Denis Pothan and JudyMy name is Denis Pothan. I was born in Napier in 1938 and was educated in Napier and Hastings. In 1954 I started an apprenticeship with Spurdle Brothers in Hastings as a car painter, taking after the profession of my grandfather who owned the Hastings Coach Factory in the early 1900's.

After completing 5000 hours I joined the RNZAF as an aircraft finisher (painting airplanes) which completed my apprenticeship. This trade in the airforce was part of the Safety and Surface trade which also included parachute packing, liferafts and flying clothing. I completed 12 years in the Air Force and finished up as the Signwriter for the Ohakea base. During my time I designed and manufactured a crest for the Strike Wing. One of the highlights of my career was being asked to paint a kiwi on Air Force One during President Lyndon B. Johnson's visit to New Zealand in 1966.

Around 1961 I joined the Bulls Chapter of the Jaycees and produced oil paintings of New Zealand scenes to be sold to raise funds for the IHC School in Marton.

During my time with the Air Force I was lucky enough to go overseas several times. I was in Fiji during the riots of 1959 and was based in Malaysia during the Indonesian Confrontation and had various postings in Australia.

Near the end of my time with the Air Force I started panelbeating and painting cars in Bulls and Sansom in my spare time. I then moved to Cambridge and was the aircraft painter on the Air Tourer Aircraft assembly line in Hamilton.

My next move was to Whangarei in 1971 where I started up in business at various locations panelbeating and painting vehicles and boats. Eventually I moved to Kamo and purchased the rights to the name Kamo Panel & Paint and after leasing the premises for a while eventually purchased the land and buildings.

After a trip round the South Island in the motor home (which I had built) I had the urge to start painting again. I started with oils again but found acrylics much more user friendly with the amount of time I had as they are much quicker drying. My first efforts were South Island related i.e. the Kingston Flier after which I tried some local landscapes. Then I had the idea of painting the aircraft I had worked on during my Air Force career which have turned out to be very popular. In some cases I have been selling limited edition numbered prints but have also painted several commissions for people who wanted a specific plane and background.


My wife Judy, who is our Office Manager, came from England in 1979. She had been working at a Jaguar/Rover/Triumph franchise dealer for ten years as the Bodyshop secretary (panel and paintshop in NZ terms). The firm, Coombs of Guildford, was owned by John Coombs who had a team of Jaguar Racing cars which were maintained by the firm both mechanically and bodywise during the 1950's, the Managing Director was also into racing but his passion was Hill Climbs.

The Queen Mother's Daimler Limousine was also serviced there and a footrest had to be made for her in the back footwell of the car. Judy, being of similar height, had the "job" of testing out various designs for comfort - her "claim to fame".

When she came to NZ she managed to get a job with another car dealer where we met each other as I did the panel and paintwork for the firm.