Terry Dalton's obsession started with a 1957 Chev and grew over 30 years into the shed that time forgot
This article on Terry's shed was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Street Machine
STEPPING into Terry Dalton’s shed is like being dropped into the pages of one of those I-SPY books for kids. One’s eyes are torn all over the shop – old painted signs, die-cast replicas, soft-drink bottles, petrol bowsers, arcade games. There’s a jukebox, an F1 simulator and even a six-seater in-shed cinema.
There’s more stuff packed in here than some museums, and right in the centre sit six gorgeous hunks of classic metal.
Built on Terry’s property south-west of Christchurch, New Zealand, the shed contains artefacts from all over the world. It all started with an enthusiasm for ’57 Chev memorabilia, which then grew into a larger obsession. What Terry has here now is “probably” the biggest collection of ’57 Chev gear in NZ.
“My uncle had one back in the 60s and I used to sit in the middle of the front seat and ride in this beautiful car,” Terry recalls. “In those days my dad had a Studebaker and I always thought my uncle’s ’57 Chev was way better than Dad’s Studebaker. So it became a passion.”
Terry started his collection in his 20s, and later he ran a ’63 Chev around hot rod capital Invercargill. But it wasn’t until roughly 20 years later that he’d finally have a ’57 Chev of his own. Actually, make that two ’57 Chevs. Terry, a computer fixer by trade, bought the two cars from America with the intention of selling one.
“I bought the second one to sell but when I got it out of the container it was better than I thought it was going to be,” he says. “It had come from California and the pictures were terrible. When I got it out I realised that I just couldn’t sell it, so I ended up with two.”
That California car is a four-door sedan running a 350 Chev with a Turbo 350 trans. They call that colour Tropical Turquoise, and the upholstery has been done to match.
“It’s a little bit of a street rod,” Terry says. “I’ve done a little bit of drag racing with it. It has a bit of power, goes pretty good.”
The other ’57 is a four-door hardtop that came from Illinois with the original 283 and Powerglide and all the trimmings. It still only has 68,000 miles on the clock.
“Whoever owned it had some money because it was ordered with power brakes, power steering, Continental kit, all the extra stuff on it,” Terry says. “A very low-mileage car, never burns a drop of oil.”
Terry’s method when sourcing cars has always been the same: find one in good nick, preferably low mileage, and preferably from somewhere in the States with a temperate climate.
“I’ve been pretty lucky, the Chevs and the Mercurys in here have mostly all been one-owner, some two owners, and very low mileage,” he says. “My first one was the 1946 Mercury convertible. That only had two New York owners and only had 35,000 miles on it.”
Terry admits the ’46 Merc from New York, named Molly, is the apple of his eye at the moment.
“It was named Molly many, many years ago in New York, so I got the number plates MOLLY8 because it’s a Mercury 8,” he explains. “Flathead V8, 239 I think, 100hp, it moves along good. It’s all-original suspension and original everything so it doesn’t handle as well as the 50s cars do, but I took it to Cromwell Car Show not long ago and as long as you’re maintaining just under 60mph it’s fine. It’s nice when you put the top down on a sunny day.”
Another thing Terry has an affection for is good old station wagons, which are getting harder to find. His 1964 Mercury Commuter wagon is one of the rarest. One of only 1830 made, the car was bought from Philadelphia four-and-a-half years ago after spending most of its life in the California sun.
“1964 was the anniversary of the Mercury, and Ford division told the Mercury division: ‘You make your own anniversary car; we want nothing to do with it.’ So 1964 is the only year that is considered to be a true Mercury. And the Commuter wagon is the rarest of all the models they made in 1964 – and they made a lot of models.
“It was originally a California car, so I knew it was pretty good when I picked it up, and in fact there was no rust to fix, no nothing. These days I think it’s got about 79,000 miles on it.”
The shed’s other resident wagon is an eye-sizzling ’63 Bel Air that was actually sourced from – shock, horror! – New Jersey.
“You generally wouldn’t buy a car from New Jersey due to the moisture, but that wagon had been in climatic storage since 1987 and was pulled out in 2012,” Terry says. “The only rust it had was the result of a factory issue they had. Very easy to fix, only a day’s work. Other than that the car is virtually as-new.”
And shall we mention the elephant in the shed: the Val?
“The Valiant,” Terry smiles. “It’s a 1973 Ranger that’s been in the family since brand new. My father bought it in 1973 and he died in 1973. That was the last time I saw my father alive, was in the Valiant.
“My mother gave it to me a long time ago now and when I got it, it had 73,000 kays – now it’s got about 82,000. It’s more sentimental than anything but I register it now and then and use it for a while. It’s a fantastic car. Hopefully it will stay in the family.”
Terry maintains his cars and drives them any chance he gets, and he continues to add artefacts to his incredible museum/man-cave.
“I like the idea of preserving history,” he says. “My wife and I have had parties in the shed and she loves showing it off as much as I do. It’s meant to be a step back in time for people.”
SOME OF TERRY'S COLLECTION IN DETAIL:
1. Three of the six cars that call Terry’s shed home. In the foreground is a four-door hardtop Chev, one of two ’57s Terry owns. Then there’s a ’63 Bel Air wagon, and to the left of that you can just see the ’73 Valiant Ranger that was originally owned by Terry’s dad.
2. Terry’s man-cave has been dubbed ‘Munro’s Shed’ after local hero Burt Munro, subject of the film The World’s Fastest Indian.
3. Terry owns one of Munro’s old helmets and a pair of goggles. “I’ve also got a replica streamliner that I’m going to paint and hang up with some dummy wheels out the bottom,” he says.
4. Taking pride of place above the bar is the trailer Burt Munro used to tow his world-beating Indian to Bonneville in 1967.
5. “Wagons have become very sought-after in America,” Terry says. “They were often passed down from parents to the kids and the kids sort of wrecked them and they never made it through life.” Fortunately Terry saved this sweet – and rare – Mercury Commuter from such a fate.