Clive Nelson Webby

Date of birth / Date established
Date of death / Date closed
15 Jun 1961
Clive was born in Taranaki. At age 13, he built his own steam driven four wheel cart and a small boat which he used on the river at his parents farm in Riverlea. Clive was an award winning school boxer and played the harmonica. When Clive was 16, he had a serious crash on his motorbike which left him with a permanently stiff leg. After this he started working as a plumber in Kaponga. While working there he met Mary Baylis from Otakeo - later he and Mary were married.
Clive's passion was engineering and cars. He started work in a dairy factory, and saved enough money to buy an acre of land at Riverlea where he built a workshop and started his business - the Riverlea Garage. Clive ran the garage, working on cars, trucks and tractors and also doing other sorts of engineering work.
Clive was very fortunate to have the exceptional support from Mary and much of the credit for the success of the business is due to her, even before they were married. Her father aptly gave her the nickname "staying power". This was a blessing for Clive as it gave him the time to carry out his passion for invention.
Some of his early inventions include a high speed low friction petrol motor, automatic pneumatic compressor, automatic pneumatic rifle, air sealing and valving of different style, and air rifles with methods to capture, store and quick release of air. Most of these inventions were placed under patent in New Zealand and America.
Around 1938, Clive made contact with a number of companies in Australia and America relating to his inventions. Clive was invited to America by the Huff family who owned Daisy Air Rifles, to discuss his patents. Even though Mary was married, she was under the age of 21 - so had to get the permission of her father to obtain a passport and leave New Zealand!
Clive and Mary found American people very friendly and welcoming but it was a very different place compared to New Zealand. The Huff family made them very welcome, and on the very first day Clive showed his engineering skills by repairing a broken drive gear tooth which had stopped production, pending a replacement. The Huff's took them to meet many people including well known movie stars and stingers of the day.
Unfortunately, World War Two was escalating and the Webby's garage had been shut during their trip. They needed to get back home to support the farming community and the local war effort. After five months in America, they had to leave behind some unfinished projects. Once back home, the Huff family kept in regular contact and often asked Clive for his ideas on several projects. The garage was reopened and because of the war shortages Clive's skills were in demand. Their business grew and they worked hard supporting the farming sector repairing machinery and making parts that were no longer available.
America had yet to become involved in the War, and the Webby's were invited back to Daisy - which they did, leaving the garage in safe management. Clive returned to work for seven months before it became apparent America was going to enter the War and the Webby's would need to return to New Zealand, which they did by the safest way - on a USA boat. Once again their time at Daisy was cut short.
When the War was over and life settled down, Clive set about detailing his ideas further. This included a different type of internal combustion engine that was way ahead of its time. Unfortunately we don't have any information on this motor - just a couple of parts are all that remain. I understand it was similar to what later became known as the rotary engine.
Over the next few years, Clive got his ides up to speed with the air rifle becoming closer to production. A company was set up with tools and a state of the art copy lathe to produce the wooden rifle stocks.
Sadly, on the night before he was going to Auckland to meet up with interested engineers and investors, Clive had a fatal heart attack. With his death at the age of 52, and although several attempts were made - there was no one who could take over and continue with the development of his repeating air rifle. Without Clive's vision and skills the whole project came to a halt.
- Information supplied by Wayne Webby (son of Clive, and donor)


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