While the New Zealand car industry may have shrunk from a dozen factories to none in the last decade or so, New Zealand still has a role to play in world automotive circles, Dave Moore writes.

Those fortunate enough to wriggle their toes in the footwell of a new Aston Martin, will enjoy the feel of the best Kiwi-bred wool that money can buy. Meanwhile, Aston Martin’s owner, Ford, and tyre maker Goodyear combined resources at a recent Chicago automotive show to display decorative design work inspired by New Zealand Maori and Polynesian tattoo designs on a one-off pick-up truck.

The Lightning Rod – a striking variation of Ford’s redoubtable F-150 pickup truck – also featured special low-profile tyres with tread patterns inspired by traditional Maori ‘koru’ (fern leaf patterns) which lick, flame-like around the tread and shoulder sections.

The truck’s load deck tonneau cover, headlining and seat upholstery are where the most overt designs are used. The swirling flame-like shapes are redolent, not only of Maori facial tattooing, but also of North American Indian and ancient Celtic influences.

In New Zealand, Maori iwi (tribal leaders) were said to be flattered by the designs, which also been resemble the flames painted down the sides of hot-rods in the 1960s.

Te Tapuae O Rehua chief executive Te Maire Tau said the designs are modern and profoundly influenced by Maori or Polynesian tattoo art. But they are not specifically Maori.

“You can even see a little bit of Celtic influence in them,” he said.

Meanwhile, another Kiwi icon, the sheep – of which more than 25 million still populate New Zealand’s rolling green pastures – has had a different sort of influence on the Aston Martin DB7 V12 Vantage.

Thanks to Wools of New Zealand’s Yorkshire, north England-based design and development centre, Aston Martin is using floor mats made from Kiwi wool on the centre’s special narrow-width tufting machinery.

It was no easy task: to meet the British luxury car-maker’s exacting standards, Wools of New Zealand had to put a 12-month development programme in place.

Automotive carpet needs to be more scuff and fade-resistant than carpet used in buildings and the Aston Martin mats also had to include suede pads for the driver’s heel and fine grained leather edging, brass eyelet holes and, on the underside, non-slip backing with a velcro security strip.

Adding the embroidered winged Aston Martin logo alone requires special matching to the car’s exterior colour and 20,000 stitches.

Aston Martin has flattered its Down Under supplier by featuring the familiar – and arguably as prestigious – Wools of New Zealand brand label on the mats.

“Wools of New Zealand products are in keeping with our product offering”, says Aston Martin’s general manager of parts operations, David Byrne.

“We research suitable business partners and we feel Wools of New Zealand is a very good marriage.”

The company will supply Aston Martin with DB7 mats in six colours and hopes to win further orders for boot mats and one-offs for customised cars.

Author: Dave Moore is motoring editor of The Press, a regional daily newspaper published in Christchurch, New Zealand