Kāpiti CoastSee & Do
A grandpa and grandchildren walking through vintage  cars at the Southward Car Museum.

Southward Car Museum

Tucked away amongst park-like surroundings on the Kāpiti Coast is a world-class museum. It is the legacy of a vehicle-loving man.

Inside the cavernous, purpose-built exhibition hall of Southward Car Museum, chrome and steel glints in every direction. The smell of polish and leather permeates the air. Here is a remarkable private car collection, the largest in Australasia.

Southward Car Museum is the result of one man’s vision and engineering expertise. It’s a labour of love and legacy rolled into one. Sir Len Southward was a pioneering marine engineer. He, along with his wife Vera, began collecting cars in the 1950s, beginning with a Model T Ford. By the mid-1970s his collection had grown to such an extent that purchasing land and building a museum was necessary.

An adult and two children stand, looking at a red vintage convertible Ferrari in the Southward Car Museum in Otaihanga, Paraparaumu.

Today, the museum houses more than 450 rare and treasured vehicles of all descriptions, You’ll find an 1895 Benz Velo, imported to New Zealand in 1900, and a 1915 Stutz Indianapolis race car. Discover the 1934 Cadillac that was once owned by American actress Marlene Dietrich. Uncover the 1939 Mercedes-Benz that was to be a gift for Edward VIII after the planned German invasion of Britain. And locate the four-tonne, 1950 “gangster special” Cadillac complete with genuine bullet holes, owned by gangster Mickey Cohen. Rounding out the notable collection is a Back To The Future DeLorean.

A grandpa and grandchildren walking through vintage  cars at the Southward Car Museum.

Alongside these notable examples from the late Sir Len’s original core collection, there are hundreds of other vehicles of every shape, size, make, and purpose — from motorcycles to carriages, traction engines to tuk-tuks. A team of engineers care for the cars in several large on-site workshops. The museum building also houses a concert hall that regularly holds events.

The legacy Sir Len left behind is one of Kāpiti’s true treasures and a testament to the enduring fascination he had with all things vehicular.