StopGear: Margaret Hawker

Although Margaret Hawker has welcomed change in recent months by ending her five-year stint as the head of agency channel and integration at TRN, one thing that remains consistent in her life is an enduring love for her car. 

Despite its British name, the proportionality, flair and sleek finishing in the design of Hawker’s Triumph GT6 hints at foreign influence, so it comes as little surprise an Italian was involved in the design of the vehicle.

In 1963, Triumph approached Giovanni Michelotti, a renowned freelance automotive designer who is thought to have designed 1,200 cars during his life, and asked him to redesign the Triumph Spitfire, which he had previously worked on.

(Image credit: Hemmings)

The reliable artistry of the Italian came through again and by 1967 Triumph was able to release the first model of the GT6, a name that gave a nod to the twin carb six-cylinder engine of the car.

Over the course of the next three years two more versions of the vehicle were designed, eventually resulting in the emergence of the 1970 version, which would catch Hawker’s eye.

“I used to have a Triumph Herald when I was about 20 and I was going to restore it, but then I saw one of these and got that instead,” she says.

Her first Triumph GT6 relationship was however a fling at best, lasting only three months before being written off in an accident. For Hawker, this simply wasn’t enough so she hunted for something that could fill the Triumph-shaped space in her garage.

Before long she found a replacement GT6 and, while it didn’t set her back too much at first, she quickly realised that there would be some hidden costs along the 1970s-sports-car-ownership road.  

“It wasn’t too much at first. I picked it up for only a few thousand dollars, but … ever since then, I’ve had to spend a few grand on repairs once in a while to keep it on the road. They’re great cars to run, but only if you have a spare vehicle and a credit card handy.”

And given that she picked it up when she was much younger, these two essentials weren’t always readily available—meaning that she’s had some interesting experiences over the years.  

“When I got it I was this penniless 22- or 23-year-old, so I couldn’t ever get it done up properly. It’s burst into flames a couple of times. I once paid someone in a box of beers to redo the wiring – that carried me through about ten years. I once also broke down in South Auckland, and some people had to help me.”

Hawker and her partner keep separate files for the bills of their respective vehicles, and she jokes that hers dwarfs the one dedicated to her partner’s “more responsible” people mover.

Over the years, this consistent stream of hiccups has taught her a few things about how to improve the response times of insurance companies when you call them to tow your vehicle.

“Turns out you get really good service from the AA when you call up and say ‘my car’s on fire and it’s parked next to my friend’s Porsche,’” she says.

Despite the obvious inconvenience posed by the lack of air-conditioning or instances when she’s broken down on the Grafton Bridge, Hawker says that the thrill of driving her Triumph means that she won’t be turning in the vehicle she’s owned for over 17 years any time soon.     

“It’s so much fun to drive, because it’s really low and really loud, so you kind of feel as though you’re going at 200km/h when you’re actually going like 50.”

Making the descent into the original leather seats, it becomes clear what Hakwer means when she says the vehicle is low. Then, once we are seated, she turns the ignition and the reverberation of the engine’s growl confirms her second claim.

When Hakwer pulls out the choke to keep the engine going, it elucidates that the entire interior of the vehicle has been maintained in its original form: the dashboard is free of any electronic gadgetry; no modern comforts have been installed; the metal of the handbrake and the pedals is still exposed; and the windows need to be wound down manually.

The only significant change that Hawker has made to the vehicle over the years has been to the paint job, which has gone from purple to blue to orange and now to silver.

Her commitment to keeping the car in its original form means that she visits various online owners’ forums dedicated maintaining these temperamental vehicles.

“I was on website recently and it was all about what to do if you have a Triumph GT6, and there were all these questions: How do I look after it? Where should I service it? And which are some of the best places drive it? It was pretty funny because the one person wrote, ‘Put some kitty litter underneath it and park it in the garage’.”

And despite these warnings, the garage isn’t a location that Hawker’s car inhabits very frequently. While most owners of collectors’ editions keep their prized vehicular possessions locked away until quiet Sunday afternoons, Hawker puts hers in plain sight every day by using it as her mode of transport.      

“Sometimes when it’s particularly stormy I’ll steal my partner’s car, but it has to be really bad,” she says. 

  • Go on, check out some classy rides and book some ad space at www.autotrader.co.nz. And if you’ve got any suggestions for interesting humans and their transportational quirks, email [email protected]

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