It will be great news in some parts of the world to hear that the first vehicle to be driven on a country’s roads, 100 years after it left the manufacturer’s showroom, is still intact and parked somewhere in the foyer of a city building.
Many motor vehicle enthusiasts will stampede to see the masterpiece, maybe to bid for it, and make it one of their classic collections.
The history of the automobile fascinates many motorists and revelations that the first vehicle shipped to Zimbabwe in 1901, a Belgian-made Delyn motorcycle, is still intact and safely kept at the foyer of the Bulawayo Club, provides exciting reading.
The editor of Vintage Classic Club of Zimbabwe newsletter and the organisation’s immediate past chairman, Bob Ross, said restoring the classic and vintage vehicles was a passion among members with a zeal to preserve the history of the masterpieces.
“In fact the first vehicle ever in Rhodesia, was a Belgian motor cycle that came here in 1901, a Delyn. That motorcycle still exists. It is in the foyer of the Bulawayo Club,” said Ross.
The Vintage Classic Club of Zimbabwe
Four Zambians, one of them driving a 1964 Peugeot, was among the many vehicle enthusiasts who graced the local club show at the Pomona Shopping Centre, opposite Sam Levy’s Village in Borrowdale on Sunday.
The club members, most of them above 60 years old, could not hide their joy in possessing some of the beauties of their time and the dressing adorned by most of them told a story from a proud generation.
Said Ross in an interview with Business Weekly at Pomona Shopping Complex: “We are enthusiastic and we meet together socially because we share common interests. We would like to display our work; our toys to members of the public. In fact, it is a good source of recruiting new membership.”
These car enthusiasts meet every third Sunday of the month at Pomona Shops informally and whoever is around with his or her classic beauty, is free to display it. This week’s display was held under the theme, “Having Fun with Historic Vehicles.”
Asked if some of the vehicles were on sale, Ross said: “I do not know, all the cars are owned by individual members and I do not know whether they are for sale or not. We are not sales agents, we are a social club. But I am sure the right amount of money will tempt everybody.”
Among the vehicles displayed were classic Rolls-Royce, Alfasud, Morris Minors, Bentley, Mercedes Benz, VW Beatles and motor cycles, some of whose models featured during 1914 First Word War. Ross said the 1917 Franklyn on display, was a label of love.
He said Dave Rock, spent 10 years building it, adding that he had owned his motorcycle for over 50 years.
“It has to be a big sum of money to tempt me to part with it because I am emotionally attached to it,” said Ross.
The most intriguing thing is that most of the vehicles were highly polished, some with not even a single scratch despite being on the road for over 100 years.
Explained Ross: “Some of the vehicles you see here are original while others are re-sprays. They are done by professionals who know what they are doing.
“Some can afford the cost more easily than others — that is life.”
History of the Club
Before the formation of the club, there existed many small clubs over the years, including the Vintage Car Club of Rhodesia, the Classic Car Club and The Vintage Motor Cycles. Ross said as times became difficult, they had to join forces.
“The divisions between us were not healthy, isolating yourself is not the way to go. There used to be a lot of competition in vintages and classic and preference and sometimes it would spill over into personal likes and personal dislikes. We share that common interest in vehicles and their history,” said Ross.
He said the most splendid and admirable vehicle on Sunday’ display was Donald Mashukwa’s classic Mercedes’ Benz that was manufactured in 1951.
“Donald Mashukwa’s 1951 Mercedes model is very nice, well kept and he knows what he is doing. Nobody has a better restorer than Dave Rock with his 1917 Franklyn, it has been here in the country all of its life.”
He added: “This is not really a show, this is an open club monthly event. The third Sunday of every month we meet here informally, no programme to it, whoever is around comes and meets up with friends, share a coffee and share a chart.
“Also it’s a place where we meet with friends and find where certain spare parts, tyres and batteries can be obtained at better prices. You get a lot of knowledge by being a member of the club.”
Ross lamented the loss of many classic and vintage vehicles to South Africa that could be today decorating Zimbabwe’s roads.
“Members did not want to sell, but they had to sell because they needed money and a lot have been tempted by good amounts.
“I advertised a motorcycle (a 1937) in Harare a year ago and nobody in Harare responded and the phone was going red hot from England. The guy paid in advance five months before I even shipped it. He was saying where can I pay and I said give the money to my daughter.”
There are a number of black people who are also members of the club and Mashukwa is one of them who was bubbling with his classic 1951 Mercedes Benz.
Besides Mashukwa, there is Blessing Kunyema who also frequents the social gathering.
Said Mashukwa: “It was a passion for me. It is also that connection with history. We used to own this when we were young. It was my dream car.
“We do not do this for money, money is a welcome benefit. We just love cars, we love old cars. You can see that all these cars are different. There was an art. But now with these Japanese cars, they all look the same. The lights are almost the same, look at the bumpers.
“These cars were for special occasions, you would not get into a Bentley or a Rolls Royce with a pair of shorts, you would feel like you are diminishing it.”
The event attracts even young people who are marvelled by the beauty of the yesterday cars.