The sleepy little town of Kaponga, on the slopes of Mount Taranaki, is not where you expect to find a specialist in rebuilding rare and valuable vintage cars.
Kaponga is like that. For years the Kaponga Backgammon Club brought some of the world’s top blues musicians to their clubrooms in a block of derelict shops, and it wasn’t uncommon for overseas artists to ask if they could play at the Club.
Roy King is even more of a Kaponga institution. Although you may not have heard of him, Roy has been in the restoration business for many years and has never advertised. Work arrives by word of mouth and, like the musicians at the Backgammon Club, a lot of it comes from overseas. Kaponga may be an out of the way place to find world class restoration skills, but it’s Roy’s home, and people who need his skills have no trouble finding him.
Roy almost never restores a complete car. His latest project being the major refurbishment of a 1924 Fiat 519 chassis. When I first visited Roy in late September 2008 his part in the restoration was nearing completion, and it was soon to be shipped to its Australian owner. The term ‘major refurbishment’ hardly does justice to Roy’s work over the last three or so years.
He received a very rough chassis and 54 boxes of scruffy parts. Roy cleaned and painted the chassis and fully overhauled the engine, gearbox and differential before starting to make hundreds of irreplaceable items that were missing. The list of parts he manufactured was almost endless — fuel lines, wiring, wiring connectors, two splined rear hubs, four knockoff hub caps, brackets, 40 grease nipples, a car lot of nuts and bolts, including 106 dome nuts.