Home' Waitomo News : 12 April 2016 Contents WAITOMO NEWS Tuesday, April 12, 2016 5
BY ROBBIE KAY
WHILE other kids may have
skipped school to go to the movies
or hang around town, Ron Chatfield
wagged class to build car engines.
It was a sign of things to come.
“My mother used to dread having
to write excuse notes as to why I
wasn’t at school,” says the 74-year-old
The self-confessed ‘motor head’
went on to build up his own business,
Motor Preparations in Otewa Rd.
The five staff there, including Ron,
have given more than 150 years’ ser-
vice to the company under his watch
and now 46 years down the track,
Ron was brought up on a Waiuku
farm and, with his father involved in
speedboat racing, he was behind the
wheel “quietly nursing the speedboat
round the lake” by the time he was 10.
“I loved tinkering with engines and
was repairing cars, much to Mum’s
angst, while I was still at school.”
He’d picked up a lot in motor trade
and engineering classes at secondary
school when he wasn’t ‘bunking off’ to
do a valve grind.
He started his automotive machin-
ist apprenticeship, completing it in
Hamilton aged 18. Once qualified,
the Hamilton company he worked
for sent him on the road trouble-
shooting engine problems, picking
up and delivering a couple of days a
week around Te Aroha, Morrinsville,
Otorohanga and Te Kuiti.
After three years he started his
own business in Hamilton – “quite a
big deal in your early 20s”.
The business, operating out of a
stable in Te Rapa, didn’t even have
a name. But ater a year his former
North King Country customers urged
him to set up in Otorohanga.
“I started Motor Preparations in
partnership with my mate Neil Dob-
son and we were building a new
workshop on this site when Neil went
into buses fulltime,” he says.
“I had a heap of debt of course,
but also lots of garages bringing me
Looking back, he notes most of
those garages are now gone as the
motor industry has changed.
Where engines used to be rebuilt,
today “we’ve got a toilet roll industry
. . . one wipe and you throw it away,”
“Cars are so cheap now but expen-
sive to rebuild, so they get scrapped.”
But boys’ toys filled the gap.
Motorsports have been the bulk of
his work in recent years – speedway,
jet boats, race boats, hydroplanes,
hot rods, rally cars and stock cars
“There are four hot rod jobs – Beach
Hop-type vehicles – in the shop right
now,” he says.
“Competitive speedboat and hy-
droplane racer and auto machinist
Selwyn Coker started his apprentice-
ship with me almost 46 years ago and,
like me, he’s pretty happy working on
everyone else’s toys.”
The workshop team are kept pretty
busy machining engines – regrinding
crankshafts, doing engine rebores
and valve grinds. There’s an engine
dyno out the back for tuning race
engines, but all the commercial busi-
ness comes from garages.
LOVE OF SPEED
Ron’s passion is for anything that
goes fast and over the years he’s
built engines for many New Zealand
“I’ve been lucky to have had customers who were
“Motorsport and motor trade guys are a slightly
different breed. There are a lot of great characters
and I enjoy the camaraderie we’ve built up over the
years. We’ve all stayed in touch.
“We had a bit of a retirement ‘do’ a couple of
weeks ago and all of my former apprentice boys
turned up. They’re all a great bunch of guys and
it’s been a pleasure working with them.
“I’m pretty proud of what we’ve built together in
a small rural community and a changing industry.
“I’ve been lucky to have had a good crew, in
the workshop and the office, since I started out
who’ve stayed with me . . . and great long-term
“There was a lot of history in the room at my
Mr Chatfield’s last apprentice Nathan Le Flem-
ing, who joined the business 22 years ago from
school and was NZ’s No.2 apprentice in 1999, has
brought Motor Preparations from his ‘boss’.
MOTOR MAN: Having picked up some motor trade and engineering skills at college, Ron Chatfield skipped school to build
car engines before going on to establish his own business Motor Preparations in Otorohanga. He retired on March 31 after
Wagging class to build cars
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