'I remember these, what a terrible vehicle', or 'These were great', is the mixed response by gentlemen of a certain age, to the blue Trekka displayed in our English Shed.
The Trekka is the only motor vehicle to be designed and mass-produced in New Zealand. While other vehicles were built, none reached mass-production. Between 1966 and 1973, 2,500 Trekkas were built.
The Trekka was initially designed by Phil Andrews' Motor Lines company, a firm which imported Skoda vehicles. It was manufactured by Motor Holdings, Otahuhu. The vehicles were locally built and the running-gear was from the Skoda Octavia, imported in kit-set form from Czechoslovakia.
Now the story gets interesting.
The Trekka was a product of import restrictions designed to encourage higher New Zealand content in locally-assembled vehicles.
Phil Andrews negotiated with the Czech company Motokov for the supply of the Skoda mechanical kits. It seems Motokov knew New Zealand had a surplus of wool and indicated they were keen to barter the running-gear for our wool. However, this was too much for the department of Industries and Commerce of the day, they couldn't deal with the concept of a barter, despite wanting to conserve overseas funds. In the end, Phil Andrews and Brian Elwood did a deal with Motokov and procured the parts they needed.
With a high proportion of the Trekka produced in New Zealand and the Skoda kit purchased at bargain prices, this made the Trekka almost the cheapest road-going vehicle available in New Zealand at 899.00 pounds.
The vehicle was aimed at farmers, giving them a cheaper option to the imported utes and FWD's. The production model was two-wheel drive with limited slip-diff fitted to many.
However, the lowering of import tariffs in the 1970s saw the end of New Zealand's local vehicle assembly and the Trekka lost its advantage and eventually ceased production in late 1973.
There are relatively few Trekkas left but its story has become recognised as a part of 'Kiwiana'. It is a uniquely New Zealand product with a place in popular culture.