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Vintage and veteran rally

Broadcast date : 9th April 2006

The sleepy hamlet of Prince Albert in the Southern Cape mountains was the starting point for an elite collection of pre-1925 cars setting out at dawn for distant George.

This 1911 example owned by Kevin Casey was painted in its original red. Later in its production life, you could have a Model T in any colour you liked as long as it was black.

Henry Ford was the inventor of the automotive production line and built the Model T by the millions well into the 1920s. 

Later Model Ts were all painted black, simply because black paint dried faster than any other colour.

This early model-T with its brass light fittings looks beautiful in red. Itís a complex car to drive, with the pedals arranged completely differently to modern cars.

Crank her up and sheís ready to run. Another proud owner of a red 1911 Model T is Southern Cape Old Car Club secretary Phillip Kuschke.

Phillipís car was unlucky to break an axle, but in Outshoorn that same day he was able to get it repaired and arrive in time for the George Motor Show held the following day. The Model Tís from this early era use a four-cylinder 2,9 litre engine, extremely low-revving and rated at 20 horsepower.

Much more modern was this 1916 Maxwell, thoroughly enjoyed by Karl and Tilly Reitz. The car has been in Karlís family since 1954.
If you are talking sheer speed, and unusual design, you need look no further than the Stanley Steamer. These cars were amazingly fast and even production models such as this 1907 example were rumored to be capable of 160 km/h!!!

A frightening thought, considering the basic horse-cart wheels and tyres, suspension and chassis technology, not to mention the barest existence of anything we know today as braking power.

A car that runs on water, or in this case steam, is a concept about a century ahead of its time.

When filming the steamer, the most difficult part was keeping the car in frame. Every time we drew alongside in our modern shoot vehicle, the Stanley shot forward like a runaway train.

One of the "hottest" cars on the run was this unlikely-looking AC 1550 saloon, owned by Gordon Stewart of George.

This car is the only known survivor of its type in the world, so to call it rare would be an understatement.

It has a steel chassis and a body made of fabric laid over wood, which was quite a common practice in its era, this being a 1928 model.

It was also nick-named "the suitcase" because of its built-in luggage compartment in a period when most cars never had boots, but had luggage racks mounted at the rear.

What makes it so "hot"? Well, it had an overhead camshaft engine, which was extremely advanced when it was designed in 1924.

In fact so advanced was this English design that the basic engine was used in variants of the British-built AC sports cars right up until the early 1960s. Think of an M3 BMW and youíll have an idea of the AC fifteen-fiftyís status in 1928.

It was Karl Benz that built the first patent motor car in 1886. By 1921 when this Benz Tourenwagen was produced, the Benz company was still five years away from its historic merger with the Daimler company, which would endow all Benzs with the historic name "Mercedes."

This "pre-Mercedes" Benz is owned by Waldo Scribante of George and has a body built up from laminated strips of wood.

Only the engine cover is steel, which conceals a 25 horse four-cylinder engine that endows the big Benz with a cruising speed of 60 km/h and a top speed of just over 70.

Talbot is a French company with a strong motorsport history. This Darracq built in 1924 took part in the historic Camps Bay Hill Climb.

One of the Talbotís claims to fame at the time is that, rather unusually, it had four-wheel brakes. The boat-tail bodywork is truly stylish, typical of the French cars in the 1920s and 1930s.

Leisurely pit stops were the order of the day and the old timers took a breather before traversing the breathtaking scenery of Meiringspoort. The Stanley Steamer was showing some ill temperament at this stage, but owner Kobus van Jaarsveld was determined to get things on the boil.

The steep hills and piping hot weather made the going tough for some of the cars. One has to bear in mind that these very early cars were competing against horse-drawn vehicles in terms of performance, so even an average speed of 30 km/h was heady stuff in the early twentieth century.

In the 120 year history of the motor car, technology has progressed a long, long way.

What a lovely way to spend a summerís day!

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