The day John and Maureen Stewart arrived here, the young professionals who defined this neighbourhood knew that life here was never going to be the same again.

That day in March 1974, the Stewarts gave everyone plenty to pull their curtains back for when Maureen pulled up in her DKW classic car and John arrived in his latest Ford Zephyr.

But that wasn't the half of it. Along with their two young children, John's Stanley Steam car and his 1905 Cadillac made the move here, too. These cars were just two of the 50 or so cars he has owned during his life, of which half have been vintage or classic editions.

John, aged 92, has no idea how many cars he has restored but if the walls behind the bespoke, discreet three-car garage he built here could talk, they'd likely confirm a grand total.

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The elegant, horizontal, plaster form of that garage adjoining the original brick/plaster 1959 executive-style home meant John would be the model of discretion with his restoration projects.

The Stewarts are the third-longest established residents around here and the two ahead of them have become friends genuinely interested in John's lifelong passion.

"We certainly shook things up when we arrived but I don't think any of the close neighbours were bothered or had any problems," says John. "We never had any complaints but they were quite interested in what was turning up next."

19 Grampian Rd, St Heliers, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
19 Grampian Rd, St Heliers, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

However it wasn't all about cars when this couple settled in here. A former refrigeration engineer and co-founder of the 1950s Hill and Stewart retail appliances/electronics chain, John had minimal tolerance for anything that didn't work properly.

Within weeks, he had sorted the best from the rest upstairs and down. The lounge cocktail cabinet was among the built-in furniture that stayed; the multi-coloured block fire surround and the wall of built-in shelving that cut the lounge off from the dining room had to go.

Just a few months later, the builder was working through a list that included opening up the lounge into the dining area and improving the guest entry in from the front door.

In the kitchen, John had the booth-style breakfast nook replaced with a casual dining area extended out under the eaves.

19 Grampian Rd, St Heliers, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
19 Grampian Rd, St Heliers, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

He extended the opposite side of the kitchen where the sink bench looks out to the garden.

John timed the alterations to coincide with a four-week car club trip overseas, returning a little ahead of the scheduled completion date.

"We came back to circular saws and sawdust. It was a shambles," he said.

When the dust had settled, the Stewarts had a home that has delivered everything they needed as a family without any need for updates.

19 Grampian Rd, St Heliers, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
19 Grampian Rd, St Heliers, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

In the bedrooms, there are various configurations of built-in furniture including wrap-around furniture with integrated bedside tables and a dressing table. The bathrooms include built-in storage, as does Maureen's sewing room/study with its original built-in, pull-down desk.

Upstairs, the outdoor connection is through french doors from the lounge, the sewing room/study and the master bedroom, to the full-length north-west facing balcony.

John and Maureen Stewart have lived only in St Heliers since their marriage 65 years ago and they're continuing the local connection with a move into independent retirement living nearby.

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