Vintage aristocrats such as this 1939 4¼-litre Bentley bring a presence of their own to the show. File photo: Dave Abrahams

Cape Town - The annual IPA Classic Car and Bike Show, to give it its full title, on this weekend at Timour Hall Villa in Plumstead, the South African home International Police Association, is actually two shows back to back.

Not two shows in one, let us hasten to add, because you’ll have to buy two tickets, at a very reasonable R30 each, if you want to see everything. That’s because, big as the grounds are, in its 18 years at this gracious old-world venue, the show has long since grown too big to accommodate all the cars, motorcycles, tractors and militaria at one go.

There’s no hard and fast cut-off date, because that would inevitably split some of the marque clubs, which have exhibits spanning the decades, but Saturday 20 January is when the modern and future classics make some noise – and that means just what it says.

Because that’s when you’ll see original and customised cars from the Grease era of the late 1950s, including the Mustang Club, the Cobra Club, and the amazing creations of the Custom Cruisers.

Thanks to a huge upswell in recent years of interest in American cars of the 1960s and early 1970s (just before the oil crisis of 1973 killed the ‘Yank Tank’ for good) the Saturday part of the show has taken on a distinct flavour of hamburger, ketchup and French fries, all of which will be on sale at the food court in case nostalgia overtakes you.

But there will also be plenty of what were once everyday cars, now coloured by the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia, such has air-cooled VeeDubs, Cortinas and Minis – real Minis, not BMW’s sanitised version.

Living museum

The Sunday show has an altogether more laid-back feel; most of the cars on show are more than 50 years old, and some are genuine centenarians. Although many are classics in their own right, their value lies in that they are a living, working museum of automotive history, complete with the chitty-chitty-bang-bang soundtrack, and the smell of hot oil and old leather, that you can’t get from the internet.

They really don‘t make them like that any more; these cars were mostly built by hand, relying on the skill of the craftsmen who created them for their perfect fit and finish, rather than the precision of computer-operated robot welders and spray-guns. That many of the cars on show have been running for the better part of a century with nothing more than routine maintenance, says much for those craftsmen.

But many of them have come from under a tree on a farm, or literally out of a barn, and have been lovingly restored to better than new condition by craftsmen of an entirely different stamp, enthusiasts who are as much detectives as they are engineers, researching where to find or how to re-create spare parts that went out of production before they were born.

Restoring old cars and motorcycles made by companies that no longer exist is a form of lunacy - but it is a magnificent obsession, and the world would be a duller, greyer place without them.

Every motorcycle in this line-up from the 2017 show is more than 100 years old - and they all run. File photo: Dave Abrahams

The same can be said of the motorcycle section, only on Sunday 21 January, on the top field to the left of the main building. The machines on show span the history of motorcycling from Edwardian times to modern exotica from Italy and Germany, and everything in between.

We think of Japanese names such as Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki as newcomers to the ranks, yet there are machines on display from the Great Japanese Invasion of the late 1960s that are older than their riders, as well as muscle-bikes from the 1970s, both in original form and pared-down ‘bobber’ guise.

In the shade at the top side of the field you’ll find the Britbikes, with names that ring through the ages such as Triumph and BSA, as well as rarities such as Silk and Vincent.

Ask questions

The owners love to talk about their bikes; even if you don’t understand some of the answers, it will give you a sense of history, of how a 1920s Flat Cap Chap, the chopper rider of the 1970s and today’s superbike riders have more in common than you’d think.

And that’s really what you get from the Classic Car and Bike Show - a sense of family, the more so because a percentage of the money raised goes to the International Police Association’s nominated charity. This year it’s The Bookery, a community service organisation based in the Western Cape and dedicated to setting up and supporting libraries in South African public schools, 90 percent of which do not have a functional library.

More information from convenor Jo Huysamen at (021) 797-2582; tickets (R30 for adults, under-12s free) at the gate or from Computicket.

IOL Motoring