One week to talk on the Trekka

One week to talk on the Trekka

On Thursday 26 June Te Papa hosts a talk by journalist Todd Niall who discusses the Trekka – the vehicle and the art work. In the run up to the talk we’re collecting memories of the Trekka vehicle – good and bad. What did you think of it? Email your recollections, opinions, anecdotes or even a favourite photograph through to by Wednesday 25 June, 5 pm. The best 5 will receive free copies of Todd’s book The Trekka Dynasty.

Here’s Todd’s 3rd post on the Trekka:

“Everything goes in cycles and as the Trekka approaches its 50th anniversary 2016 that cycle is an interesting one to reflect on.

The late 1960s and early 70s were of course its heyday, with 2,500 hitting New Zealand roads. By all accounts the 80s were a time of steep decline as rust and mechanical failure claimed many, and the dominance of Japanese commercial vehicles made the Trekka irrelevant.

The 90s found the Trekka mainly in the hands of hard core owners, and refugee vehicles could be found in faraway places such as the Far North and Great Barrier Island, where minor matters such as Warrants of Fitness were of no great importance.

Approaching extinction, the new millennium was a turning point. Even if I say so myself, my two part documentary for Radio New Zealand in 2001 ‘The Trekka’s Tale’ was first attempt to put a much-scorned motor vehicle into an historical context. Michael Stevenson’s This is the Trekka work for the Venice Biennale in 2003 generated a whole new level of attention on the Trekka’s place in the country’s struggle to be something more than the world’s farm.

The book The Trekka Dynasty became the permanent record of period of New Zealand’s history which to a younger generation must have seemed as foreign as Finland. Imagine being on a possibly endless waiting list for a Morris 1100 . . .

And so began the rise of the Trekka as a vehicle – if you’ll pardon the pun – for stories about a past New Zealand. Serious restorations began, including one of the best by the man who came up with the Trekka concept, the late Phil Andrews who negotiated the original deal with Skoda.

Last year an original but unrestored Trekka changed hands for a world record $9000 in an auction. Ok, so it’s a small world. In the past year, in a coals-to-Newcastle development, three Trekkas have made their way to the Czech Republic – the home of its mechanical underpinnings.

Czech classic car enthusiasts have picked up the story through local magazines re-telling the tale, and it has a struck a chord among enthusiasts of Skoda – whose Czech heritage and history takes on a new meaning as the company’s new era as a branch of VW extends.

When classic car enthusiast Martin Starek emailed me from the Czech Republic seeking information on a Trekka to buy, I wondered whether I should really help one leave the country. He runs a small transport museum near Prague, and having recently had an email from a seller in the Manawatu seeking a buyer, it seemed to be fate.

Martin Starek, the Czech Republic's newest Trekka owner, with his pride an joy on arrival near Prague in March this year. © Todd Niall
Martin Starek, the Czech Republic’s newest Trekka owner, with his pride an joy on arrival near Prague in March this year. © Todd Niall

So now the Trekka’s other tale, its Czech history can be told over there.

And if you’d told someone in the late 1960s, that people in 2014 would be visiting a Trekka in New Zealand’s national museum…..”

Todd Niall

  • Enter the Trekka competition
  • This is the Trekka Talk
  • This is the Trekka in
  • ‘The Trekka’s Tale’ is available through Radio New Zealand
  • Subscribe to Arts Te Papa the online home of art at Te Papa



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