Unlike the art world, it was little more than a hundred years ago that the motoring industry began to experience a boom. Industrialisation was in full swing and the motorised carriage entered mainstream life. Ford and his revolutionary Fordism soon ensued and revolutionised the assembly process into the foundation of what is globally used today across all manufacturing industries. Since then, cars as we know them have evolved into the familiar and versatile companions which shuttle us about on a daily basis or serve as bastions of something more special than their utilitarian counterparts.
Fast forward to the 24th of September 2023 and an eclectic collection of these vintage, classic and unique forms of transportation spanning almost a century would band together in key cities around the world for what is known as the Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive. Donned in period-correct attire, drivers, their co-drivers and any additional passengers would wholeheartedly embrace the bygone era representing the cars they would pilot on the spirited jaunt.
In Johannesburg, the flagship drive of South Africa, over 100 of these models congregated in Parkhurst ahead of a short suburban scurry of bewildering other road users and pedestrians. With no air conditioning available, a pleasant Spring breeze vented through the front window and into my exposed hair on the sides of an ascot cap, the immersive experience was fully underway.
Little more than a week later and we were at it again with the Heidelberg Great Train Race with that same ascot cap and pleasant breeze..
Springtime in South Africa means classic car events are in full swing. These Sundays are filled with niche chatter on all things motoring while old patina or restored paintwork basked under the sun in the background. On each occasion, the dozens of models that made it out for the day will eventually be returned to the comfy confines of their garages and tarp covers, safely awaiting their next meaningful outing. While garage queens preserve the perennial
memory of a car after it left the production line, we do like a girl who has some mileage under her belt – they were made to be used after all.
This is where the debate of whether cars can be art becomes nuanced. Art, or traditional art as we know it serves the pure function of being viewed, while it may transport the viewer or their feelings, that is where it ends. Let us take Winston for example, a 1969 MGB GT finished in British Racing Green that I enjoyed with Will Jones during the Great Train Race. An era defined by tasteful chrome work, dainty A-pillars and long, sleek bonnets flanked by circular headlights. Upon arrival, we parked the Briton amongst the dozens of other prized possessions and immediately got caught up in technical lingo.
Looking around the Heidelberg airfield with the cars on display, it dawned on me that an event like this served as a mobile art gallery. Spectators would mill around, pause to take in the sights of the gleaming classic in their presence and then move on to the next. Similar to a rationale, there would be a conversation around the providence while recounts of nostalgic memories would ensue.
Heidelberg was host to this. Reliving a bygone era. Tiger Moths in the sky above, and the flute of a steam train served as ambience beneath the rumble of pre-war Bugattis and Bentleys. Winston, not only a contributor to moving the spirits of spectators and purveyors alike but also physically taking us to and from the event. Moving artwork, remember?
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