A butcher and the birth of speedway

Nov 08, 2022

The home of speedway in Cromwell is going back to its roots for inspiration for its annual Ron Spriggs Memorial race day this year.

And parked up to take it all in will be Cromwell local Bill Sanders.

He was one of those who raced at the 1980 inaugural meeting of the new Cromwell speedway. Back then he raced a MkII Zephyr and a MkII Cortina – and he also drove a very distinctive Ford pickup truck.

Bill Sanders still drives the old R. C. Sanders Butchery truck around Cromwell (Image supplied).

Mr Sanders was known as ‘Mince’ in the speedway community – his family were the local butchers. Their old red 1947 Ford pickup was easy to spot, and was a familiar sight around Cromwell up until the 1980s. Although his father bought it second hand, Mr Sanders says it’s been in the family since the late 1940s.

“I hadn’t driven it since 1985. My brother and another bloke used to drive it to Wānaka and sell meat out of the back of it up there. I did the Thursday run around Cromwell until 1979. 

“Dad had about four or five of these trucks, a couple on the farm and three of them were dedicated butcher’s trucks.”

Mr Sanders has many memories of the business, and the trucks. He remembers one of his dad’s employees crashing in Bannockburn, and saveloys landing in the trees.

He's had his truck carefully restored to its original condition - it even has the original butchers’ scales in the back - and it's now one of the country's oldest local commercial vehicle in existence.

“It may be a bit beaten-up and have that patina, but it’s how it was.”

There’s a chance for people to get a closer look under the bonnet or at the butcher setup in the back, and talk to Mr Sanders about the old butchery days. He'll have the truck on show at the upcoming Trucks, Utes and Associated Vehicles Show & Shine, at the Cromwell speedway on Saturday, November 26.

“It’s a local vehicle, and it’s of historic interest to the town and there’s a lot of people who remember it. The truck used to pull up and everyone got a free sav.

“At the next speedway meeting, I’m going to put an old mattress in the back, drive it in, park it up on the bank, open the doors and me and the missus are going to sit there and watch the speedway. The only difference is we’ll be drinking lemonade!”

Also on the speedway's events calendar: November 19 will be a chance for everyone to have fun '80s-style and celebrate the birth of speedway in Cromwell. This year, the Ron Spriggs Memorial will feature '80s cars, ‘80s fashions and some of those people, like Mr Sanders, who helped make Cromwell a destination speedway.

See details on both events here

Main image (Supplied): One of the R. C. Sanders butchery trucks parked in Cromwell’s main street, year unknown. 

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