Our grand lady leads you on a journey of discovery into some of the cultural wonders of the region. Climb aboard our 1937 Chevrolet bus, with a rich history of the early days in the Queenstown district.
Brought to New Zealand in 1942, our grand lady was taken to Kinloch at the head of Lake Wakatipu by steamer, SS Earnslaw. She was part of a fleet of six buses operated by Routeburn Valley Motors, one of the first tourist operators in the region.
Harry Bryant was the third generation of his family living in Kinloch. With a unique style and charm, Harry entertained tourists, daily on motor excursions from Kinloch to the Routeburn Valley. Three of Harry’s buses were convertible, with a soft top. Tourists were able to admire the beauty and Harry’s delightful commentary for over three decades. Famous for his broad grin and stories, Harry had the ability to fix anything on his bus with good old-fashioned kiwi ingenuity.
An excerpt from Doreen McKenzie’s (1973) book, Road to Routeburn talks about a passenger, who had excitedly chosen one of Routeburn Valley Motor’s convertible buses:
“Look at this,” someone comments. “When did you last see a convertible bus?” A peep inside prompts him to wonder if it’s a working model. The dashboard is a mechanics nightmare. Where there was once an ignition switch dangles an old, house light switch; where the choke knob was, protrudes a length of number eight wire with a right angle bend at the end. The hand throttle knob is still there, but attached to what? Oh well, no-one else seems worried, so he climbs in before he misses a seat and has to travel in one of the closed buses.”
The last year Routeburn Valley Motors operated was in 1971. SS Earnslaw, the steamer stopped sailing to Kinloch around the same time as a bridge was built across the Dart River. With a direct road from Queenstown to the Routeburn Valley, these services were no longer needed.
For 25 years, she sat in a farm paddock deteriorating into such a state that a three-metre bush grew through the top. Lovingly restored over 900 hours, our grand lady has been kept in the Bryant family and has returned to the Queenstown region to show visitors the beautiful sights of the region. She has retained her soft top and visitors enjoy open-air views of the breathtaking views, magnificent mountains, and untamed beauty as visitors to the Routeburn Valley did over thirty years ago.