1928 Phillip married Miss Hannah Taylor, an extremely talented Nelson pianist. Together they had two sons, Richard (Dick) born in 1929, and Peter born in 1932. Little did they know that these boys would grow to be inducted into the family business, much like their father.
Phillip and Charlie had entered into the business world at a difﬁcult time, when the Great Depression and then the war years were upon them. Throughout the years of the Depression, while many businesses were forced to close, Vining and Scott managed to retain their business share, maintaining their monopoly in the Nelson motor vehicle industry.page 54
Charlie Scott became very sick in 1938, so Phillip decided to purchase his shares in the business, but did not alter the company name.
In 1939, at the dawning of World War II, most of Vining and Scott’s hard working male staff members were called up for military duties. Luckily, because of his increasing age and the fact that his garage was considered a vital service business during war time, Phillip was not called up. During the war years, Vining and Scott noticeably become a family business. Phillip’s sons, Dick and Peter, were introduced into the trade at very early ages. They recall serving petrol from the pumps with one gallon measures, pumping up tyres and balancing petrol rationing coupons against their pump sales.page 55
On October 18, 1948, W.G Vining passed away at the age of 83. His passing was not only a huge loss to the Vining family but also to the wider Nelson community. He had come to New Zealand in hope of achieving a better living environment and spreading his horizons. He had achieved this and had also established a better lifestyle for his son and grand- children.
Phillip had expanded the core business by developing a spare parts service, rental car service and a vehicle recovery service and in 1958 they entered into the Nufﬁeld Tractor franchise. They opened a new sales yard on the opposite side of Rutherford Street and erected a workshop, providing the Nelson region with a used car, truck, tractor and rental car service. Over the next few years neighbouring properties were purchased, and eventually the entire block fronting on to Rutherford Street and Nile Street had been secured by Vining and Scott.
A fourth generation of Vinings became incorporated into the motor industry. Dick’s sons, Michael and Phillip, worked in sales, workshop reception and managerial positions, while Peter’s sons, Mark and Tony, were groomers, vehicle distributors, sales assistants and mechanics.
After much discussion, Dick and Peter decided to merge their business with the Bowater family, who were close business associates. They felt that this was a favourable page 57 business decision as times were changing. On July 4, 1980 the Bowaters agreed to buy the garage from Dick and Peter, but they still wanted them to operate their Vining vehicle ﬁnance company. This was to provide customers with readily available ﬁnance to purchase cars from the Bowater company. Dick and Peter continued to successfully run their ﬁnance company for another ten years, until they bowed out of the motor industry.
Four generations of Vinings had played key roles in the growth of the Nelson motor industry. It had all begun with a man who dreamed of broadening his horizons in search of a healthier and more independent lifestyle. Not only did he embrace the potential of the motor vehicle, but he also created a foundation upon which future generations of his family could build rewarding and sustainable lifestyles. When W.G. sailed from London to Nelson he had the determination and foresight to become a success in his adopted country. His entrepreneurship had guaranteed him and his family a prosperous future in New Zealand. As a lone pioneer from London he was remarkably successful, and has provided inspiration for future generations of his family.
Peter Kebbell Vining interview June 2, 2009
Peter Mark Vining interview June 14, 2009
Trail blazing motoring: The ﬁrst car trip from Nelson to Christchurch. Vining, P. & Vining, R., 2001. Nelson Historical Society Journal 6(4) pp 45-49
Roads of yesterday: Whangamoa, Wakapuaka and Maungatapu. [Nelson, N.Z.]: P.V. & N.L.Wastney. Wastney, P.V. & Wastney, N.L., 1982