Actor Neill Rea plays Detective Mike Shepherd in the NZ series The Brokenwood Mysteries that will run on Prime soon.

Tell us about the show's "star car"

It's a 1971 Holden Kingswood, coloured somewhere between fawn and cream. More cream, I guess. It's got a column shift, three forward gears and many jealous looks. The lack of power steering was initially painful but it grew on me and provided a workout for my biceps.

Your character has a haphazard knowledge of car engines ... how clued up on car mechanics are you?


If Mike is haphazard, I'm just hazardous. I know most cars have four wheels apart from Mr Bean's.

Would you choose to own a car like this?

Yep. Aforementioned jealous looks. Incidentally, my father had a slightly later model in the 70s that was sparkly purple.

What do you drive as your own car?

A sensible, yet boring, white family Toyota Corolla station wagon. We all have to grow up some time.

Do you drive differently in the show? I probably drive faster and more distracted in the show. I think I was trying to channel Bodie or Doyle [of The Professionals].

First car?

A 404 Peugeot called Winnie the Peugeot. Incidentally, my brother bought it and renamed it Atom (French car - Mururoa - the French bomb testing, etc).

Your dream car ...

A chocolate-coloured Mini. That answer is, perhaps, a little too much mid-life crisis.

Favourite car colour?

Chocolate or red.

Who taught you to drive?

Two people. My brother, up Barrett Rd in New Plymouth in his old-style Mini wagon, he was a great teacher. Little too much of the "10 and two", though. Also, my mother at the saleyards at Kauri, north of Whangarei, in an early Subaru wagon - not so good on the teaching front. Little too much of "look out!" Sorry, Mum. I have yet to teach my own kids. That pleasure awaits.

Manual or automatic?

I'd call myself a swinger in that regard. All depends on how lazy I feel.

Most memorable road trip?

We travelled Dunedin to Blenheim in the Scarfies red Holden Special wagon as part of a promotion for the 1999 film. Great company and, again, many jealous looks.

What's a great day trip out of Auckland?

We often do a blast down to Te Aroha to visit some close mates.

Do you judge people by what they drive?

If they have those reverse-opening-door cars with running boards then I know they're gangsters.

What irritates you most about other drivers?

Drivers who aren't careful around cyclists.

Star power

Tim Balme

Tim Balme, Brokenwood Mysteries writer, says character Mike Shepherd is essentially old school in terms of his approach to detective work.

"He works on gut instinct and solid gumshoe methods. It was safe to assume he'd prefer a car that liked to be driven rather than a car that drives itself ... And the Holden has been an integral part of the New Zealand police force for decades." The show's "brilliant" designer Nick Williams found the Holden Kingswood for sale on the internet and it "performed like a star".