In 2003 »This is the Trekka« was presented as the second only ever New
Zealand pavilion at the Biennale of Venice. With this in mind the pavilion
became a contemporary reflection on an unusual cold war story. The project
itself takes as its central motif, the Trekka - the only New Zealand mass-produced
automobile - and teases out the eccentricities of the partnership that
brought this vehicle into being.
Produced between 1966 and 1972 by NZ private enterprise and the state run Czech manufacturer Motokov this adventurous partnership becomes a precursor to the more globalised situations we see today. At the time however both these nations were still economically tied to their respective motherlands. Automobile manufacturing was, during the cold war, considered a nation building exercise: a national car equated to a working national economy. Local producers were therefore guided in the hope that this benchmark of industrialisation would further consolidate their nation’s first world status.
There were less than 3,000 units ever produced. The vehicle’s unusual production cycle was a denial of Fordist standards of mass production. Skoda chassis’ and mechanicals were simply imported into New Zealand where locally fabricated steel bodies were then bolted on. Performance was also questionable: designed to look like a 4WD the Trekka was emphatically not. In the end this very basic concept for a national car, produced with rudimentary technology found its own supporters, not in the first world but amongst African and Asian nations.
The story contained within this vehicle of a nationalism that celebrated both private enterprise and state control became a point of contemplation for another adventurous public/private partnership with nation building aspirations: NZ’s own Venice initiative. In exhibition the project’s centrepiece was a fully restored, working Trekka, surrounding the vehicle were objects and images that highlighted key economic, industrial and cultural moments.
50th Biennale of Venice, New Zealand pavilion, La Maddalena, Cannaregio 12.06.03 – 02.11.03
City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand »Small World, Big Town« (group exhibition) 25.09.05 – 20.11.05
publication title: »This is the Trekka«