Age no barrier to hot rod grandfather

Clockwise from top, Retirement offered Steve the chance to prove the nay-sayers wrong. Wild Thing is a big hit with Steve’s grandsons, Charlie and Cooper.

They said it couldn’t be done so that was all the challenge that retiree Steve Clare, of Matakatia Bay, needed.

The 70-year-old grandfather recently completed a two-and-a-half year labour of love, in the form of a 1968 Austin Mini ute with a V8 engine, named Wild Thing.

The Mini was recently shown at the prestigious Teng Tools Grand National Rod & Custom Show in Auckland and at the beach Hop in Whangamata earlier in the year.

“She’s a real people magnet – everyone who sees her, loves her,” Steve says.

The idea of building a Mini with a V8 motor in the rear deck germinated many years ago in Steve’s imagination, but there was never time to do the project.

It was only in retirement that he’s been able to turn his wild imaginings into a full metal reality. And much to his delight, he proved to his many critics who said it couldn’t be done, how wrong they were.

“I’m really pleased with the result,” he says proudly. “She’s really lively to drive.”

Steve says there is nothing like it in NZ and although there will be other similar cars overseas, none will have the same particular specifications.

“She’s a one-of-a-kind and doing the whole build ourselves was very satisfying.”

Steve and son Ben, who also worked on the Mini, found the original vehicle in a wreckers yard in Henderson. Since then, the modifications have consumed countless hours and “tens of thousands” of dollars.

The engine is a 1975 Leyland V8 with a Subaru Legacy radiator, Subaru Impreza gearbox, and custom made chassis. The rear cab panel from a Morris Minor ute was cut to suit and grafted onto the bodywork.

“I love to to be busy and I’m a bit of a handyman, whether it is cars or houses, and all self-taught. I’d been thinking of the Mini idea for a long while, but it was really my wife Jill who got me started. She said I needed a project – I think her exact words were, ‘You’re always happiest when you are pottering in the shed’!

“Age is just a number and I haven’t found transitioning from work to retirement difficult – not at all! I think keeping busy is the key.”

Over the years, Steve has owned more than 34 road vehicles and 19 race vehicles.

“I started racing go karts and then graduated to speedway saloons, stockcars, forumla Ford single seaters, sports racing cars and rallying.”

He was runner-up for a national title in speedway saloons, missing out by just 12 inches.

Ben also doesn’t mind jumping behind the wheel and claimed a SS2000 title driving a Honda Vtec, which he and his Dad had worked on.

Wild Thing is fully roadworthy so Coasters shouldn’t be surprised if they see it driving around the peninsula.


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