When the late Graeme Craw started buying cars back in the mid 1950s, he never anticipated his collection growing so large, but his love of Packard motor vehicles and industrial machinery snowballed.

Now the Craw family has opened the doors to the Packard and Pioneer museum revealing 52 Packard cars, around 150 other classics, motorcycles, military vehicles, earthmoving equipment and other vintage items that Graeme collected during his life. 

The entrance hall has cabinets filled with toys and memorabilia, including telephone switchboards and early sewing machines. A doorway leads into the first of three huge sheds that make up the museum. It is full of old, mostly British-built vehicles such as the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire – with its distinctive Sphinx badge on the bonnet – and the vintage Morris Eight. There are a few luxury American Packards and Studebakers, but of real historical interest is a blue Land Rover Series 1, the vehicle Queen Elizabeth 2 used during her inaugural visit to the Auckland domain in 1953. After her drive it was placed in storage where it spent the next 20 years before joining Graeme’s collection.

Upstairs is a room packed full of rare motorbikes, 66 to be exact. They include a restored Brough Superior SS80, often referred to as the Rolls Royce of motorbikes; an un-restored 250cc BSA 'Round Tank' that got its name due to its cylindrical fuel and oil tank; a bronze-head Rudge Ulster, well known in racing circles; as well as the popular 1948 Norton International.

The second shed is more of a motoring hodgepodge, packed full of vehicles in various states of restoration, as well as large trucks, tractors, WWII military vehicles, aeroplane engines and earthmovers. Outside, the gun turret from HMNZS Achilles stands guard. 

But the real gems are to be found in the third shed. Inside is believed to be the largest single collection of Packard cars in the world. The vehicles include a 1954 Packard Henney Limousine, a 1930 Packard Eight Phaeton and a 1951 Model 200 Packard that once belonged to industrialist and founder of Fletcher Construction, Sir James Fletcher. 

And it’s in here, alongside the rare, the historic and the valuable, that you’ll find the humble car that started it all: the unassuming 1923 Packard that Graeme bought in 1955 for £30, using it to transport 13 sheep back to the family’s farm, and kick-starting a lifelong passion that would eventually fill a dairy factory.

Car Museums around New Zealand

Packard and Pioneer Museum – Maungatapere, Whangarei

Packards, classic cars, motorcycles, and military vehicles.
packardandpioneer.co.nz

Museum of Transport and Techonology (MOTAT) – Western Springs, Auckland

Many vintage machines and a hefty focus on technology and social history.
motat.org.nz

Classics Museum – Hamilton

Around 100 classic cars and a 1950s themed diner.
classicsmuseum.co.nz

British Car Museum – Te Awanga, Hawke's Bay

Over 300 classic British cars.
britishcarmuseum.co.nz

Gasoline Heaven – Carterton, Wairarapa

A roaring combo of hot rods and drag racers.
gasolineheaven.co.nz

The Southward Car Museum – Paraparaumu

Over 400 cars, as well as aircraft, a fire engine and vintage bicycles.
southwardcarmuseum.co.nz

World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum – Nelson

Classics from the 1908 Renault AX through to the modern Ferrari F355.
wowcars.co.nz

Yaldhurst Museum – Christchurch

Houses many unique machines including an 1810 American buggy, an 1860 Phaeton as well as the largest collection of horse drawn vehicles in the country.
yaldhurstmuseum.co.nz

Highlands Park National Motorsport Museum – Cromwell

A showcase of former New Zealand race cars. Also has a 650 metre long go-kart track.
highlands.co.nz/museum

National Transport and Toy Museum – Wanaka

Highlights include a 1924 McLaughlin Buick limousine and, incredibly, a Russian MiG-21 fighter.
wanakatransportandtoymuseum.com

Reported by Donavan Edwards for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue

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