Back to top anchor

Brought to you by Te Whatu Ora Southern and WellSouth primary health network

Open main menu Close main menu

Restored Kombi is a special visitor to Southland Hospital

Issue date:
Content is brought to you by:

As soon as Florence arrived at Southland Hospital, she was an immediate star and the perfect special visitor on International Nurses Day.

Within minutes of her arrival, the restored Kombi van, owned by Transport World executive director Joc O’Donnell, was surrounded by nurses and hospital staff keen to take pictures. 

O’Donnell’s team has been working since 2019 to restore the 1959 Volkswagen Kombi that served the Southland community throughout the 1960s as an ambulance before it was decommissioned in 1970. 

It was purchased from Trade Me and transported from Hastings to Invercargill. 

The restoration was a bigger job than initially thought once the team inspected the Kombi in detail and discovered previous patch jobs.  

Joc paid tribute to Darren Robbie and the wider team who had been working on Florence. 

“The work on Florence has been a masterpiece in restoration, particularly the handcrafting of interior pieces,” she says. 

Authentic parts were sourced from Belgium; and in time Florence will join Transport World’s main exhibition. 

On International Nurses Day Florence carried a special memento inside; the foundation stone that came from London for the former Nurses Home at the hospital site. 

Its inscription says “This Brick From No10 South Street, London, the Home of Florence Nightingale OM-1865-1910 –presented by The National Council of Nurses of Great Britain, London, 24-10-1935"  

In Philip Coyle’s book 50 Years of Volkswagens in New Zealand he writes about Clarks Service Station, Invercargill, being one of the first VW dealerships in New Zealand.  

Coyle says, “by the early 1960s Clarks had sold six ambulances to the local Invercargill Hospital Board”. 

One of the Kombis was built in Germany but the remainder of these, including Florence, was assembled in New Zealand with German parts. 

Florence was assembled in Auckland. 

International Nurses Day was celebrated on May 12.