What to See at WOW World of Classic Cars Museum in Nelson New Zealand

by | Feb 9, 2018 | Asia, New Zealand | 8 comments

WOW: Fashion and Cars in one museum

The highlight of our trip to Nelson was WOW. This is two museums in one. I spent as much time as I wanted in the fashion museum and Norman spent as much time he wanted in the car museum. All for the price of one admission.

The fashion museum was WOW WOW WOW! More on that next week.

The National WOW Museum showcases two very distinct collections that collide in a celebration of design, innovation and wonder.


Where else in the world can you see a stunning selection of more than 50 wearable art garments, alongside more than 140 veteran, vintage and classic cars?


The Nelson Classic Car Collection displays a stunning range of cars dating from 1908, all in immaculate condition.


Together the wearable art and collectible cars epitomise the very heart of WOW – exploding the boundaries of design so that creativity and invention can thrive in a world of limitless possibilities.

The car museum was also fabulous. It showcases cars as works of art.


Here is the link to the museum:www.worldofwearableart.com

We had a lot of fun at this museum, even before we entered

This poster showcases what you will see at the museum

The address for the museum is easy to remember: 1 Cadillac Way

The WOW fashion museum features wearable art


The WOW car museum features drivable art

Race Car Fan Fare

The museum displays the cars as works of art

New York in the Art Deco Era

Which do you prefer: the car or the artwork behind the car?

Do you remember the first time you drove?

I was 7. We had a campground. My brother was 15. He drove an old green truck around the campground. He let me drive. I steered while he did the gas and brakes. He did a lot of braking. Sometimes he had to grab the wheel.

Our old green truck is not in a museum but I have very fond memories of my first driving experience.

Now it is time to turn over the remainder of this post to Norman so he can tell you about the fabulous drivable art in WOW.

Note to readers: Any mismatch between the cars and the commentary is entirely made by me. Car enthusiasts will notice.

100 Years of Motoring

On display during our visit was an exhibit entitled: 100 Years of Motoring. It focused on the “Fashions, trends, experiments, advancements, indulgences” in automotive trends over the past 100 years.

The collection was truly eclectic, ranging from early classics like the Ford Model T, which revolutionized and popularized automobiles so that they moved from toys for the rich to individual transportation for the masses, the Stutz Bearcat, one of the earliest sports car, which was often raced, to the 1916 Locomobile Speedster, the most expensive car produced in America at that time and a favourite of politicians and plutocrats.

This is the early classic Ford Model T

This is the 916 Locomobile Speedster

1937 Cord 812

The collection also includes some of the great cars of the 1920’s and 1930’s, including a 1937 Cord 812, which is on virtually everyone’s list of 5 most beautiful cars of all time.

The 812 was designed by famous car designer Gordon Buehrig, who during his design career worked for Stutz, Dusenburg, Packard, Auburn (which owned Cord), GM and Ford. Buehrig was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame for his design work in 1989: http://www.automotivehalloffame.org/honoree/gordon-m-buehrig/


Buehrig is  one of the greatest auto designers of the 20th C.

1927 Packard 7 Seater Touring

Another stunning example is a 1927 Packard 7 Seater Touring, which sported a Lalique glass sculpture radiator cap

This is the front end of the 1927 Packard 7 Seater Touring

This is the Lalique ornament

Another stunning car in the collection is a 1929 Cadillac Dual Cowl Phaeton, with an early V-8 engine

This Cadillac was one of the earliest efforts of legendary GM designer Harley J. Earl, who was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame for his design work in 1986: http://www.automotivehalloffame.org/honoree/harley-j-earl-2/

The Flamboyant 50’s

From the flamboyant 50’s were some interesting specimens, including a 1950 Studebaker Commander Convertible, a 1953 Cadillac Convertible and a 1959 Cadillac Coup de Ville, with the polarizing “ray gun” tail fins.

This is the 1950 Studebaker Commander Convertible

This is the front end of the 1950 Studebaker Commander Convertible

Picture yourself here

This is the driver’s seat of the 1950 Studebaker Commander Convertible

This is a 1953 Cadillac Convertible

This is another view of the

This is another view of the 1953 Caddy

Would you drive a 1959 Cadillac Coup de Ville?

Do you like the “ray gun” tail fins on the 1959 Caddy?

The swinging 60’s

The swinging 1960’s collection included a mini, a Mark II Jaguar (for fans of the Inspector Morse British TV Series), and a replica of the “Shaguar” from the Austin Powers movies (a 1967 E-Type Jaguar in Union Jack livery).

For those who prefer the British detective series, The Saint, starring Roger Moore, there was a white 1971 Volvo P1800E that was similar to the white 1962 P1800 that Moore drove in that series.

Inspector Morse drove a Mark II Jaguar

This is Austin Powers “Shaguar”

This is another view of the Shaguar


Roger Moore looked good in his white 1971 Volvo P1800E

This is the front end of Moore’s Volvo

This car caught my attention: a beautiful white 1937 BMW 328 Convertible

The Silver 1953 Bristol 403 is beautiful

The Silver 1953 Bristol 403 used a lot of the technology in the BMW 328 including a BMW engine. Even the grill has the familiar BMW “split-kidney” design, but, as befitting the Bristol marque, is more reserved.

Both BMW and Bristol were originally in the aircraft sector, so there was a natural affinity.

I found the 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Coupe interesting. It was equipped with one of the first mass-produced turbo-charged engines in a car. It’s horizontally opposed, air-cooled, 6-cylinder turbo-charged engine produced 180 hp, 40 hp more than the same normally-aspirated engine. It is interesting to note that the iconic sports car, the Porsche 911, which also uses a horizontally opposed, air-cooled, 6-cylinder engine did not receive a turbocharger until 1975, a dozen years after GM first introduced turbocharging on the 1963 Corvair.

This is a close-up of the 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Coupe

Would you like to be chauffeured in a Maybach?

For those interested in how modern-day plutocrats are coddled in the back seats of their chauffeur driven limousines, there was a Maybach 62 (Daimler’s luxury brand, for those think that an S-Class Mercedes is too plebeian).

The Maybach marque had been resurrected by Daimler. It had been one of the most luxurious cars in Germany prior to WWII. It had also manufactured engines for Zeppelin airships, and its most prestigious model was therefore named the Maybach Zeppelin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maybach_Zeppelin

After BMW bought Rolls Royce and VW bought Bentley, Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz, felt that it needed an ultra-luxury brand to compete with its German competitors, so the Maybach was re-born in 2002.

Like a yacht, a Maybach is named by its size.

The entry model is 5.7 metres long, and is named the 57

Would you be comfortable in the Maybach 62?

The Maybach with fully-reclining rear seats is 6.2 metres long and is named the 62.

Another view of the Maybach 62 to help you decide if you would be comfortable

Future Classics

In addition to the 100 Years of Motoring Exhibit, the museum has a large collection of interesting cars in a warehouse, a number of which are likely to become future classics, including a Honda NSX, the first Japanese supercar capable of competing with the best European supercars, a DeLorean (like what the character “Doc” Brown drove/flew in the movie: Back to the Future, an Avanti II (designed by famed industrial designer Raymond Lowey), a BMW 2002, another Jaguar Mk II, a VW Karmann Ghia, which has already been featured in the past in the Museum of Modern Art’s Design collection, and to make us feel at home when we were as far from Toronto as you can get, a car manufactured in suburban Toronto, the Dodge Challenger SRT.

How do you open the doors in a DeLorean?

This is the Avanti II

This is the Jaguar Mk II

This car has the best name: the Karmann Ghia

This is the Dodge Challenger

Our first car was a Dodge Dart. We drove it into the ground. By the end of its life, we had to top it up with brake fluid every day.


What was your first car?

I was delighted to see an exotic motorcycle, the Italian Bimota V-Due, whose high-development cost, of its exotic 2-stroke fuel-injected engine, bankrupted Bimota. This example is one of only 150 fuel-injected V-Due’s ever produced.

World’s Fastest Mini

Finally, and fittingly, for a country that is known for its great, resourceful engineers, the world’s fastest Mini is on display.

Two Kiwi’s, Garry Orton and Guy Griffith, took a 1964 Mini, and modified it to run at the Bonneville Salt Flats to create a new land speed record for the Mini. They installed a modified and turbo-charged BMW motorcycle engine cylinder head onto the Mini’s engine block to produce the necessary power. It produced over 350 hp. Their goal was to break the land speed record for a car with an engine < 1000 cc, which was 131 mph held by a Suzuki Swift, and the speed record for a Mini: 121 mph.

They smashed both records in 2016 achieving 144.033 mph on race gasoline and 156.006 mph on methanol.

Jay Leno interviewed a member of the team and inspected the car in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baB9CjOmwWc

Munro’s Odyssey

This effort was reminiscent of that of Burt Munro, a Kiwi who modified an old Indian motorcycle in his home and garden shed, and shipped it to California in 1967 to break the existing land speed record for motorcycles < 1000 cc.

Munro’s Odyssey was turned into a movie, released in 2005, starring Anthony Hopkins as Munro: The World’s Fastest Indian. What made Munro’s adventure all the more improbable was that to break the existing record in 1967, he used a 47- year old motorcycle that he modified. Munro was 68 when he broke the record with a run of 183.59 mph. Improbably, Munro’s record still stands 50 years later.

The world’s fastest Mini exhibit is a true tribute to the Kiwi spirit exemplified by Burt Munro.


Come back next week for WOW: World of Wearable Art

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at BoomerVoice.ca
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray