Franschhoek Motor Museum by Dirk Vale
Visiting the Museum at the beautiful L’Ormarins Farm in Franschhoek was something truly special and unforgettable. The occasion was made even more memorable by being treated to a tour of the Museum with Wayne Harley, the curator. The cars they have are beyond words in what they represent and the history and pedigree they carry. South Africa has a wonderful history in motoring and motor sport and it is important to have a a museum like this to celebrate our great driving history. The collection spans 130 years and there are over 300 cars in the full collection. The preservation of the cars has become an art, where FMM continuously find new and improved ways to keep the cars in pristine condition.
Some of the collection was seen at the recent Top Gear Festival, where a few of the cars were unleashed around the Kyalami race track and driven by the likes of Derek Bell and Sir Stirling Moss.
As a nation we’re big into our cars and driving in general that’s why for me a place like the Franschoek Motor Museum is so important. It pays homage to who we are and where our love for cars comes from. More than 50% of the cars in the museum are still drive-able and there’s a very special time-trial held at L’Ormarins each year where you can see the cars in action, many other special cars also come out of storage to make a turn around the time trial course.
Some of the cars that I was lucky enough to view are extremely special.
Bugatti Brescia Type 23 1925.
The Type 13 is one of the most beautiful race cars I’ve ever seen in the flesh. It’s a lot smaller than I anticipated but still marvelous to view. It was nicknamed the Brescia after coming home 1,2,3,4 at the 1921 Italian Grand Prix in the voiturette class. This is the touring version of that famous race car. Interesting things about the car are the single overhead camshaft 1 litre engine, an unusual rear suspension and it had reversed quarter-elliptic springs. One of the first great straight 8 engines.
Bentley 4.5 Litre 1928.
I have a massive emotional connection to the 1920â€™s Bentley as my great uncle, Captain Jack Duff, did amazing things at Le Mans in these Bentleys. He was an original Bentley Boy. This car to me will always be THE British Sports Car and the modern incarnations of the car will never match the perfection that was this Bentley. It is a beautifully made car.
This is a fascinating car. The first Jaguar, the SS car was pre-World War 2 and after “SS” became a no-no name they dropped the SS and became simply Jaguar. The SS stood for Swallow Sidecar Company.
Mercedes-Benz 130 H 1935.
This car is very unique as it was a Ferdinand Porsche designed Mercedes-Benz and you can see the Porsche influence in the car. It is also rear engined. It was the first Mercedes with a central tubular frame, it had hydraulic brakes on all four wheels and an independent suspension all the way round. Very experimental and they never sold a lot of the cars but still an interesting history to an extremely interesting car.
Cord 810 Convertible 1936
This car is a piece of retro art, it’s just extremely unique and I absolutely love it. It was created to be a car of the future and it most certainly was ahead of its time. Though the design is quite unpractical, it was unique for the time as it had no running boards, no visible door hinges and was front wheel drive. It was unfortunately too expensive and the company didn’t last long. The car remains a very special and unique part of motoring history.
Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG 2003
An awesome piece of engineering. It is built to race and built to be fast. It was built in honour of the 2003 season winning DTM car and one of the most successful touring car teams ever. Only a hundred cars were ever made, and all by hand. The DTM does 0-100kmph in 3.9 seconds and 200kmph comes up in 10.9 seconds. This is a seriously quick car.
Chevrolet Impala Coupe 1958
An icon in motoring terms. It was a prestige car that was affordable and is a car that visually has and will stand the test of time. In the flesh, itâ€™s somehow even more enticing, a car I must own one day. Just beautiful and an extremely special car.
Rothmans Porsche 956
This car is particularly special to the museum as Rothmans was owned by the Rupert family when it was raced. This car was raced by Jacky Icks which for a petrol-head like myself makes it an amazingly special car. Jacky Icks is like a racing god to me. I absolutely loved seeing this car, and after meeting Derek Bell earlier this year, this car is even more iconic to me.
1966 Ford GT40
The Ford GT40 is a unique car, particularly when you find out more about its history. For those of you that don’t know the GT40 was the result of a failed proposal where in Ford would have bought Ferrari. The deal fell through when Enzo Ferrari wasn’t happy with the racing team being called Ford-Ferrari rather than Ferrari-Ford. This lead to the deal falling apart and Ford buying Lola as a replacement. The GT40 was a product of this new partnership. It was called GT40 because it was 40 inches from the tarmac to the top of the roof. A very uniquely beautiful car.
Mercedes-Benz Gullwing 1952
The Gullwing has become a motoring icon. The ca’s shape has become a design identity for Mercedes-Benz. Seeing such a rare car in the metal is always special and rare but always happens on a visit to the Museum. There is also a Coupe version of this car at the museum and this is equally special to me. As the coupe is even more beautiful. A must see.
This car is just beautiful. There are few cars that invoke so much emotion. It’s the iconic BMW, it’s the car that was the forerunner of the M-Series, perhaps not literally but it was the emotional start to that performance BMW image. In the flesh it is a magnificent car and I’ve been back to FMM just to see the BMW again. It is a work of art that needs to be admired. It is worth a visit to FMM soley to view this BMW.
Maserati Formula 1 Car 1937
The Maserati will always be the ultimate car to me, especially in their heyday in Formula 1 where the 1937 Maserati was at the pinnacle of this. Being able to view am original Maserati Formula 1 cars was magnificent, and I’d visit every time I was in Cape Town just to see this Formula 1car again. It is a really amazing special car, brimming with heritage and prestige.
Frank Moody, the photographer who joined me on my visit to the Motor Museum was also taken aback by the experience his comment on the visit.
Can you imagine opening your garage door and seeing a collection of classic cars such as these? In the mix, some of the best super cars and hyper cars what would your dream collection be without them?
A few short years ago, I would have only be able to use my imagination to create this collection, but I’ve now discovered a place in Franschhoek which pretty brings it to life. The Franschhoek Motor Museum in the Western Cape plays host to my petrol fantasies.
I’m not sure what to say about this incredible place, it isn’t something that I could possibly do justice to by writing. I do know, though, that almost brought tears to my eyes when I saw the Ford GT 40. My 20c worth, go, look, drool.
Official website for the FMM.