- Yesterday’s supercars on show at Nasrec
- One day only – if you’re a car fan, be there!
- It might be midwinter – but get out there
JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – The 2019 mid-winter version of the Classic Car Show at the Nasrec Expo Centre south-west of Johannesburg on July 7 will cover a number of milestones and anniversaries.
The biggest birthday bash should be that of the Mini, launched into an unsuspecting world on August 24, 1959. Many from through the years will make the run to the expo as a warm-up to the SA Mini Club’s huge birthday party in Cullinan over the weekend of August 24.
It was followed off the production line some years later by the Austin Maxi, of which little has been heard in recent years – another, much larger, car but also one with a transverse engine and huge cabin space.
The Mini changed the way small cars were built, thanks to the genius of its designer Alec Issigonis. It was the first car to have front-wheel drive with its engine and gearbox mounted transversely in the nose that allocated 70% of its size to humans – a shell style still valid in 2019.
The cars assembled in South Africa from as early as November 1959, though initially by Austin’s sister brand Morris as the Mini Minor. The two brands were essentially identical cars with their tiny 10” diameter wheel rims and engines displacing 850cc but easily capable of 130km/h.
THERE WAS EVEN A ‘WOODY’
The Mini evolved, with racy versions known as the Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S and in the 1970s the car gained a longer nose, known then as the Mini Clubman, Mini 1275 GT and Mini GTS. Minis were built in South Africa in Blackheath, outside Cape Town, until the early 1980s.
There was even Mini Traveller (with a ”woody” frame) and a Mini Van.
Famously, a Mini Cooper S won the Monte Carlo Rally’three times (1964, 1965, 1967). It also won in 1967 but the French disqualified the car for having ”the wrong headlight bulbs”. Great success followed in track racing – and even in sales to retired ladies.
The Mini turns 60 this year and an on-going celebration of the little car has been conducted by current brand owner BMW since the early 2000’s but selling as a grosser car about twice the size of the original but has less humanspace.
The Ford Capri
In the January 1969 edition of Car magazine (South Africa),the editor speculated about a new “mini –Mustang” from Ford Europe that was about to be launched. He thought it might be called either Delta or Capri and indeed by mid-year Ford SA was assembling Capris as 1600, 1600 GT and 2000 XL units. (That last had a rather nasty V4 engine which was dropped very quickly.)
The Capri, like the Mini, became a hit among younger folk and enthusiasts. The most famous the Basil Green V8 Perana conversion. To date, South Africa remains the only country to have done so. It was the brainchild of racer turned car-constructor Basil Green, and Ford South Africa sold them through its dealers.
As many as 500 conversions were built and today (2019) they are highly prized classics – as indeed are the already mentioned models (and later XL2000 and XL 3000 V6.
Expect to see a number of Capris at Nasrec and remember that this was Ford Europe’s answer to the US’ Ford Mustang. Talking of Mustangs – a number are expected at Nasrec (see below).
The Datsun SSS (triple ess)
In that same January 1969 edition of Car it was rumoured that a Datsun (later Nissan) 1600 Dynamic would be launched. Datsun SA was assembling the Datsun 1300 Bluebird in Rosslyn (Pretoria) back then and said there was “no chance of the new 1600 being launched here”.
As we now know, the Datsun 1600 SSS made its debut in late 1969, Car proclaimed “a new champion has arisen among 1600cc production sedans.”
It was no exaggeration. The SSS changed the way South Africans felt about Datsun – indeed, all Japanese cars) until then. It was a 160km/h car in a time when the fabled Cortina GT could only manage 150km/h. And on rallies and tracks the Datsun SSS quickly became legendary for speed and reliability.
The SSS also celebrates its 50th birthday this year. Traditionally, classic Datsuns have had a huge presence at the Classic Car Show.
Plenty of American muscle
American muscle cars from the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, their golden years. Many enthusiasts assert muscle cars only came into being in the late 1960s with the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird taking on the Ford Mustang but respected American historians point out that the whole muscle car “thing” actually had its roots in the very early 1950’s.
That was when American automakers began selling horsepower as automobiles’ most desirable attribute”. At the start of the 1950’s the top American sedans had just over 100hp (about 75kW and by the end of the decade the top “loaded” versions of Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, Studebakers Fords and Pontiacs reached well over 300hp (224kW)!
That continued into the 1960’s with the likes of Pontiac’s GTO – considered to have been the first ”muscle car”. The Mustang, launched in April 1964, was later nicknamed “ponycar”. And imitators that followed (Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, Mercury Cougar, Plymouth Barracuda) also fell into the ponycar category.
Classic American cars are all about V8 engines though they have also been used to good effect in lighter sport cars. One of these is the Cobra, and you’ll see a number of Cobra replicas at Nasrec, as well as the Ford GT40. Incidentally, Ford’s GT40 is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (2019) of its most famous win at the Le Mans 24-Hour race, when Jacky Ickx won from a Porsche 908 by less than 100m!
In addition to a plethora of motorised Americana, the Classic Car Show on July 7 is also expecting a large contingent of British cars to show up.
RULES OF THE SHOW
• Owners of classic cars and one passenger will be admitted free to the Classic Car Shown on August 7, 2019. Other passengers will pay full admission fee.
• The show will run from 8am to 4pm. Classic car owners can access to the display area from 7am.
• Admission prices are R60 for adults if the ticket is booked through Computicket, R80 at the gate. Younger than 12 years R20.
• As usual there will be entertainment, food and drink laid on by the organisers, with live rock music a traditional feature. There will be entertainment for children (karts, jumping castles) and helicopter rides.
• The Classic Cars Show Prawn Festival will also feature.
• There’ll also be stalls selling car-related and lifestyle goods.