The Cars in the Park celebration of motoring at Zwartkops Raceway on August 6, 2023, show-cased the amazing wealth of classic car history we have in this country.
Image supplied by the publicist
From 6 am enthusiasts were queuing to get into the circuit grounds and within hours classics spanning over a century of invaluable history lined the circuit in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Interestingly this year, the cut-off date for classic-car admission was 1997, and that’s exactly 100 years on since the first motorcar to reach South Africa spluttered into life at the Berea Park sports grounds in Pretoria. President Paul Kruger was on hand to witness the occasion but famously refused a ride in the Benz. “What happens if a dog barks and this thing takes fright?” he joked.
A record 120 clubs from the Pretoria-Gauteng region exhibited their members’ cars this year, and thousands more non-club-affiliated cars were soon basking in surprisingly co-operative weather, after a couple of icy weeks leading up to the show. Thousands of spectators responded in kind, taking advantage of the new parking arrangements and traffic control in place for this year’s event.
The organising club, the Pretoria Old Motor Club, had set aside small buses and trolleys to ferry spectators from the new parking grounds into the venue, and this year there were none of the jams caused in previous years by the amazing popularity of this mega-motoring event.
The Special Vehicles display this year, comprising cars specially invited to the event, encompassed a century’s sweep of motoring time. Special displays by the Triumph and MG car clubs celebrated 100 years of these two famous British marques and whilst the MG display concentrated on rarities, the Triumph display featured a broad mix of these specialised sporty cars that populated South Africa roads in the 1950s through to the early 1980s. The oldest Triumph on hand was a remarkably cute little 1928 open-topped tourer, known as a Super Seven. The MG display included a tasty TC and the rare pre-War six-cylinder NA model owned by Robin Clarke.
A stately car of similar vintage was the 1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Roadster owned by Bob Bouwmeesters. A former South African karting champion, Bob says he had embarked on a restoration of the Rolls some three years ago, and was marvelling at the engineering integrity of this 90-year-old machine.
At the other end of the time scale for classics in the Zwartkops pits were three pristine Toyota Corolla TRD examples. These were locally-configured modified Toyotas available from new-car showrooms in the 1980s and featured snorting side-draught carburetion, wild camshafts and special striping, zany upholstery and alloy wheels. The examples on show at Zwartkops were owned by Jan Kleynhans, Nico Fourie and Jaco Stoltz.
Of a similar vintage were two pristine Alfa Romeo GTV6 3.0 examples, celebrating 40 years of this South African-developed special Alfa which is now in huge international demand. Proud owner Philip Herselman was on hand to chat about his car and was not shy to start it up and give those six Dellorto carburettors a healthy blip.
The Jaguar display was interesting with perhaps the most eye-catching example being Roger Martin’s XK 120, finished in an immaculate cream colour. Also on hand to enthuse about his D-Type replica was Mornay van Niekerk, who took advantage of delivering his car to Zwartkops the day before by enjoying a quick lap around the track. Jaguar D-Types were raced in South Africa in the late 1950s and early 1960s and at least one of the original cars would have competed at the Zwartkops track which was inaugurated in 1961. So Mornay was paying tribute to a famous Le Mans-winning car and its association with the original track that snaked around the old drive-in cinema!
Talking of Le Mans, the immaculate C-Type replica built by Kobus van Wyk made its public debut at the show, showing off the famous number 18 that was used by Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt when they won the 1953 Le Mans in a C-Type.
Racing folk and classic car nuts are close bedfellows. Franco Scribante, famous for his winning exploits at the Knysna Hillclimb in Chevrons and 1 000-plus kW Nissans, made an entrance with five of his classic cars, spearheaded by an early 1970s Ferrari GTB/4 Daytona and an original 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster. Franco and his friends took in this year’s Cars in the Park as part of an extended breakfast run they were enjoying and parked these super-collectables prominently in the pit area.
A collection in the pit area, just as dramatic, but with the accent on high style, was displayed by Pierre Diederichs, who brought along close to 30 stunning American cars from his collection. It is incredible that one man would go to the effort of delivering so many cars to the one-day event. And the cost of such an expedition was not inconsiderable, given the appetite for fuel of these old American cars from the 1940s and 1950s. Notable were a striking Chrysler Saratoga convertible and a Buick Dynaflow, as well as a dramatic 1960 Cadillac convertible with trademark knife-edge tailfins!
One of the intriguing aspects of Cars in the Park is that not all cars on display are by any means perfectly preserved and polished. A Dodge sedan from the 1930s that was particularly grungy was notable for its rough conversion to a 4X4 configuration, using Mitsubishi mechanicals. A number of old Fords, VWs, Studebakers, Chevrolets and many more are notable for their lack of shine, having simply survived as family favourites over many decades. Each August they are dusted off, topped up with fluids and make the pilgrimage.
For some reason the owners of DKW and Auto Union two-stroke machines always make a special effort to attend Cars in the Park and this year was no exception. Of particular interest was a ratty but still-serviceable DKW pick-up, laden with all sorts of rusty-looking gear. The Deeks, as they are commonly known, are distinguished by their wheezy two-stroke exhaust notes, and, for those who own them, by their amazing reliability.
Modern classics that made an appearance included a large contingent of Mazda MX5s, and a number of BMWs. Other notables included the large contingent of micro cars, or “bubble cars,” as they were called in the late-1950s, with engines ranging in size from about 300 cc to 700 cc. British mainstay classics included Vauxhalls and Morris Minors, including a rare ex-Zimbabwean pick-up with a special “aero-roof” owned by Brian Hingley.
As usual there were dozens of Ford Cortinas and Ford Escorts, including some very collectable 1600 Sport and RS 2000 examples. And a well-preserved and mildly-customised 1950 Chevrolet sedan travelled all the way from the Western Cape to be at this year’s show!
The Cars in the Park is a huge undertaking for a single motoring club and the Pretoria Old Motor Club has already been congratulated by many enthusiasts via social media for the excellence of this year’s event. Chief organiser Frik Kraamwinkel was very pleased with the way this year’s event was run and he has received positive feedback from the 150 stall holders at the event, one of them saying he would like to book space for the next four years!
“The event is run by a very small team, consisting of perhaps 25 club members. In this respect I would like to especially thank Emil Kuschke for organising the Special Vehicle invites, operations manager Sakkie Fisher, Kobus Ebersohn for managing the commercial exhibits, Elmien Kraamwinkel for Facebook marketing and the flea market, and Bekkie Miller for vendor liaison.”
“The whole team put in many hours of work in manning the gates, sorting out parking, and other tasks which are part and parcel of putting on a show of this size. We were lucky with the weather once again, and now it’s time to start thinking about Cars in the Park 2024!”