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Interview: Patrick Harlow talks about Heron MJ1


Patrick Harlow is an automotive historian with a fascination for unique New Zealand produced cars. This is his third book on this subject. When he is not writing books, he is doing research for a monthly car column that he writes for New Zealand Classic Car Magazine, called 'Kits and Pieces.' Patrick talks to NZ Booklovers about his book Heron MJ1.


Tell us a little about Heron MJ1.

The Heron MJ1 is a unique car designed and built in New Zealand. What makes it even more unique is that it has a fibreglass monocoque chassis. All other cars of this period used steel for their chassis.


What inspired you to write this book?

The designer of the car, Ross Baker, contacted me and asked me to write his story. What convinced me was an owner of a Heron MJ1 told me that meeting Ross Baker was like meeting the Enzo Ferrari of New Zealand.


What research was involved?

Many interviews with people who are still alive from that time. Historical newspaper stories, TV archives and magazines.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I dedicated at least one day per week, Tuesday, to writing it with no interruptions. Parts of other days were used to photoshop old and faded photographs, conduct Skype interviews with Ross who resides in Australia.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane


What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

Getting to know somebody's life almost better than my own. Meeting other people that were involved in the manufacture of this country’s only production car.


What do you hope readers will take from the book?

The fact that one man can make his dream come true, even for a short time, despite the obstacles that life put before him.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Went into COVID-19 Lockdown. At some stage, COVID-19 permitting, I will go to Australia, meet Ross Baker, and go for a ride in the car he built from the ground up despite being in his 70s, and in 18 months.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Jack Reacher – The Sentinel by Lee Child. I always like books that state that one man can make a difference if only to those that are around him.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

Currently, it is to find more New Zealand unique cars for my Kits and Pieces column which is required each month for New Zealand Classic Car Magazine.


Author Patrick Harlow with his own New Zealand unique car, an Almac Sabre.

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