A history of Hangklip and Clarence Drive

Tim Le Feuvre who now lives in Hermanus, although he remains a member, says : Below are excerpts from an article written by a member of the Logan family with whom we were very friendly and with who as a teenager I spent many holidays and weekends at Hangklip.

On our GRMC “Summer Holiday” tour, in motoring from Kleinmond & Bettys Bay to Gordons Bay, we drove around the back of the mountain section called Hangklip. Had there been a road around the sea side of the Klip, one would have been able to see the old RADAR station and the staff accommodation barracks referred to in this account as the now ‘Hangklip Hotel”.


Hangklip Story.

By John Logan

I have been persuaded to write some notes about Hangklip by several references I have read recently dealing with The Hangklip Hotel. Much source material has been lost over the years and, if my memory of dates has failed me, I can only say ‘peccavi, I have sinned and ask that any corrections that seem relevant be passed back to me. In the course of his duties my father Mr H Logan, became friendly with Brig. P.F. van der Hoven, O.C. Cape Command and, through him, several senior officers in the Navy and Air Force of the Union Defence Force.

Shortly before World War II broke out in 1939 my father met and befriended Jack Clarence, the moving spirit behind the Hangklip Beach Estates Ltd Company. This company had been set up by Jack, Harold Porter and Arthur Youlden  (the father of ‘Betty’ who gave her name to Betty’s Bay ) to buy up the five farms that included all the land from about 10 miles up the Palmiet River and  the Oudebos farm to the end of Rooi Els at the point where the river flows on the beach.

When the war ended in 1945, many of the buildings which had been erected around the coast to house top-secret radar installations were stripped of their contents and allowed to lie unsecured.  One of these was the station at Hangklip, called Silversands. Interestingly, the diesel generators which once powered the radar transmitters and the other plant at Silversands, as well as the associated camps that housed staff, were stripped   out and sent to Bloemfontein for storage where, a few months later, they were all destroyed by fire! The heavy duty power lines leading from Silversands to the other constructions at Hangklip were also removed – and vanished!

My father was given permission by Jack Clarence and the UDF to occupy the derelict Silversands RADAR station provided he made himself responsible for its upkeep and that of the access road.  His intention was to use the station as a storage site for the materials he had begun to accumulate for his construction work at Rooi Els. His family’s aim was to use the place as often as possible during holidays to visit the nearby beaches !

The one man who contributed more to the development of the area around Hangklip than anyone else was Jack Clarence. Gerald John Vaughan Clarence (1886 – 1950) was the youngest of nine children; his father was the son of a pioneer who had gone prospecting in Central Africa, where he died. Jack was born on a sugar estate in Natal where his father died when Jack was three. The family was brought up by a grand and wonderful lady; his mother. To the end of his life, Jack paid tribute to the values with which she had imbued him and which events have confirmed the strength of his character. Jack Clarence had an interesting career.  He was educated at St John’s College in Johannesburg at a time when that school was housed in a small corrugated iron building. He went on to study engineering at the School of Mines (later the University of the   Witwatersrand) from which he gained his understanding of civil engineering and a very decided set of values. For twenty years thereafter he followed a career with one of the biggest mining houses, gaining a reputation for being a wizard at share valuations. I learned later that Fortune had smiled on him, too, and in successive years he won both the Irish and Calcutta Sweepstakes.

In the years leading up to World War II the increasing international tension gave rise to the idea of a road from Cape Town to Durban, largely following   the   coast, to allow rapid deployment of forces to counter any threat to the country from the sea. At that time Jack Clarence had become fully engaged with the creation of the Hangklip Beach Estates (Ltd) and its development of a series of townships with reasonably sized and inexpensive plots enabling the man-in the-street to build a cottage to which he could eventually retire. In early days, road access to Hangklip involved a long journey over Sir Lowry’s Pass to Kleinmond and thence by pont across the Palmiet, over a very poor gravel road to Rooi Els.

Jack Clarence realised the vital importance of creating a more convenient means of accessing the Hangklip Estate by a new road by the shortest possible route from Cape Town to Hangklip and decided that this would best be achieved by extending the existing coastal road from Gordon’s Bay to the bridge over the Steenbras river, on to Rooi Els, via Kogel Bay and then to upgrade the gravel road system at Hangklip.

When World War II War broke out in 1939 there was much political upset as far as South Africa’s potential as Britain’s ally was concerned but eventually General Smuts (as he then was) proved victorious and South Africa declared war against Germany. One of the tasks undertaken by the Union Defence Force (U.D.F) was the protection of the essential – and vulnerable – sea route around the Cape, vital for Allied communications, the Suez Canal having become being unavailable through the Italian aggression in North and East Africa. At that time Britain asked Commonwealth members to co-operate in the use of “certain technical developments”. These were, of course, the early experiments and tests being conducted at Bawdsey in England that led to top-secret RADAR.

Early in September 1939 General Smuts approached Dr Basil Schonland , Director of the Bernard Price Institute for Geophysical Research at Wits University to prepare for the use of radar. The full story of the development of radar in South Africa has yet to be written and it is probable that this vital contribution to the Allies Victory in 1945 will remain largely unknown as so much detail about early work was hidden under the mask of Secrecy. However, the upshot of this work was that a small team of wireless scientists in Johannesburg including Dr’s Bozzoli from Wits, Dr W.F. Phillips from Natal and F.J Hewitt from Rhodes were deputed to construct a radar apparatus for training in anticipation of the arrival of the finished product from Britain.

Finally, in great secrecy, the test equipment built by this team produced a weak echo from the water tower at Northcliff. From this point improvements followed rapidly and usable equipments were manufactured under the code name “JB”, the first model being installed at Mambrui, North of Mombasa. On 14th May 1941 equipment was sent from Johannesburg and set up for test on Signal Hill. By this time those scientists and technical personnel forming the early developers of radar had been grouped in a military unit known as the Special Signals Services, a division of the South African Corps of Signals with Colonel F Collins in command.  In 1942 twelve locally produced radar sets were installed near Cape Town, East London and Durban.

Coastal Radar was vital and a series of stations housing the transmitters and supporting staff had to be constructed at selected spots around the coast. One of these was at Hangklip (called the Silversands station) and the urgency of an improved road to be built along the coast to access this site and others nearby, it became pressing.

With support from the UDF, the Cape Provincial Administration commenced building this road in 1940. Using native (black) labour, the whole project was controlled by a Provincial Engineer by the name of Jan de Reuck. The route the road was to take along the steep sides of the coastal mountain road was the subject of debate. Jack Clarence’s knowledge of civil engineering now came to the fore. He deplored the design of the coastal Road from Gordons Bay to the Steenbras river mouth, contending that, as it lacked contour planning, it had a number of peaks and lower elevations which underwent erosion and damage during storms.

Eventually it was agreed that the new road from Steenbras to Rooi Els was to have two major high points, the first section of the road gradually rising to its highest elevation about half way between Steenbras and Kogel Bay before following a path down to the beach level at Kogel Bay. From that point the roadway rose again, to another peak before returning to beach level at Rooi Els where a new bridge was to be constructed over the Rooi Els river to replace an older timber bridge connected to the original rather elementary road system at Hangklip. Jack Clarence’s vision and drive in getting this plan adopted has produced one the most spectacular coastal roads in the World, rivalling Chapman’s Peak and some Mediterranean routes. The wisdom of his plan also showed its value during the several floods which have taken place over the past seventy years, the worst being   1955 when other roads were totally washed away and the damage to Clarence Drive was not severe. In the present state of the economy where roads much simpler than this cost many millions of Rand per mile, it is interesting to know that the budget for this project ran at 1200 pounds per mile!

War time and financial constraints limited de Reuck’s options and he was expected to build this road with virtually no survey equipment apart from a single theodolite and dumpy level  and no heavy plant such as bulldozers and loaders.  To ensure the right levels and grade de Reuck used the old Roman TEE rods and measuring tapes.  The route includes several quite deep valleys running from the mountain down to the sea. These presented great difficulty and de Reuck was unable to obtain cement and reinforcing steel to bridge these portions. For this reason he decided upon dry stone walling to create paths over the valleys at the same level as the road, thus maintaining the smooth climb and descent principle adopted for the road, as opposed to the frequent ups and downs of the old road to the  Steenbras river mouth . These rock supports can still be viewed and it is interesting to note that, here again and in the absence of mechanical cranes and machinery de Reuck used another Roman technique called sheer legs to lift the huge stones into place after they had been rough shaped with cold chisels and hammers.

The roadway near the summit before reaching Rooi Els has an interesting feature. This is the mine shaft visible on the face of the rock. Many years ago, the large black outcrop of rock at this point suggested the presence of Silver. Investors sank a shaft and dug a drive that allowed material excavated material to be dumped down an elementary chute to sea level. The first trial of this system resulted in a huge mass of rock and gravel whizzing down to sea level into the waiting lighter where it broke through the deck of the lighter that promptly sank! Like a similar deposit across False Bay which also prompted the establishment of a mine (at Silvermine) near Fish Hoek, this black mineral failed to prove silver bearing ore which was mainly of Manganese.

At this stage, permit me to quote from a book published in his memory by his wife, Beryl soon after his death in 1950.

“The beginning of that road seemed so small and feeble – a few natives with picks, shovels and a few wheelbarrows and one white man starting on a nine-mile road that was surveyed to pass through thick rock in some places. Jack was delighted and said it was a beginning and that he would not allow anything to stop its steady progress. By constant pressure he got more men and more equipment, more people interested and more money. Even the war did not cause any delay for he found ways, all honest ways, of getting the military to help him.”

Such was the man and this coastal road is a wonderful memorial to Jack Clarence and his vision for the project and to Jan de Reuck for his genius as a constructor. It is sad to note that, when many years later, the Administration agreed to upgrade this route and to acknowledge Jack Clarence as the moving spirit behind the project, no public tribute was made to Jan de Reuck for his contribution. The official reason for this decision was that he was simply doing the job for which he had been paid. Thus bureaucracy rewards its hero’s!

Scenic coastal drive

Reports have emerged to the effect that this road was built by Italian prisoners of War. This is not correct and in any event the progress of the War in its earliest years certainly did not offer a source of labour until much later, after 1942, when thousands of Italians surrendered after the Allies victories in North and East Africa, particularly after project Compass when the mass of prisoners captured became problematic. Many Italian captives were used to build roads and public works after 1942, a singular example being the du Toits Kloof mountain road to Worcester. A significant number of these Italians elected to stay on after the War becoming South African citizens who have continued to make major contributions to the country’s economy.

In fact the labour force available to Jan de Reuck consisted exclusively of black African convicts. In those days the restrictions which the Law applies to this activity today didn’t exist and blacks built this road and much else. At the outset, it seems that the men were transported to site daily from a temporary gaol near Gordon’s Bay. Later this plan involved far too great a delay and an interim gaol was built at Kogel Bay. This was a very primitive structure and evidence of its existence near the point where the stream at Kogel Bay debouches on to the beach has vanished.  I remember seeing   traces of these buildings early in 1946 when my family travelled out to Hangklip for the first time.

In order to regularise the situation and to make a more permanent place to house this labour force it was decided to build a fairly modern gaol beside the Main Road at Pringle Bay. Eventually this gaol was built and used to house around two hundred convicts. When labour was required for any construction work on the Estate, it became the practice to hire small gangs of convicts from this gaol and, if I remember correctly, they earned five shillings per diem for their work. In addition, a guard was required for any group of more than five convicts and the user was required to provide 10 shillings per guard and food for the group, per day.

When the time came for my father to start work on his land at Rooi Els, he hired groups of convicts of from five to ten members. He became interested in these men and took every possible opportunity to talk to them about their troubles. Most of these convicts had been sentenced to ‘life with hard labour’ which implied that they had committed very serious offences. It became obvious that much labour was likely to be needed both to finish Clarence Drive but also for the upgrading and further building of roads and pipelines at Hangklip. For this reason the Estate built the gaol at Pringle Bay (which was visible on the right as we drove over the river bridge at the Pringle Bay turnoff ).  This building housed over two hundred convicts and the staff needed for their control and management.

The huge building consists of a four-square block with the front portion used to house the Gaolers and guards needed for the management of the large number of criminals the place housed. The three remaining blocks contained cells each housing about forty convicts and five smaller cells in a punishment block for recalcitrant or difficult men. In the centre of the building a quadrangle contained a raised platform on which a pipeline system with sprinklers was mounted for convicts to wash their clothes – and themselves. Cold water, of course!

With changes in the Law after 1948 it ceased to be legally acceptable for offenders to be sentenced to hard labour and the Estate could no longer support the cost of housing two hundred convicts without their labour being available. The gaol was therefore abandoned, some years later being bought by the Estate Manager, Mr Roy Makepeace, with the intention of establishing a caravan park and back-packer hostel.

Years later in 1958 when my family was asked to vacate the Radar Station at Hangklip and I had decided to build on our Rooi Els property, we were offered the use of one of the gaoler’s flats as a base from which to work and gave me access to the place which I explored. The gaol had water borne sewerage , of course, and once this became blocked, I had the nasty task of opening up the manholes on the upper level of the septic tank the size of small tennis court to clear the problem.  The cost of feeding this number of convicts was a major factor and the land immediately below the gaol and along the bank of the Buffels River was levelled, irrigated and used to produce almost all of the vegetables needed by the labour force. In course of his chats with his convicts (!) father told me that they were very happy with their circumstances and particularly valued the food they ate.

When I came to occupy the gaol (voluntarily!) and was exploring the surrounding land I came across an aqueduct built to bring water from the outflow of the Buffels River Dam to the vegetable lands along the Buffels river bank.  As this offered me an interesting   project, I decided to repair this water source. Over many weekends, with a long-suffering friend, we worked to fix gaps in the ditch. Success eventually greeted our efforts and a very large amount of water arrived at the gaol one night, when we were having a braai. Lacking much foresight, I had made no arrangement to direct this water if it ever arrived and had not done anything to control what soon became a flood; we had to breach the aqueduct to avoid being washed into the river. As far as I know this aqueduct is still  in existence.


Social Media for Seniors

Social Media for Seniors

By Dennis Cook (a senior citizen)

For the past 2 years it has been my task to promote the Knysna Motor Show and the Garden Route Motor club through social media channels. At a recent meeting of the organising Committee for the Knysna Motor Show where we were discussing the Facebook campaign results, our Chairman asked those around the table (10 stalwarts) who used Facebook. Apart from Peter (and myself) no one did. Does this matter though?  Well, we are about to introduce a new Website for the Club and I have a concern that many of our members may not use the website and get the benefits; and what if it was to be decided not to distribute newsletters (Torque) but only to post them to the website?

There is a good case to encourage the use of the Internet and Social media among Senior citizens (which describes many of our members). Some may say that they are from a generation before the Internet and that they are not familiar with the technology, but this is a cop-out.  You probably already use a smartphone and use the most popular messaging and picture sharing app which is WhatsApp? So you are already on the fringes of Social media communication. Maintaining social relationships has been defined as a core element of aging well. With a considerable number of older adults living alone, or apart from their dispersed families, social media provides the possibility to engage in meaningful social contact by joining online social networks and online discussion forums.  Further positive consequences have been shown to be overcoming loneliness, relieving stress, and raising feelings of control and self-efficacy.

Senior citizens are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook as it is a great way to communicate with friends and family who live far away. Although I initially started using social media tools for my business, I now find that it helps to keep up with past and present friends as well as my family which, like many of us, are scattered all over the world. For seniors the use of Facebook  and Instagram enables them to keep in touch with long lost friends and relatives, see pictures of grandchildren, and learn more about the interests and causes that mean something to them. But there’s more to social media than Facebook and more to senior citizen use than a few family pictures.

Keeps you in touch. Social media is a remarkable tool for keeping in touch, not only with family, but many are reuniting with school and University friends, army buddies and colleagues from previous occupations. Facebook enables us to view interesting videos, read blog posts, share pictures and have conversations with people who we thought we’d never see again. Grandparents are friends with University-aged grandkids and are keeping up with their accomplishments. Grandparents can go online now and see pictures taken just moments before by their grandchildren, creating a feeling of closeness. To say social media has revolutionized the way families connect is an understatement.

 Research and Technical assistance. Seniors are using Google, YouTube and social media tools to learn more about topics that interest them. In some cases, it can lead one to cultivate hobbies and even business ideas.  If you are having difficulty tuning your Classic car or carrying out a repair YouTube will be almost certain to have a video showing how to do it. There are any number of car forums where members post, ask and answer questions of those who have similar makes of cars that may help you.

Entertainment. Senior citizens can watch old television shows and movies, as well as find videos and even favourite songs from “back in the day”. They can read eBooks, articles and blog posts, find song lyrics and find out what their favourite entertainers are up to. Did you know that there are literally hundreds of free movies available on YouTube? Petrol heads can watch motor sport from almost any era in the comfort of their homes. People with limited mobility, people living on their own and those who can’t get out and about, as well as they used to, no longer have to feel lonely when they’re home alone.

Share.  Senior citizens aren’t merely people who are older. They’re also people who have been in the trenches. They have amazing stories and brilliant ideas. Through social media they can share all that good stuff with others. They network online and offer advices and mentoring to younger people and students and they can start Facebook pages or groups to talk to others of their generation.


Creating a Facebook profile is easy. Just follow these steps:

Go to www.facebook.com/r.php

Enter your name, email or mobile phone number, password, date of birth and gender.

Click “Create an Account”.

To finish creating your account, you will need to confirm your email or mobile phone number, with the code or PIN that they will send you.

Some words of Caution

  • Don’t share your personal details on line, such as home address, financial information or even phone number. (you can use Facebook personal messaging if you need to send this info to a friend).
  • Be selective with whom you interact.
  • Click links to other websites with caution.
  • Be warned that an avid use of SocialMedia may lead to an overdose of South African Politics!
  • Create Strong Passwords. Use a different password for each of your social media accounts.

The GRMC Facebook page is : www.facebook.com/gardenroutemc

The Club website is to be found at  : https://www.grmc.co.za/

Reference : Deb Ng : “Social Media Marketing All in One for Dummies.”


Classic cars lead investments in ‘assets of passion’ over past decade

13 JUNE 2019 – BY LEON STRUMPHER; SANLAM Private Wealth

Ferrari leads the pack of the most highly priced wheels, as 59% of the classic cars sold at auctions for more than $5m have been Ferraris

Looking back over the past decade it is hard to ignore the tailwind that near-zero interest rates gave consumers in the US and in Europe in purchasing power terms. This in my view was the single biggest impetus in the search for alternative asset classes, especially luxury goods or so-called “assets of passion”. There wasn’t much incentive for investors to hold their cash in the bank or in developed market government bonds, and what better place to put excess money than in assets that can actually be enjoyed? Within the luxury goods asset class, classic cars have done exceptionally well. For the decade ending December 2018, the Knight Frank luxury investment index has measured collectable cars as gaining 258% in US dollar terms, trumping the 10-year returns on watches, wine, jewellery, stamps and art. The only other investment in this sector that would have provided a better return is rare and collectable whisky, which gained 582% over the period. By comparison, if you’d invested in the Nasdaq composite index you’d have enjoyed a total return in US dollars (including dividends) of 330%, while the S&P 500 delivered 250%.

The luxury investment index compiled by Knight Frank, the world’s largest private property advisory company, focuses on the spending habits of individuals with wealth in excess of $30m, excluding the primary residence. This comprehensive report on the world of the really wealthy is well researched and based mainly on the results of well-known global auction houses, as well as private transactions. The data on classic cars is obtained from HAGI, the global authority in this field, which has been tracking classic and rare cars through various auctions over the past few decades.

The best-known international auction is the RM Sotheby’s auction held annually in Pebble Beach in Monterey, California. In 2008 this auction netted $35m, and the average price of a vehicle was $172,439. In 2018 the same auction recorded $158m, with an average price of $1.27m. The average auction price thus increased by 22.1% per year over the decade.

Looking at individual sales, the most expensive car sold at the 2008 auction was a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO, at a price of $28.5m. At the 2018 auction, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $48.4m, giving that particular marque and series a return of 5.5% per year, which isn’t great but is nonetheless stable and defensive. At last year’s Gooding & Co Pebble Beach auction, a 1935 Duesenberg Model J once owned by actor Gary Cooper was sold for $22m, a record for a pre-war car and the most expensive American car ever sold.

Deep knowledge

What’s the best way of approaching the classic car market, especially if you’re a newbie investor in this asset class? It emerged during the conference that the first thing you’ll need is a deep knowledge of the industry. You’ll have to do a lot of homework to learn which collectable cars will appreciate in value. Investment cars vary dramatically in price tag and returns, depending on their rarity and condition and the size of the buyer’s pocket. Scarcity remains one of the most important factors in appreciating prices in classic cars. Every classic car that’s left to rust or is scrapped or shipped abroad leaves a gap that can’t be replaced. A winning combination is scarcity, good looks, original engine and components, original paint and upholstery, and low mileage.

Other basic principles to keep in mind include the provenance — or story — of the vehicle. You need to understand its journey. Most of the investment cars being bought or sold around the world today have a story, some more intriguing than one might imagine. Other important factors are production numbers, whether the car has matching engine and chassis numbers, its originality, and in some cases mileage. Besides the initial cost of classic cars, buyers also need to plan for taking care of and protecting them, which includes some kind of real estate to house their vehicles, and reliable insurance. And you also need to drive your car from time to time.

While it’s impossible to pinpoint which vehicles currently have the best investment potential, it’s safe to say the ultra-rare and pristine cars being auctioned at renowned shows worldwide should remain sought-after and will appreciate in value over time. Just like high-end artworks, these vehicles are seen as the Picassos of the classic car world. Investors entering this market for the first time would do well to look at the younger classics: 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s models, V8 and preferably manual transmission. Mercedes models from the 1970s are becoming sought-after, with prices rising steadily. As is the case in the retail sector, brand is crucial. The key is to get a vehicle from a good marque before there’s a great demand for that model. One that stands out far above any other when it comes to collectable status is Ferrari. To date, 59% of the classic cars sold at auctions for more than $5m have been Ferraris.

Generally speaking, when it comes to the ultra-rare collectable cars sold on auction, prices very much depend on what buyers are willing to pay. If you’re looking to start investing in collectable cars, especially if you’re thinking of importing a vehicle, you’d currently be ‘paying up’ in my view. Why? The rand is now slightly weaker, which is not in your favour. Also, the asset class has experienced strong returns for the past decade, the US bull market is in extended territory, and developed market interest rates are poised to start rising, which may result in consumers starting to save more than spend.However, for long-term investors whose level of investment is at the top end of the market, it would be advisable to jump right in, without delay. I would be patient with certain marques and series, such as the Mercedes Pagoda and the Porsche 911 from the 1960s — they’ve enjoyed phenomenal growth that is in my view unsustainable over the long term. Apart from these few exceptions, however, there are many classic cars on the market that are fast gaining huge collectable appeal. Start doing your homework today!

  • Strumpher is portfolio manager at Sanlam Private Wealth.

SAVVA Technical Tip 153 – Hungry Rats

In recent times there appears to be an infestation of rats in many towns and cities – both the two and four legged variety.  However, as a owner of a few old cars the four legged variety are the ones that concern me most and the following could be a solution to this problem. A friend recently purchased a very nice series one Jag XJ6 with a manual transmission.  A lovely Classic car but since the demise of the previous owner some time ago it has stood around rather unloved. He quite rightly saw the potential in this stunning car – possibly one of the finest Jags ever built and destined to be a serious classic car (my humble opinion).  A rebuilt engine was fitted and it was heading for the paint shop when it was discovered the rats had made a meal of the wiring under the dash. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like rewiring it? Never mind the cost, auto electricians run for the hills when you approach them to take on rewiring jobs like this.

A recent visit to a Midas shop came up with a product that may have a solution to this happening to the vehicles we have in storage or don’t use very often. Displayed on the counter was box of Rat Repellent spray cans. Apparently numerous of their customers have also had rat problems. It appears even rats are finding things tough in current times and have had to revert to eating car wiring. This could be a good investment at around R75.00 a can.


What Exactly is an ”Original” Classic Car?

By David Schultz from the November 2010 issue of Hemmings Classic Car

There is one term within the collector car hobby that, above all others, has truly driven me nuts over the years, which is “original.” There may be some close challengers but to my mind, no word has been more abused. It’s abused by car collectors, car dealers, auction catalogues and even automotive journalists.
I don’t have enough fingers and toes on which to count the number of times a car collector has told me his or her car was “completely original” and, after seeing it, I immediately realized it was a restored car. Some car dealers probably don’t know the difference between “restored” and “original.” The best ones do, and say so in their advertising. The auction companies typically print what the car owners tell them about their cars; they assume the owners know what they have.
For most serious vintage car enthusiasts, it shouldn’t be too difficult to determine a car’s correct status. A Vintage or Classic car is restored, an unrestored original, or somewhere in between. This is where a category I call “maintained” comes in–a Classic car that has been restored only as necessary, to keep it on the road. That would include maintenance and necessary mechanical repairs, as well as minimal repair work to the body and interior.
My 1931 Lincoln Town Sedan is a maintained car. More than 60 percent of the car remains original, but I would never describe it as an “all-original” car. Some car owners refer to their car as original because they honestly–and mistakenly–believe that once a thorough restoration has been completed, the car is original. It’s not. For me, the correct term is “restored to as-original condition.” As the saying goes, a car is only original once. Think of it as virginity–once it’s gone, it’s gone.
I’ve seen advertisements that read “1925 Belchfire touring, completely original except for repaint, new top and interior. Call Hugo at 000-0000.” “Completely original except for….?” Are these guys serious? Or how about, “1957 Whatzit convertible, 100 percent original, frame-off restoration, every nut and bolt restored. Call Benny at 000-0000.” This is not an original car. Get in line for your restoration award, but don’t call this car an original.
Going back to my 1931 Lincoln, that car is far from being a show car, but everything on it is authentic–as originally delivered–with the exception of 80 years of wear and those areas of the car that were restored out of necessity. The Classic Car Club of America has a judging class called Touring. This is for cars like my Lincoln that are regularly driven to events. These cars are judged for what they are–cars that rarely, if ever, ride in trailers.
In my lifetime, I’ve been lucky enough to see some truly outstanding original automobiles and I’ve even owned one. I learned there’s special difficulties inherent in owning an original automobile, particularly a rare one. These cars become fragile–not breakable, but the interior, paint and top on an open car do begin to deteriorate.
My low-mileage, all-original 1923 Locomobile was mechanically bulletproof, but its top and interior had truly become fragile. The paint was slowly disappearing. As much as I enjoyed driving that car with my family, we had to cut back and finally, reluctantly, sold it rather than face the restoration issue.
I’d watched a friend in a similar situation begin what he called “minor repairs.” Once he’d started, he couldn’t stop. Before it was over, the car was far from original. However, it was now usable, and that meant he could drive it and enjoy it. In the end, we must decide how badly we want to preserve history. Do we do it to the extent that we no longer drive the car? Or do we obtain a greater enjoyment preserving the car? Then there are the spectacular show cars; they’re great to look at, but unless you drive your car, you’re missing most of the fun. A fellow enthusiast recently told me that the best award a vintage or Classic car can receive is a stone chip. A lot of truth to that.