By: Dave Abrahams
Cape Town - If there was one word that defined the 2015 Classic Car Show at Timour Hall in Plumstead it was presence.
As the annual show, held on the third weekend in January each year, has gained in prestige over the past three decades, so the stature of the cars and motorcycles that arrive each year to be shown off by their owners has risen.
Among several hundred car entries - and nearly as many motorcycles - over two days, the 2015 show boasted a number of superb vintage machines that, in terms of sheer attitude, could have the shown the American muscle-cars of the 1960s a thing or two.
Among them was one of the very last Rolls-Royce Silver Wraiths, ordered by the City Council of Durban in 1958 as a ‘company car’ for the mayor – a position it held until 1971 – at a cost of £5800, slightly more than half of which went to pay for the limousine body by renowned coachbuilder Park Ward of London.
Under a tree nearby was a pristine white 1936 SS100, looking as if it was waiting to take the Bertie Wooster and the Honourable Daphne Moorcroft out for “a jolly picnic down at Richmond”.
This car was one of just 32 built that year by what was later to become the Jaguar company, powered by a 2663cc Standard straight six with a special overhead-valve cylinder head by legendary tuner Harry Weslake that boosted its power to a class-leading 77kW and could take it from 0-100km/h in 12.8 seconds and on to 155 flat out – although the Honourable Daphne might have had something to say about that.
A small crowd gathered to watch as members of the Crankhandle Club started their 1901 Benz Velo - which, once warm, ran remarkably quietly considering that its camshaft and followers are completely exposed.
The Velo was driven at up to 30km/h by a 1045cc flat single that produced 2.2kW at 700rpm. It was the world’s first production car; some 1200 were built between 1894 and 1901.
A number of two-wheelers – some British, some German – from that same optimistic era when anything was possible as long as you didn’t frighten the horses, were lined up in the motorcycle display area.
As always there was a mix of understated Britbikes, improbably shiny BMW flat twins, nearly all black – only an enthusiast can tell the difference between a 1950s R51 and a 1970’s R75/6, so little did their architecture change over the years – and brightly liveried Italiana.
These ranged from 1960s Garelli and Ducati mopeds to 1970s superbikes – among them a six-cylinder Benelli 750 Sei and a Laverda 1200 Mirage – to today’s extraordinarily stylish Aprilia sportbikes and Moto Guzzi cruisers.
They included a late-1970s Ducati 900SS, the quintessential racer for the road, with which Fabio Taglioni wrote the textbook on motorcycle minimalism and which every aspiring garage-special builder should be made to study in detail before being allowed to apply hacksaw to metal.
These classic road bikes shared the limelight with an innovative display of motocross machines from the 1970s and ‘80s, predominantly two-strokes and nearly all with primitive monoshock rear suspension - rolling history lessons in the development of the architecture we now take for granted.
STAR OF THE SHOW
But the undisputed queen of the 2015 Classic Car Show was the Rolls-Royce Phantom III Sedanca de Ville built in 1937 by Arthur Mulliner for car salesman extraordinary Raymond Way with every conceivable extra, including a siren, an electric kettle, a vanity compartment with brush and comb and a walking stick for Mr Way with matching grain to that of the car’s interior wood trim.
Of the 21 Phantom IIIs bodied by Mulliner, only two were built as sedancas de ville, with a removable roof over the driver’s compartment. Both are still running (the other is in the United States) as are 629 of the 727 Phantom III chassis built between 1935 and 1940.
Prior to the introduction of the Silver Seraph in 1998 the Phantom III was the only model built by Rolls-Royce with a V12 engine - a superbly smooth-running 7.3-litre unit. The maker described its power output as ‘adequate’ – actually about 130kW at 3650rpm – giving the 2.7 ton Phantom III a maximum speed of about 140km/h.
Way kept this car until 1965, winning more than 200 Concours d’Elegance trophies along the way. EGC 1 also appeared in a number of films, including The Mouse that Roared, in 1959, and The Millionairess with Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren in 1959 and Suddenly Summer, starring Elizabeth Taylor, in 1960.
It was given a mechanical overhaul from 2009-2011 but the imposing Mulliner body is completely original.