2018 Ford Veteran and Vintage Tour – Southern Cape 5 to 9 February 2018
By Adrian Denness
When I took the Model Ford T to Uniondale last year for the pre-show VetTour, I thought it would be her last long trip for a good while. But I reckoned without Philip Kuschke and the Southern Cape Old Car Club, who organised a Ford Veteran and Vintage Tour to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Model T Centenary Tour of 2008 – and missing such a tour was unthinkable. While prepping the “T” I found worn rear shackle bushes – it was too late to order them but Greg Bjorkman very kindly helped me to turn new ones. Apart from nearly dropping the car due to not working “by the book”, the rear spring was refitted and she was ready with a week’s grace – which was spent assembling tools and spares, packing, etc.
Saturday 3 February Road Trip to George
du Toit’sKloof Pass was closed as a truck had overturned, so we had to use the Tunnel – not the ideal route for vintage speeds and lights. But we passed through safely and took the back road from Hex River Poort to VinkRivier, where we encountered our first corrugated gravel. The gravel road behind McGregor became quite rough and then deteriorated into a track, and we developed a misfire – which was simply a plug lead come loose. While repairing it I noticed that the fanbelt was breaking up and had climbed off the pulley, but luckily I had a spare. A young German couple passed on touring bicycles – they thought the “T” was a roadside derelict being stripped for parts – and were amazed to see her start and running. The gravel roads from McGregor to Stormsvlei were good, followed by a clear stretch on the N2. We reached Swellendam at 15h00 and spent the night in a reasonably priced B & B – which are scarce in this town.
Sunday 4 February Road Trip to George
We left Swellendam at 07h30 and took a short detour past the Sugar Bridge, which I had never seen. The timbers are almost rotted away but the pillars look sound – it would be nice to see it restored. The gravel road from the Duivenhoks River to Riversdale meandered pleasantly between farms along the foot of the mountains, but crossed several ridges needing much low gear work, and it’s surface was not too good. The first ridge was touch and go – steep and with patches of loose stones – and the old girl skipped about badly, but she made it. The road improved from the Korentepoort Dam – a pretty dam in a lovely setting, and still quite full. The gravel roads between Riversdale and Albertinia were fair, as were those to Hartenbos past the Hartebeeskuil Dam wall. At Wilderness we turned off the N2 to drive round Langvlei – the gravel was badly corrugated, and along the last section (as it later turned out) she lost her whole number plate and tail light bracket. We arrived at Elalini – a charming and inexpensive Backpacker’s at the old Goukamma Station – at 16h30, and noticed the missing number plate. Despondency ruled; but the owner lives near Langvlei and found it on his way home – what are the chances of that happening?
Monday 5 February Road Trip to George
We left Elalini at 09h30 after a delicious breakfast, refitting the number plate and tightening loose items. I was keen to take the “T” over the old Seven Passes Road, and as this was a short day there was plenty of time. Phantom Pass was first – a little corrugated but not steep, and she climbed it in high gear. Homtini, Karatara, Hoogekraal and Touw Passes followed – all are quite steep with tight turns, and one has to admire Thomas Bain and Adam de Smidtwho built them with the primitive methods of the time. The gravel was corrugated in patches, which were hard to see so one hit them at ± 40 km/h – and in such circumstances a Model T, lacking shock absorbers, loses all sense of length and line. In one exciting moment we slewed broadside to the road with a car approaching – I have never seen oncoming traffic give way so quickly. We arrived in Wilderness at 12h30, did registration and scrutineering, and greeted old friends as they arrived for the Tour. We spent the night at the Wilderness Hotel.
Tuesday 6 February Ford Tour
We left Wilderness via the scenic Whites Road, and joined the Seven Passes Road for the last two – Silver and Kaaimans Passes. We assembled in George for the official start at Imperial Ford, and were later each very kindly given twenty litres of petrol by Veedol Oil. Our route took us along the R102 to Hartenbos, and after tea at Eight Bells we tackled Robinson’s Pass. At the summit we encountered Graeme Wares – his “Seven” had suffered fuel starvation, which he cured with a red ten litre can. Then on to Volmoed and Oudtshoorn – we checked into the Oudtshoorn Inn, which was to be our base for the rest of the Tour. When the regularity results were announced I found that my creative arithmetic had taken a four second error to an eighteen second one – there’s a lesson here. Hm…
Wednesday 7 February Ford Tour
Today’s route took us from Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp, and over Huis River Pass to the tea stop at Zoar, an old mission village. After tea we traversed SeweweeksPoort – the surface was bad at first and some people turned back, which was a pity as it improved and became a very pleasant drive. From Calitzdorp we took the old concrete road to Oudtshoorn – somewhat bumpy but with no traffic – a nice little detour. In the early evening we lined up our “T”s and “A”s outside Oudtshoorn Ford – they very kindly hosted a cocktail party for us, which was much enjoyed by all.
Thursday 8 February Ford Tour
Short distances today – luckily as it turned out, as the temperature hit the mid forties. We drove through the picturesque Schoeman’sPoort to the Cango Caves, then returned for tea at the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge. Some went on a game drive, and it was quite something to see hundred year old open cars wending their way through the reserve. A visit to the Ostrich Emporium was laid on for the afternoon, and in the evening we assembled in 1920’s regalia for the Prize Giving Dinner. The categories were the same as the Centenary Tour, but they were now handsome floating trophies named after early motoring greats like Bob Johnston, Kobus van Jaarsveld and Rudi Reitz; and we won the Liefie Bosch Trophy for the “Best Performance by a Black Model T”.
Friday 9 February Ford Tour
A visit to Meiring’sPoort was on the route schedule, but I wasn’t feeling well so we left Oudtshoorn at 08h30 and took a gentle drive to Volmoed and Robinson’s Pass. We turned onto good gravel to take the back road from Eight Bells to the Little Brak farms and Great Brak River, where we stopped for a rest. Then on to Glentana and the R102, and we rendezvoused at a nursery near the Gwaing River. At 15h00 a police escort led us in convoy into George – we arrived at the PW Botha College and parked in our assigned bays ready for tomorrow’s Show. The “Koshuis Crew” held their traditional braai, but some of us were still not feeling well and we were all in bed by 21h30 – which must be one for the record book.
Sunday 11 February Road Trip
There was quite a distance to cover today, so we left George at 08h30 and summitted Montagu Pass easily. The old road from Herold to Oudtshoorn via PerdePoort was good, and after refuelling we headed north to Schoeman’sPoort. Philip Kuschke had warned me against Swartberg Pass from the south, and he was right – although not quite as steep as the northern side it is a long unbroken climb, with nowhere to stop and rest. It was a tricky and worrying ascent. There was quite a bit of traffic, including a tour bus and some 4x4s – always a concern on the narrow carriageway – but most gave way immediately. During the last part of the climb I felt the engine slowing down – oil starvation of the front bearing during sustained climbing sprang to mind, but with a nudge of the throttle she picked up – panic over. She started backfiring but a spark adjustment pacified her and we reached the summit – it had been low gear all the way and the ball of my left foot was aching, but I felt pretty elated. While absorbing the views we gave silent tribute to Thomas Bain and his convicts for such a masterpiece of road building. The descent was even slower and we reached Prince Albert at 14h30. On the flat road past the town she showed no sign of strain or damage, and after an unavoidable stretch on the N1 we reached Matjiesfontein at 17h30.
Monday 12 February Road Trip
An English couple were staying at the Lord Milner Hotel, and he recognised the Model T immediately – unusual, as they were never common in England and are not popular in their vintage circles. He was amazed that she had crossed Swartberg Pass – apparently such a pass in England would be closed to traffic for safety reasons – and I reflected on how fortunate we are in SA to be able to do such things. We left Matjiesfontein at 08h30 – although expensive it has old world charm, and was a pleasant stopover. We crossed the N1 and turned left on a farm road complete with cattle grids – it was in good condition as it is probably not much used. We didn’t see another car for 85 km, and only three people. This was followed by ten km on the Sutherland road, which had the most appalling corrugations I have ever experienced. From the Karoo Poort we took the Swaarmoed Pass to Ceres, and then Bain’s Kloof Pass to Wellington. We arrived home in Paarl at 14h30.
I have owned the “T” since 2004, and have bonded with her and developed a faith in her that some think is misplaced; but Emil Kuschke recently referred to her as “die oustaatmaker” and over the years she has earned the nickname. She has never let me down on any of the long trips we have done, while her “as is” condition has prompted me to have a lot of fun exploring back roads – which I would probably not have done if she were restored to pristine. On this tour we did 1640 km in nine days – 480 on gravel and only 280 on National roads – and my very sincere thanks go to the Organizing Committee – Philip and Emil Kuschke, Chris van Staden, Philip Rosser, Mike Alexander and Danie Schmidt – for an excellent Tour, and for being the spur that made this wonderful road trip possible.