Speedway driver's luxurious home

By Graham Hepburn

60 ST LEONARDS RD, EPSOM
2
1
4
SIZE: Land 1284sq m, house 172sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: CV $1.21 million. Tender closes April 3.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 3-3.45pm
ON THE WEB:
SCHOOL ZONES: Epsom Normal School, Auckland Normal Intermediate, Epsom Girls' Grammar, Auckland Grammar.
CONTACT: James Marshall, ph 632 1290 or 021 404 788; Charlotte Marshall, ph 632 1291 or 027 480 8525 Harcourts.
FEATURES: Renovated and extended 1960s home with underfloor heating, gas fire and HRV system. On large site with mature gardens and park next door. Potential to subdivide.
60 St Leonards Rd, Epsom.  Photo / Supplied.
60 St Leonards Rd, Epsom. Photo / Supplied.

Champion midget driver Roly Crowther revelled in the rough and tumble of speedway but he also had a softer side. That's evident in his home, which is packed with ornaments, mirrors, lights, ornate joinery and colourful furnishings.

"He had this amazing thing for luxury and comfort," says daughter Karen Lang, pointing out the home has a gas fire, underfloor heating and an HRV system. "He also loved things like gold mirrors, figurines, lights and crystals - anything that reflected light."

She says he gutted and completely renovated the 1960s cottage in 1993 - at the age of 69, having owned it since 1978.

"He did everything; it was all his vision." He put in wide doors and roomy circulation spaces because he thought he might end up in a wheelchair one day. He also worried the glaucoma he suffered and the damage done to his eyes by racing on cinder tracks in the 1940s and 1950s might cause him to go blind.

Karen says while her father was colour-blind, he could make out blue and that was his favourite colour, which can be seen in the vibrant carpet throughout most of the home, the tiled bathroom and even the floor of the garage, home to his blue Rolls Royce.

Gold-coloured, patterned wallpaper features in the spacious lounge, which has ornate woodwork - particularly around the gas fireplace. There is an adjoining library/bar in the same style and the lounge steps down to a marble-floored sunroom. To the rear of the lounge is an open plan kitchen/family room with rustic wooden cabinetry and panelling.

Also at this end of the house is the large master bedroom complete with tiled bathroom containing a spa bath and a steam bath. The neighbouring bedroom is equally big and both bedrooms look out to a garden filled with mature trees.

Befitting someone who was passionate about cars, the home has a double garage on one side and a single garage and carport on the other.

Karen says her father built his own cars and brought exotic race cars into the country such as a Lotus and Maserati.

Growing up, she remembers motor racing legends such as Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham staying with the family when they came to race at Ardmore.

As a child, Karen would sit on her father's lap and drive his car down country roads while he folded his arms behind his head, telling her to aim it down the centre line when there was no oncoming traffic.

Nestled within the circular driveway that sweeps up to the house is a low-walled garden with a gazebo, also created by Roly. "Dad would sit there and do his thinking; that was his thinking spot," says Karen.

And throughout his life Roly did a lot of thinking, everything from working out ways to improve his car and outsmart competitors to coming up with two prototypes for a New Zealand-made car, a project that foundered though lack of funding in the late 1960s.

He enjoyed the gazebo because of the birdlife around his property and in the neighbouring park.

"He loved the birds and fed them all the time," says Karen. "He had this special whistle and they would fly from everywhere and flock around him."

Four years ago, Roly was inducted into the Western Springs Speedway Hall of Fame in recognition of his driving feats, which included being three-time New Zealand midget champion in 1945, 1946 and 1952.

Sadly, Roly passed away last year but his unique personality still shines through in the home he created.

- NZ Herald

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