The world was a very different place 50 years ago. Wilson and Johnson watched over the UK and the US, while we watched Evel Knievel jump 16 cars in a row (and then fail to jump the fountains at Caesar’s). Bond ‘Only Lived Twice’, The Beatles still topped the charts (and released Sgt Pepper’s ) and the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine was released. Technology was on the move too; there was the world’s first heart transplant operation, the first ATM machine gave out cash in London, Concorde was unveiled and the Boeing 737 took to the skies.
Here in New Zealand, Keith Holyoake was prime minister and the population was about 2.7 million. Currency was decimalised (at a rate of $2 to a pound) and inflation was at 5.8 percent. C’mon, Town and Around, In Your Garden and Lost in Space were on TV, while The Bee Gees, The Monkees and Mr Lee Grant topped the charts. In motorsport, Denny Hulme won the F1 Championship and in Newmarket, Tim Bailey opened the doors to Continental Cars.
1967 – It all started with one man and his tool box
The Continental Cars’ journey started in 1967 when a young Tim Bailey arrived at small workshop premises, behind an disused Mobil petrol station at 40 Great South Road, Newmarket. As one of the three first A-grade technicians in New Zealand, and with Service Manager experience at Town and Country Cars behind him, he started the company with nothing more than £600, a toolbox, an old Morris Minor van and a dream.
From the outset, the difference was service. ‘People person’ Tim Bailey was ultimately a car guy; his personal garage boasted some stunning Italian beauties (i.e. a 1966 Ferrari 365SWB and a 1962 Alfa Spyder) and, when not under the bonnet of a car, he was more than at home behind the wheel. His racing career had him on the Rally circuit and the racetrack, lined up against the who’s who of NZ racing legends (Hulme, McLaren and Amon), driving everything from Fiat and Ferrari to an Alfa and the Porsche 911T.
Tim’s passion was servicing European (Continental) cars, and so it seemed inevitable that Continental Cars was born. Continental Cars was initially a sales and service centre for Fiat (Bambinos). However, it wasn’t long before things began to grow.
1973 – Ferrari
An integral part of Continental Cars. In the news – The World Trade Centre (NYC) becomes the tallest building in the World, the Sydney Opera house opens, NZ population hits 3 million and ‘Fred Dagg’ was born. With Tim’s penchant for luxurious and sporty Italian cars, there was little doubt the Prancing Horse brand would at some point come into the Continental Cars stable and it was actually a case of sooner rather than later. The first car they sold was a Ferrari Dino 246 GT. Since then, Continental Cars (the only Ferrari dealer in New Zealand) has introduced so many customers to the brand that New Zealand has developed to be one of the highest achievers in Ferrari sales (and collectors) per capita in the world, especially in the top-end models.
1974 – Porsche
In the news – Isabela Peron (Evita) becomes president of Argentina, West Germany wins the World Cup and the New Zealand Cricket team beats Australia for the first time. Continuing with the racing theme, motorsport marque Porsche was the next European vehicle brand to be added to the group. Porsche had already established itself as a powerful and desirable brand and the iconic (and timeless) look of the 911 slotted in perfectly.
1975 – Volkswagen
In the news – Margaret Thatcher becomes leader of the British Conservative party, Jaws hits the big screen (while Betamax and VHS hit the TV) and NZ’s second TV channel starts broadcasting. With one legendary German brand safely ensconced into the Continental Cars’ family, another was quick to follow – Volkswagen. The likes of the Beetle, the Golf, the Combi and the Polo all became accessible to Kiwis.