Local Focus: 1903 Automobile Isn’t Your Average Test Drive

Reconstructing this extremely rare old automobile took a lot of luck.

Tony Prebensen, 63, loves spending time with his old friend Holley, even though she is much older than him. That’s because Holley is a 119-year veteran car, which he says is one of five remaining Holleys in the world.

“I hit 50 kilometers an hour, and that’s about terminal speed. It’s done about 4,000 miles, probably farther than it ever did when it was new. And that is definitely more than any of the four Holleys I know in the world,” Prebensen said.

With a full tank and the right weather conditions, the Holley can go up to 130 km and as fast as 50 km/h.

Holleys were made in 1903 by the company that now makes Holley carburettors, but this one came to Tony in different parts.

Living on a farm in Puketapu, Napier, Prebensen is a retired secondary school teacher and has had an interest in vintage cars since a young age.

His mission began in 2005 when he obtained the Holley engine from the Faraday center in Napier.

“He had Holley sunk in the front of the engine. That was all I knew.”

After digging online, Prebensen received more detailed information from the Horseless Carriage Club in America and a chance.

“They sent a lot of information. I opened it up and found that the Holley car had the same gearbox that my dad had bought 30 years earlier in an offset sale. It’s a Upton gearbox.

The correct engine was in the same garage. For Prebensen, it was like winning the lottery. Then he started looking around the world for other pieces.

“The carburettor was interesting. I put a picture of it in a car club magazine, and everyone laughed and said, ‘Would you like to find one’.”

Then he received an email from Cape Town, South Africa.

“The guy from South Africa wrote, ‘You won’t believe this but I have one of those carburettors.

“It was precisely the right size and the right one for the car.”

With a pile of parts and countless hours of work, Tony rebuilt the whole car from scratch. He said it was extremely satisfying when all the pieces came together.

“I can’t claim this is an original car found in a barn somewhere. It’s as close as you can get to what it would have been when it rolled out of the Holley factory in 1903. “

Tony’s love for cars was instilled in him at an early age by his father.

“Some people spend time on the golf course. I spend time in my workshop making cars. I will never sell my cars and I will have them forever.”

Now history is repeating itself with the next generation.

“My four-year-old grandson is passionate about cars. He can tell you all about all my cars. And so, I hope he continues and learns to drive and maintain these unique things.”

The Holley will attend a vintage and veteran car event in Dannevirke this weekend, where locals will have a chance to take a closer look.

At 9.30am on Saturday there is a rally along the High Street of York St at “a mystery destination”, and Holley will be one of many cars on display in Hall Street on Sunday from 9am.

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