Hans, originally from the Netherlands, has bought more than 1500 cars over the years. The quickest purchase he ever made was for a 1953 Borgward Hansa 1800 pickup he still owns. He was sitting in the central plaza in MonteVideo, Uruguay, listening to a Peruvian brass band. He saw the pickup drive past; the driver had just finished dropping off vegetables at a local stall.
Hans was so excited he ran after the ute and flagged it down at a traffic light. After some negotiation he bought the vehicle for US$2500, even though locally it was only worth around $500. It’s estimated only between 200 and 300 of these vehicles were ever made and his is the only known survivor.
Hans’ first car was a German built 1954 Borgward Isabella. Then, as a student in Sweden, he bought his first old car, a 1926 Model T Ford.
Later, Hans worked in the marine industry in France making world-leading life jackets. The Czechoslovakian national kayaking team was eager to get their hands on some life jackets, but couldn’t afford to pay for them. It took some convincing, but Hans agreed to exchange a few V8 Tatras for a consignment of jackets. The kayaking team sent five used Tatras to Hans, which he sold due to their poor condition and to pay for the life jackets, but he was keen to own one.
In 1987, he read an advert in the Sydney Morning Herald for a Tatra belonging to the former Czech postal minister. Knowing that a car which belonged to a government department would be well looked after, he sent off a deposit. Then Hans realised the car was not in Australia, but in Austria.
The owner had fled the Czech Republic in his trusty Tatra to Austria. Hans had the tough task of smuggling the vehicle out of Austria and shipping it to New Zealand, as there were no papers for it. The seller used the money to buy plane tickets for his family to immigrate to Sydney, where they live today.
The most glamorous car Hans owns is a 1952 Lancia Aurelia, which once belonged to Eva Perón, and the oldest is a 1902 Albion. New Zealand's largest car, a 1920 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, which once belonged to a Dutch textile industrialist and has bullet holes from an incident during the Second World War, is also in the collection.
Reported by Donavan Edwards for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue