A World-First Car TV Show Revs Up From Matakana

‘Start Me Up’ is the world's first TV car show based on the internet phenomenon of 'cold starting’. It was launched recently on TVNZ On Demand - and it all started on the back roads of Matakana.

The online craze of 'cold starting' attracts millions of viewers to short clips of cars, that haven't run for years or even decades, being 'cold started'.

‘Start Me Up’ takes that idea a little further. The show is all about finding abandoned, forgotten or just clapped out old cars that are 'cold start' candidates. Then working out what's wrong with them, scrounging parts from 'shed guys' and getting them going before the sun goes down.

"It's a bit like a classic car show meets Country Calendar, with a dash of Mucking In," says the show's creator, writer and producer Michael Lamb.

The series is presented by Mike 'MOD' O'Donnell (car aficionado and former boss of Trade Me) and Martin Lafferty, an engineer and mechanical guru.

Michael Lamb has been a regular visitor to this area over the years. He decided that the combination of Matakana's bucolic beauty, plenty of old cars and some local friends in the film industry was the perfect combination to get material, shot with the idea to pitch to TVNZ.

Matakana locals who worked on the show included former, TV commercials director Mark Lever who applied directorial touches, filmmaker and cameraman Peter Young (well known for Hunger for the Wild and shooting the Matakana school cookbook!) and Fin Woods who helped with camera, on locations which included Smith Road and Whangateau.

"We found some wonderful cars, but too many to film!" says Michael. "There was a gorgeous Morris 8 at Sandspit and we even got offered a 1972 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. But we generally have a pretty tight list of criteria to meet, including not running for at least 10-20 years, so that makes it challenging!

"That said, we also heard about a few more cars while we were shooting. One in particular sounds amazing, a very special old US Embassy car, so we'd love to come back and film some more in Matakana," Michael says.

The debut season of ‘Start Me Up’ features six hero vehicles, including a beautifully rusty 1928 Dodge that the boys found on a hill in Wright Road. Local man Garth Hodge features in that episode, complete with a look around his shed full of intriguing mechanical wonders.

Other vehicles in the show include a 1970 VG Valiant, a 1948 Morris Commercial tow truck and even an ancient Land Cruiser killed by a bourbon and cola-powered attempt to adjust the tappets.

"Those are the 'star cars',” says Michael, "but there are all sorts of other interesting vehicles, many with a lot of New Zealand history behind them. Starting up the old cars is a big part of the show, but equally so are the characters and places where we go in search of parts. We even found an amazing private collection of old Hudsons and Valiants that had never been filmed before."

Filming began in Matakana then shifted to the Wairarapa. The show has recently acquired a large, international distributor and was taken to the world's largest TV market, MIPCOM, in France, in October.

But Michael says the show would never have happened without the kindness, generosity and support of Matakana locals.

"It's amazing when people are so generous with their time and energy,” he says “Matakanians are a very special, very supportive bunch. There are so many creative people in the area, it's just a remarkable part of the world."


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