At long, long last our car has been shipped from New York to Auckland. This has taken over 6 months to achieve – mostly held up because our Title (certificate of registration) took over three months to deliver to the shipping company. And if you don’t have that title, you can’t ship your car.

Six month with this sticker on…

Still – it’s here!!

For those who are unaware, the whole trip across America was covered in DriveLife and also is part of a book I have almost finished (was just waiting for this car) on how to go to the US, bring a car back and get it on the road here (www.usa2nz.co.nz).

Thursday AM

I managed to escape to Auckland for a few days to get the car complied and then (hopefully) drive it back to Wellington. Leaving a fantastic, sunny and windless day in Wellington, I arrived to a wet and miserable Auckland. An ominous start.

A friend and I duly rocked up to the shipping company, after borrowing some trade plates so I could drive to my Entry Certifier of choice (VTNZ) and get this car legal for New Zealand roads.

Photo: Brian Simmons

The storage cost was way more than I expected (ouch) but I wanted my car, so no choice there at all. I paid and then got taken to the Challenger, which I had last seen in New Jersey last August.

We got to the car, then the fun started. I was told the battery would have been disconnected, which is fine. It would mean going through the inside of the car, dropping the back seats, unloading some of the stuff we had brought back and then reaching through for the emergency release cord (there’s no keyhole for the Challenger). That was fine too. I crawled through and popped the boot.

Unload from inside the car, jump start, repack

But – the battery was never disconnected, and so was dead flat. Six months of being connected and not being started = nothing. Luckily we had brought along two of those small jump start packs, and hooking up both of them (one alone wouldn’t start it) the Hemi roared into life.

Thursday PM

A quick repack and then off to VTNZ for the first part of our compliance check. This is generally a two-day process where the car is stripped down, and checked over for a multitude of things, including any damage/repairs, seats and seat belt anchors, rust, internal and external fittings along with the operation of safety systems, all WoF items and an emission test. All lighting and glazing have their standards checked and recorded to ensure they meet NZTA requirements.

Just a quick note – we had already applied for and received a LHD Permit, so this was already done – if we didn’t have it, we could not have completed the compliance process. This is covered in-depth in the book.

The entry certifier will go through every area on his check sheet and sign his initials on the area on car that is concealed by a cover or trim. For example, all the door and boot rubbers will be peeled away to reveal the spot welds (showing any repairs), and then the entry certifier will sign his initials there to say he’s inspected that part of the car…it’s all very thorough.

Friday

Basically today is a continuation of yesterday, right down to measuring the brakes, noting down the thickness of the discs and checking the brake pads to make sure they meet our standards. Brian from VTNZ who is doing our compliance check, also took off the inside guards and wrote his initials on covered areas as evidence of inspection. He checked the factory welds to make sure there had been no repairs to the car.

My car has been tagged!

Normally, a car’s insides would be stripped out – all the door panels, boot panels and carpets near the seat belt anchors would be taken out of the car so these items could be checked very carefully – again to look for any damage that had been repaired.

For our Challenger, we managed to get a ‘Trim Exemption’ from the NZTA. Since the car was basically new, this was relatively easy although someone from NZTA needed to inspect the car for any signs of repairs or damage, and spent some time going over it before approving the exemption. Since we had the exemption approved, this meant a much quicker compliance check, without the need to remove trim panels.

It was a much shorter event though, and by lunchtime our car is done and dusted – and I’m allowed to register it and put my number plates on.

At last!!!

Saturday – Road Trip!

Well I couldn’t just leave it in Auckland, someone is going to have to drive this car back to Wellington. Yet more rain (that made it three days in a row), but you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  After over six months, our car is finally road legal for New Zealand.

I hit the road early-ish at 8.30 and headed south. Another grey day, with enough rain to make it annoying. As usual, New Zealand drivers ignore the dark, cloudy day and didn’t put their headlights on. No point being seen by other drivers I guess 🙂

Two tanks parked up

A totally uneventful trip from Wellington to Auckland, but a blissful one. A few pinches now and then to make sure I wasn’t dreaming; while lots of people bring in cars from the USA each year, this one just seemed to take so long. That’s what you get when buying a new car in the USA though, it takes longer. To find out why, you’d need to read my book, when it’s finally published. And now that our car is legal and complied I can finish this book!

After around 700km on the Auckland-Wellington trip, the 5.7 Hemi averaged 9.4l/100km. I didn’t find that unacceptable at all. At times I needed to pass people, and so I did – safely, if you know what I mean. It’s interesting that under 2,000rpm the V8 is relatively quiet – not inaudible and you know it’s a V8, but it isn’t loud at all. Hit 2,000rpm though and it makes a nicely tuned V8 noise. Pleasing to the ears and a noise you want it to make more often. This means that sometimes you just have to change to third gear to pass when fourth would do it, but that’s life.


A huge round of thanks to the team at VTNZ in Cavendish Drive, Manukau, Auckland. They couldn’t have been more helpful than they were, including hunting down a trickle charger from a neighbouring motor repair place and putting my battery on a slow charge for the night – which saved the battery. A great bunch of guys!

And thanks also to Brian Simmons from VTNZ in Wellington who flew up especially to do the compliance check on our Dodge. Can’t say thanks enough for that, above and beyond the call.

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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