Cape Town Motor Show: bigger and better but still ours

By Dave Abrahams Time of article published Mar 4, 2018

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Cape Town - The 2018 Cape Town Motor Show was more professional in presentation than the inaugural edition 13 months earlier, but it hadn’t lost any of the distinctly local flavour that made it ours, rather than a smaller version of the international motor shows that are so cosmopolitan you sometimes have to remind yourself which city you’re in.

Not only the organisers but also the exhibitors had learned a lot from 2017; the Grand Arena was even more crowded with (mostly) new models and smiling representatives who’d been correctly schooled that they weren’t there to sell cars but to make friends – particularly among the wives who often have the final say even when their husbands are the ones who sign on the dotted line.

None of the new cars had ‘Please do not touch’ signs on them; kids were encouraged to sit in them, imagining the day when they’d be old enough to drive, while their mothers were invited to waggle a foot under the automatic tailgate or shown how to use the IsoFix child-seat mounting points, and their fathers held smartphones in front of their faces, capturing images that would no doubt embarrass the subjects in weeks to come.

Ironic, then, that the car that attracted the most attention among all the latest models was a 1964 Jaguar E-Type - once described by no less an authority than Enzo Ferrari as “the most beautiful car in the world” - even among show-goers too young to remember the stir it caused on its world debut at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show.

Aladdin's Cave for petrolheads 

The Market Hall, more brightly lit than the arena and with more emphasis on parting the punter from his money, was an Aladdin’s Cave for petrolheads, with show specials and discounts on offer for everything from waterless cleaning materials (definitely the big news at this year’s show, given the parlous state of Cape Town’s water resource) to tyres, tools, accessories, wraps and even insurance.

The Sun Hall, as always, housed the classic and motorcycle exhibitors; here, if anything, could be found cause for comment; the general consensus seemed to be that there were too many family saloons among the vintage cars displayed by the Crankhandle Club. The cars that drew visitors’ attention were the racing and sports models, especially open cars - partly because roadsters are a rarity in Cape Town and partly because you can more easily see the interior details of these beautifully crafted machines.

Conversely, there were only three classic motorcycles on display, all from the boom era of the 1970s. Perhaps an appeal to local classic motorcycle clubs might provide a wider selection of vintage machinery for the 2019 show?

Retro culture

New motorcycles were represented by Kawasaki, Suzuki and Triumph (very much back in the game under new distributorship) with Honda, Yamaha, BMW, Harley-Davidson and Ducati notable by their absence.

New this year, however, was the Dusty Rebels Village, celebrating Cape Town’s strong retro culture with the music and styles of the 1940s and 50s, complete with a roller-skating rink for the young and young at heart, pedal karts, a barbers’ shop, a tattoo parlour, vintage bling stalls, paintings of period vehicles by Steve Erwin (who, ironically, wasn’t even born then), ‘greasy spoon’ food stalls and a selection of custom-built café racer and bobber motorcycles.

It had its own PA system belting out 1950s rock, and an altogether more light-hearted atmosphere in general; children in particular seemed to find it the most fun part of the show.

Which sums up the appeal of the 2018 show: bigger and better, but still Cape Town’s own.

IOL Motoring

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