DON RUTHERFORD Midget driver mostly at Waiwakaiho. Return to Personalities
At left Don is presented with a trophy at Waiwakaiho Speedway.
Following is an article about Don that appeared in our club
newsletter--Pit Notes in November 2009. There is much more in the issue if you
By club member Ivan Turnbull;--
One of the first Taranaki bike nuts that I met at
the Criterion Hotel was Don. Many of the speedway and motor cycle club gathered
there after 4 pm on a Thursday, it was 6 o'clock closing in those days.
In 1961 we rode at Tuhikaramea and met some of the New Plymouth competitors who invited us to see their neck of the woods. At the time Don was riding a 250 DOT sponsored by Johnny Callender, he was working for him too at the old Devon St shop.
He also assisted Johnny with the Mellotone Sound system at all sorts of sporting events. By this time he had given up bikes on the speedway and was driving 99, powered by a Willys, and was usually the back marker. Along with his wife Marj he was also building a house at Ronald Street.
For the 62-63 season he was,
I think, also President of the T.M.C.R.C., as well as driving and heavily
involved in track preparation and the take over of Ken Butchers garage at 44
Gill St. All this activity required funds and he acquired the sound system
business to supplement his income, and every motor cycle club scramble and
speedway meeting used it. If that wasn't enough to keep him busy he decided to
rebuild 99 and re-power it with a Holden, not a standard one but over-bored to
suit some Waggot pistons which an Aussie guy brought in by suitcase. No x rays
in those days. Along with a mostly new chassis he refitted the front body work
and had a new tail made by the panel man at the old Grundy's Service Station. We
painted it red with yellow sign work and a black shadow. He was also by then a
proud dad to Donna and Shona.
Always busy busy, he heard about a Bradford van for sale and not going at Stratford, so I was co- opted to tow it back with a Vanguard Spacemaster that I had at the time. On a freezing Saturday morning we arrived at about 7 am and tied it on with instructions from Don to keep the rope tight as he didn't have a lot in the way of brakes. The road near Kent road was very much winding in those days and on a downhill run to the bridge and trying to keep the rope tight we reached 70 mph, and on the frosty bridge the Bradford developed a severe weave, a lesser driver than Don may have lost it totally, it was cause for much laughter afterwards.
After the Holden motor was reassembled he fitted it to his Holden FJ and I accompanied him to a race meeting at Wanganui with the speaker system aboard. Two hours was a good time to there in those days but we were about ten minutes under that. Before putting it back in the midget he ran it in the Kaipikari hill climb for a bit of fun with a lot of body roll. The midget went very well powered by Holden and if he hadn't had so much on his plate, and able to be a dedicated driver, I'm sure that his trophy collection would have been even bigger.
When TV hit town speedway attendance's dropped off. Don, with Alan Peattie and others decided that stock cars could be the go and so they were introduced. Don had ridden dirt trackers, stock bikes, sidecars and midgets as well as representing the North Island in the annual inter island scrambles.
Always an enthusiastic innovator and a believer in change, Don was at the fore front of many things, always remained a lifetime good friend to me and my family and was taken from us before his time. His contribution to motor sport was immeasurable.
By Ivan Turnbull.
Below in the ex Roy Low "99" Jeep powered midget and at
on his JAP speedway bike.