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South African – all things vintage … or classic by Kevin Roberts

I have recently returned from three weeks in South Africa, specifically, Cape Town, where my wife and I stayed with friends in Simons Town located on False Bay to the south of Cape Town, and the Mpumalanga province (formerly  Eastern Transvaal). I can report that the ownership of classic cars and membership in classic car clubs, and the general public interest in them are alive and thriving in this part of the world.  

The weekend after we arrived our friends, knowing my love of classic cars, had arranged for us to attend the Classic  Car and Bike Show on the grounds of the Timour Hall Villa, a Grade 2 property in the beautiful Constantia  Valley, Cape Town. The show was organised by the Crankhandle Club, based in Wynberg, Cape Town. You can check out their website here  

The club is like many other vintage and veteran car clubs with an eclectic mix of vehicles within its membership from all decades. The club meets at their clubhouse in an old, converted firehouse in Wynberg, Cape Town, which apparently displays two of the oldest cars in South Africa, a 1901 Benz and a 1902 Wolseley in addition to an extensive motoring library with publications going back to the dawn of motoring in Cape Town from 1898.  Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to visit their clubhouse as they welcome visitors and in addition to weekly Wednesday evening meetings, members and guests are encouraged to bring their cars on the last Sunday of the month to the Timour Hall Villa for tea/coffee at 10h30, followed by a lunchtime “braai” (grill over an open fire). Numerous other activities, breakfast runs and rallies are organised throughout the year. 

The show that we attended took place over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of January. One thing that you can almost always rely on is the weather down in these parts, and that weekend was no exception with temperatures up in the top 20 degrees centigrade. I will let the following photos speak for themselves regarding the cars on display, many if not all will be familiar to you as South African imported from the UK and many parts of Europe, in addition to Japan with the usual  Nissan /Datsun and Toyota’s, etc. 

One thing to be said about classic cars is that they are generally in exceptional condition with a very favorable climate, ranging from the Cape area at sea level up to the “high-veld” in Johannesburg with its often dry environment at around 6000 ft altitude (however, when it does rain there, boy does it rain). South African cars have definitely not suffered from having ice being used on the roads …

We also spent a couple of days in a cottage in Stanford, another small heritage town near Hermanus Bay in the Western Cape, further around the coast southeast of Cape Town and Simons Town. Stanford is known for its beautifully preserved and renovated Cape Victorian and Edwardian-styled houses and buildings.

Not only did the cottage owner have a Land Rover 110 and long wheelbase Series III fitted out for safari use, but tucked in the garage next to our cottage was this lovely and virtually immaculate Series I.

Our trip to the Mpumalanga province, which is about a 4 to 5-hour drive to the east of Johannesburg and Pretoria, going on towards the Kruger National Park, offers a few additional surprises when it comes to all things vintage. We had the pleasure of staying at the Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge, situated right on the edge of the Crystal Springs Nature Reserve, one of several nature reserves located in this area. Crystal Springs is a stone's throw away from the small town of Pilgrims Rest.

Pilgrim’s Rest is now a tiny museum town and was the site of the second of the Transvaal gold fields, attracting a rush of prospectors in 1873, soon after the MacMac diggings started some 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) away. The town's original architecture remained largely unchanged since the heyday of the mining era, as the town was declared a National Monument and cultural heritage site, and now houses a variety of village museums, tours, accommodation, restaurants, and shops. I’ve actually stayed in the Royal Hotel back in 1984 when I was living and working in South Africa, and it certainly hasn’t changed very much since then. It really is like stepping back into history and one can still stay at the hotel with its Victorian setting and furnishings.

Like the rest of the town, the Highwayman’s Garage and petrol station on Main Street is a living museum in itself, although the petrol price has changed since the days of old, however, South Africans still enjoy petrol at around £1.10 per litre!

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