Monday, January 16, 2017

90 mile beach, Northern New Zealand, is a public road

That must be unique... how many countries allow any motorist to drive on a beach... for one thing, then how many treat the beach like a road, not a place to vacation or get some sun and surf?

Ninety-Mile Beach is the fabled strip of sand that stretches from Ahipara to Scott Point, five kilometres south of Cape Maria van Diemen. Truth be told, it is actually 88 kilometres long.

This beach is officially a highway, but is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the tides. Rental companies won’t allow their cars on the sand, mostly for safety reasons.

In 1932 the beach was used as the runway for some of the earliest airmail services between Australia and New Zealand. It is sometimes used as an alternative road to State Highway 1 north of Kaitaia.

There is also a WW2 army tank under the sand close to Where Smiths base was, which was lost when doing some exercises during the war.

It was also a very accessible place for early land speed racing, just like Ormand and Daytona beaches.

Two Australian racing drivers , Norman "Wizard" Smith and Don Harkness combined to build a car to attack the world land speed record , and would use the Ninety mile beach in NZ .

The 1st car Wizard Smith took to 90 Mile Beach in 1930 was a revised version of Harkness special. It was built on a Cadillac chassis with a Rolls Royce 18.3 ltr 360 bhp V12 Eagle aero engine bought for $80 from air force surplus.

Renowned motoring journalist Pedr Davis wrote a two part history of Wizard Smith, (Wheels, March and April 1958)

"The real Story of Wizard Smith " by Steve Simpson, published by Murray book distributors, Oct 1977 ISBN 85566 356 1

notice that in the bottom photo above, and the photo below, it had a radiator added

Harkness had stuffed a Rolls-Royce Schneider Trophy aero engine and also added tail fins and the whole thing was painted gold, with the driver in his open cockpit looking like a man sitting up in bed.

it was trying to beat Sir Malcolm Campbell's flying mile record, 246.9 mph, but there just wasn't enough patience. So much arguing among the team wasted weeks while Smith and Harkness publicly questioned each other's intelligence, integrity and ancestry, and the newspapers made hay and sold copies

Harkness had designed and built the car specifically to break the world ten mile record which was held by Seagrave, the car did that at 164.084 mph

After that, the car was scrapped, and the Rolls Royce engine was installed in the basement of the Bank of New South Wales head office, 341 George St., Sydney, powering an emergency generating plant.

When (rarely) fired up, it shook the building, and sent fine jets of water everywhere from its vast number of small, inter-cylinder water hoses. Sadly, it was scrapped in the 1950.


  1. And the location of strange land speed record attempt in 1932.
    A guy called Don Harkness designed a beautiful car for a record attempt.
    In his absence the driver, an idiot called Norm 'Wizard' Smith and a local bastardized it. The ridiculous sight of a radiator with MotoMeter on the front was too much.
    When Don returned and laid eyes on it, He simply turned around and went back home. Enterprise was then cut up and buried.

    1. Thanks! Adding those land speed racers to the post now!

  2. The engine was a Napier Lion VIID not Rolls-Royce. As a highly tuned, supercharged engine that required non-standard fuel it is highly unlikely that it was ever used to drive a generator