Watch the story of Dame Ngaio's long-lost Jaguar on TV's Seven Sharp
The story of how a super sleuth volunteer has tracked down Dame Ngaio's rare Jaguar XK150 has featured on New Zealand television's Seven Sharp.
Dame Ngaio was a distinctive sight around Christchurch driving her rare black Jaguar XK150 sports car in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s.
The XK150 has been described as the best post-war production sports car in the world. Just 99 of Dame Ngaio’s rare type of right-hand drive XK150 3.8 litre Special Equipment Fixed Head Coupe were ever produced.
She ordered it through Jaguar dealer Archibalds in Christchurch (still a Jaguar dealer today), picked it up in July 1960 and drove it in the UK before exporting it back to New Zealand. It arrived in NZ in January 1962. She drove it as her everyday car for 20 years until her death.
Dame Ngaio in her car photographed by local newspaper The Christchurch Star
The car was then sold by her main beneficiary, an Australia-based relative. The Ngaio Marsh House and Heritage Trust – a small team of dedicated volunteers who run her home and garden in Cashmere, Christchurch, as a house museum – lost track of it.
Trustee David Chambers says: “The story of the Jaguar is always popular with visitors, with a number of our older visitors remembering seeing her in the car around town. A photo of Dame Ngaio with the car and a model of the car are on display in the house and the distinctive green-painted garage that housed it is still on the property.
“For years, the Trust has wondered what happened to it. Was it still in Canterbury? Had it been looked after? Was it still being driven? Was it even in the country or had it been sold to a collector overseas?”
A local self-confessed car nut who visited the house recently on a tour and was inspired by the museum and the stories of Dame Ngaio’s incredible life, decided to investigate. He visited Ngaio Marsh House with a friend whose mother was a friend of Dame Ngaio’s, and the visit had so moved his friend he decided to take action.
How do you track down a 60-year old car?
Due to privacy restrictions, it’s not easy to track down car owners and ownership could not be established via the registration number, AQ5832. As it’s a highly collectible classic car, the motor-enthusiast-turned-detective started with online sites for Jaguar car clubs in New Zealand, posting that he was looking for the car on behalf of the Trust. Lots of people were interested to hear about the search, but for a while no information was forthcoming.
Then, one of the car club members contacted our detective to say he had found it on the International XK Register and tracked down the chassis number. Finding the chassis number was the key. By creating a profile on the online register, and using the chassis number, our detective was able to locate a recent photo of the car posted by a fan, sighted in Masterton in 2022 and in beautiful condition. He posted a message under the photo, and bingo! The current car owner got in touch.
Relieved to discover the car has been cherished
The car, the Trust has been delighted to discover, has been extremely well looked after. It is still being driven and it is still in New Zealand, residing in Masterton. Current owner, Masterson resident Steve Foster, inherited the car from his father, John Foster, when John died in August 2009. Steve was able to fill in the blanks and solve the mystery for the Trust, sending through a full history of the 62-year-old beauty. The car had been through two Canterbury-based owners before John bought it in 1991. John, based in Hawkes Bay, was an avid collector of Jaguars.
Dame Ngaio Marsh’s car, now owned by Steve Foster, at the British Car Rally in 2013
Steve says: “My father had a collection of Jaguars but Dame Ngaio's was his favourite and he used it sparingly in Hawkes Bay until his death when I inherited her with mileage at 40,595 on 25.8.09. Probably the highlight during his ownership was attending the 50th XK Rally in Taupo in 1998 with a great turnout of all variants of XK Jaguars.
“Throughout our ownership the 150 has always been serviced, registered and warranted and used regularly if sparingly. It has never let us down and not required anything more than regular servicing and drives superbly. It has never been dismantled or repainted and still has its original tool kit and service handbooks.”
The car’s current mileage is just 44,150 miles – less than a thousand miles for every year it has been driven.
Photo and model of car on display at Ngaio Marsh House, the house museum in Christchurch where Dame Ngaio lived from age 10 until her death. This photo and model is what inspired a Christchurch resident to start his search for the car to find out what happened to it