Angus Millar interviews Cecil Wood

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Cecil Walkden Wood, a New Zealand motoring pioneer and maker of the first motorbike and car built in New Zealand, is interviewed by Angus Millar when Wood is 90 years of age. He talks about the motoring industry and some of the bicycles and cars he built, in quite a lot of detail.

Saw first railway engine when he was five, when the line from Christchurch to Timaru had just opened.
Moved to Christchurch and went to Lyttelton School and became Dux; Was apprenticed to an engineer for 5 years and then went to sea as an engineer. At about 18 decided he wanted easier work and the bicycle craze was taking off, so he went to work making bicycles around 1891-2.
Opened a shop of his own in Timaru and then decided to try running a bicycle with a motor - had seen a photo of one in France, but had no plans or drawings.
Got a Mr Parr who had a flour mill to make patterns, John [Storier] made the castings for the engine; George and Charlie [Brieux] were his young apprentices who also worked on it. Made a chassis for a 3-wheel "car" (bike) and eventually worked out how to fix engine to it. 1896.
Had problems with police, dogs and horses whenever he drove it and was eventually forced off the road by the law introduced to ban traction engines unless they had a man in front with a flag.
Crowds around him wherever he went would laugh when police stopped him for speeding at 6 or 8 mph.
Butcher threatened to chop up his motorbike because it was scaring the horses, so he took it off the road.
Wrote to the Minister and talked to police and was eventually allowed to drive it on railway land as it was not borough council land.
Bill Martin, a well-known cyclist, bought it off him and used it for training while several others were sold to other men around Canterbury.
Next he decided to try and make a four-wheeler car; trouble finding and making different parts; talks about why he decided not to try steam-power.
There were one or two imported Benz cars in the country at the time but he was making them, not just trading. The government didn't help him.

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Year 1963

Reference number 25243

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits MILLAR, Angus, Interviewer
WOOD, Cecil, Interviewee

Duration 00:53:34

Date 1963