Special feature: Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane


Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 2 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 2
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 3 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 3
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 4 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 4
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 5 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 5
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 6 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 6
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 7 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 7
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 8 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 8
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 10 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 10
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 11 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 11
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 12 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 12
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 13 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 13
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 15 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 15
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 16 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 16
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 17 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 17
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 19 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 19
Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 20 Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum 20

A Northland vintage machinery collector has been collecting treasures for more than half a century. Fortunately for those who also appreciate the wonders of machinery, he’s happy to share his passion.

Based in Doubtless Bay, Northland, Matthews Vintage Machinery Museum is the result of a decades-long hobby that has kept owner Winston (Win) Matthews busy (besides farming) for 60 years.

Win reckons he began restoring machinery as an 18-year-old when he found two old wrecks in a paddock.

"I paid 10 pounds for them," he recalls. "From these I managed to make a decent 1929 Chevrolet. A bit later, I restored a dilapidated 1927 Chevrolet, which I still own and take it for a spin every now and then."

Since then he’s always had something to work on. "I like having an old vehicle, tractor, or engine on the go. Over the years, I acquired more and more stuff so eventually built a shed, then opened it to the public."

The 1100 square metre shed also houses vintage cars, stationary engines, farming, household, and pioneering appliances, some of which have been used by the Matthews family over the past century.

The collection

Matthews-Vintage-Machinery-Museum-9.jpg

The immaculate collection is well-organised and laid out. Particularly impressive is the detailed labelling on each item, with information on where it came from, mechanical details, and other memorabilia. Win thanks his late wife Lyn for typing up everything meticulously.

The labels include before and after photos. This enables visitors to see what state a particular machine was in when it was found, illustrating the amount of work gone into restoring or repairing each piece. Win does most of the paintwork on the tractors and engines himself but gets a professional painter to put the final coat on his cars.

A sea of red Farmall tractors at one end of the building suggests these are favourites. "We always had Farmalls or Internationals on the farm so that’s probably why I have so many. I also began to collect Fergusson and Massey Harris tractors to add some interest."

Machinery collectables

Matthews-Vintage-Machinery-Museum-12.jpg

Machinery at the museum has come from many sources: swap meets, private sales, Trade Me, and word of mouth, with a significant collection of machinery that was once used on the Matthews farm.

The Matthews family has farmed the same property at Aurere since 1839, so there’s no lack of material, although, Win says his father sold a lot of it over the years, which he hunted around to try and rescue back.

The 1930’s fire engine, originally owned by Graham Brothers came from Hamner Springs in the South Island.

"It was built by the local fire brigade and then transferred to Ross on the West Coast (South Island) in 1946 where it served until 1961. After that, it was driven to Greymouth and shipped to Onehunga before ending up in Kaitaia. It lay behind a shop and deteriorated for some time before I eventually bought it," says Win.

It’s the simplicity of vintage machinery that appeals to him. "Someone like me can make them go again, whereas the modern stuff is a completely different kettle of fish. You can find something that’s a hundred years old and make it go. I like that."

He rarely encounters a problem he can’t fix. "There’s always a way; if you don’t know you find a solution," he says.

Preserving history

Matthews-Vintage-Machinery-Museum-18.jpg

Win wishes more people could see the value of bringing old machinery back to life. "In the UK, they are good at preserving their early tractors and machinery and I think we should do the same. It’s a shame if we let it (and the knowledge) go. I don’t see many young ones getting into it. They live in a different world and there are so many other things they are involved with," says Win.

Meanwhile, the museum keeps Win busy. He’s mostly retired from farming, though he still keeps his hand in with a bit of stock work. He enjoys meeting visitors who come to the museum.

"I meet lots of interesting people from all over New Zealand and the world. Because we don’t get hordes of visitors, it gives me time to talk to them and I enjoy that."

For more information, visit matthewsvintage.com.

Matthews Vintage Museum is home to:

  • Farmall, International, John Deere, McCormack tractors
  • A wide range of stationary engines including Tangyes, Woleseleys, Andersons, Listers and Bamford
  • Farming tools
  • Vintages cars including Nash, Chevrolet, and Singer Roadster
  • Vintage radios
  • Old photos, Matthews family history, and history of the area

Find farm machinery for sale in NZ

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Farm Trader's free newsletter or liking us on Facebook