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Petrol And Passion Ignite New Life Into Mockett’s Motors

Petrol and passion are igniting new life into an historic Culverden workshop.

“The vision was to get the workshop up for the community and to pay homage to the history of the site,” says new owner-operator of Mockett’s Motors, Chris Gudsell. “There are just so many stories about this building.”

With 20 years’ experience in almost all facets of the automotive industry, Gudsell re-opened Culverden’s historic Mockett’s Motors in November 2023, bringing the iconic building to new life.

Gudsell says the community quickly started dropping by to share their own stories and connections with the business, which has stood at the heart of Culverden on SH7 since the start of the 20th Century.

A plaque on the wall lists the workshop business’s previous owners. Mayor Marie Black points to her own familial connection to the workshop. “This façade has sat at the heart of this community ever since I remember. It defines Culverden,” she says.

“When we opened up the building,” says Gudsell, “there was so much history stored away.”

Photographs and vintage memorabilia rescued from the back rooms are helping to create a museum and automative vintage display that will soon be open to the public.

Automotive engineering apprentice Marco Shepherd, Hurunui District Mayor Marie Black), owner-operator of Mockett’s Motors Chris Gudsell, and Hurunui Council’s MTFJ Youth Connector Anna Scott and MTFJ Programme Lead Chris Sutherland in front of Mockett’s Motors historic façade.
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Gudsell’s passion is shared by his new automotive engineering apprentice, Marco Shepherd (20), who started his apprenticeship one month after Gudsell opened for business.

“I did my apprenticeship while flatting with Marco’s father, a North Canterbury mechanic,” says Gudsell. “It’s coming full circle to give back.”

Mayor Black says to support Gudsell in providing an opportunity of a lifetime to a local young person, Hurunui Mayors Taskforce for Jobs (MTFJ) arranged the apprenticeship under the MTFJ programme.

“With my dad being a mechanic, I’ve been into cars all my life — and then this opportunity came along to turn my hobby into a career. My mum could see this coming a mile away,” says Marco.

Being back in the engine pit has brought back memories. “The first time I was in the engine bay was when my dad was working on a 1969 Dodge Charger – I was about five years old.”

It’s not just the connection with the past that Gudsell and Marco bring to the business. Mockett’s Motors now has its own website and Facebook and Instagram pages, and they are soon to launch a Youtube channel.

“We’ve set up a GoPro over one engine bay for putting together videos. Marco has brought that side into things, with great input and ideas.”

Hot rods, classic performance cars and classic vintage cars are both Gudsell’s and Marco’s passion, with some very special cars coming into the workshop. All get the attention to detail that has helped Gudsell build up a loyal customer base that travels from all over South Island, and further, to the Culverden workshop. An immaculately restored 1960 Ford Thunderbird, 1961 Volvo 544 LHD and a 1963 Triumph Herald are just a few that have come through the workshop doors.

(From left) Owner-operator of Mockett’s Motors Chris Gudsell, automotive engineering apprentice Marco Shepherd, Hurunui District Mayor Marie Black, and Hurunui Council’s MTFJ Programme Lead Chris Sutherland and MTFJ Youth Connector Anna Scott look under the bonnet of Gudsell’s own orange-and-black 1971 Valiant Pacer 3 speed, which can be spotted at the workshop when it’s not at a car show.

“Marco is being exposed to a broader range of experience than in most workshops,” says Gudsell. “He can go from stripping an engine to changing brake pads.”

Mayor Black says MTFJ’s success is its grassroots connections with local communities, which allows for tailored solutions to help young people into employment and training.

“Mockett’s Motors holds a special place in Culverden, with its connections to the community for over 100 years. It’s really rewarding to see that community connection continuing today.”

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