On Saturday 22nd July the MOTAT Society gathered a small group of its members for a tour of the Ross Bros Car Museum in Cambridge.
The museum is a private collection of classic muscle cars, vintage trucks, and equipment put together by the Ross brothers who operate Cambridge’s C & R Developments, specializing in large civil earthworks and earthmoving contracts including the Huntly Expressway. You can tell the museum is something special, the huge black Peterbilt truck exploding through the front wall kind of gives it away.
Entering the Ross Bros Museum the first thing you notice is that everything is super clean and super shiny – well, maybe not the first thing, I guess the wall-to-wall array of classic vehicles in pristine condition might catch your eye initially. But the backdrop of chrome and polish on the black and white “finishing flag” tiled floor, the 1950s American diner, and the collection of music memorabilia certainly set the scene.
Pride of place at the front of the showroom cars is one of NZ motorsports legend Scott Dixon’s iconic race cars. The car is the 2005 Number 9 Target Panoz G-Force Toyota Dixon raced for his long-time team Chip Ganassi Racing. Teams don’t often sell race cars, even when they are replaced. And they never sell important or championship-winning cars. So while 2005 wasn’t Dixon’s best season that is probably the reason the car was able to be purchased.
Now I’m no car aficionado - they all looked amazing to me (although I must admit I was really impressed with the AC Cobra kit car – my Dad, who passed away a couple of years back, had his own AC Cobra kit – it never made it past the shaped polystyrene stage but the dream remained so it made sense for me to admire it –a tough call considering the rest of the room) but this was a visit to a car museum so it makes sense to list a few of the cars in the showroom (thanks to an article in NZV8 magazine, March 2019, for the details that are completely over my head):
The Ross brothers’ father’s Aston Martin DBS V8.
A Z28 Camaro, powered by a 302ci small block and fourspeed. I have to say I WAS impressed by the pool table made from another Z28 pool table (or two).
A big block 454ci 1971 Corvette.
A 1964 Fairlane Thunderbolt replica built by Steve Keys.
A 1968 Torino.
A bright red 1971 XY Falcon GT, running a 351W and four-speed.
A 1970 HT Holden Monaro, a genuine Bathurst edition powered by a 350ci small block.
An all-original (other than the big-diameter Simmons wheels) VL Walkinshaw, build number 241.
Most of the cars in the collection still have a current Warrant of Fitness and registration and can be driven – unfortunately, we were not invited (probably for the best!).
An unremarkable door in the classic car showroom leads through in Narnia style to a whole new world. The doorway on the other side is cut through the bucket of a 400-tonne Komatsu PC4000 excavator and the world you step into is remarkably different from the shiny showroom. Gravel floor, un-restored vehicles waiting for attention (no spit and polish here) and massive earthmoving equipment. Tucked away in one corner is the replica of an old 1930s mechanic’s workshop with vintage tractors and farming vehicles awaiting repair. In another there is an excavating equipment graveyard – rusting bulldozers slowly being overtaken by bush. It’s actually really pretty and the recorded Tui song just adds to the atmosphere.
Meandering through the rows of small dozers from the 40s and 50s, dump trucks and fire trucks (including a 1949 KB8, a 1967 R190, and a 1967 Load Star F1890) the stand-out vehicles are some of the biggest I’ve ever seen. There is a Komatsu 575 super dozer (its blade measures nearly 4 metres high and can carry almost 70 cubic metres of material in a single pass) but even this monster pales in comparison with the Caterpillar 994 loader which is described as the largest mechanically driven loader in the world. After scaling the steps to get up to the cab our group gathered in front of one of the 3.5 metre tyres that weigh in at 4.5 tonnes each.
Our next stop was the restoration workshop, pristine and orderly, matched by the C&R Workshops – the Ross brothers definitely have the right business to accommodate their love of vehicle restoration. The Ross Bros Car Museum presents an outstanding display of transport and technological heritage, celebrating the history of motoring and earth-moving. If you love classic muscle cars or heavy vehicles you should definitely stop in and view the collection. The MOTAT Society is incredibly grateful to Murray Barton, who showed us around and regaled us with tales of the collection, and to the Ross brothers who have opened their private collection to be viewed by the public.
An excursion such as this can only be followed up with a meal at a great local establishment and we all enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the Good Union in Cambridge (and some cider shopping at the associated Good George Brewing). A great way to finish the day before the coach trip home.
Words by Jodie Cawthorne
Photos by David Kannu and Ken Lee-Jones