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Kiwi Garage: 1908

Kiwi Garage: 1908

Christchurch, New Zealand, circa 1908. "Wolseley and Cadillac motor cars in garage." Glass plate by the Steffano Webb Photographic Studio. View full size.


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Cadillacs were well represented in both Christchurch and Auckland in 1908, thanks to Dexter and Crozier, an energetic dealership with a presence in both locations. However, at the risk of offending the New Zealander who wrote the original caption, both of those cars are Wolseleys.

The 1908 example on our right has the unique Wolseley curved body panel from which the crank handle protrudes below the radiator, which was installed on some models. It also sports a Wolseley paint scheme, new style axle with long hubs, grille, and frame mounted headlight brackets—all characteristics of the Wolseley.

The 1907 model on our left also has the frame mounted headlight brackets, along with an earlier style grille, hood, and dash/firewall (to which a wooden frame would be bolted to mount the windshield). The '07 appears to be stripped down for racing, which would explain the heavier axle of the type found on purpose-built Wolseley racing cars of the day.

Both cars have their steering rods mounted behind the front axle—a Wolseley feature and not a Cadillac one.

A Commercial Establishment?

These cars look like they may have just come off the boat. The Wolseley may have only primer paint, no gloss or striping, and English cars were often delivered without bodies, to be finished by the coach builder of the customer’s choice (I have no insight on the coachbuilding scene in New Zealand). American cars were more commonly fitted with bodies by the manufacturer. This garage may be the establishment of a dealer, and at this period, most dealerships were tiny affairs, often one man retailing one car at a time, or handling various brands as he saw fit. It is nice to see the foot treadle machinist’s lathe for quickly running up replacement parts, and a selection of hammers to match any problem.

Note the cabinet on left

All full up with headlights and markers -- kerosene-filled, I believe, just like early trains.


Track for a rolling door, maybe? Note what looks like wood siding above it.

Flat Ironwork

Perhaps the ironwork is for sliding doors and the wall visible above is an outside wall. You can also see a joint in the concrete below. My guess is the camera is just outside the actual garage.

Ditto on the favorite

It's just beautiful. Two brass era classics, and not a drop of oil on the floor. I'm curious about the overhead flat ironwork; some sort of trolley hoist, perhaps.

Not hoi polloi

Rather, hoi oligoi, this motorist. Anyone New Zealander who could afford to own both a Cadillac (with hefty import duties attached) and a Wolseley (not cheap in the colonies by any means, either) probably had ample staff to keep the garage washed and brushed up. It appears that the Wolseley has yet to be fitted with its custom coachwork, or else the chauffeur is in the process of switching its summer, open body for its winter, closed attire -- or vice versa, obviously. The lathe in the corner suggests that major maintenance can also be done on-premises.

Re: One of my new favorites

The conical object on the display cabinet is an early soda-acid fire extinguisher.

My local auto museum has one. Definitely for the _early_ stages of a fire (in a wastebasket).

Well lit, amazingly neat and clean garage!

Thinking over the contemporary garages that have been pictured here, this one is beautiful. The walls are painted, the rafters are clear (as if recently built), there's a nice display cabinet, and all of the work areas are clean and neat. This reminds me of the modern garage of an auto collector.

One of my new favorites

If only I could get my garage this tidy. Perhaps it is likely that the owner had a mechanic on staff? The details in this one combine to make it one of my favorites. The lathe, workbench, and fully-ranged set of ball-peen hammers and brooms make me want to step in and wrench away on one of those classics (assuming it was in need of repair).

I particularly like the cabinet with the driving lanterns stored. Can anyone confirm what the conical item hanging on the left is for...water, oil or grease? Also, could that be a maintenance/mechanical diagram for the drivetrain of one of the vehicles over the workbench?

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