When he started out as an apprentice motor mechanic at Wanganui Motors in 1968, Dave Johnston was working on Ford 10s, Mark I Zephyrs and 100Es.

He remembers having to do oil changes on them every 1000 miles and driving a Fordson truck over the old town bridge to pick up brakes from Holdaways.

In two stints with the business on Ridgway St, Johnston worked as a motor mechanic, service receptionist and service manager over a combined 41 years.

After 51 years in the automotive industry as a whole, the 67-year-old called time on his role as a warranty clerk, retiring on Thursday.


Johnston said jobs were plentiful when he started his working career straight out of Whanganui Boys' College in 1968.

"In the main assembly near the end of the year, they'd ask 'who wants to be a motor mechanic apprentice? Come up and see us at the front of the hall'.

"There were probably about 10 of us that went up, I just wanted to be an engineer of some sort and motor mechanic was the one for me."

Born in Wellington, Johnston started his schooling in Plimmerton before moving to Whanganui in 1959.

He has lived here ever since, impressed with how easy it is to get around and believing the River City has some of the best sports facilities around.

Johnston represented Whanganui as a reserve goalie in hockey when Olympic gold medal winner Les Wilson was in the team.

Johnston's first stint with Wanganui Motors lasted 21 years.

"When I first started, there were two foreman, a little wee service receptionist and everything was hand-written because there were no computers," Johnston says.


"We also had a workshop controller who controlled the workshop and gave all the technicians jobs. I did that for a while."

Following his time as a technician, the service receptionist had a heart attack and Johnston found himself filling that position.

In 1989, it was time for a change and Johnston ventured out from the only business he had ever worked at to work for Kevin Edmonds.

Edmonds had the Mazda and Suzuki franchise, but sold his business and got out of the industry when Ford and Mazda formed a partnership.

After 10 years working for Edmonds as a technician, Johnston found himself back where it all began and that is where he finished on Thursday.

"I won't miss coming to work," Johnston says with a laugh.

"67's old enough isn't it? It's time to go. We've got young grandchildren we want to spend time with and look after."

Johnston became a dad and grandad when he got together with his partner Judy Sangster 20 years ago. He also has an adopted son.

The couple got on the same page and Sangster retired from her job at Devon Homes the day after Johnston.

A member of the Wanganui Camera Club and the Ulysses Club of New Zealand, Johnston is looking forward to taking photographs and riding his Honda VFR1200 in retirement.

He is also an on-and-off golf player, but with his retirement looming took the sport back up about 12 months ago.

When he reflects on his career he remembers it as a good experience working with an excellent team.

"Witnessing the advancement in the motor vehicle itself has been one of my favourite things about working here. It's been such a big change right back from '68 until now.

"The things we used to get away with in the early days, health and safety would be upset. Wanganui Motors used to have a very good social club, it was very active.

"We've got a horrendous room upstairs that's got a bar in it. We'd be in there Friday nights til 10 o'clock, they were really good times."

By the sound of things, there are plenty more good times to come.