Classic car shows were once described as 'a cross between an instant museum and an old boys' club.' The cars and bikes are all privately owned but, when assembled in one place, they offer an astonishing cross-section of the first 100 years of self-propelled transport.
And that's what Cape Town's Classic Car Show, held in the grounds of the gracious Timour Hall manor house in Plumstead on the third weekend of January each year, is all about.
The cars on show range from a 1905 De Dietrich to superb Rolls-Royces, Lancias and Jaguars from the 1970s, the motorcycles from a 1910 Bradbury to the latest Moto Guzzis and Aprilias, as well as a display of brand-new Royal Enfields - but they don't count, because they still build them just like they did in the 1950's.
Since most of the owners know each other - and can be relied on for help in finding, fixing or even making hard-to-get parts - they speak a kind of verbal shorthand peppered with first names and abbreviated model designations, such as “Alan's blue Twenty” (Alan Lindhorst's exquisite 1928 Hooper-bodied Roll-Royce 20hp Sedanca de Ville) or “Freddie's 350 Trip” (a 1971 Kawasaki 350 three-cylinder two-stroke - renowned as the archetypal Bad Boy of Motorcycling - exquisitely restored by Freddie van Eyck).
But, take the time to ask the right questions, and they will tell you more about their pride and joy than you really want to know. Each car and motorcycle is a product of its time, with a tale to tell, often more of the people whose lives it has touched than about the nuts and bolts.
This limousine was a makeshift ambulance during the Second World War, that big Italian sports bike once went bundu-bashing in the hands of a previous (lady) owner.
PRIDE AND PASSION
A large proportion of the gleaming bikes and cars at Timour Hall were once 'basket cases' (complete wrecks, usually stored in a collection of old boxes) or 'barn finds' (non-runners abandoned so long ago that not even the owners remembered they were there) and it is the time and effort that has gone into the restoration of those wrecks to, in many cases, better than new condition that makes them so special.
Motoring museums are important from a historical perspective, but their resources are limited; it is the hundreds of enthusiasts who bring their pride and their passion to car shows such as this, that keep our motoring heritage alive.