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Classic Car Show revisits golden age

Published Jan 18, 2012

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Each year on the third weekend in January, a time warp envelopes the gracious old villa at Timour Hall in Plumstead, south of Cape Town, now the South African base of the International Police Association.

This is when Cape Town's car and motorcycle enthusiasts get the chance to go back to the golden age of motoring, when every drive was an adventure - not because your vehicle might let you down, for vintage cars, properly looked after, are astonishingly reliable - but because you might be going somewhere no motor vehicle had been before.

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It was a time before cellphones and sound systems and satnav screens, when, as the old song goes, you'd “keep your mind on your driving, keep your hands on the wheel, keep your shifty eyes on the road ahead”.

But the Classic Car and Bike Show, on this weekend at Timour Hall, isn't just about the fact that nostalgia ain't what it used to be. It's also a reminder of a time when automotive excellence was a goal in itself.

Almost every one of the classic marques - Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Packard, Ferrari and, most especially, Lamborghini - got its start in exactly the same way, when the founder bought a car (usually an expensive one!) and almost immediately decided he could build a better one.

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Old folks in Maranello still talk about the titanic argument in the office of Il Commendatore the day a young tractor maker called Ferrucio Lamborghini told Enzo Ferrari the clutch in the 250GT was pathetic and he, Ferrucio, could make a better one.

And history tells us he did - but then Ferrari himself started his own works because he was convinced he could build a better Grand Prix car than Nicola Romeo could.

And, of course, the same applied to Joe “Pa” Norton, Alfred Scott, Carlo Guzzi, Phillip Vincent, and to Bill Harley and the Davidson brothers, all of whom wanted to build better motorcycles than those they could buy.

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You see, classic motor shows are a way to raise our own standard of excellence, to remind ourselves that 'just good enough' is just not good enough, in engineering, in parenting or in computer programming.

Most of the exhibitors you'll meet at Timour Hall have dedicated years, often decades, to restoring something that came off a scrapheap into a tribute to the craftsmen who originally made it, working to almost impossibly high standards because that’s how it was built in the first place.

Others spend every weekend looking after a car that has been in their family since before their parents were born, keeping it as good as new because it's so much more than just transport.

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Since 2007 the Classic Car and Bike show has been held over two days. On the Saturday, the grounds of Timour Hall will be full of modern classics - hot rods, street rods, custom cars and motorcycles, racing cars and a number of iconic modern supercars.

Sunday will be the turn of the vintage enthusiasts with cars and motorcycles going back to the dawn of motoring in the late nineteenth century, practically all of which will arrive on their own wheels and under own their own power.

On both days there will be food stalls, memorabilia and autojumble on sale, a beer garden and a jumping castle. Entrance will be R20 per person on either day (free for under 12's) and all the proceeds will go to the designated charity of the International Police Association, the Village Care and Aged Centre in Lavender Hill.

But it's really all about the cars and the bikes, machines built by craftsmen and cared for across the years by enthusiasts until they almost take on a life of their own.

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