By: Dave Abrahams

Ask any Packard, Triumph or Ferrari owner what sets a classic apart and they tell you it’s passion – the passion of those who built them and the passion of those who drive them. A passion for engineering excellence and motoring for its own sake that has nothing to do with consumerism.

And a passion for getting together and talking about them, showing them off to people who know exactly how special they are, for the classic car and motorcycle world is a remarkably small one.

Most of the people who bring their pride and joy to the annual Classic Motorcycle show in the grounds of Timour Hall in Plumstead on the third weekend in January each year know each other, giving the whole affair a slightly old-fashioned ‘family party’ air as greetings ring out over the bonnets and saddles of machines that were in may cases built before the greeters were born.

WELCOME TO THE FELLOWSHIP

But not a closed one, for a true enthusiast loves nothing more than answering questions - no matter how basic - from the public about his vehicle. Most will gladly advise you on sources of hard-to-get parts for your project – petrolheads are amazingly generous with information and will welcome you to the fellowship even if your wheels aren’t classic.

Just being there, giving R20 to charity and spending a hot Sunday morning wandering around looking at old cars and bikes when you could be home, mowing the lawn, qualifies you for membership.

EPIC ACHIEVEMENTS

But there’s another side to it as well, an intensely human side, infused by the people who built them and drove them, the tales of previous owners, painstaking restorations and epic achievements – such as a majestic Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, once the ‘company car’ of the mayor of Durban, the sheer size and presence of a Bentley 4½ Litre (now you understand why Ettore Bugatti called it ‘the fastest lorry in the world’) and how the Austin Chummy got its name – theoretically it will seat four adults but it’s so small they had better be very friendly ones.

“Not for Sale!”

The Heritage Group, dedicated to preserving military vehicles and equipment, set up a tent camp that illustrated not only what 20th century soldiers on all sides drove, but what they wore and how they lived

Some of the motorcycles were even more imbued with the passion of their owners, such as a 1959 Norton with a handwritten sign on its saddle declaring that it was “Not for Sale!” and the remarkably high mileages recorded by some of the classic European sports bikes, along with visible evidence that some of that mileage was done very recently.