This annual event (held in late April or early May) has become one of the most popular things to do around Knysna.
Whether you’re a lover of classic or collectible cars, or just a casual petrolhead with an eye for nostalgia – and another on the future! – you’ll want to mark the Knysna Motor Show down in your calendar as a Garden Route must-see.
With the establishment of a significant number of motorcar collections in the area over recent years, and the subsequent establishment of an equally significant economy of restoration specialists, body shops, parts manufacturers, and other suppliers to support them, the Garden Route of South Africa has recently emerged as an important centre for classic and vintage cars.
One of the best motor shows in the Garden Route
Hardly surprising, then, that Knysna Motor Show – organised by members of the Garden Route Motor Club – has become, “one of the best motors shows in SA,” (grmc.co.za) and a not-to-be-missed date on South Africa’s motoring calendar.
By invitation only
Rather than making it the largest motor show in the country, though, “the focus had to be on attracting top-quality, rare, and interesting vehicles, all to be displayed in a unique format. A prime decision to achieve this objective was to make the Knysna Motor Show an invitation-only event.”
Given the strict selection criteria on which those invitations are issued, the vintage and veteran cars and motorcycles, the super cars, classic sports cars, and new-era electric vehicles on exhibition rank amongst the best in the world – which in turn ensures that each new edition of the Knysna Motor Show remains fresh and interesting.
The show typically includes upwards of four hundred vehicles from around the country, and attracts around 1,500 participants, and up to 8,000 visitors every year.
The range of vehicles on show is always quite amazing – from a locally-owned De Dion-Bouton (a 1904 model made by the company that was considered the largest automobile manufacturer in the world before Henry Ford came along), to an ultra-futuristic, ultra-light, carbon-composite Eco-Car designed and built by students of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. Powered by a fuel-injected, 125 cc, 4-stroke engine, and using ordinary unleaded petrol, this car registered a fuel consumption of just 127.8 km/l in tests.
“In theory it could do 6,393 km on a standard 50 litre tank,” said Mr. Pretorius [an organiser of the Knysna Motor Show]. “That’s about the distance from Johannesburg to Cairo.” mandela.ac.za
Competition is, of course, a highlight of the event. At the 2019 Knysna Motor Show sponsored by Sanlam Private Wealth, for example, trophies were awarded in three categories for cars, and two for motorcycles:
- Best old car (pre 1945): 1928 WO Bentley
- Best classic car: 1957 Mercedes 300SL
- Best overall car on show: 1958 Pontiac Bonneville
- Favourite motorcycle as selected by the public: a BMW 1200 Custom .
- Best motorcycle judged by motorcycle participants: a Sherco 300 Custom (grmc.co.za)
Additionally, the show attracts displays and gatherings from national clubs, too – like the MMM MG Club bi-annual gathering, which coincided with the 2017 show. (MMM = Midget, Magna, and Magnette: just some of the names given to the bewildering array of performance model MGs in the 1930s, when the marque dominated the 750 and 1100 cc classes on the international racing circuit.)
Similarly, the 2019 show featured a display of eighteen vintage Bentleys (some dating from as far back as 1922), as well as a display of twenty Mercedes Benz SL300 and SL 190 models – a category that’s only rarely ever seen together as a group.
Small town hospitality
Besides the cars and bikes, the Knysna Motor Show has become known for its unique country atmosphere, and its welcoming, small town hospitality – with excellent food, a beer tent, and undercover seating for patrons. Visitors from all over the country visits Knysna for the Festival and it is a great opportunity to experience the local cuisine at various top restaurants in the area, and to do some sightseeing – in style of course!
It’s also an event with a heart, with proceeds benefiting Hospice, Knysna Animal Welfare, E-pap, and FAMSA.
Best you add it to your diary now!
Information and show dates
Here’s a short sampling of just some of the vehicles that have been exhibited at the Knysna Motor Show:
- Bentley MK V1 Special (shown in 2017) – one of the world’s most desirable automobiles, with a 4.9 litre Bentley straight-six F-type, fuel injected engine, a wooden frame, and metal skin: a car that started out as a ‘project’ 1951 Bentley MKV1 Sedan, and that was built over a period of two and a half years!
- A steel-bodied, 1982-model De Tomaso Pantera GT5 with a 450 hp Chevy Stroker motor – one of only a handful of right-hand-drive models ever built (these cars were all built in Italy, mostly for the US market);
- The South African-designed and SA-built Barnard BTR. The show has hosted two of these sophisticated Le Mans Prototype-style sports racing cars: a road-legal model fitted with a 750 hp Chevrolet LS7 V8 engine, and a track-focussed version powered by a 650 hp, twin-turbocharged Lexus V8.
- The fully-restored 3,600 cc, 1972 Porsche RSR, engine type 930/25 (shown in 2017) in which Gary Dunkerley won the 1988 Wesbank Modified Saloons Championship: “Possibly the best car of its kind in South Africa,” according to one of the organisers of the festival;
- A 1926 Hispano-Suiza, the only one of its kind in the world, a 1937 Bentley Drop-head Coupé; a 1929 Packard Super Sport; a 1929 Bentley; a 1927 Bugatti; a 1916 Maxwell Tourer, and a selection of 1915 Model Ts – all shown in 2016;
- A 1928 Chater Lea motorcycle (shown in 2017): “a very scarce face-cam racer, and quite possibly the only one of its kind still running anywhere in the world,” said Mr. Pretorius. “We believe due to the evidence of use (or abuse) that this motor was used in the original DJ Race – the Classic Motorcycle Rally between Durban and Johannesburg, in which a face-cam placed second.” (thegremlin.co.za)