It’s well known that at Sony Xplod Beach Hop 2011 there was rain… and plenty of it. So maybe it was the two-year gap between the last sunny event and this year’s one that made it seem all the more special, or maybe it really was. From talking to various entrants, spectators and traders, all agreed it was the latter, and the event should go down in history as one of, if not the best ‘Hop’ yet.
Everywhere we went, we were met by people saying just how big the event was, and it wasn’t until head event organiser Noddy Watts announced on Saturday afternoon that entrant numbers were limited to 100 cars less than last year that we had any idea that was the case, as it certainly didn’t seem that way.
With so much going on over all five days of the event, it’s almost impossible to keep up to date with what’s happening, so the easiest way is to pick and choose what you want to do, or what you want to see, and then do as much as you can. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, you’ll stumble on cars that you haven’t seen, or another stage with yet a different band pumping out some quality tunes.
Main event sponsors, Sony Xplod, along with Ford, have really helped to move the event to the next level with their high profile and professionalism, along with their flawlessly run and presented display which seemed to pop up from nowhere at every venue the event visited. Sony’s quartet of retro-inspired promo girls seemed to be the only thing that was getting as much attention as the impressive cars on their display.
If you’ve not been to the Hop before, it’s almost impossible to imagine exactly what takes place there, and when you do go, you’ll wonder how on earth the whole thing is orchestrated to perfection. The very short explanation of the event goes something like this: over the first three days, the travelling roadshow of 1100 cars heads to different towns, kicking off with Waihi on day one, Tairua on day two, then Onemana on day three. While each day is notably different, the atmosphere is buzzing at each, and the ground is shaking to the sound of countless V8s. Besides the cars entered, come day three, there are easily as many, if not more, similar vehicles floating around that are not officially entered in the event.
At each venue you’ll find various bands playing, local organisations running fundraising food stalls, and hoards of people taking in the amazing atmosphere of cars, music and people.
Day four and five of the event (Saturday and Sunday) are different again, with Saturday seeing a variety of different groups of vehicles parading in different directions around the usually quiet town of Whangamata and culminating in what’s essentially a town-wide car show.
Come Sunday, car owners can relax a little, leave the cars at home and check out all the handmade products on sale at the Nostalgia Fair and Car Show. The only owners who can’t take this as a chance to relax are those in possession of the top five cars and top five motorbikes, as judged by the public the day before, which make up the Century Batteries Top 10 Shootout. Included in the top five cars this year were two from the South Island: Nick Appleman’s ’54 Chev from Nelson and David Jeffery’s Rat Rod from Christchurch.
As for how Beach Hop is run so seamlessly? It’s thanks to Noddy Watts and his team of 200 (mainly local) volunteers who work almost around the clock throughout the event to make it happen. Of course, without the support of the local community and councils, and the tireless efforts of all involved, the event just couldn’t take place.
An unofficial part of the Hop is the cruising that takes place down the main street of Whangamata on pretty much every night of the event. What’s usually a sleepy road with minimal traffic turns into a bumper-to-bumper parade of cars both mild and wild, but thankfully relatively well behaved, despite plenty of goading from the younger members of the massive crowd. Full credit must go to the police who were out in force ensuring order was maintained, in what can only be described as a testing environment.
Of the entered vehicles, over 80 were from the South Island, which is a massive achievement. However, the prize for coming from furthest away must go to the handful of hardy souls who transported their vehicles over from Australia for the event. Now that’s dedication!
One thing we noticed this year was the number of women who had entered (over 100) and the large proportion of cars with kids of various ages in them, many of whom were dressed in retro style too. We can’t recall ever seeing as many people making as much effort at any previous Hop. Nowhere was this more obvious than Saturday’s parades, where multiple Elvises were spotted along with more Pink Ladies and JFK look-a-likes than ever before.
The various car shows that took place after the main parade were each themed. The Repco-sponsored Pre-49 Hot Rod Show saw many of the country’s top hot rods parked together, while at the far end of town the Century Batteries Classic Car, Caravan & Boat Show was a completely different spectacle. Ford lovers could be found at Williamson Park, while those keen to catch a bargain would have been checking out the many cars for sale at The Lending Room Classic Car Fair.
The main street not only saw the Meguiar’s Main Street Car Show, but also a small display of drag cars. Morice McMillin’s Shapes Roadies Funny Car was a crowd favourite, particularly after over 3000 packs of the sponsor’s products were handed out during the day.
The Castrol Edge Nostalgia Funny Car of Karl Bonniface was a major hit too. For those that didn’t see — and feel it — fire up at Onemana the previous day, they were treated to it coming to life as part of the Castrol Edge Crackle Fest.
The event is not just about the cars though, as the inaugural Coastal News Vintage Market showed. Held over three days, the indoor market had countless patrons through the door, and from what we were told plenty of sales were made. Come night-time half of the Market’s floor space was transformed into the venue for a Beach Hop first, a Burlesque Show and tattoo competition, both sponsored by Kickass Collectables.
The bands are as big a part of the event as the cars and as such there were 20 bands selected from both New Zealand and Australia playing at various times and at various venues throughout the Hop. Crowd favourites include the always-popular Ricki Wood and Rotorua’s Al Dawson & The Wildkatz who kept the Pre-49 car show pumping.
Come Saturday evening, all attention turned to Williamson Park, which was the location for the main prize draw, where there was the chance to win one of two cars. The lucky winner was a first-time Beach Hop attendee Michelle Phelps who came up from Cheviot in the South Island and chose to take home the awesome yellow 1930 Ford Coupe. The car she decided not to take home was a 1957 Ford Fairlane, which was auctioned off to Rex Pollock from Tauranga. Rex has been to Beach Hop for the last four years, but has never owned a car like this. As you can imagine, he’s looking forward to attending next year as an entrant!
He’ll have to get in quick though, as there’ll only be 1000 entries offered, and with the success of this year’s event, they’ll sell out as soon as they’re available. If you too are looking to have the time of your life, best you get in quick… as it’s going to be huge!
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy
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