Races, Rides and Razzmatazz

You need not be a petrol head to appreciate the joys of roaring engines, beautiful bodywork, gleaming livery and speed. The annual Knysna Motor Show and Jaguar Simola Hillclimb promise inspired motoring entertainment this autumn.

 

The Knysna Motor Show (KMS), this year with Sanlam Private Wealth as headline sponsor, ignites the motoring vibe on 30 April, followed by the adrenaline-fuelled action of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb (JSHC) from 4 to 7 May.

Known for its relaxed atmosphere  reminiscent of a country fair, the Knysna Motor Show has become a highlight for car enthusiasts since its humble beginnings in 2003. Organised by the Garden Route Motor Club (GRMC), the event showcases a wide range of vintage and veteran cars and motorcycles, classic sports cars, super cars, new cars, ‘green’ cars as well as several trade-related stalls, food and refreshments.

Raising dust and burning tyres up the Simola Hill outside Knysna since 2009, the Hillclimb is a racing event that sees top drivers from across South Africa and abroad compete, and attracts tens of thousands of spectators.

The organisers of the two separate events decided in 2011 to run synchronously to the benefit of all.  “Drawing the events into one week means a larger and more diverse crowd, which offers more for everyone to enjoy,” 
says GRMC chairman and KMS organiser Peter Pretorius.

His sentiments are echoed by Knysna Speed Festival managing director and JSHC event organiser Ian Shrosbree: “The sheer variety of the offering of motoring pleasure these events bring together, in a mixture of fascinating 
‘oldies’ and brute force modern tin-tops, single seaters and sports cars, makes this week a unique experience for young and old.”

 

 

Classic quality

Peter says Sanlam Private Wealth coming on board as overall sponsor for the Knysna Motor Show is an indication of how the event has grown in stature and that, with this backing, the show is bound to grow even more.

“Last year more than 5000 visitors could get up close and personal with nearly 400 veteran, vintage, classic and super cars as well as motorcycles – including a 1911 Ford Model T Runabout (winner of the best vintage or 
veteran car), a 1967 Mercedes Benz W113 Pagoda (winner of the best classic car) and a very rare 1975 Porsche Carrera RS, of which only a handful was built.”

Displays include high-performance cars like McLaren, Lamborghini and Ferrari; classics like MG, Triumph, Morgan, Austin Healey and Rolls Royce as well as modern day models of BMW, Volvo, Alfa Romeo, American sports cars and more. The show also usually features the latest in automotive technology like the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) display last year showing its purpose-designed ‘greener’ carbon fibre prototype vehicle, the ECO-CAR.

Rare car and motorcycle collections – like well-known racing driver Peter Lindenberg’s race car display under the Shelby South Africa banner, and the 50 magnificent motorcycles at last year’s show, which featured unique specimens like a 1954 Jawa Race Production motorcycle and a 1946 Sunbeam S7 motorcycle – are highlights, especially when the engines start to rev. “The Knysna Motor Show is an invitational event for which participants are carefully selected. This ensures the quality and uniqueness of the displays and vehicles take precedence over volume, making it a must-see event, not only for petrol heads, but also for anyone with a passing interest in things to do with motoring,” says Peter.

Confirmed highlights for this year’s event include displays of Micro Cars and MG MMM sports cars manufactured between 1929 and 1936.

Negotiations are also underway to feature a solar-powered car, a competitor in the recent solar car race across South Africa, coupled with a display of electric vehicles under the umbrella of the Electric Vehicle Industry Association.

Several of the super performance cars at the show will be competing in the Simola Hillclimb the next weekend. Proceeds from the event will benefit local charities.

 

 

Up the hill

“You won’t want to miss the eighth running of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb this year as the line-up of cars and activities promises to be better than ever,” says event sporting director, Geoff Goddard.

“Our focus, as always, is on putting together the very best show we can with the most exciting and diverse range of cars and drivers you will find at one race weekend.”

Being an invitational event, there are limited places available for the two main events – just 60 for Classic Car Friday on 5 May, and 84 for King of the Hill on 6 and 7 May. A charity golf day kicks the festivities off on 4 May.

Apart from local high-profile entrants and several past Hillclimb champions, this year’s JSHC is expected to include competitors from the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. The fun starts with Classic Car Friday in which vintage, classic and historic motor cars have fun on the hill. Initially for pre-1975 cars, but now including pre-1985 cars to reflect the aging of the race car park, competitors and spectators are encouraged to attend in period dress, which contributes to its unique flavour and atmosphere.

The action on Saturday and Sunday is dubbed the King of the Hill Shootout and sees the heavy hitting machinery and drivers take to the track. A variety of classes cater to a wide range of machinery, but it is the exotic and specialist race cars that attract the most attention – reaching speeds of up to 260km/h, dispensing with the 1.9km stretch of tarmac in just over 38 seconds from a standing start.

This year the King of the Hill will have three categories – the SuperCar Shootout, Modified Saloons, and Sports Cars and Single Seaters – to ensure competitors can compete on an equal footing. “Aside from the established class finals, the number of final shoot-outs, which have always been the nail-biting finale to the event in the past, will triple with each overall winner receiving a prized ‘Jody’ Trophy, which was inspired by South Africa’s one and only 
Formula 1 champion, Jody Scheckter,” says Geoff.

Initially called the Knysna Hill Climb,  the race started as a two-day event, which saw legendary motorsport maestro Sarel van der Merwe (aka Supervan) win the first King of the Hill title with his V8 Masters Ford Mustang, covering the course in 43.0 seconds, reaching a top speed of just over 230km/h.

The event grew exponentially with multiple events under the Knysna Speed Festival banner, but organisers decided to return to basics and focus on the uphill after realising it was not viable or practical. The name changed to 
Jaguar Simola Hillclimb (JSHC) to reflect the name of its new headline sponsor, Jaguar, who came on board in 2014.

“With Jaguar’s involvement – which has been secured until at least 2019 – the JSHC has been firmly established as the premier motorsport event in South Africa and ranks with international events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK.” Since its inception the Hillclimb has featured some of the finest drivers in the country, including Geoff Mortimer (2010 winner), Jean-Michel Bayle (World Motocross champion and MotoGP racer), Wilhelm Baard 
(2011 winner), Jade Gutzeit (2012 winner) and the first-ever double champion Franco Scribante (winner of both the Classic Conqueror and the King of the Hill titles in 2014 and 2016).

The question on everyone’s mind this year is whether Scribante will be able to do it again? And will he be able to beat his own fastest winning time up the Hill? The standing record is 38.646 with a top speed of just under 177km/h covering 1.9km up the challenging Simola Hill.

The list of cars that have participated in the event range from classics such as the Porsche 956 and 917 and 1961 LDS Formula 1 to more modern machinery such as a 1989 Formula Dallara, a March 79B Formula Atlantic and the new McLaren MP4-12C and 650s, Lamborghini Gallardo, Jaguar XKRs Coupe and F-Type, and Scribante’s Chevron B19.

The award-winning 2016 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb event, which included the annual Speed Festival Charity golf day, a crowd-pleasing town parade and car display, drew more than 14 000 spectators.

In addition to the races, which can be viewed from different vantage points in the prescribed spectator areas, a ticketed trip through the pits is highly recommended.

“This year’s line-up of cars and activities promises to be better than ever with enough entertainment for the entire family – whether you are a petrol head, speed lover, or someone who just loves a good time, you will leave enthralled,” says Ian.

 

 

 

speedfestival.co.za

Driving with the cool club

The Southern Equatorial Ferrari Automobili Club of South Africa (Sefac) Garden Route boasts more than 25 active members from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth. South went along on one of their monthly drives through the region and discovered it’s even better from the inside.

WORDS Gareth Pretorius and Richard Webb  PHOTOGRAPHS Vanessa van Vreden and supplied

 

“Do you take the red pill or the blue pill?” These famous words from The Matrix movie morph into an entirely new 
meaning as I stroll towards the two Ferraris as nonchalantly as my eager legs allow.

It’s not every day I purposefully walk up to and converse with Ferrari owners, let alone ride in one. I am about to spend the day with the Garden Route chapter of Sefac.

I’m not a petrol-head, but I do love beautiful things and although a drive beside the Knysna lagoon is exceptional on any day, when seen from within the black leather, red-trimmed interior of one of the most exquisite machines ever made, it takes on an entirely new seductive personality.

There’s a sense of power that comes from being inside these beautiful cars and it’s got nothing to do with the luscious hum of the engine. I don’t think it even comes from the fact that while you are in or near a Ferrari, people turn and stare or fumble for their cell phones to snap a selfie. These cars exude an aura of luxury, speed, potency and exhilarated freedom.

Retired mechanical engineer and businessman Alistair Gibb has been a member of the Johannesburg chapter of Sefac since he bought his first Ferrari in 1997 and started the local sub-chapter in 2014. “When I arrived here in 2009, I had the only Ferrari in Knysna. As more Ferraris appeared in the region, I approached the Sefac committee in Johannesburg to form a local chapter. They were initially sceptical that there could be so many Ferraris outside major centres but agreed that if I could find ten members we could have a chapter.” Word got around, and soon 
Alistair had his ten. The Garden Route chapter officially launched in January 2014 and has hosted monthly events ever since. It is not uncommon to see 20-odd mostly red Ferraris out on a Sunday drive in the region.

Alistair’s wife Libby, who offers up her seat in their sleek Ferrari F430 for the day, passionately supports her husband’s love of the iconic brand. Having always been a lover of cars, Alistair is a man who exudes Ferrari fervour, with a garage bedecked in memorabilia.

“Listen to this…” says Alistair with a grin as he drops a gear with the lightest touch of the steering wheel gear paddle and touches his foot to the accelerator. The engine decides humming is for lesser vehicles and without a 
moment’s hesitation changes its tune to a mechanised sabre-tooth growl. Feeling its teeth caress my spine I can’t resist emitting a yelp of joy. The way the car hugs the corners and grips the road leaves me grinning in amazement. These are not cars to hop into when you need to pop down to the shops to pick up a litre of milk and some toothpaste… they’re made to go fast!

There’s something timeless and otherworldly about Ferrari. So it seems somewhat surprising that the brand is only celebrating its 70th birthday (and, coincidentally, Sefac turns 50) in 2017. Countrywide, Sefac membership is currently about 455 with a small but active group of Garden Route members.

“Everyone in the club gets along. Nobody cares what model you drive. We all have the same thing in common, which is simply a passion for Ferrari.”

Fancourt-based Neels and Ronell van Aswegen are self-proclaimed petrol-heads and have been members of Sefac for two years. With a longtime love affair for cabriolet sports cars of all types, they take special delight in taking their Ferrari California out on drives around the Garden Route.

“Neels owns it, but I love it,” says Ronell. “We have a deal: he brings the car to wherever we go and I take us home.”

“I have to fight her for it!” says Neels with a chuckle.

Charles Bongers, current owner of a F458 Italia, has had a Ferrari on and off for about 10 years. “There’s something about a Ferrari that just generates a sense of passion. It has a ‘wow’ factor that you don’t get from any other vehicle, while the actual driving experience and vehicle dynamics are absolutely fantastic. The benefit of being part of a club like Sefac is that you are part of a group of people who are like-minded, passionate about their cars, and it’s always a good get-together. It’s a great community.”

As our fleet of six red and one blue magnificent machines wind their way down towards the coast like a chain of jewels glinting in the gorgeous morning sunshine, Alistair tells stories of his and other Sefac members’ visits to the home of Ferrari in Maranello, Italy.  As he tells of an opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car around a privately owned track at Le Luc in France, I sense the adrenaline and child-like joy of the experience.

Enzo Ferrari, the creator of this superb sports car, once said the Ferrari is a dream. “People dream of owning this special vehicle and for most people it will remain a dream, apart from those lucky few.” As the cars line up for a 
spectacular and crowd-pulling photo shoot in Herold’s Bay, a boy runs up and grins the widest brace-filled grin. He rattles off the names and specifications of every model and takes countless pictures on his smartphone. I wonder, “Is that 
the kind of passion and dreaming it takes?” I’m not sure. But what I can say for certain is the world looks fantastic from within a Ferrari!

What’s new in the Ferrari stable? (2016/17)

Richard Webb finds the ‘Prancing Horse’ still pretty agile for a 70-year old.

Since 1947, Ferrari has had at its core a passion for detail. And like any good ‘knees-up at a birthday party’, there are plenty of goodies on offer from these red-blooded icons.

For starters, there’s the limited edition special series LaFerrari Aperta. For a brand unafraid of extremes, this open-top tour de force just shouts performance, style and exclusivity.

Available with both a carbon-fibre hard-top and soft-top, the Aperta combines extraordinary performance with the joy of open-top driving. The hybrid 6 262cc V12 engine couples with a 120kW electric motor.

It delivers over 350km/h, and 0-100km/h arrives in less than three seconds. A HY-KERS system helps it become the most high-performance and efficient Ferrari ever built. The batteries consist of 120 cells assembled into eight modules, with a power output that’s the equivalent of 40 traditional batteries but weighing in at just 60kg.

Fancy more room with your blistering performance? The GTC4Lusso T is the first Ferrari V8-engine four-seater, and it ushers in a whole new Ferrari Grand Touring concept – an innovative take on the shooting brake coupé. It’ll do over 320km/h and scorch from 0-100km/h in 3.5 seconds.

INSTANT LEGENDS
To help keep existing model ranges fresh, the Ferrari Taylor-Made ateliers have created 70 different and individually iconic interior and exterior liveries that are all inspired by models from Ferrari’s massive back-catalogue.

Customers can choose from 70 configurations across five model ranges to create 350 completely unique cars. Examples include these gems:

488 Spider 
The Green Jewel in the signature green livery of the 365 P2 honours the cars fielded by the British David Piper racing team. In the sixties South African motorsport fans were treated to stunning driving displays and multiple victories in the Nine Hours of Kyalami.

F12 Berlinetta 
The Stirling livery was inspired by the 250 GT Berlinetta SWB, winner of the 1961 Tourist Trophy that was driven by Stirling Moss, complete with Blu Scuro racing livery.

California T 
The Steve McQueen livery is inspired by one of the most elegant Ferraris ever built, the 1963 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso. It features brown body paintwork and a cabin in camel leather with elegant stitching.

488 GTB 
The Schumacher livery pays homage to the F2003-GA (the F1 Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships in 
2003 championship car) in which the legendary German driver took six grand prix victories.
2017 kicks off a world tour, taking in 60 countries in a year-long series of events in which classic Ferraris and modern cars will share in the celebrations, concluding with an exclusive event in Maranello.

The perfect car

After a decade of relentless competition, carmakers have finally created the perfect car, it seems. Richard Webb takes a look at the phenomenon that is the SUV.

The evolution of car design has resulted in a type of vehicle so perfect that almost every manufacturer has launched its version of the same car, the sports utility vehicle (SUV) – or so it would seem if you look around and see how many SUVs are battling it out for your hard-earned income.

SUVs can trace their origins to military vehicles following the US army’s request to carmakers to create a tough vehicle for transporting soldiers over challenging terrain. The Willy’s ‘Jeep’ was the outcome, and it has had a huge influence on the car you drive – or aspire to drive – right now.

To keep the Americans on their toes, the British Land Rover emerged in April 1948, followed by the Toyota Land Cruiser in 1953. Fast-forward a few decades when the segment really took off in the ’90s, with more economical, affordable and safer models. Recently, brands like Nissan have excelled with affordable, quality products like their Qashqai, and at the top-end, even luxury carmakers like Bentley, Rolls Royce and Maserati are entering the market.

But what is it about the SUV that has captured the imagination of today’s car buyers? Size is a part of the appeal – compact models like the Renault Captur and Ford Kuga included – and there are larger alternatives like the Volkswagen Toureg and bigger still, with a larger cabin and seven seats and 4×4, all of which are a big hit with buyers. Add cargo hauling and towing abilities with high ground clearance, and the wish list of every customer type has been catered for in a single vehicle. It’s easy to see why they are such a hit in South Africa.

It could be argued SUVs are somewhat vanilla as each brand apes the other with similar looking products, but of late, car companies have been putting serious effort into differentiating themselves from other brands by emphasising their unique attributes. Consumers want to see the inherent meaning in the cars they buy and will reject ‘cookie cutter’ designs if they are not able to differentiate between the myriad of offerings. This is where branding comes in as a vital asset for manufacturers, because consumers tend to seek out the logo they have linked with desirability and build quality.

But a car is more than pretty aesthetics. It’s surely about the driving experience, quality and choosing the right one to suit your lifestyle. The market remains one of the fastest growing sectors in the car industry, and there are all kinds of SUVs on the market – from inexpensive cars to luxury models boasting limousine comfort – and there are almost no ‘bad’ SUVs out there any more.

If you’re looking for a seven-seater, then the Volvo XC90 boasts a whole new platform and a superbly efficient range of four-cylinder engines (the T8 plug-in hybrid is a technological tour de force), with the style and quality to easily hold its own against the best that Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have to offer. For me, the D5 Diesel is the clear pick of the Volvo range – it’s punchy enough to get up and go when needed, and it’s quiet and refined too.

The zenith of the range is the powerful and economical plug-in hybrid-powered T8 – arguably the most desirable – but most buyers will still be smitten with the generous safety tally and upmarket kit you get on the entry-level Momentum. There’s a load of standard goodies too, like satellite navigation (sat nav), climate control, LED headlamps and leather.

The key to the XC90’s appeal though, is its spacious, upmarket interior with the refinement and smooth progress of a limousine. It emphatically shows the Swedish brand has the innovation, panache and build quality to do battle with the very best Teutonic offerings. It’s a truly worthy winner of 2016 WesBank / SAGMJ Car of the Year.

Audi’s take on large SUVs is the Q7. Still enormous, it’s slightly smaller on the outside than its predecessor, but more spacious for passengers. It hides its bulk well and there’s plenty of space inside for seven, and like the XC90, its refinement and ride are excellent. A gutsy 3.0-litre diesel powers seven people and their luggage with consummate ease. The cabin, like all Audis, is a great place to be. Every single component has been thoughtfully designed and is made of tactile, quality materials, crammed full of more technology than just about any other Audi.

If space and comfort is a high priority, it’s hard to ignore the Mercedes-Benz GLS. It easily accommodates seven adults and their luggage in luxury surroundings, thanks to being 10cm longer than the Audi Q7. Almost no other SUV is as well-equipped as a standard GLS, which comes with everything you could wish for, and more.

The latest version of the BMW X5 is very much an evolution of what’s gone before, but it is the most luxurious and efficient X5 yet. Comfortable for five – and an option to seat up to seven – it’s classy and simple to use, and every inch the premium product. Every version gets plenty of luxuries and it’s cheaper to run than most big 4x4s.

Jaguar’s F-Pace is a radical departure for its maker and, as expected, the company has put driving experience at the fore, pitching it against the Porsche Macan and BMW X4. It’s roomier than most rivals, with loads of space for occupants and luggage but there is no seven-seat option like there is in the Land Rover Discovery Sport. The optional adaptive suspension offers superb ride quality and the 2.0-litre diesel is more frugal than any of its direct challengers. Jaguar has made a huge effort in the interior too. It’s tactile and feels classy in typical Jaguar fashion, trumping its rivals by some margin. What’s more, it’s easy to use. The Jaguar F-Pace is a great all-rounder that combines eye-catching looks with plenty of space for five, while still being an entertaining, a very satisfying SUV to drive briskly.

Maserati first revealed its intention to build its SUV in 2003 and it’s finally arrived. The Levante is set up for on-road dynamics, but is surprisingly capable off road too. The Levante is unlike any Maserati before it – bigger than it looks, but super to drive with its welcoming cabin and quality materials. Dynamically as capable as Jaguar’s new F-Pace and Porsche’s Cayenne, this is the best contemporary Maserati yet.

The much-loved family-sized, seven-seat Toyota Fortuner has been thoroughly reworked. Based on the evergreen Hilux, it’s an incredibly well-built car with genuine off-road credibility, and is ideal for towing. If you need to balance ruggedness with everyday usability, this SUV ticks all the boxes.

The latest Kia Sportage is available locally in October, but I’ve driven it already and I can tell you it’s a handsome looking SUV, packed with more useful tech than ever, with lots of room for all the family too.

Like most SUVs, you sit up high in the car, so visibility is scenic, and prices are expected to be competitive. Kia’s latest generation touch-screen is satisfyingly intuitive to use, and overall, it’s a safe and stylish choice.

In a market driven by a growing trend for recreational driving in remote and often rugged parts of the country, and a proliferation of safe, convenient and comfortable SUVs on offer, the global market for SUVs should surpass 21 million units by 2020. I reckon Napoleon’s quote, “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide”, holds true for the SUV market today. Somewhere out there is your perfect car and I suspect it will be an SUV.

Need to know (ENTRY LEVEL MODELS)
Mercedes-Benz GLS
Price From R1 283 200 (2016)
Power 190kW
Torque 620Nm
0-100km/h 7.1 seconds
Top speed 222km/h
fuel consumption 5.3/100km
co2 emissions 179g/km

BMW X5
Price R947 700 (2016)
Power 170kW
Torque 500Nm
0-100km/h 7.7 seconds
Top speed 220km/h
fuel consumption 5.6/100km
co2 emissions 146g/km

Volvo XC90
Price From R863 700 (2016)
Power 140kW
Torque 400Nm
0-100km/h 9.2 seconds
Top speed 205km/h
fuel consumption 5.2/100km
co2 emissions 136g/km

Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
Price From R765 000 (2016)
Power 120kW
Torque 400Nm
0-100km/h 11.7 seconds
Top speed 175km/h
fuel consumption 8.5/100km
co2 emissions 224g/km

Kia Sportage
Price TBA
Power 130kW
Torque 392Nm
0-100km/h 9.8 seconds
Top speed 195km/h
fuel consumption 7.3/100km
co2 emissions 192g/km

Audi Q7
Price R1 012 000 (2016)
Power 183kW
Torque 600Nm
0-100km/h 6.9 seconds
Top speed 225km/h
fuel consumption 6.3/100km
co2 emissions 164g/km

Jaguar F-Pace
Price From R778 966 (2016)
Power 132kW
Torque 430Nm
0-100km/h 8.7 seconds
Top speed 208km/h
fuel consumption 5.3/100km
co2 emissions 139g/km

Maserati Levante
Price R1 650 000 (2016)
Power 202kW
Torque 600Nm
0-100km/h 6.9 seconds
Top speed 230km/h
fuel consumption 7.2/100km
co2 emissions 189g/km

Seduced by Dawn

Richard Webb was one of a select few South African motoring journalists to be invited to the global launch of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn. He explains why the luxury brand’s most recent convertible will draw in an ever-expanding ‘younger’ market.

Once you’ve experienced the huge expanse of ocean and sky that is the Cape, you’ll understand the thrill of arriving at a site of such finality you realise you can explore no further. The air of outer limits, the way the waves pound the obstacles in their path – a last gasp of land, framed by sea – calls for relaxed journeys along kilometres of impossibly beautiful scenery. There is probably no other car on earth better suited to explore the Fairest Cape than the Dawn, a Rolls-Royce like no other. That Cape Town ‘cracked the nod’ for the global launch of one of Rolls-Royce’s most striking and assertive luxury cars is heart-warming, yet an unsurprising perfect match.

From my first encounter with the awe-inspiring models lined up in the morning sunshine at Delaire Graff wine estate near Stellenbosch, the Dawn’s charm and charisma seduced me. Even with the top up, its mood is powerful – with a shape that is unmistakably Rolls-Royce.

“It will frequently be bought as a reward for its buyer. A wealthy entrepreneur buys one to celebrate a successful acquisition, or to mark an important birthday for a spouse,” says designer Alex Innes about future owners of the Dawn.

The Dawn is only the third convertible from the brand in 50 years. The 1966 Corniche was followed by the exclusive Phantom Drophead Coupe in 2007, which will end production by the end of this year. Alex says the Dawn will sit alongside the Phantom, Ghost and Wraith as the brand’s only cabriolet for the time being. “It’s more driver-focused than a Phantom, but its dynamic is also relaxed cruising,” he says.

The Dawn is certainly no slouch – 0-100kph wafts up effortlessly in just 4.9 seconds as it builds pace in a way that few other cars manage. Around the winelands’ sweeping black ribbons of tar, it felt incredibly composed, with the compliant suspension dealing with corners every bit as well as some cars half its weight.

With one touch, its sensuous appeal is unveiled as the roof silently folds away, revealing a seductive interior that seems to be crafted in anticipation of unforgettable moments between friends. Thanks to its full four-seater layout, it’s an experience designed for sharing. There’s something inviting about being open to the elements – to the unexpected sounds, smells and sensations not accessible to closed car occupants. Everything about the new Rolls-Royce Dawn is exceptionally crafted and remarkable – the engine is a gem of 6.6 litre twin-turbo V12. It’s quite simply in a class of its own. I also asked Richard Carter, Rolls-Royce’s South African-born head of global communications, about their customers: “Not long ago the average age of a Rolls-Royce buyer was 55. Now the age has dropped to 45. The smaller Ghost and Wraith have played a big part in attracting a newer, more youthful buyer. Models like the upcoming Cullinan SUV, on sale next year, will further cement that youthful trend, alongside the Dawn.”

Silence is part of the Dawn’s beauty, and at motorway speeds there is nothing but a hint of wind noise – road noise just doesn’t exist. Six-layers of fabric roof eliminate almost every unnecessary sound. Access to the hugely spacious interior is always an occasion, thanks to the stunning rear-hinged coach doors.

Nothing on the car feels out of place or unnecessarily forced, with many of the lines seemingly similar to those found in nature. Rolls-Royce motorcar design director Giles Taylor says the Dawn is a blend of Rolls-Royce’s unmistakable road presence and 21st Century style. “Our design vision was to bring an elegance of silhouette to the soft-top, and natural purity of line to the body that would be both sexy and captivating.

“The core line in Dawn’s design is the ‘attention-seeking’ centre line profile. It had to be low and fluid… from the low front screen flows a fast and sleek line that sweeps over the four seats and settles onto the neatly tapered tail.

“The key body line, which runs unbroken from the front wing rearwards along the waist of the car, complements the silhouette. Every new Rolls-Royce body style – and a drophead in particular – should always add an extra dimension and allure. Dawn has that magical sense of occasion that we, as designers, appreciate from Rolls-Royce’s wonderful design heritage.”

Cruising along the side of ancient, rocky cliffs above the crashing waves as the view across False Bay stretches south towards the boundary between the Indian and Atlantic oceans, hedonism has a new pinnacle – and it’s called Dawn.

NEED TO KNOW
Combined economy: 14.2 litres/100km
0 to 100 km/h: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Engine: 6592cc Twin-Turbo V12
Power: 420kW
Torque: 780Nm
Transmission: Satellite aided 8-speed auto
CO2 emissions: 330g/K
Price: R10.5 million subject to prevailing exchange rate
SA orders: Pedro Carneiro at Daytona on 011 301 7000

Like a Bullitt

Everyone loves a good car chase scene in the movies, don’t they? Richard Webb gets into character with the 2016 Ford Mustang.

What’s the most famous car chase in movie history? Surely it was The Italian Job, with those red, white and blue Mini Cooper S’s racing through Turin as the hapless Carabinieri in their Alfa Romeo Giulia Supers gave chase?

Or was it Ronin in which a variety of cars, including the Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9, BMW M5 and Audi S8 Quattro, thrilled the audience with an authentic car chase through the streets of Paris?

Right now, I’ve got another car chase scene in mind. It’s the Mustang versus Charger scene in the 1968 classic Bullitt. The Ford Mustang – along with Steve McQueen – defined the movie. McQueen made a point to keep his face visible during the memorable chase scenes so that viewers would be certain it was he, and not a stunt man, behind the wheel.

I’ve been stalking the right-hand drive 2016 Ford Mustang for quite a while now. I first saw a convertible version perched atop Dubai’s Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building – and again at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. But until recently, I’d never driven it.

However, that has all changed. I was able to drive both the 2.3 EcoBoost 4 cylinder convertible and the 5.0 V8 GT Fastback through some of South Africa’s most breathtaking roads on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard.

This is the sixth generation of the American icon, and, I’ve discovered, it’s a perfect car for living out those Bullitt fantasies.

You may be wondering if a four-cylinder engine could actually cut it in the car chase stakes. You bet it can. This 2.3-litre EcoBoost produces 228kW, which boomerangs the car to 100km/h in just 5.5 seconds but uses just 8.0l/100km in the combined cycle, linked to 179 g/km CO² emissions.

Interestingly it’s as powerful as the V8 in the previous-generation car when it launched, so it just goes to show how much more development there has been – and continues to be done – on the combustion engine. The latest 5.0litre V8 produces a mighty 306kW of power, making it the most powerful and fastest accelerating Ford ever sold in South Africa, enabling the Mustang 5.0 V8 GT Fastback Manual to rocket from 0 to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.

The new Mustang is choc-a-block with cool technologies and both the 4 and 8 cylinder versions can be matched to six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, and there’s the option of fastback or convertible body styles.

Judging by the reaction of those who see the car, its clean-sheet design must still evoke the essential character of the original Mustang – and it creates a wave of double takes and exhortation from fans to rev the car mercilessly for their entertainment.

Sinking into the car, it becomes clear Ford has made great strides to bring the car in line with 
European ergonomic standards. It boasts large, easy to read instrumentation, quality materials within its aviation-inspired cockpit, tactile switches and knobs that provide intuitive control.

The twisty bits of tarmac around the Western Cape were handled really well. It is competent and entertaining thanks to a precise electrically assisted steering, which gives a clear idea of 
what the front wheels are up to – while at the back, the Mustang’s independent rear suspension makes the driving experience ever so satisfying.

Over fast, sweeping and some not so smooth bends, the ride is settled and you never seem 
to be bounced off course thanks in part to its wide track, sophisticated rear suspension 
and well-balanced weight distribution. The Mustang, whether you want to hoon around like Steve McQueen or not, is about how it looks, drives and sounds. This visceral experience is linked to the advanced chassis, and it’s designed to meet the expectations of the most demanding driver.

I made sure I fiddled about with the selectable drive modes on twisty back roads – using the toggle switches on the console to quickly adjust steering effort, engine response, and transmission and electronic stability control settings.

To help drivers get the most from the car on track days, track apps can be controlled via the steering wheel and viewed in the instrument panel. McQueen would surely have loved the accelerometer, acceleration timer and brake performance monitors.

However, he really would have loved the launch control system. It holds the engine at a pre-set value between 3000 and 4500 rpm with the accelerator fully depressed. When the clutch is released, torque delivery to the rear wheels is controlled for maximum traction and consistent standing starts. Then there is the electronic line lock system – available for the 5.0-litre V8 – that applies only the front brakes, allowing drivers to warm the rear tyres. In other words, you could create the most outrageous burnouts on the way to the office – or not!

This is a great looking car with all of the Mustang cues you need to keep the DNA firmly unsullied, yet it is modern and strong enough to stand out on its own.

If you can muster the extra running costs, the rumbling, tyre smoking V8 is all Mustang and as much Bullitt persona as most will need, and the pick of the bunch. It has been designed with a passion for the legend that is Mustang – and it’s as good as it gets.

The secret of life is in our DNA – and it seems the same is true with cars. It is almost impossible to talk about where this fabulous new Ford Mustang is going, without seeing where it came from. So I tested a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback, with a 302 cubic inch V8, 3-speed auto alongside the 2016 V8 Fastback.

The first-generation Ford Mustang ran from April 1964 until 1973 and its long hood and short deck was wildly popular as a notchback, a convertible and the fastback version.

Early Mustangs are among the most ice-cool cars ever made, so Ford was wise to maintain some key design elements of classic Mustangs, making them recognisable to car fans across the world. That long, sculpted hood and short rear deck, low roof height and wide stance is emblematic of the Pony car.

The full Ford Mustang 
range at launch
2.3 EcoBoost 
Manual Fastback:
 R613 947
2.3 EcoBoost 
Automatic Convertible:
 R684 123
2.3 EcoBoost 
Automatic Fastback:
 R614 491
5.0 V8 GT
Manual Fastback:
 R719 211
5.0 V8 GT 
Automatic Convertible:
 R789 386
5.0 V8 GT 
Automatic Fastback:
 R736 754

For the YouTube video that accompanies this story, search for TheSophisticate.tv

Topless toys

Some of motoring journalist Richard Webb’s best memories were made on balmy summer nights in open top cars. He relives his heydays with a pick of the latest covetable convertibles on the market.

There is something incredibly nostalgic about driving a convertible car. It’s about the planning of a journey as an act of celebration and discovery, or even that spontaneous road trip for no particular reason.

Bentley Continental GT V8
Tradition and convertible cars are steadfast bedfellows, of course. For example, early Bentleys were mostly open-topped and what, I’ve wondered, would it be like to try their more modern take on sporting luxury? I tried the ‘basic’ V8 model – the Continental GT – the one that wafts from 0 to 100kph in 5.0 seconds.

I glide the roof down at the gentlest caress of a button as I gather speed. I am surprised at how perfectly I’m able to hold a conversation with my passengers without shouting, trying not to notice the gaze of hungry camera lenses swivelling towards us. Appropriately quiet, the engine murmurs in agreement, making this V8 everything I’d expect of a luxury rocket ship.

Pale amber sunlight retreats across the road as I press the accelerator, giving rise to a perfectly tuned exhaust note and a relentless surge of power. I direct this wide, lavish car through the narrow streets, easing it out of the receding city. Its sheer presence adds distraction to the cell phone-yielding motorists – their view of the road seen only through their cameras – giving rise to potentially nerve-wracking encounters, but happily, years of driving experience help me to thread this car safely away from incident.

Once in the countryside, though, I revel in its alter ego. It’s on the car’s speed demon side where l find myself grinning, not just because of how fast it is, but how much grip it has in the corners. By any standards the Continental GT Convertible is a magnificent car to drive or be driven in. As an open grand-tourer, it’s peerless.

Jaguar E-Type
When it comes to covetable convertibles, modern or classic, my heart leads me directly to the impossibly beautiful Jaguar E-Type. The firm’s follow-up F-Type took its own sweet time to arrive, but wow, it was worth the wait! In a return to the company’s heartland, this two-seat convertible sports car is focused on performance, agility and driver involvement – and I love it. As I slide into the cockpit it is like summer has wrapped its arms around me in a welcome hug.

The F-Type is a continuation of a sporting bloodline that stretches back more than 75 years, and it exudes defined, athletic elegance. The almost sensual sounds, feelings and looks entice me. Sharp handling, unimpeachable body control and the uncanny turn-in make for an intimate drive. Whether you choose the 3.0 litre V6 or 5.0 litre V8, they both come standard with that addictive hair-raising burble as it pops and fizzes on the over-run.

Mercedes-Benz SL 500
However, the Brits certainly don’t have it all their way. The first-ever Sports Leicht, a Mercedes-Benz lightweight sports car called the 300SL, was designed by legendary engineer Rudi Uhlenhaut to add its name to the winners’ roll call alongside that of Alfa-Romeo, Bentley and Jaguar at the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Mercedes-Benz are not known for half measures, and their 1952 win with this SL set the stage for a continually endearing and elegant high-performance roadster.

There have been five generations of SL since that first one, with each more fabulous than its predecessor – although I’d argue that the ‘prettiest’ ever was either the original Gull-Wing or the Pagoda. For sheer driving versatility and joy though, I rate the current SL 500 ‘off the scales of desirability’. It offers a perpetual promise of summer with its panoramic vario-roof.

The aluminium body is a manufacturing triumph. Why? Because apart from achieving targets for stiffness, it’s the way it drives. I slump into the sumptuous interior after a tough day creating content on my MacBook Air. And then… ah, everything changes. The gentility and attention to detail is mind-boggling. The redesigned cabin is a sartorial delight, with gentlemen’s club seats and all the key functions accessible via the clear centre console screen and rotary dial.

I find the ride-quality to be sublime as the car goes exactly where I want it, with no body roll. The seasons may change, but the SL still gives that sense-of-occasion every time I climb aboard. The V8 burbles away quietly until a prod of the accelerator raises a seamless burst of power that relentlessly propels me forward. The SL has always been a statement of where one believes one stands in the world.

Ford Mustang
In the more affordable genre of sports cars, the world loves the pony cars. The new Ford Mustang is currently the best-selling sports car in the world, having sold 76 124 vehicles for the first half of 2015, up 56% year-to-date. Sales among women in particular are up 40% over the last year, giving Mustang a healthy 36% of the entire female sports car market.

This is the first year the Mustang is available to customers in more than 100 global markets, including South Africa, with open-top and fastback models arriving in December – just in time for summer cruising in an icon. Choose between six-speed auto or manual gearboxes and the power plants of the 233kW four-cylinder 2.3, which sprints from 0-100kph in 5.8 seconds, or the 306kW 5.0-litre V8, which dispatches 0-100kph in 4.8 seconds. Pricing is expected to be competitive with rivals Audi A5, BMW 4-Series and Nissan 370Z.

Audi A3 1.4T FSI
Also in the women’s market is Audi’s baby soft-top, the A3 Cabriolet, which is lovely to look at and drives well, too. I tried the 1.4 turbo-charged petrol engine car, which extracts 92kW and 200Nm from its petite pint-sized engine. Performance is good enough but what makes it all come together so well is the super 7-speed S tronic twin-clutch gearbox, which hooks up nicely throughout the rev range.

Audi’s engineers have also been working hard to improve ride quality and this car shows they are getting it right. It feels well-heeled and supple, and the quality of the interior adds to that feeling of well-being in the cabin.

BMW 220i
The cheapest way to get into a new BMW badged-convertible is through the 2 Series. I timed the five-layer fabric roof at 20 seconds to retract fully, but it can be done at speeds of up to 50kph, which is very handy when the traffic light turns green just as the roof is halfway down.

I tried the 220i, which manages to get from 0-62kph in 7.5 seconds yet still returns a combined 6.5 /100km, thanks in part to the superb eight-speed automatic gearbox. The standard suspension setup can be upgraded to  be electrically adjustable, and the prodding sport button makes the ride firmer but also much more controlled.

The extra body strengthening required over its tin-top siblings adds nearly 200kg to the car’s weight, but it does look every part an authentic BMW convertible, with its pretty flat-shouldered profile. Inside, it feels like a cosseting car, especially in the front, with great driving position. There is nothing to fault the clarity or quality of the controls, and BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is now of an age where it’s just about perfect. With the roof down and the sun shining, this 2 Series makes for a great cruiser.

Citroën C1 Airscape
What about nearer the lower end of the price scale, I’ve wondered? Memories of my bright green 1987 Citroën 2CV were rekindled as I stepped into Citroën’s cheeky C1 Airscape. It gave me that familiar conviction of life starting all over again with the onset of summer. Settling in to the irreverent, funky cabin, I mobilise the powered fabric roof open and in came the country air – as if dusted with the spice of a million fynbos.

Citroën’s new C1 is, for me, a modern Deux Chevaux – the spiritual successor of my old 2CV. Upon start-up, the tiny 1199cc three-cylinder engine throbs, is extremely nippy and fun to drive. I like the playful, highly colourful interior with its bright dashboard inserts and seat-edge stripes looking like it screams ‘fun’. A touch-screen display mirrors my mobile-phone screen, so I can use my phone’s satnav or bop to my iTunes collection. It’s trendy and capable, roomy and almost a convertible small car that is the yin to Bentley’s yang. And in it, I experience a freshness and beauty in watching the clouds float across the sky.

Open-top motoring reminds me that, although all days are equally long in hours, some of those days are longer – not only because of the season, but also because of the rewards they offer.
NEED TO KNOW
Audi A3 Cabriolet
Top speed: 216 kph
0-100kph: 8.9 seconds
Power: 103 kW
Torque: 250 Nm
Combined fuel consumption: 5.1/100km
CO2 emissions: 114 g/km
Transmission: 7-speed S tronic
Price: R461 000 (December 2015)

Bentley Continental GT V8 Convertible
Top speed: 301 kph
0-100kph: 5 seconds
Power: 373 kW
Torque: 660 Nm
Combined fuel consumption: 10.9 /100km
CO2 emissions: 254 g/km
Transmission: 8-speed with Quickshift
Price: R3,87-million (December 2015)
 
BMW 220i Convertible
Top speed: 230 kph
0-100kph: 7.5 seconds
Power: 135 kW
Torque: 270 Nm
Combined fuel consumption: 6.5/100km
CO2 emissions: 152 g/km
Transmission: 8-speed Steptronic
Price: R504 000 (December 2015)
 
Citroën C1 VTI 82 Airscape Feel
Top speed: 170 kph
0-100kph: 11 seconds
Power: 60 kW
Torque: 116 Nm
Combined fuel consumption: 4.3/100km
CO2 emissions: 99 g/km
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Price: R194 900 (December 2015)
 
Ford Mustang Convertible 2.3 EcoBoost®
Top speed: 237 kph
0-100kph: 5.5 seconds
Power: 233 kW
Torque: 434 Nm
Combined fuel consumption: 8.3/100km
CO2 emissions: 179g/km
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Price: TBA
 
Jaguar F-Type 3.0 V6 S
Top speed: 275 kph 0-100 kph 4.9 sec
0-100kph: 5.3 seconds
Power: 208 kW
Torque: 460 Nm
Combined fuel consumption: 10/100km
CO2 emissions: 203 g/km
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Price: R1 071 100 (December 2015)
 
Mercedes-Benz SL 500 AMG Line
Top speed: 250 kph
0-100kph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 320 kW
Torque: 700 Nm
Combined fuel consumption: 9.2/100km
CO2 emissions: 214 g/km
Transmission: 7G tronic plus
Price R 1 602 300 (December 2015)

Abstract auto

The idea of concept cars can be traced back to the 1930s and General Motors design chief Harley Earl. While some of these failed to make the transition from drawing board to road, others, such as the hybrids seen on the roads today, were more than just a futuristic fantasy.

WORDS Richard Webb

Nearly 60 years ago, Ford presented its ‘atomic reactor powered car’, the Nucleon. It would, theoretically, travel 8047 kilometres per charge of uranium. The concept wasn’t functional and was created only to showcase current and future thinking around mobility. Forty years ago, however, Toyota demonstrated its first hybrid car concept and we now see hybrid-powered vehicles on our roads in increasing numbers. So concept cars are important, whether to test the feasibility of new technologies or to provide useful feedback on public interest in new features.

Only one or two copies of each concept may ever be made. Even so, they often provide vital DNA for future cars. Many concept cars are not fully functional and those that are often make use of the drivetrains from existing production cars to keep costs down. Before the concept car goes into actual production, a fully working ‘production intent’ vehicle is built. Interestingly, 3D printing has helped to speed up and reduce the cost of these techniques.

Most concepts will never reach a local dealership, so I was curious about the main reasons carmakers decide to put concepts into production. I met Jaguar’s director of design in Paris, Ian Callum, and asked him about the company’s ‘performance crossover’ concept, the C-X17. “We received such an overwhelmingly positive response to the concept car last year that we just had to make it a reality. We need to show things we know we can deliver.” The British brand’s first production SUV – now named the Jaguar F-Pace – will go on sale in early 2016.

Thanks to concept cars, the motor vehicle is growing beyond its role as a means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space. The Mercedes-Benz F 015 ‘Luxury in Motion’, for example, suggests in the future customers will have the option to not drive at all. This self-driving car transforms the cabin into a personal retreat and could well be a forerunner of a coming mobility revolution, which could bring about major social changes. “Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society,” says Dr Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The public’s fascination with concept cars endures. Since 1929, carmakers and wealthy enthusiasts from around the world attend the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este – a stately hotel on the shores of Lake Como in Cernobbio, Italy. This is the world’s finest automotive beauty pageant, but it also has a firm eye on the future. I attend the event regularly for South to review a few of the concepts and prototypes on show.

BMW’s tradition of unveiling concepts at the Concorso took another leap forward with its Hommage concept. Inspired by the 1970s BMW 3.0 CSL, this stunning coupe adds to BMW’s enviable back catalogue of concept cars. “Our Hommage cars demonstrate how proud we are of our heritage, but they also show how the past can help determine our future,” senior vice president BMW Design, Adrian van Hooydonk, told me. The Hommage uses carbon fibre-reinforced plastic, and power comes from a six-cylinder in-line engine with eBoost, which means it’s a hybrid. The chances of seeing the 3.0 CSL Hommage entering production are high, and I believe we’ll see many of those design features in future BMW Coupes.

The Mini Superleggera caused a bit of a stir at last year’s Concorso – challenging what people think a Mini should be. Mini designer Anders Warming said the interest was tremendous. “We are now working hard to get it on the street. It’s an economically challenging project and there is no firm decision, but we have a lot of people here who are fighting for it. I think it would be extremely good for the brand,” he explained.

If it does reach production, expect a front-wheel drive with the option of all-wheel-drive and possibly a plug-in-hybrid option using a turbo 1.5-litre four-cylinder driving the front wheels and an electric motor driving the rear wheels. I spent time in the Superleggera factory in Milan with CEO Piero Mancardi. “We are delighted that Mini wanted to stimulate an independent initiative, and particularly Italian design, for the first time,” he says. It’s no coincidence the concept Mini Superleggera was electric, because Mini is readying an EV (think baby BMW i8) for production.

At the opposite end of the scale, the Design Award for Concept Cars and Prototypes at the Concorso went to Bentley design director Luc Donkerwolke for the EXP 10 Speed 6. The concept shows the future direction of luxury and performance for the brand and is the most talked-about concept car in recent times. Gauging from the reaction by dealers, customers and the media, it may well go into production.

Ford is determined to keep company with the world’s most exotic supercars and its latest concept, the GT, is going into limited production to enable it to compete at Le Mans in 2016. It packs 447kW and utilises full carbon fibre construction. Active aerodynamic elements include a multi position rear wing similar to the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari to help keep Ford’s mid-engine supercar planted at speed. Power comes from a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 engine. It’s an unmistakable shot across the bows of the big guns from Europe, like the twin turbocharged Ferrari 458 and second-generation Audi R8.

While these concepts have helped to significantly move the car business forward, it hasn’t always been this way. Take Franco Sbarro’s 1978 ‘Function Car’, for example. This six-wheeled rolling traffic violation was based on a stretched Cadillac Eldorado. Weighing in at more than three tons, it needed an 8.2 litre V8 to get the thing rolling. Happily, only one car was made before the project was abandoned.

Twenty-one years later, Rinspeed decided the world needed an amphibious car. So they gave us a bright yellow hovercraft carrier called ‘X-Trem Concept’. A crane located on the back loaded and unloaded its small hovercraft. Powered by a 5.5-litre V8 Mercedes-Benz engine, it was based on the first M-Class but had no doors or windows and had room for only two people.

Goofy concepts aside, powerful visions for a green, and shared, transportation future are being developed. The cars of the future will redefine ‘community’ as we know it.

 

Lungs of chrome

Whether your interest in riding started on the pillion seat of a bike, or you just woke up one morning and decided you wanted to experience first-hand the thrill of the ride, there’s little more empowering than climbing onto your own motorbike and taking to the open road.

WORDS Richard Webb

While your love of motorbikes may not be in doubt, with everything on offer from Harleys to Vespas, the only question is ‘what to ride?’

Kawasaki has a long tradition of making great bikes and to top it all, their engineering alchemists really like Batman. Their Ninja H2 is definitely what the caped crusader would ride. This bike has only one purpose in life, and that’s to give you the most exhilarating and exciting performance possible. However, it’s not for the uninitiated, and nothing less than experienced, razor-sharp reactions will do to tame the raw excitement on offer.

The 16-valve, liquid-cooled supercharged engine sizzles the bike to 100km/h in less than 2.5 seconds – storming its way to 297km/h. Even its carbon-fibre mirror arms generate down force at speed. The hand-applied paintwork contains genuine silver that gives an outrageous mirror-like finish. If a bike could ever plug in directly to your adrenal glands, this is it.

Arch-rival Ducati generates genuine affection from professional and road riders alike, both united by the same passion – a real love for the motorcycles made in Borgo Panigale, Italy. Their latest paired-back bike is again named after a large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature. Their Monster 821, though, is a stylish mix of minimalism and performance, and it gets right back to the original Monster concept, where less is more. Powered by the Testastretta 11° engine, this package is the most attractive mid-range Monster ever.

If you are hankering after a more languid, easy-rider experience, the Triumph Thruxton’s blend of gentle performance, retro style and practicality make it the perfect mount. Ideal for a nostalgic easy-going thrum along the dozens of exquisite towns and seaside resorts on the Garden Route.

An 865cc parallel twin café racer, this classic thruster is based on the Bonneville, but is far more rider-friendly than it appears. With a cleverly disguised fuel injection system, its 51kW output will appeal to the mature rider rather than speed junkies. The air-cooled motor is smooth, starts with the stab of a button and unlike the early original models, it doesn’t leak oil, which adds to the reasons it remains a long-running success.

The riding position is honed to specifically work with its suspension to provide a truly comfortable ride. If you are looking for an appealing retro café racer with ‘60s style and all-round performance rather than thrills, this is the one for you.

Moving to the more sedate options, scooters were originally made to compete on cost and weather protection against the motorcycle. Vespas and Lambrettas are right up there with the most iconic of two-wheelers and they’ve always been a real hoot to ride.

The best alarm clock in the world is sunshine on chrome, so I tried an early morning ride on the Vespa GTS – the latest incarnation of the scooter that was first revealed in 1977 as the PX. At once, I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and smell the freshly cut grass. Even the trademark ‘rengdeng-deng’ of the engine seemed just right. Everywhere I went on the Vespa, I was greeted like an old friend.

Lightweight controls, and a stylishly reworked analogue and digital dash make it easy to use, no matter how little experience you have. With only 16kW to call on, progress on this 278cc single cylinder liquid-cooled four-stroke is puppy-dog benign, but brisk enough to get you away from the lights faster than most traffic, allowing you to painlessly mingle along. The Sport version’s ABS and – a world first for scooters – traction control, is useful against our more pockmarked roads.

For me, the Vespa carries as much emotional weight as Triumph, Ducati or a ‘Harley’ would for the more heavyweight bikers. However, few motorcycles do details quite like Harley-Davidson. The paint and chrome are lush and deep, the wheels are big and the attitude is classic American style motorbike. If attention grabbing is high on your reasons to ride, then the Harley-Davidson Breakout is a premium and refined piece of kit.

Like walking a big dog, you need to let it know who’s in charge. Its flat, drag-style handlebars and those forward-positioned foot pegs take some getting used to, causing you to adopt the initially uncomfortable ‘gorilla arms’ look. But this is one surprisingly sweet ride. The 51kW horsepower is nothing to gloat about, but the torque does all the talking. Drop the clutch and it all gets quite serious as it delivers an experience unmatched by its many imitators.

If you want jaw-dropping presence, custom is the only way to go. A slew of bike builders are taking custom bikes to new heights by creating more outlandish and exciting café racers and cruisers for those style conscious riders. One of the fastest-rising stars on the custom scene is ER Motorcycles (short for ‘Espresso Racer’). They specialise in taking old BMWs and turning them into functional works of art.

The 1983 BMWR80 has been reworked to create the cleanest, most beautifully detailed BMW you will ever see. Called ‘The Mobster’ it has a touch of the gangster about it, but is also refined. A ruffian in a dinner jacket, this Frozen Bronze coloured beauty is a retro-futuristic mash-up of eras and styles. Other bikes leak oil – this one marks its territory. With an emphasis on clean lines and visual simplicity, it is the little things that make the difference, so the exhaust, handgrips, and upholstery were all completely custom-made.

Regardless of the make or model you choose, motorcycles are just awesome for making every moment count. The diversity of our South African landscape provides riding possibilities to suit all tastes. Traffic can often be light and isolated, so riding on local mountain switchbacks offer a rollercoaster of hairpin bends and far-reaching views.

If you’ve ever wondered why a dog sticks his head out of a car window, hop on a motorbike. You’ll soon find out.

 

,

Smart new world

Motor manufacturers foresee that there will be up to four billion cars on the road by 2050, leaving roads congested and the environment under pressure. South talks to car bosses about their plans to resolve the impending personal mobility dilemma.

WORDS Richard Webb

As global prosperity and the populations of big cities increase, along with the resultant increase in traffic, the heads of various motor corporations all agree new technologies are key to finding a solution to the impending problem.

Jaguar Land Rover South Africa managing director Richard Govendeur says global megatrends, such as expected increased affluence and megacities (cities with populations in excess of 10 million people), will place pressure on transport systems, fuel prices and natural resources. “While these factors bring opportunities, they also bring challenges,” he says.

Bill Ford Junior, Henry Ford’s great-grandson and Ford Motor Company chairman, agrees. “There are about a billion vehicles on the road worldwide. But with more people and greater global prosperity, that number is expected to double, and possibly double again by 2050. This will create global gridlock on a scale the world has never seen before.” Speaking to South in Dubai last year, Bill said building more roads would not help reduce gridlock, and motor-, infrastructure- and technology manufacturers would have to address the bigger picture.

“We are already building smart cars, but we also need to build smart roads, smart parking, smart public transportation systems and more – and we need to connect them all using wireless telecommunications.” His company is currently running 25 mobility experiments around the world; from car-sharing schemes to mobile phone applications that help drivers find parking spaces.

In South Africa, other factors enter the arena, such as Eskom’s ability to provide sufficient electricity to support technology.

Nissan is a leading producer of electric vehicles (EVs) in South Africa and, while power supply is under pressure, the company insists immense progress has been made in the area of sustainable energy. “Charging of electric vehicles does not put significant pressure on the grid. A Nissan LEAF needs 24kW to fully charge, giving a range of 190km. A 100km journey in a petrol car can cost well over R100, while the LEAF – using only 13kW at R1.30 per kW – will be under R20,” says Nissan South Africa spokesman Veralda Schmidt.

She says linking automotive and housing needs through solar power should be a holistic lifestyle change. “One of the first LEAF owners, Greg Ball, has clocked up 27 000km since the car’s launch locally late in 2013, the equivalent of R35 000 worth of fuel. Being ‘off the grid’, he only paid R3500 to charge his vehicle in cases where they tapped into the grid as a result of bad weather.”

Edward Makwana, BMW South Africa group automotive communications manager, is positive the current power supply crisis will be resolved. “We need to work with Eskom to find ways of taking pressure off the grid. For example, after the market launch of the BMW i3 and i8 this year, BMW is looking at offering solar charging options for customers purchasing their plug-in hybrid BMW i3 and BMW i8 models to take pressure off the grid.”

However, not everyone agrees that EVs are the best green option in the local context. Mercedes-Benz South Africa divisional marketing manager Selvin Govender says South Africans travel longer distances than their European counterparts. Selvin believes the lack of suitable infrastructure required for EVs would not allow for convenient motoring. “Our long-term green objective is zero-emissions mobility and a focus on hybrids – particularly plug-in hybrids. By 2017 we will have introduced no fewer than ten new models with plug-in hybrid powertrains.”

While demand in the UK for plug-in hybrid cars has quadrupled in the past year, Kia South Africa public relations and product marketing manager Christo Valentyn says the adoption of hybrid vehicles in South Africa has so far been dismal. “In our context, the feasibility of electric vehicles is debatable due to infrastructure and our ‘dirty’ electricity, and I fear that the uptake of such technology by South African consumers would remain marginal even if there were government subsidies,” he says.

Edward, however, says: “Worldwide, we expect EVs to take four to eight per cent of the total market by 2020. Therefore, we cannot say that just because we have a power supply crisis, we should limit the introduction of electric cars. It is all about being visionary and able to address the challenges of the future now.”

While smart and green cars may be the future, true motor heads are also concerned about continued performance and the joy of driving. Manufacturers insist the two are reconcilable: “We don’t want our cars to lose anything of their fascination. Quite the reverse, in fact, we are making them better than ever,” says Selvin.

But personal mobility extends beyond driving smart- and green cars, to include a range of options that address congestion issues. Interconnectivity between vehicle and mobile devices are being explored to provide integrated solutions, including railway travel, walking and even cycling. Ten per cent of new cars are connected to the Internet today, but 90% of them will be by 2020. Technology-based car-share and pick-up services such as Uber, Car Share and Traveleze are already a reality across South Africa. “Our industry has made some of its greatest achievements when faced with a serious challenge. This is one of those moments,” says Bill.

Can cars be clean, green and mean?

In a world focused on smarter and greener vehicles, will there still be a place for mean machines that are powerful, fast and just plain decadent?

Among those wanting to prove it can be done is Ford, which launched the 2015 Mustang Convertible in spectacular form in Dubai late last year.

To celebrate Ford’s new Middle East and Africa business unit, the car was launched on the 112th floor of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. “Mustang is going global after 50 years as America’s greatest motoring icon,” said Bill Ford Junior, Ford Motor Company chairman. Ford will launch 25 vehicles in the region by 2016, including the all-new right-hand drive Mustangs this year.

The Mustang GT boasts a 5.0-litre V8 with 324kW and 542Nm and uses 12.3-litres per 100km combined. The 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo uses 9.4/100km for those who value economy over outright oomph. “This EcoBoost engine delivers where a Mustang driver expects it to – with a broad, flat torque curve that pours out when you stand on it for easy passing or hustling down a twisty road,” says the car’s chief engineer, Dave Pericak.

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Vintage va va voom

 The Garden Route’s many fine attributes have been luring the country’s classic car lovers to the region for some time, ensuring its established reputation as South Africa’s premier old car business hub and classic events destination.

 WORDS Yolande Stander PHOTOGRAPHS Desmond Scholtz, Mariette Landman, Tamara Claire

Old cars have become big business on the Garden Route with the establishment of several niche businesses and the arrival of some of the world’s leading vehicle restorers to the region. Associated club events, car shows, rallies and races provide extended sources of income that play an important part in the region’s economy.

The surge in classic car popularity is largely due to the Garden Route’s natural beauty. Quiet, undulating back roads and country lanes make it ideal for touring at just about the speed for vehicles dating back to the earlier part of the 20th Century. Furthermore, the region is recognised as the ultimate playground for wealthy retirees able to enjoy the mild climate that allows for open-top travelling most days of the year.

Southern Cape Old Car Club chairman Karen van der Merwe believes the region’s beauty and relaxed nature are instrumental in luring so many vintage car enthusiasts. “The slow pace of life, relatively good condition of roads and the fact that there are far less vehicles on the road than many other destinations make the area safe and convenient for driving classic cars.

“Local authorities provide good co-operation and we find that other road users enjoy seeing classic cars on the road, even when it slows down their pace of travel. Enthusiasts from all over the country, and the world, attend our events and sometimes even relocate here soon after a visit.”

Karen says many collectors have relocated in the past few years. “As a result the area probably has the biggest concentration of classic, vintage and veteran cars in the country.”

Tony Lyons-Lewis, secretary of the MG Car Club South Cape, agrees the Garden Route has become a Mecca for classic car enthusiasts and the classic car restoration industry has grown particularly over the last few years. “In 2008 there were only a few suppliers; now we have companies offering full rebuilds and engineering services, including engine machining and assembly, upholstery and spray painting. The industry offers employment to many locals, and businesses such as parts suppliers benefit from the demand generated by rebuilders. While many members repair and maintain their own cars, local garages also benefit from servicing requirements from less-active members.”

Classic car popularity has given rise to several marquee retail outlets on the Garden Route. In fact, some have become so well known they are now considered tourist attractions in their own right.

Sedgefield Classic Cars, now a decade in business, is regarded as a “must-see” stop by most travellers on the N2 between Knysna and George. When owner Sheridan Renfield first opened, he had only three vehicles on the lot – a 1934 Chevrolet, a 1937 Plymouth Coupe and a 1955 Pontiac. Popularity grew far beyond expectation and today an average of 60 to 70 old cars, dated between the 1920s and 1980s, are on the floor at any given time. The business not only attracts many spectators from around the world, but also buyers from as far afield as Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States.

As classic cars are rare, the price tags are admittedly steep for the most part. However, there is still scope to come away with a bargain. “Prices vary from a 1958 Morris Minor for R25 000 and a Ford Escort MK2 for R50 000 to an exotic 1940 Buick Convertible for R650 000 or the all-time classic 1954 Jaguar XK120 for R800 000. One of the most expensive vehicles we have sold was a 1964 Aston Martin DB6 for R1.3 million, which is probably worth about R2 million today. In recent years, as the global economic downturn sent investors looking for alternatives to traditional investment portfolios these cars –like art – have proved to be an excellent investment with massive capital growth,” says Sheridan.

Since opening in November 2012, House of Classic and Sports Cars in Knysna has also become a popular stop. In addition to a variety of pristine classic cars, the business provides project cars for restoration.

For some, like Tino Laranjeira of Classic Car Restorations near Sedgefield, restoring old vehicles to their former glory is just as satisfying as taking them for a spin on the open road. Considered a master restorer, his specialist skills are in high demand in South Africa and abroad. He has even been flown out to recreate original classics in Canada and take charge of vehicles shipped in from overseas.

“I do most of the work myself, but outsource specialised work like upholstery and woodwork to other experts in the region. The Garden Route is home to the some of the best craftsmen in the country,” Tino says.

Coastal Customs in Mossel Bay specialises in building show cars, street rods and hot rods to a wide range of clients. “About 30% of our work is for Garden Route car owners, 50% from other provinces and 20% from abroad,” says owner Walter Fivaz, adding that restorations range from R120 000 to R500 000.

Clubs and events
Tony says club membership numbers best reflect the growth of the classic car culture on the Garden Route. “When we were established in 2007 as the seventh MG chapter in the country there were 26 founding members. We now have 101 members and a very active social calendar.”

Members are drawn from all walks of life, and old car clubs are no longer considered an activity for retirees only. “Some own an MG because it evokes a bit of nostalgia, having owned one as a youngster, and the car is a link to the past. There are also some serious collectors with a number of MGs and, with the way classic car values have escalated, they have a sound investment in their collection.”

Established in George by nine old car enthusiasts in 1988, the South Cape Old Car Club now has a membership of more than 300 families.

“The club encourages members to collect, restore, preserve and showcase old vehicles, tractors, motorcycles, stationary engines and any form of motoring memorabilia for future generations. The club also assists and advises new members when acquiring such vehicles,” says Karen.

The efforts of clubs and classic car businesses, which frequently work in tandem with one another, has resulted in several annual showpiece events that draw enthusiasts from around the country. These include the George Old Car Show, the annual Erfenis Toer (Heritage Tour), Classic Car Friday (part of the Jaguar Simola Hill Climb) and a variety of classic car rallies.

“Our annual car show attracts thousands of visitors from South Africa and abroad, which has a positive knock-on effect for a number of businesses. Most hotels and guesthouses are fully booked for the weekend and the show makes use of multiple service providers for the supply of tents, chairs, tables, fencing and other equipment. It is difficult to put a value to the benefit, but it is often underestimated.” The show also hosts a classic car auction and provides a platform for vehicle manufacturers to showcase the latest new car models on the market.

The MG Car Club South Cape hosted the 2014 South African MG Clubs’ national gathering in Knysna, attended by 320 people in more than 150 MGs. “There were some participants who had never been to Knysna, as well as a number of international entrants. The event enabled us to sell Knysna as a destination of choice and a number of people indicated they would be back for a holiday,” says Tony.

Classic, vintage or veteran?
Classic cars are either veteran or vintage vehicles, says Southern Cape Old Car Club chairman Karen van der Merwe. “However, depending on a car’s date of manufacture, they fall into separate, clearly defined categories.”

These include:
Ancestor prior to December 31, 1904
Veteran January 1905 – December 31, 1918.
Vintage January 1919 – December 31, 1930
Post Vintage January 1931 – December 31, 1945
Post War January 1946 – December 31, 1960
Post 60 January 1961 – December 31, 1970
Post 70 January 1971 – December 31, 1974