Home' Greymouth Star : June 24th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
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PICTURE: Paul McBride
Jimmy Parkinson in his 1937 Ford V8 pick-up.
Jimmy Parkinson has wrecked more cars than Daytona and covered more tarseal than the Beynon boys, but revving
engines is just part of what makes this colourful Cobden character tick. PAUL McBRIDE reports.
immy Parkinson is the eldest son
of the late James Hicks and Nel
Parkinson and was raised in Nelson
Creek, along with his younger
brothers Kevin and Ray and sisters,
Gloria and Irene.
Their father worked in the Kopara
sawmill and drove logging trucks
for Crofts Transport for many
years, and when the family later moved to
Greymouth a red and white truck and trailer
was often parked on the front lawn of their
Palmerston Street home.
Jimmy has always had a passion for old
cars, trucks and motorbikes, and from a
young age the wafting fumes of petrol and
engine oil was his canned cologne while
tinkering with old car engines and body
parts. It was a Meccano set technique as he
set about turning piles of acquired parts of
similar vehicles into one driveable, prized
possession, with an itemised boxed selection
of spare parts for back-up.
“I would learn as I went, stripping
down engines and various engine parts,
carburettors, petrol pumps, starter motors.
If they didn’t work I’d keep testing the
boundaries until they did. I like to be hands-
on and basically once something works you
never forget what makes it tick.”
From small Corgie army motorbikes to
Model A Fords and Mark 1 Zephyrs, Jimmy
had them all, and a reputation for being
the first ‘cab off the rank’ when it came to a
popular vehicle trend around town.
“I was the first to mount the plastic
squeezy soft drink balls on my car aerial.
Next minute, all the cars around town
had these plastic balls mounted as well.
Mer v (Milk Bar) should have paid me a
commission as he couldn’t meet the supply
with the demand,” Jimmy chuckled.
“I used to paint white walls on my Ford
Model A tyres as well, which started a
He credits his old Ford for being
responsible for meeting and eventually
marrying his wife Dianne, and says the
Model A brought them together.
“It played it ’s part. I used to see Dianne at
her sister’s, next to Frankie’s (Blanchfield)
place in Cobden. On this particular winter’s
morning she was biking across the old
Cobden Bridge and I pulled up in my
Model A, stopped all the traffic on the
bridge, and gave Dianne a lift into town —
threw her bike up on the roof rack — that’s
how it all started. It couldn’t have worked
out better. ”
With his love of cars and his ability
to source spare parts it was a natural
progression for Jimmy to end up running his
own wrecking yard, and the longstanding
Parkinson Auto Wreckers operation in
Cobden is now his legacy.
“O ver the years I’ve owned 1928, 1930 and
1931 Model A sedans, plus I’ve previously
owned 1936, 37, 38 and 1939 Ford V8’s. I’ve
also owned early Chevs, but I find the Ford
is far more reliable,” Jimmy says.
An original 1937 Ford pick-up is his pride
and joy at present, and he says the 24-stud
side valve engine purrs like a cat, while the
throb of the V8 engine through the twin
pipe exhaust system is traditional.
“Absolute music, the sound of the side
valve V8,” Jimmy smiles. “ I may eventually
change the brakes on the pick-up to a
hydraulic system, but while I run with the
side valve engine I really want to keep it all
original. It’s a beauty and there are not too
many of them left, either.”
Jimmy Parkinson attended the Ngahere
School as a youngster and had his secondary
education at Greymouth Technical High
School before going to work at Blanchfield’s
Bakery as an apprentice baker.
He says it was early morning starts at the
bakery and the sound of his two-tone blue
Model A Ford puttering down Palmerston
Street at 3 o’clock each morning was familiar
routine for the neighbourhood.
“I actually worked for 19 years as a baker.
I’d go to work early morning spic and span,
and return home looking like a ghost.
Frankie had just taken over from his father
Paddy when I first started. I enjoyed it,
worked with a good crew including Bongo
Marshell and his younger brother Steve,
Dibsey Murphy, Brian Cox to name a few.”
But he says he eventually got sick
of counting pies in his sleep and left
Blanchfield’s to work in Christchurch at
G L Tanneries Ltd, where he worked with
sheepskins for a couple of years.
“ When I got sick of counting sheep I
decided to come back home, and started
working at Greenfield’s wrecking yard in
Arney Street, working for Ralph, Laurie and
Setting up his car wrecking business in
Cobden at the bottom end of Bright Street
was the beginning of a long tenure in the
wrecking game, and now Jimmy is a master
of the craft.
“I left Greenfields as I thought I can do
what they are doing, and set up a business
behind the old butter factory in Tainui
“I didn’t have a compressor but used to
use an old Wolseley. I ’d remove a spark plug
and connect a tyre fitting for blowing up
my tyres. MacGyver had nothing on me, I’d
leave the Wolseley chugging away blowing
up the tyre and I would go down and make
a toasted sandwich at the Bun Hat Burger
Bar, where Ray (his brother) worked. I’d
return 25 minutes later and the tyre would
be 32 pounds exactly.”
Jimmy bought the Smith and South
Wrecking Yard in Cobden in 1976, and so
began his Cobden experience.
In recent years he has scaled down the
operation to some degree but continues
to have his finger on the pulse when it
comes to trading parts, vehicle repairs and
It is not just trading in motor vehicle parts
that keeps him focused but he also has a
passion for memorabilia to such a degree he
set up his own museum next to the wrecking
“I have always been collecting and used
to have three vans beside the wrecking yard
full of goodies before I bought the museum
building. I got collectables from all over
the place — Christchurch, Timaru, garage
sales. The police memorabilia would be my
favourite — old Plod the Policemen, I’ve got
his uniforms, hats, batons and handcuffs.”
Jimmy’s museum featured on national
television during the search for the country’s
oldest working television set when Breakfast
television weather reporter Tamati Coffey
broadcast live on site.
“ He was surrounded by tv sets and the
majority were mine from the museum. It
gave it plenty of exposure and a good crowd
of locals turned up on the morning. ”
Over the years motorsport has been part
and parcel of his life, including the speedway
and rally cars.
“ I was in speedway for 25 years and I
achieved what I wanted to achieve. I was in
the working bees out at Kumara and used to
race out there for months before we moved
to the Greenstone Park track. I was racing
super saloons and had a 289 V8 bored out
to a 302 and probably doing around 70mph
around the tight track. I’m not too sure
how fast I was going as I was too busy just
holding on,” he chuckled.
“On the little tracks it was good to have a
hard week at work and get out and give the
car a good snortering — Woodford Glen,
Nelson, Blenheim, O xford and Westport,
Ellesmere — adrenalin pumping all over the
From speedway he moved into rally cars
and says he covered a fair bit of tarseal in his
time in the sport.
“ I actually rolled on my first event, put the
Escort over in the clover. Jeremy Coleman
was my co-pilot, we rolled it back, popped
the window and away we went. I had been
following Stan Gladstone in his Fiat and he
ruptured an oil line in front of me.”
Jimmy and Dianne live across the road
from his wrecking yard in Cobden and like
many residents on the ‘north shore’ they did
not escape the lashing of Cyclone Ita.
“The wrecking yard was hit, the shed,
it blew over fences and tore iron, and the
house lost a section of its roof. The cyclone
took a couple of sentimental photos, too,
that I used to have of a couple of pets when
I lived in Palmerston Street. One photo was
of Ricky my dog and the other of Chook
my pet bantam; both were real characters
and great mates when I was young. Ricky
was brainy, he was academic and didn’t
mind a fight or two. He would have to
have been the very first Footrot Flats ‘Dog’.
Chook, the bantam hen, used to perch on
my handle bars and we would go around to
Cornish’s Store on Marsden Road and buy
an ice-cream. I’d bike down to collect the
papers with Chook sitting up on the handle
bars and we would deliver the Press each
morning, good memories. ”
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