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Rare Engine Enters Rally in Support of Kiwi Kids

For immediate release

March 6, 2014


18-litre LA ladder truck needs two drivers, stretches 10 stories and is crewed by team of rock ‘n’ rolling businessmen

“It’s the only one in Australasia,” says owner Peter Drummond, world chairman for Variety International, “and spent its working life in Los Angeles fire station 10.”

The International Board oversees 14 countries, “we raise $88 million US per year” but his truck is here in New Zealand, and on March 16 will leave Auckland’s Rainbow’s End on the annual Variety Trillian Bash, in a convoy of classic and custom vehicles delivering grants and entertainment to Kiwi kids in need of a hand-up.

The 1960 Seagrave ladder truck is always popular with children along the route, who scramble over it and demand to see the ladder in action - it extends to 30.5 metres, or 10 stories.

To negotiate LA city streets or backblock Kiwi roads the vehicle has two cabs which steer independently, linked by that long ladder.

But only the front driver controls the 18-litre six cylinder petrol engine; “each cylinder is three litres, and we do one litre per kilometre of petrol…”

“The whole thing is 17 metres long,” Peter says, “and the back part’s separate cab has a steering column for the rear wheels which act independently, though it has no brakes.”

“Initially it’s a complicated vehicle to manoeuvre, but the Fishpot Café team has been driving it together for 18 years, and over some incredible roads – Arthurs Pass, Lewis Pass, Cape Reinga, Banks Peninsula and down to Bluff, 90-mile beach, the Gentle Annie before it was sealed and even farm tracks.”

When arrived at a fire – or a school with a principal who has a sense of humour – the rear cab flips over to release the ladder. It’s fully operational.’

Peter likes his quirky cars – “I also have a 1968 LA airport crash rescue tender, a 1994 LA police car, and a 1973 Reliant Robin, I believe the only one registered in New Zealand.” Talk about contrast, but there’s a method to it; “When you’re raising money for sick and needy children, the more interesting the vehicle the more people come over to look, and the more people donate.

I don’t rattle a bucket – I have one there, and people come over and say ‘what are you doing,’ I tell them, and show them where to put the money…”

“I have driven every day of every bash for 23 years, this will be the 24th. My first vehicle was a Dennis F8 fire truck, a little wooden one with an aluminium skin, the first fire truck to be sold from the NZ fire service. I sold it in America after doing a Bash over there.”

Peter and his team work for Variety because they “like the way it helps individual kids with individual problems maximise the opportunities for their lives,” and it fills in the gaps that otherwise get overlooked but which can make a huge difference to an individual child.

“I’ve been chairman of and helped set up Variety Children’s Medical Missions, South Pacific, which help children where there is no Variety office; Fiji, Tonga, some of the outer-lying islands, we’ll send children to Australia for operations – one little girl needed a brain tumour removed, and from there she was able to walk and communicate with her parents; until then she couldn’t.”

His Fishpot team includes Euan Ross, rear wheelman for 17 years; Vern Peri, “the engineer, and we couldn’t do it without him. Dave Shorter has been on every Bash with me and Tom Sharplin, New Zealand’s rock ‘n’ roll icon has done 22 bashes with us, there’s Brett O’Neil the MD of Breville, 15 years, Grant Milne, the country manager of Marsh, and Troy Scragg, brand manager Haier.”

The guys manage fund raisers as diverse as sausage sizzles to $2000-a-table gala dinners, and boy do they know how to have fun.

“The stereo in the front cabin includes a full DVD screen at 2500 watts RMS, it’s a Panasonic set-up with eight subwoofers, 10 mid-range and eight tweeters, and it’s all by remote control.” One 2.5-metre speaker box houses 14 speakers and is rimmed by neon lights, “I have a 32-inch LCD screen and another DVD,” plus a Breville Nespresso machine, of course.

“I’ve been very fortunate with my sponsors over the 24 years. Two have done every year, Fishpot café and Mr Chips – one of its suppliers – and Marsh the insurance broker has completed 20 years. Breville and Hirepool have been long-term sponsors with Haier – part of Fisher and Paykel – also offering great support, and JFC Contractors proudly stores the vehicles.”

Peter’s a busy man, he could stick to the office, but “I like having fun, and creating opportunities, and there’s the Variety cause – sick and needy children. To see the smile on their face and the work that’s done with medical intervention and assistance and know even a small intervention can make a difference is outstanding.”

“You never forget the children you’ve met and the special moments. There’s a genuine enjoyment meeting the children we meet, and the special situations you’d never normally find yourself in.”

He recalls one fund-raising event when, “we pulled up outside this house for a break and the mum came out, she’d been trying to find out where we were as her 12-year-old daughter, who had cerebral palsy, wanted to see us. And we were right outside. How do you explain that?”

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