Me and my car: Al Brown

By Donna McIntyre

Living the dream in Santa Fe

Chef, restaurateur, author and TV presenter Al Brown likes to head away in his SUV Picture / Ted Baghurst
Chef, restaurateur, author and TV presenter Al Brown likes to head away in his SUV Picture / Ted Baghurst

What do you drive?

I drive a Hyundai Santa Fe; I have a relationship with Hyundai and have driven their cars for about five years. I think the Santa Fe is an everyday premium car that works across the NZ spectrum and it fits my brand.

What's the main consideration if buying a car?

Mainly practicality. I have two teenage daughters and we also drive their friends so I need something that can take all those kids and their gear. On road trips, I like to take everything including the kitchen sink and then I need to be able to tow.

Your first car?

An Austin A40, a ute that was bought for myself and my two sisters. It had a bench seat and we sat three across. It was a safe option, slow and heavy and strong. It was called Arnold and we had a lot of photos taken with it.

Your dream car ...

My Hyundai Santa Fe. I don't like showy cars, it's not my scene. I like to blend in with the people.

Favourite car colour?

I'm not really fussed, but nothing too bright.

Who taught you to drive?

I grew up on a farm in the Wairarapa and I was sitting behind the wheel of a tractor from the age of 4 or 5 while Dad was throwing off hay at the back. We were riding around on bikes, tractors and Land Rovers before I had my licence. Dad was a car fan and he would take me to 4WD events, stock cars and Manfeild and I used to enjoy that father-and-son stuff.

Manual or automatic?

Older days it was manuals but these days automatic. I'm a cruisy driver, not a speed freak.

How often do you clean your car?

When it rains.

Most memorable road trip?

I stick to the speed limits and enjoy the journey. As a family we stop at all the fruit stalls on the side of the road and the antique and knick-knack shops. My sister used to have a campervan and she'd let the family use it. The first year we had the thrill of going round the East Cape. We stayed in places like Anaura Bay. You stop where and when you want and have a different outlook each morning. If you want to see different parts of New Zealand, take the gravel road and meet the people.

What do you listen to?

I have teenagers so everyone is in charge of the music for half an hour.

If it's my daughters' turn, it could be Taylor Swift. When it's Lizzy, my wife's, turn, it's the Indigo Girls. My half hour will be Neil Young or Bob Dylan. We all suffer in silence during everyone else's half hour.

What's a great day trip out of Auckland?

We've just moved to Auckland so we head out to Piha and Bethells and drive through the bush to the big reveal to see the wild west coast and have an icecream after a big walk on the beach.

Do you judge people by their car?

I think it's a pretty good reflection of people's personalities. It's quite often on the money.

Who else is allowed to drive your car?

Anyone, I'm not pedantic about material possessions. I like the idea of people coming to stay and saying they can use the car. It's about hospitality, generosity. If I have respect for my friends, they will have respect for my car.

Is there space for drivers and cyclists on NZ roads?

Absolutely. I love push bikes. Kiwis in general have to be so much more tolerant and share the road with people on bikes. Cyclists have as much right to be on the road.

As told to Donna McIntyre

- NZ Herald

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