Knysna’s first car was a Benz, ordered for Mr. Harden of the Standard Bank by a Mr. Weeks of Coote, Noble & Co. (where Russell’s store is today). It was assembled with the help of the handbook in 1906. Mr. Weeks himself bought himself a car from the USA – a Delahaye.

The first Model T Ford in Knysna was ordered by a Mr. Thesen and arrived on his ship the S. S.”Agnar”.

In November 12912, the arrival of Mr. Wotton’s Overland brought the total number of cars in Knysna to 12. It is recorded that the more powerful car at the time belonged to Mr. Horn, who owned the Royal Hotel. The make is not known, but it packed a whopping 22 h.p.! The first garage in town was located where the carwash behind Pick & Pay is today.

The Motor Garge

Magistrate Mr. A.G. Smidt (who founded the Knysna Yacht Club) drove a Standard, and Dr. Haw a Swift. There were Napiers and Humbers too and Lilly Basson caused a stir when she arrived in a cloud of smoke and dust at a Duthie garden party at Belvidere Manor in her new Cadillac. A Darracq was delivered from the quayside to the town on the old ‘Coffee Pot’ logging train and a car service was operated between Knysna and George using Hupmobiles, but with frequent delays at Bernard’s Drift in Rheenendal

Knysna - George

In 1924 a new Chevrolet cost £237-10 (inclusive of 5 cord tyres!)

Chevy at Heads

By 1932 there were 400 cars registered in Knysna. In September 1393 a Mr. Colin Cloete drove most of the day and through the night from Johannesburg to Knysna in a record 22 hours and 20 minutes! Crossing the Knysna River in the beginning was over Oudrift – the old wagon crossing. A wooden bridge was built in 1893, followed by a concrete bridge in 1915, which had a very short life. Ot was washed away the following year! The pontoon was used until the steel ‘red’ bridge was completed in 1923. This served Knysna until the current ‘white’ bridge was commissioned in 1987.

The GRMC is indebted to Knynsa historian Mrs. Margaret Parkes for the above.


In the early 80's there were a few chaps owning classic cars in Knysna. After some  investigation we made contact with a newly formed Club in Plettenberg Bay called the  Plett Classic Car Club where I met people like Neville Mayhew and Boet Keet.

The meetings were very casual at first with Sunday drives and a few braais. This continued for about two and a half years with Knysna members growing and Plett members falling by the wayside. It was agreed upon that Knysna should become the  official headquarters and that we would run the Club with a change in Club names.

Mike Roumanoff  had just retired to Knysna with 16 of his classic cars and a  lot of knowledge of how clubs affiliated to S.A.V.V.A. should be run. This was very important as a number of members were keen in taking part in rallies. Mike's close friend at the time was Sheridan Renfield who was Chairman of the Piston Ring Club in Johannesburg.

After calling a General Meeting to form a recognised Club, we were informed by S.A.V.V.A. that we would need a certain number of members to constitute a Club. After lengthy discussions with the Piston Ring Club of Johannesburg, it was agreed that we would become a branch of the Johannesburg Club and that we would have to change our name to the Piston Ring Garden Route Club, with the idea that one day we would have enough members and be an autonomous Club.

After about two years with Mike as Chairman, we were informed that we had progressed  far enough and large enough to stand on our own feet. A Special Meeting was called and the name changed to the Garden Route Motor Club.

Mike was still Chairman, but only for a couple of years. Boet Keet was elected as the new  Chairman and the Club grew from strength to strength. Don Steenkamp took over from Boet and still the Club grew to what we have today with our present Chairman, Bunny Mentz.

I stand to be corrected but myself and Neville Mayhew are the only surviving members of the original Club in Plettenberg Bay.

If you would like to see more history of the GRMC, click on the February 2011 edition of Torque in the Newsletter section and read Neville Mayhew's recollections