Kyalami car festival: First to the latest

  • Rebuilt, redesigned, Kyalami for giant SA sho
  • Celebration of arrival of first motor car to country
  • Great start in Pretoria and Johannesburg
First car to reach South Africa
MEN OF THEIR TIME: The first car to reach South Africa, a Benz Velo, reached South Africa in January 2016.In the image are Image: Supplied

KYALAMI, South Africa – The planned SA Festival of Motoring from the end of August 2016 will also celebrate the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first car in South Africa on January 4 1896.

That was 120 years ago and the “birthday” will, the organisers say, be a high point of the festival scheduled to run from August 31 until September 4 2016.

Although the first car, a Benz Velo “horseless carriage” imported by businessman John Percy Hess, arrived in South Africa at the end of 1896, it did not run under its own power until January 4 the following year.

First advertisement for a car in South Africa
COME ONE, COME ALL! First advertisement for a car in South Africa

Why? There was a month’s delay in the arrival of benzine to fuel the car!

The first public demonstration of the Benz Velo was at the Berea Park sports ground in Pretoria in front of Paul Kruger, then president of the Transvaal Republic. Pretorians were urged in advertising to attend “this red-letter day” event.

It added that “the motor car, like the bicycle, has come to stay and will be the craze of the century”.

Hess went on to become the sole agent for the Benz brand in South Africa. The car was driven in Johannesburg as part of his initiative to promote “a revolution in locomotion”.

Unfortunately, the car was apparently destroyed in a fire not longer after it arrived.

Hard to imagine the world before the arrival of the car with all the benefits it offered to individual and group mobility.

Despite two world wars development of motorised transport continued apace and now we are looking towards a future when these cars and trucks will drive. themselves.

The first Ford to arrive in SA, a 1903 Model A, was, the first Ford to be sold outside North America. Cars became more readily available in SA with the arrival of the mass-produced Ford Model T – about 1000 cars a year were going on to local roads by 1910.

The next step was local assembly: it started in 1924 when Ford opened a plant in a disused wool shed in Port Elizabeth, followed quickly by general motors.

Event today, the show’s organisers say, “several international companies are evaluating proposals to set up manufacturing plants at the tip of Africa”.

There are now more than 2600 car and bakkie derivatives in the country which means South Africans are among the most spoilt -for-choice when looking for a new vehicle.

First motor car goes on show in South Africa
First motor car goes on show in South Africa.

This the first SA Festival of Motoring will provide the largest canvas yet on which the ful picture of this evolution can be painted. Many vintage and classic cars will be on show along with the latest mechanical and electronic marvels.

The products, the organisers say, will be available to drive on the recently redesigned and resurface former Formula 1 racing circuit.

Times have certainly changed since that small beginning at Berea Park in Pretoria 120 years ago!

First motor car goes on show in South Africa
GETTING UP TO SPEED: First motor car goes on show at the Wanderers’ Club in Johannesburg. It apparently made 14km/h on a run in the club’s enclosure.

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