Cape Town – One thing’s for sure: Cape Town’s petrolheads are not the kind to let a little weather put them off. Those exhibitors who had not set up the day before Sunday’s Killarney Motor Show arrived in a blustery drizzle and by the time that gates opened to the public at 10am it was raining so hard that part of the pits had flooded and some of the classic motorcycles on display had had to be moved.
But that didn’t stop the exhibitors, or the visitors, who turned out in their thousands to test drive new models on the ‘half-main’ section of the circuit (one of the demo cars was a Roush-modified Ford Mustang GT, which could have been a bit of a handful on the wet circuit; big up to Ford for letting the customers drive it at all!), ask silly questions of the salespeople on the various dealership stands, compare the car they wanted directly with rival makes, just a step away, and enjoy the garden-party atmosphere of an open-air motor show.
By late morning the weather had begun to clear and when mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith pulled away from the start-line as a passenger in a 1937 SS100 Jaguar at midday to officially open the show, it was on a drying circuit, with the sun peeking out from between the clouds.
Umbrellas were rolled up and out came the chamois as the cars and motorcycles were carefully cleaned and polished to show their best side for the camera. And there was plenty to point a camera at, in addition to the new models on the main straight.
There were muscle-car customs and hot rods (including a line-up of vintage Mustangs that was worth the price of admission by itself), magnificent classics from the Crankhandle Club in the new pits, including the oldest running car in South Africa, a 1901 Ideal Benz - and they proved it by driving it out on to the circuit after the sun came out!
There was more automotive history on the paddock loop road north of the clubhouse (actually part of the original circuit) parked chock-a-block with marque clubs from Alfa Romeo to Volvo, including vintage Jaguars, a Porsche 356 coupé (silver, of course), a stunning Triumph TR6, and classics from Borgward, Renault (many in Gordini blue to pay tribute to tuner extraordinaire Amedee Gordini) and Citroen; few realise just how far ahead of its time the DS19 was until you see a line-up of DS models together, all looking like science fiction movie props – and not one made after 1970!
The younger visitors, however, gravitated towards the back straight and Turn 5, home of the ‘street’ and ‘stance’ customs, mostly Japanese with the exception of a strong BMW and Volkswagen presence, many with engines transplanted from bigger models (tuners seemingly no longer lovingly re-assemble engines with handmade upgraded components to get more power, they simply replace them with bigger ones!), lowered suspension, wide rims and narrow tyres (it’s part of the ‘stance’ look we are told), boots full of speakers and sound systems with output measured in thousands rather than hundreds of watts.
Considering that these cars are mostly built - and custom sprayed – in backyards across the Cape Flats, their build quality was generally excellent, the standard of fit and finish impressive, showing just what can be achieved on a limited budget if you’re willing to ask questions and put in the hard yards yourself.
Have you noticed that custom builders never say “I did this”, when talking about how their pride and joy was created, but always “we”, always acknowledging the help of friends, family, club members and suppliers, who are always willing to give advice even when there’s nothing in it for them?
But the brightest splash of colour was in the pit paddock, given over to the motorcycle fraternity, with impressive displays of new machines from Kawasaki, Royal Enfield, Suzuki and Yamaha, among others, breathtaking customs and lovingly restored classics - including an astonishing number of 50cc mopeds and screaming sports machines from the Two-Stroke Smokers Club.
On the main straight, the Titan monster truck made short work of second-hand cars, the Le Riche brothers made the impossible look easy on their trials bikes and there was live music all day, ranging from electric blues to country to biker rock, from at least three sound stages around the circuit.
But the real stars of the show were the cars and motorcycles - and the enthusiasts who love them, and who proved it by coming out despite the weather.