Beetle retires after navigating the globe

  • 09/03/2016
Beth and Ivan Hodge (Paul Henry)
Beth and Ivan Hodge (Paul Henry)

For most people heading from the UK to New Zealand, the obvious mode of travel would be by air.

Not so for Ivan and Beth Hodge.

When the Kiwi couple wanted to travel home from London in 1961, they bought themselves a brand new Volkswagen Beetle for £439 and decided to tackle most of the distance overland.

Thirty-five years later they did it all again, weaving through far-off traffic by day and bedding down in their cramped little car by night.

Now, they have one final journey planned before parking up the VW for good.

"We were like many New Zealanders in the '60s – you have to leave the country to explore the world, and that's what we did," says Mr Hodge.

The Hodges' journey took them through Europe, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent, before travelling by sea back to New Zealand.

"We're lucky that we did it as a married couple because we've now got a shared experience. Lots of singles have done it, but they don't always want to share their experiences at that time with their now-new partner," says Mr Hodge.

Despite battling foreign roads, Mr Hodge says some of the toughest drivers he's come across have been down under.

"New Zealanders are pretty tough. They don't let you get into a line -- particularly if you have a slow car and you're trying to overtake. It's bloody dangerous."

The couple, married for 57 years, may be putting the handbrake on their driving adventures, but they have no plans to sit at home doing nothing.

"When we did the second trip -- we have three daughters and 12 grandchildren -- in the end they said, 'If you've got to go you've got to go, just remember you're not as fast as you used to be.' I don't know if they were referring to the car or us. But the thought of us driving a third time, they weren't happy with," says Ms Hodge.

Now both in their 80s, the pair say it's time to hand over the car keys and plan their next journey by train.

"We'll get off the road because I don't think 80-year-olds should be driving always," says Mr Hodge.

The couple are now embarking on one final trip around the country to visit "significant places of our family history and the car's history", before donating their beloved vehicle to Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).

"It's bye bye Beetle," says Mr Hodge. "And we're delighted it's going in to MOTAT because there it will be cared for, and people will share it and look it and they may get some inspiration to do things themselves – that's the purpose if it."