Repco Beach Hop 2024, New Zealand – Our Top 10

New Zealanders know how to party, and there's no bigger party on the Kiwi calendar than Repco Beach Hop

Photographers: Chaddo

While many events happen in small towns, Repco Beach Hop is somewhat different. It doesn’t just “happen” in the usually sleepy coastal town of Whangamata on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, instead it absolutely takes the town over.

All up the event is limited to around 2000 entrants, which is plenty on its own, but that’s only scratching the surface of how many cars show up for it. Walk down any street and there are multiple old cars in driveways, and the supermarket car park is full of them too. It’s something that simply can’t be comprehended until it’s experienced.

Here’s ten cars that cars that caught our eye this year:

1. Brent and June Shipman’s ’56 Chevy

Brent and June Shipman know a thing or two about building elite level Chevys, with this ’56 being their second in recent years. The two-door ’56 Bel Air was only unveiled in January this year, and thanks to its Art Morrison chassis, twin-turbo LS motor and flawless panel and paint work, it was a big hit with the Repco Beach Hop crowd.

Brent says he doesn’t build cars to win trophies, he builds them for his own satisfaction, but the car proved popular enough to take out the coveted Top Car Overall award, so he must be doing something right!

2. Tim Miller’s 37 Studebaker Dictator

When people say 1937 Studebaker Dictator, chances are they never imagine one like this. The car belongs to Tim Miller, who made the trek up from the South Island for the car’s first North Island showing. Dubbed ‘Hellbaker’, the car runs full Dodge Charger Hellcat running gear along with cantilever rear suspension and a custom chassis.

Jam-packing in all the modern comforts of the late-model donor was no easy feat for Tim and friend Jeff Marshall who assisted on the build, but as Tim says, having comforts like power steering, air conditioning, fuel injection, disc brakes, and even a reversing camera just make modern-day hot rodding more enjoyable.

3. Dean ‘Herb’ Herbert’s ’56 F100

With a couple of turbos hanging off the front and custom work galore, Dean ‘Herb’ Herbert’s newly debuted ’56 F100 was getting plenty of attention at the event. The exterior look was inspired by the Sylvester Stallone-driven F100 in the movie The Expendables, which features a similar roof chop and bonnet vents.

Unlike the movie car, this one is based on a custom chassis with a Heidts Mustang II front end and sports a full custom interior.

4. Robert Pirika’s Dodge van

The graphics on Robert Pirika’s Dodge van don’t just look retro, they are retro, having been painted in the early ’80s.

Despite how long ago it was built, the van still looks immaculate even though Robert and wife Debbie drive it everywhere. Under the seat is a 318ci V8 stroked out to 410ci that has pushed the van to 14-second quarters.

5. Todd Collins’s ’71 Chev pickup

Todd Collins’s ’71 Chev pickup was built by well known hot rod and custom car builders Kruzin Kustoms and completed just before Repco Beach Hop 23, where it made the Top Five cars. Since then the pickup has been shipped to America, where it was entered into a handful of events and received plenty of praise before being shipped home again.

The custom work on it includes a custom built-in beer and bourbon holder in the tray, along with a killer interior and highly detailed LSA under the hood. Needless to say, it also slotted into the official Top Five again this year, but didn’t quite take home the top gong.

6. Justin Walker’s procharged Falcon Sprint

Justin Walker is well known for his roof-chopped, tubbed and blown street-legal ’64 Galaxie (SM April 2021), but surprised people this year when he turned up in a procharged Falcon Sprint.

The Sprint was purchased by a fellow Kiwi as a strip-only car and ran a best of 8.3@179mph before being sold to Justin, who has since jumped through the hoops of getting street legal.

The bellmouth sticking out the front is attached to a crank-driven F2 Procharger and 430ci Dart blocked Windsor engine.

7. Trevor Halstead’s ’51 Studebaker Starlite Coupe

Trevor Halstead and his radical custom Studebakers are Beach Hop icons. Trev’s entered almost every Beach Hop from the beginning, ended up in the Top Five cars no less than six times, and taken home the top prize once.

With grandson Jesse at his side, 2024 saw his ’51 Studebaker Starlite Coupe in the ring for the third time, taking home the inaugural Best Custom Car award. Trev builds his cars entirely in house only outsourcing the upholstery.

There’s so much custom bodywork on the Starlite, but with the cars being so rare to begin with, it’s hard to know exactly what’s stock and what’s not.

8. Chris Curtis’s 1951 Willys Jeep

With around 2000 vehicles entered, it’s a hard event to stand out at, but Chris Curtis has found a way. After previously owning a lifted 1950 Dodge Power Wagon, he and wife Kim decided their next project needed to be even more impressive.

The outcome was this 1951 Willys Jeep that was built predominantly by their good friends from Straight Edge Auto Restorations in St. Anthony, Minnesota, USA. The pair brought the partially finished truck back home to finish off themselves, and are working towards getting it road legal.

With huge 54-inch tall Super Swampers, there’s no wonder it’s got a worked LS2 under the hood to get it moving.

9. Carl and Mallory Johnston’s ’68 Cadillac

Carl and Mallory Johnston haven’t missed a Beach Hop in 15 years. During that time they’ve entered no less than seven different cars, most of them air-bagged, big-bodied American cruisers. One year Carl even took home the Young Gun award for best car belonging to an under 25-year old with a ’63 Impala.

Their car of choice this year was a reasonably stock ’68 Cadillac that’s been bagged and runs 20-inch wheels. While they managed to ditch the kids for the event, they did spend plenty of time with Mallory’s parents who were entered in a ’56 F100.

10. Jay Elliott’s ’61 Morris bus

It’s not often you see a ’61 Morris bus, let alone one that’s been shortened, roof chopped and stuffed full of 408 cubes of blown small block Chev. The bus took out the Top Car prize at Repco Beach Hop 23, but this year it was there in the hands of new owner Jay Elliott, who filled its ten seats with family members, friends and strangers alike and was often found running laps up and down the main street.

Sadly, mechanical woes saw it completing the trip home on a transporter.