For the love of machinery and the smell of petrol

Laurie and Linda Brunt inside the yesteryear Barn at Netherton.

As the name indicates, The Yesteryear Barn Museum at Netherton, just north of Paeroa on State highway 2, has cars and farm machinery from yesteryear.

When Laurie Brunt left school he trained as a mechanic – and the love of machinery and the smell of petrol has been with him ever since. He could be described as the original “petrol head.”

“Why did I start collecting old machinery, toy cars and real cars? It’s simple, I didn’t have any toys as a kid. I had to work on the farm at Karaka,” says Laurie.

In his younger days Laurie used to manage the dump, now transfer station, at Thames and fill in for other dump sites around the Coromandel Peninsula. People used to bring in old bits and pieces to dump and Laurie would sort through it and keep the bits that took his eye. The trouble was he had nowhere to store his treasures and had to rely on friends and family for storage space.

“After a while that got a bit messy so my wife, Linda and I bought this property which already had a large shed on it,” says Laurie.

The shed has come full circle, starting life as Stembridges Garage and Transport and when that closed down it was a mineral and rock museum for a while. The pit from the old garage is still there. Now it houses a collection of large and small machines from stock cars, old number plates, photographs and every sort of nut, screw and bolt that was ever needed for a vehicle – and Laurie knows where each one is. There is even the bonnet from the stockcar that Tiger Woods and his then-caddy, Steve Williams, drove in the celebrity stockcar race in Huntly in 2006 and it is signed by both of them.

“When I was a young chap I used to drive stock cars at the races at Forest Lake, Hamilton, until they shifted the track to Huntly. One of my prized possessions, apart from Linda, is ‘Big Red’ and the other one is the black midget racing car, manufactured in 1958. Both of them still go and I usually drive one in the Paeroa Santa Parade,” says Laurie.

Most of the gear has been sourced from auctions around the North Island but it is getting harder to get now, says Laurie, because a lot has been sold for scrap.

A more modern car that demands attention in the museum is a left-hand drive 1975 Ford Grenada in pristine condition, just the vehicle to go cruising around the streets in.

Outside there is little space left as there is another large collection of mainly farm machinery which will be restored “one day”.

“Most of this machinery still works, it may take a day or two to get it going but machines were built to last in those days,” says Laurie.

There is the old fire engine that was used for the Auckland Harbour Bridge and dates back to 1958; a 1940 dump truck from Waipukurau, which was used in the limestone quarry there; and a home-made tractor used at Katikati sits underneath an old hay grab.

A line of small cars in various colours, including a Ford Prefect and a baby Austin separates out some of the exhibits. The pink Ford Prefect was hired out to an Auckland theatre company when they were performing the musical ‘Grease’. It was painted pink and sat proudly on stage as part of the back drop for the dancers.

And does Linda collect anything? “No I can’t stand clutter. As long as the machinery stays outside and looks tidy I don’t mind,” says Linda. She does enjoy going to auctions with Laurie and knows she has no say when it comes to the bidding.

Anyone that is a car or machinery enthusiast will enjoy time at this museum looking at the exhibits. Each one has a story – and Laurie and Linda are happy to share their knowledge with anyone who is interested. They have lots of car groups calling in and being on SH2 there is a lot of passing traffic – and it’s an interesting place to stop and spend some time and have a yarn about the “good old days”. The Yesteryear Barn Museum is open when the Brunt’s are home and the flag is flying.


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