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Me and My Car:
Michael Provost and his Lotus
To see, go to: m.nzherald.co.nz
Monday, 17 November 2014

Commercial Photographer Michael Provost, Manager of bigpix and Airpix with his 1989 Lotus Esprit. Photo / Ted Baghurst
By Donna McIntyre

Former senior NZ Defence Force photographer Michael Provost is now a commercial photographer and runs Airpix which does the air-to-air photography of Warbirds over Wanaka.

You drive a Lotus?
It is a 1989 Lotus Esprit, a Peter Stevens (of McLaren F1 fame) modified version. I saw it sitting in Continental Cars' Ferrari dealership, and the nice salesman allowed me to drive it away at a nice price.

My primary reason for purchase was the fastidious previous owner - it came with three ring binders full of its history. It is a rare normally aspirated model - less troublesome than the turbo and silver in colour (like the one in Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts at the helm). It looks a lot like a DeLorean (same design team) but is a lot more useable.

It is simply a true classic supercar with pedigree. In these times of many bland cars, this model has always captured the imagination - surprisingly from young kids giving it the thumbs up. I think they would be surprised at its age.

Lotus was always the leader in getting high performance from small engines blended with a power-to-weight ratio and road holding unmatched at the time of this Esprit. Unfortunately it failed to keep up with the competition from Ferrari.

In my years of car ownership I have always endeavoured to have a "classic sports car" in my life, including Sunbeam Alpines, Triumph TRs, Jaguar MKII, Jensen Healey and Mercedes SL. Luckily when I was in the Air Force I had the facilities to maintain a classic. You had to get your hands dirty because of costs, but I learned a lot about engines and bodywork.

What do you listen to in your car?
The engine, with a constant eye on other motorists, temperature and oil pressure.

What do you look for when buying a vehicle?
For classic sports cars, a comprehensive history of maintenance. For newer vehicles, buy from a reputable dealership and insist on a three-year warranty.

Dream road trip?
France and Italy in a classic Dino Ferrari.

First car?
A 1964 Fiat Crusader. I have always liked European, but not necessarily for their reliability.

Who taught you to drive?
I was never allowed to drive the family car. I learned from an AA instructor, in an Austin 1300, who must have been good at the job to teach a 15-year-old. Mind you the streets of Wanganui were quiet.

Manual or automatic?
Out of Auckland, manual. In Auckland, auto unless you are on the motorway early on a Sunday.

Do you judge people by what they drive?
I drive three different vehicles - my Lotus sports car, a BMW convertible and Peugeot 407 station wagon. All have different profiles, so really I do not judge on vehicles alone, more their driving habits.

What irritates you most about other drivers?
Arrogance - having to take quick evasive action to preserve their egos and lives.

Would you rather drive in Auckland or take public transport?
Luckily I can pick my times to drive the Lotus in Auckland, but I love the train to get from Newmarket to the city and to avoid parking hassles.

Who else is allowed to drive your Lotus?
Nobody as yet. It is not as user-friendly as everyday cars, especially having no power steering. It is a track-built car. You can tell if you run over a 20 cent coin or 50 cent coin - you feel like you have covered the distance on arrival at your destination - but what a thrill!

Cycles and cars on Auckland roads ... is there room for both?
I used to cycle a lot, until it became compulsory to wear Lycra. There is room for both, but drivers, especially trucks, must adhere to the safe passing distance for cyclists rule.

For cyclists, riding three abreast and ignoring traffic lights is asking for trouble.



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