Don Rowe’s car has no warrant and no rego. But with the power of the sharing economy he went for a roadtrip to Raglan in a performance car, and northern exploration in a drop top classic.
Fast cars seem like a ridiculous and ostentatious display of wealth – until you drive them. Then it starts to make a whole lot of sense.
The road to Raglan is equal parts motorway and snaking, single-lane hill climb. Ideally you want a mixture of speed and finesse, something that hugs the road around the bends but takes flight in the right circumstances. Something like a Nissan 370Z, a 3.5litre sports car from the people that brought you the Skyline. Unfortunately for me, picking up a 370Z is about as practicable as picking up a house, coming in somewhere around $20K second-hand. What you can do, however, is rent one from someone who can afford to own one.
While the owner William studied for his engineering exam in a sweltering Auckland apartment I was almost 200km away, watching set after set of six foot waves peel into Manu Bay. Seven tuis flitted about in the wall of harakeke framing the surf, and a gentle breeze carried spray from the rocks across the grass and into my hair. Offshore three boats skirted the break, heading west in the shadow of the volcano Karioi, their engines muted enough to be an almost pleasant hum beneath the sound of the birds. It was a tough day’s mahi.
That morning, around nine, I had taken the train three stops from my flat, walked five minutes in the early morning sun, grabbed the keys (well, remote – the thing was a bloody spaceship), and fled the city within a few more minutes. It was simple as a TradeMe transaction and surprisingly liberating.
New Zealanders have a real obsession with their cars and by implication somewhere to park them, and wash them, and take side-on profile shots for the inevitable TradeMe listing – truly the Kiwi dream. But while the ownership of tangible assets might be a hangover from our experiences on the stock market, the vast majority of cars rapidly depreciate to the point of almost worthlessness, and that’s just leaving the yard. Financially they don’t make a whole lot of sense if you have access to even barebones public transport, particularly considering the AA estimates the costs of owning a car at around $20 every day, provided you shop around for deals on things like tyres. If you’re anything like me, that $20 buys you the convenience of maybe driving to the supermarket once a week while you fill the AT coffers on the train every day.
There are social costs too, many of which carsharing alleviate. According to the US Transportation Board, every car injected into the sharing economy takes 15 privately-owned vehicles off the road, a huge reduction that could affect real change while we wait for urban authorities to build infrastructure fit for a real city, as well as alleviating at least some of the emissions that spew forth at every step of the car manufacturing and maintenance process. And that’s not to mention our shameful road toll – more than 370 this year alone, up more than 50 on the year before.
But that is somewhat immaterial when one considers the area where cars are obviously superior to any form of public transport or Uber-esque service is in the getaway; escaping the rat race and fleeing to the beach, or the snow, or wherever it is you make your fun. As a whole we’re willing to sacrifice a huge amount for that slice of freedom. And it makes sense when we’ve been sold on private ownership as the only option – but that’s no longer true.
While Yourdrive is unlikely to replace any one form of transport entirely, like most of the sharing economy it fits into a system of similar services with the ultimate goal of flexibility. You can walk to the supermarket and take an Uber home on Wednesday. Then pick up a car from Yourdrive for the weekend. And the beauty is, there’s a vehicle for every trip.
The 370Z was ideal for a high speed mission across the treacherous roads to Raglan, but heading up north I wanted something a little more leisurely. Something that just said cool. And that’s the beauty of Yourdrive. As I’ve lamented before, on a regular day I’m stuck with one option, my 1989 Holden Commodore, and that’s provided I can find somewhere to park where my expired rego and warrant won’t get snapped. On Yourdrive however I can window shop with a single finger, like Tinder for car dates.
How would I look behind the wheel of a Mercedes, thought I? Would a Range Rover perhaps fill the void? For $400 I could spend the day in a brand new Tesla, but how about something without a roof? And then I saw her.
The year was 1969, the dying gasp of the swinging sixties – Led Zeppelin released their first album, Richard Nixon ensconced himself in the White House, and at the Ford factory they pumped out the third generation ‘69 Falcon, a convertible two-door straight six with more style than you could shake your 60s hips at.
Andrei’s cherry red falcon is one of the few cars in the country older than my own, and about ten trillion times as cool. Up the Northern Motorway I drove like a poor, poor man’s Hunter Thompson, devoid of both the drugs and the talent, but absolutely stoked to not have a roof. At Matakatia I waved at the elderly, in Puhoi I stopped at the pub.
Matakana was for pies, Tawharanui for a swim and a tan, and all the while I shuffled through a playlist of old-school rock, modern funk and some real, straight up gangsta shit for the fellas. I promise you this, Jefferson Airplane might be more topical, or Lord Echo more groovy, but there’s nothing quite like listening to Dr Dre’s 2001 album, start to finish, the way it was meant to be: in a convertible.
I offer a warning too: just because the breeze cools you down, it doesn’t mean you won’t get absolute singed without some sunblock. But despite the burn I finished grinning, and once the car was back with her dad, it was time to get back on the train and avoid that most hellish plague – the Auckland commute.
This content was brought to you by Yourdrive, New Zealand’s car sharing service. Got a car? Earn money by renting it out. Need a car? Rent one from a real person nearby. Yourdrive.co.nz
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.