I have so thoroughly enjoyed a recent period that encompassed a host of motoring experiences in three provinces. It started with the Stars of Sandstone near Ficksburg in the Free State, then went to the Southern Cape for the Knysna Motor Show and the Jaguar Simola Hill Climb, and finally to the beautiful Western Cape for the ride-and-drive launch of the latest Porsche 911 sport car.
This meant I was able to view and experience transport modes going right back to the ox wagon pulled by a span of magnificent Afrikaner oxen at Sandstone. My wife and some of our other friends chose this slowcoach manner of touring the magnificent Sandstone Estate.
This venue is a veritable treasure trove for those interested in steam-powered vehicles – locomotives, rollers, trucks, and traction engines – historic weaponry and vehicles from the SA Armour Museum in Bloemfontein and the Sandstone collection as well as classic cars, motorcycles, tractors, trucks, and historic aircraft. A real feast!
At this stage it is not known if there will be another 14-day extravaganza at Sandstone or rather shorter, weekend events, but those privileged to have attended the 2019 Stars of Sandstone event were left with wonderful memories and admiration for those people who continue to preserve our heritage to world class standards.
Next stop was the Southern Cape, first to attend the much-vaunted Knysna Motor Show where exhibits are on an invitational basis and limited to about 400 vehicles. This show, which is backed by Sanlam Private Wealth, was being staged on the grounds of the Knysna High School for the eighth year. The weather played along, and the beautifully presented vehicles parked on the green grass fields could not fail to impress.
I was somewhat disappointed by the motorcycle display as I had expected some exotics such as Brough Superiors or Vincents to be on show as the Southern Cape is known for being a region with some of the best car and motorcycle collections in South Africa. However, it was nevertheless a most impressive display.
The weather didn’t quite play along the following weekend when it was time for the three-day Jaguar Simola hill climb in Knysna, Temperatures dropped, the skies clouded over and there was some drizzle, but fortunately the organisers were able to keep the show on the road. This was another impressive event, with many exotic classic and modern cars.
The attraction of being a winner in this hill climb, which was in its 10th year, has resulted in a great deal of time and money being spent to ensure a very quick time up the 1.9-km road leading to the Simola Country Club. One of the most way-out cars was a space-framed Nissan GT which was built in New Zealand basically as a dragster and then made to “go around corners” by the team from Scribante Racing.
It was still in a development phase at Simola, with the engine putting out “only” 1 200 hp as the electronics are still being sorted out. It also used a huge Porsche rear wing mounted in front of the grille to help with downforce, which is evidently the equivalent of three similar, 1 300kg cars stacked on the roof!
Despite the car’s “growing pains” Franco Scribante took this matt gunmetal grey beast up the hill in 39.342 sec to take the King of the Hill title for modified production cars. Wilhelm Baard, in a similar Nissan, was just behind in 40.349 sec.
Well-known advocate Andre Bezuidenhout, driving a Gould single-seater hill climb special from the UK, set the quickest time of the weekend at 36.764 sec, pipping Robert Wolk in the A1 GP car powered by a Ferrari engine, who clocked 36.920 sec.
Franco Scribante defended his Classic Conqueror title on the Friday, driving the amazing 1970 Chevron B19 powered by a normally aspirated two-litre Ford engine.
Jaguar, which was the event’s naming sponsor for the sixth year, made good use of the event to promote not only its petrol-powered cars but also its electric i-Pace, which has astounding performance in keeping with the Jaguar image.
Three of these electric marvels were driven by former champion race drivers Mike Briggs, Deon Joubert and Shaun Watson-Smith. They were not recharged during the three days despite numerous high-speed trips up the hill.
The Cronje brothers, Mark, and Gavin, who are both former karting world champions, had a tight head-to-head in identical F-Type SVR sports cars, with Gavin finally setting the fastest time as his brother’s car ran out of fuel. The organisers said this was the most successful of the hill climbs held to date with 17 000 spectators visiting over the three days.
Next stop for me was the ride-and-drive launch of the new Porsche 911 sports car in the Western Cape. This iconic sports car still remains true to its roots when it was launched in 1963 with its engine still “hanging out the back” and styling remaining faithful to the original svelte shape, with its lineage still very much apparent.
The latest model is the eighth generation, with the designation 992. The previous model, the 991 was the all-time best seller and cumulative Porsche 911 sales now exceed one million cars in 56 years.
The way this car has evolved over many years makes it worthy of the term “Timeless Machine that was used at the launch.
We had the opportunity to drive both the S and 4S (with 4 denoting 4-wheel drive) over a scenic and testing route with the weather playing along: blue skies and no wind!
Both models are powered by a 3-litre flat six turbocharged engine developing 331 kW (450 hp). For the first time this model has an 8-speed PDK transmission and is faster, more powerful, and far more digital when compared to its predecessor. Driving was pure pleasure and what really impressed was the excellent ride quality, which makes it a daily driver and not just a car for the weekends and track days.
By Roger Houghton