Nelson’s classic car museum plans to reopen in larger space


Plans are underway to reopen Nelson’s classic car museum, but the future of the WearableArts section of the museum is less clear.

The World of WearableArt and Classic Car Museum was put into hibernation in May, with WOW management saying it had suffered a massive loss in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two-thirds of WOW’s staff lost their jobs in the restructuring, with the remainder focused on continuing to run the World of WearableArt show in Wellington.

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Chief executive David Tingey said in May it was unlikely the museum would be able to open again within 12 months.

However, a group has been established to revive the classic car wing of the museum, which will expand into the area used by the WOW museum.

The group re-opening the car museum to the public comprises owners of the cars and buildings, former employees of WOW, and the contractors that maintain the car collection.

Nelson Classic Car Museum volunteer Mike Wilson will be reorganising the layout of the car collection before it reopens later in the year.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

Nelson Classic Car Museum volunteer Mike Wilson will be reorganising the layout of the car collection before it reopens later in the year.

In a Facebook post on June 11, the Nelson Classic Car Museum group stated its intention to “re-open the car side of the museum, the museum store, and the much loved cafe”.

Museum spokeswoman Sarah Wilson said it didn’t make sense to leave the museum closed.

“It’s not as if [the cars] were all going to go somewhere else, they were going to stay here.”

Wilson said the museum would be running as a separate entity to World of WearableArt. While WOW would still use the building for storage and workshops, the entire museum would now be devoted to the classic car collection.

“It’s an incredible collection and resource, the most obvious option is to keep the collection open to the public and visitors.”

Mike Wilson said there would be about 160 cars on display when the museum reopens.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

Mike Wilson said there would be about 160 cars on display when the museum reopens.

She said the aim was to reopen the museum in time for the school holidays in September, although the timeline was still fluid at this stage.

While the initial plan was for a modest refurbishment, there was now scope for a more significant renovation, she said.

“We’re taking advantage of the fact we are closed, it gives us a decent chunk of time to do those things so it looks refreshed and how we want it to look.”

She said this would include a refurbishment of the cafe, an extension of the space within the museum, and painting and maintenance of the main building.

The reopening date for the museum has not been confirmed yet, but organisers are aiming to be ready by spring.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

The reopening date for the museum has not been confirmed yet, but organisers are aiming to be ready by spring.

Museum volunteer and Cartel Works design director Mike Wilson said there would also be a re-organising of the 160 cars within the museum to make them more accessible for viewing.

Wilson said this would include opening up former WearableArt exhibit space for the classic car collection.

“One of the advantages is that they’re going to be spread out a little and people will be able to get a proper look at the cars and walk around them.

“The place hasn’t been shut in 20 years, so there hasn’t ever been a real chance to take a proper look at the cars and to rethink things.”

Sarah Wilson said along with the eventual return of international visitors, the museum also wanted to build connections with car clubs around Nelson and the rest of New Zealand to establish the museum as a hub for car lovers.

While WOW will still have a presence at the site, the museum will be a separate entity and solely focused on the classic car collection.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

While WOW will still have a presence at the site, the museum will be a separate entity and solely focused on the classic car collection.

From a WOW perspective, Tingey said nothing had changed with regard to their announcement in May, with the business still in the process of reviewing the viability of its operation.

Tingey said with the process still in its early stages, there were no guarantees about when or where the museum would reopen.

“We’re just not at that point yet, we simply do not know at this time.”

He said right now the focus for WOW was on securing the survival of the business.

“We had no pre-determined intention of shutting anything down – this was a plan put on us by Covid.”

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