When the 1974 Bedford truck came rattling down the road, Gary Griffith thought he had seen a ghost.
“All I could say was ‘oh my God’.”
The last time Gary laid eyes on it was 17 years earlier at his father Arnold’s funeral. It had belonged to Arnold for many years and he took great care of it, hauling firewood across the region.
“It just reminds me of hard work,” says Gary.
The truck was sold shortly before Arnold died in 2000. But that truck took Arnold to Motueka Cemetery to be buried.
Gary’s son, Dion, remembered the truck too. Over the years he had seen it around the place but then lost track of it.
That was until the window installer did a job for a neighbour in Mapua.
He noted the truck in the driveway. It was looking a little rusted and needed some work.
After a short conversation with the client Dion realised that it was, in fact, the family truck.
“I couldn’t believe it was just around the corner all this time.”
So Dion did him a quote for the windows.
“Then I did him a quote for the windows with that truck included.”
The owner had received offers before and always declined them. But once he heard the story about how much it had meant to the family, he made the deal.
Then the difficulty was keeping it a secret. Dion wanted to surprise his dad so he took it home and sanded off the rust and tried to polish it up the best he could. Arnold was always pedantic about making sure it looked good.
“He loved cleaning and painting these things. He always worked on them.”
That enthusiasm for cars has dripped down through the generations and now Gary and Dion own several muscle cars between them.
Despite the rust, the Bedford’s engine still turned over like it did all those years ago.
“I heard a rumour that Dion had found it, but that was about it,” says Gary.
Then there was the big reveal. Gary was standing outside his house when Dion pulled up.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Gary says. “It’s just fantastic.”
It has become a great talking point with the wider family who are chuffed with the blast from the past.
Dion’s nine-year-old son JD thinks “it’s pretty cool, too” – it reminds him of an character called Mater from the movie “Cars”.
“So that’s four generation of our family with involvement in this truck,” Dion says. “It won’t mean much to anybody else but this truck means a lot to us. It’s quite sentimental.”
All that’s left to do is to figure out a new number plate.
“We think ‘Oh my God’ might work nicely,” Gary says.