Cape Town - If the queue at the entrance, the crowds thronging the food court and the people who kept walking in front of the camera every time I tried to take a photograph were anything to go by, the 17th annual Classic Car and Motorcycle Show to be held in the grounds of the stately Timour Hall Villa in Plumstead at the weekend was a roaring success.
Occupying a bigger area of the grounds than ever before, the show had grown not only in the quantity but also in the quality of the classic motorcycles, vintage cars and military vehicles on display – the vast majority of which rolled in under their own power.
Because the Classic Car Show is not a temporary museum; it’s a living thing, with cars and motorcycles (some of them more than a century old) all over the grounds being started up by their owners so the anoraks could nod sagely and say things like: “Those engines were always a little noisy, but this one sounds very crisp…” and petrolheads-in-training could ask their fathers: “Do all old cars sound like they’re farting?”
Many of the classics on display had been painstakingly re-created (restored is simply not a strong enough word) from a rusting wreck found in somebody’s backyard to more glory than its manufacturer ever gave it. Their owners’ tales of how they found (or made) the parts they needed, often re-inventing old engineering processes and re-learning lost skills to do so, are a story in themselves.
Many more, however, were obviously cherished family members, much loved and perfectly maintained, but showing the patina that comes from half a century of polishing and many, many thousands of kilometres.
Washed, polished and primped
More importantly, whether show-bike or family heirloom, each vehicle on display had obviously been washed, polished and primped for the big day; there were no old cars that had simply been hauled out and parked there to make up the numbers, very few “for sale” signs on the vehicles, and fewer still with hand-lettered signs saying “work in progress”.
Some of the cars and bikes were old friends, such as the former Durban mayoral Rolls-Royce and Dickon Dagget’s supremely elegant 4.5-litre Lagonda; others had never been seen before, such as the ultra-rare 1978 Silk 700S, the first example of this marque I had ever seen .
But all fitted easily into the garden-party atmosphere at Timour Hall; the Classic Car Show, traditionally the first Cape’s major motoring event of the year, is also one of the most sociable, and a glorious opportunity for people who are too young to remember when these machines were made, to learn why they are so special.