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A legacy of pride at Classic Car Show

Published Jan 23, 2012

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"They didn't need to be streamlined," mused one old codger, standing next to the bluff, waist-high grille of a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith that had once, in a more gracious age, been the official transport of the mayor of Durban.

"In those days air molecules knew their place - they simply got out of the way."

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And that's the one thing all the cars - and most of the motorcycles - on display at the annual Classic Car and Motorcycle Show at Timour Hall on Plumstead at the weekend had in common.

Whether from Britain, Italy, Germany, France or the United States, from nineteenth-century horseless carriages and stately town cars of the 1920s and '30s to rakish, open-topped 1950s sports-cars, their presence and dignity commanded respect, something totally lacking in today's melted-cheese clones.

These cars weren't stamped out on a press or blow-moulded like so many plastic bottles, each was carefully put together by people who took pride in what they were creating.

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So the thousands of visitors who thronged the grounds of Timour Hall were there not only to marvel at a sea of improbably shiny chrome and paint (you can see show-goers reflected in the paintwork of the cars in almost every picture) but also to pay tribute to those long-dead craftsmen and the legacy they have bequeathed us.

And each of us, of course, had our own special favourites: for me, the perfect proportions, whisper-quiet straight-six engine and breathtaking build quality of the 1939 Bentley 4¼-litre overdrive chassis with sedanca coupé body by HJ Mulliner stood out amongst dozens of opulent town carriages.

The 1974 Ducati 450 MKIII Desmo single, pared down to absolute bare essentials for one purpose only - going fast on twisty roads - struck a chord with a long-ago me who actually had one but could never afford to get it running, and eventually had to let it go without ever having ridden it - but the prize for sheer prettiness went to a jewel-like 1977 Honda CB400F in the original screaming yellow livery.

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On the other hand, Herself, who drove fast cars before graduating to racing motorcycles, pointed unerring to the Austin-Healey 100/6 as the quintessential English sports car, while saying that she preferred the brand-new Moto Guzzi Stelvio to any of the old bikes.

But each of the hundreds of cars and bike on display at Timour Hall had been polished and cared for (and most of them rescued and restored to glory) by somebody who was not willing to let it vanish on the scrapheap of history - and that, surely, is what makes a classic.

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