Classic motoring nostalgia at Cars in the Park

Published Aug 3, 2022


By André Kruse

Pretoria – The first time I attended a car show of any kind was when I was about 8 or 9 years old. It was the start of a Vintage Car Rally. But before the rally started there was this show with all the cars on display. It was held at the equally classic Herbert Baker-designed Sunnyside Park hotel in Parktown.

I was fascinated to see all these “old-fashioned-cars”. It was something to behold – all these old cars and all looking new. I was in awe and to this day I still am when I attend events such as these.

This last weekend the 40th Cars in the Park took place at Zwartkops raceway, outside Pretoria. The requirement to exhibit was that the vehicle had be built before 2000. Everyone there had one thing in common: an immense interest in and appreciation (and love) for both classic and vintage vehicles.

From A to Z the cars and models were there, from Austin to Buick, to Cadillac, to Datsun, to Mustang, Puch, Valiant to Unimog and a Zodiac – to mention just a few. There were also potential future classics that were spotted – a Ford Raptor and a Camaro.

A unique first for me was seeing a Cord, with art deco styling. Cords were manufactured by the luxury carmaker Auburn Automobile Company in Indiana in the 1930’s. Cord innovations included front-wheel drive and hidden headlamps, a feature that only really reappeared as a luxury feature on cars in the 1960’s, beginning with the 1963 Corvette – which we also saw at Cars in the Park.

The art deco styled Cord, with hidden headlamps. This 1930's car warrants a stop to just look at the marvels of years gone by.

The Unimog is always a marvel to see – a real workhorse. Numerous VW vehicles were there – in particular a Lovebug (no 53) replica and also from the 1960’s numerous VWs with their (stock standard) roof racks. We still have a VW roof rack for the 1964 VW my dad bought, hanging in the garage. Sadly the VW got stolen one night in October 1982, in Joburg city.

Another new concept we learnt about is a concept called “patina”. The short version of patina is keeping the old car – that was found in a barn on a farm – in its original state; as it was found. Increasingly in the classic car world, patina is everything. A treatment is given to the vehicle to maintain it in that ‘found’ condition. After we saw one like that we started noticing a few more.

According to Frik Kraamwinkel of the Pretoria Old Motor Club (POMC), the organisers of Cars In The Park, the oldest car on display was a 1914 Model T Speedster. There were 2 000 to 2 500 vehicles on display from about 120 motoring clubs, making it the biggest show of its kind in South Africa. It is estimated that the show attracted around 14 000 people.

The first Cars in The Park was held in 1980, with only 9 cars on display. The last time the show was held was in 2019, just before Covid-19 and lockdowns hit us.

If you missed this event there are other shows and events in and around Johannesburg and Pretoria. The POMC’s next public event is every second weekend and in Johannesburg the Piston Ring club have a gathering every third Sunday at Modderfontein – the next one is on August 21.

As we were waiting in the 1967 Mustang (T5) to get out of Zwartkops, one of motoring’s truly greats pulled up behind us – the Citroen DS Pallas…

It was beautiful weather to be out and enjoy some motoring nostalgia. As was the case at the Sunnyside Park hotel all those years ago, I went up to the cars and looked inside, and where possible got to see the engine too. There is one difference today though – my dad does not have to pick me up anymore to see inside.