Johannesburg - The one characteristic that the more than 1000 cars expected at the 2018 Classic Car Show on the first Sunday in July have in common, is that each, in its own way, is a work of art.
Because that is what defines a classic, whether a painstakingly restored original, such as a Jaguar E-Type, pre-war Packard or Lamborghini Espada, or an outrageously metal-flaked, giant chrome-rimmed American muscle car that’s been slammed to the pavement for a ride height that’ll barely clear a toothpick.
Each has had countless hours of love, sweat and tears poured into it, and it shows. A true classic, lovingly polished, has a special shine, a patina no factory can duplicate. And by the same token, no two are alike, especially in a country with a motoring history as diverse as ours.
From the arrival of the first Benz Ideal in 1897, South Africa’s cars have come from all over the world - unlike the United States, where European cars in general and Italian cars in particular are rare, and most of Europe, where the roads are simply too narrow for Americana.
Add to that the surprising number of marques that have, at one time or another, been assembled here - including a handful unique to this country - and you find a population of classic cars unrivalled in all the world.
At Nasrec on 1 July you’ll see Volkswagen Beetles, DKWs and Mercedes 190Ds from Germany, Ford Mustangs, Dodge Chargers, Chevrolet Camaros and Corvettes from the United States, vintage Renaults and Citroens from France, Fiats, Alfa Romeos and Lancias from Italy - and a few uniquely South African models such as the BMW 333i and 325iS, evil-tempered V8-engined Capri Peranas and even a Chevrolet Firenza Can Am ot two.
From the Art Deco glory days of the 1930s until the fuel crisis of 1973, car design was as much an art as it was a science. Before the advent of wind tunnels and computer modeling made them virtually indistinguishable, cars were styled to be distinctive and easily recognisable while still perfectly proportioned, which is not always as easy as it sounds, and the great stylists - Pinin Farina, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Cord designer Gordon Buehrig, Malcom Sayer (Jaguar E-Type) and Capetonian Keith Helfet, creator of the Jaguar XJ220 - were revered as gods of their craft.
Some classicists - the ‘anoraks’ - restore their cars to as near as possible exactly as they left the factory. The customisers, on the other hand, regard an old car as a raw canvas upon which to express their (sometimes mind-boggling) automotive individuality, while the restomodders upgrade humble Minis, Escorts and Cortinas to a level of performance that draws on their makers’ competition heritage.
But one genre is home to all three schools: The fin and flash era in American car design was probably the last period when the stylists could express themselves without restraint. It was an era of optimism and excess, and American cars of the 1950s and ‘60s were rolling artworks straight out of the factory. Many are lovingly preserved that way, but they also gave rise to the chopped, channeled and slammed school of customising, and the first generation of restomodding - the musclecar, epitomised by the Dodge Charger and the iconic Pontiac GTO.
Nevertheless, the quintessential American classic remains Ford’s compact coupé, engineered for young families in 1964 with a budget 255 cubic inch straight six and and few frills. But when Texas chicken farmer Carroll Shelby dropped a big V8 into the Mustang it became the embodiment of the American automotive ideal - and remains so to this day.
And yes, there will be Mustangs from 1964 right through to today, lined up at the Classic Car Show, alongside a specialised Japanese vs German modern classic display, drifting on the Nasrec skid pan, helicopter rides, stalls selling motor-related paraphernalia and clothing, and a huge variety of food and drink - including very special prawns that you just gotta try!
Tickets are available now from Computicket at R60 for adults and R20 for children under 12, and at R80 for adults and R20 for under-12s at the gate on 1 July. For more information visit www.classiccarshow.co.za or contact the organiser, Paulo Calisto, on 066 057 5425.