By Dave Abrahams
Cape Town – In many ways the IPA Classic Car and Motorcycle Show, held on the third weekend of each year at Timour Hall Villa in Plumstead, is a social history platform.
Letting a car-struck 12-year-old peer into the cabin of a car just like the one Grandad rode in with his father, with its unmistakeable smell of hot oil and old leather, hearing its fast clattery idle and the “Ah-Ooh-Gah” of its hooter makes a far deeper impression than any photo album or YouTube video.
Because he simply won’t grasp how big a 1930 Bentley Speed Six or a 1940 Packard is – or how small an 1937 Austin 7 – until he stands next to one. And any young motocross or short-circuit rider who’s helped prepare his state-of-the art race bike will take one look at a 1914 Douglas and understand how little basic motorcycle architecture has changed over the past century.
So it was gratifying to see how many children, from toddlers to teens, were dragging their parents – or grandparents - from display to display, demanding answers to often very insightful questions, which the proud owners of the cars and bikes on display were only too happy to supply if their parents couldn’t.
The sheer scope of the Classic Car Show takes some getting used to; this year there were hundreds of cars and motorcycles on display, from the first decade of the previous century right up to brand-new exotics seldom seen in public, spread over two days - some original, some modified way beyond their makers’ ability to imagine.
Even the food court in front of the main building, offering a huge variety of fast foods, was a little overcrowded, the stalls perhaps a little too close together for comfort – but as all the stall-holders were regulars at Timour Hall and knew each other, it simply added an extra buzz to the vibe along Cholesterol Alley.
As always, some of the vehicles – and their owners - stood out, especially the Bentleys and Roll-Royces of that golden era before the Second World War, Di Dugmore’s magnificent 1932 Chevrolet fire engine and, among the motorcycles, a pristine and ultra-rare early 1970s Laverda 750 SF and a 1975 Suzuki RL250 trials bike, specially developed for a sport where the object is to ride as slowly as possible over impossibly difficult terrain without putting a foot down.
The SA Heritage militaria display included a coal-fired German army field kitchen – known to Wehrmacht soldiers as a ‘goulash cannon’ – in full working order – and working flat out providing a variety of takeaway foods.
Quietly tucked away behind some 1940s vintage military vehicles, however, were two motorcycles – a BMW R1200 GS and a Suzuki 1200 Bandit - that didn’t seem to fit in until you spotted their registration plates.
They belonged to Ilya Dubinin and Iurii Volkov, two members of the Moscow chapter of the Night Wolves motorcycle club, who had decided to escape the Russian winter the same way migratory birds do – by riding south for the winter! And 75 days and a lifetime’s worth of adventures later, they were in Cape Town, preparing to ride their bikes all the way back again.
But while the anoraks were discussing in detail the merits of this model versus that and reminiscing over the old days – whether good or bad seemed to depend on how many beers they’d had – the car that seemed to attract the most attention from the widest range of show visitors was a brand new S&S-engined Morgan three-wheeler, a delightfully eccentric little sports-car with attitude out of all proportion to its size and an outrageous Grin Factor.
Which just about summed up the 2016 Classic Car Show; everybody, exhibitors and visitors alike, seemed to leave with a grin on their face.