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On the cover:

74 80 In the boot this month

6 Getting the old Beaut back into gear

Making sure when you take your girl back onto the road, you take it slow

the market value 10Determining of your classic A Classic Buick gleems in the early morning sunshine on a street in New York. Buicks are one of the most notorious cars associated with the Vintage era. Owner: Clive Neilson Photograph by Patrick Curran

Thinking of buying? Well were hear to help with a questionnaire to make sure the price your paying is the right one

17The Buick

Taking a closer look at the way in which the Buick transformed over the decades

26 Insuring your classic

Helpful tips to make sure the peace of mind car insurance promises isn’t burning a hole in your pocket.

42 Buying and selling on E-bay

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83

Regulars

4 Letter from the Editor 8 Spare Parts

All the general knowledge trivia you need to know about the classics

21 Owner profile

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East London Borgward enthusiast Gavin Hesse stripped his 1957 Borgward Isabella Coupe down to its bare bones before rebuilding it to its former splendour. We interviewed him about his Isabella

30 Classic or Modern?

We analyse the revamp of the Baby Rolls, a remake of the Phantom, hit or a miss?

56 Before and after:

A step by step run down of the transformation of a Silver Shadow, from junk to a gem

Making sense of what can be a very overwhelming space

49 This year’s Knysna car show

Giving you the low down on everything that happened, so even if you didn’t make it, you can pretend you did...

A closer look at the recession and the effects its having on classic cars and their owners

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essential items to keep 77 10in your car

From a torch to a tyre, items you just shouldn’t leave home without

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Competitions

9 Mystery car

Win an all inclusive holiday for two nights at this months car festival in Knysna.

59 Reader profile

Send us the story of you and your classic cars love affair, add some pics...and if you win...well turn to the page to find out...

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April 2009

61 The global recession in full swing

Contents

Classic


Letter from the editor

EDITOR Krystle Khan KrystleKhan@Classic.co.za

With the effects of the global recession changing the world as we know it, businesses around the world are closing their doors, thousands are being left jobless, and people’s pockets are certainly feeling lighter. The first things to go…well luxury items of course. When you’re worried about where the next pay cheque is coming from, the weekend classic sitting in your garage hardly seems important right?

Wrong. For many of our readers, their classic cars aren’t simply luxury assets, they’re old friends. They have gone through hard times, and happy times, memories were made together, and for many our classics tell a story of at least parts of our lives. Although no one can really say how long the recession is going to last, if you can, hang in there. Classic cars, particularly those revamped by you, are a work of art, they have taken years to perfect, and endless amount of sweat has been put into their creation. Unlike modern cars, which can be bought and sold without much thought about sentimental value, most classic cars are one of a kind, priceless. Although we at Classic can’t put an end to the Recession, we hope that this edition will provide some helpful tips and information that can help you and your classic survive this difficult time.

Krystle

DEPUTY EDITOR Timothy Holiday MANAGING EDITOR Laura Maggs CREATIVE DIRECTOR Laura Durham FASHION DIRECTOR Amber Gill COPY EDITOR Cara Wingate ART SENIOR DESIGNER Kelly Stevens DESIGNER Meggan Leigh FEATURES FEATURES EDITOR Christopher Kemp FEATURES WRITER Nick Warren ADVERTISING NATIONAL SALES MANAGER Theresa Taylor ADVERTISING SALES EXECUTIVE Amy Tuner PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Clive Napia MARKETING BRAND MANAGER Loraine Dalton CIRCULATIONS MANAGER Robert Claud MARKETING ASSISTANT Shannon Ross

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Getting the old beaut back into gear

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hether a car has been sitting in storage for three months or three years, certain steps should be taken before you can just fire it up and head down the road. Especially if you want to ensure many happy motoring experiences with it. Below are five helpful steps to help start your vehicle properly after it has been in storage, and to get it running smoothly straight out of the garage.

Replacing fluids One of the best places to view what’s been going on with your car while in storage is to look at the floor beneath it. Leakage from the coolant system could mean a bad gasket, a corroded radiator fitting, a rotted hose, or compromised water-pump seals. Also check for leaks in the power-steering system, engine, transmission, rear axle and brakes. Depending on how long the car has been sitting will determine what fluids should be drained and replaced. Barn finds that have been sitting for years would require all fluids throughout to be drained, bleed and systems flushed before refill. But if the car has only been in hibernation during the winter months, we would suggest; •Doing a complete oil and filter change •Drain any gas in the tank, carburetor float bowls and flush the fuel lines •Drain, flush and replace radiator coolant Check all other fluid levels to make sure they are filled to the required levels and fill your tires with plenty of air.

Checking the battery Hopefully when the car was parked and stored, its battery was disconnected, removed and placed on shelf away

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from moisture. Then all you would have to do is give it a good charge, clean the battery posts and terminals with a baking soda and water solution, and reinstall. Unfortunately if the car has been sitting for many years with the battery left in place, you will have a bigger job on your hands. We suggest buying a new battery and installing it with new cables. Battery cables lose their effectiveness over time, and as the copper in the cable ages, it loses its conductive properties.

Getting ready for ignition If the car has been sitting for over 90 days, you should remove the spark plugs and add some form of lubricant into the cylinders, like Marvel Mystery Oil, before these parts start moving or to free up any stuck piston rings. Your spark plugs fire in a specific order so you should label each plug wire before removing them. Be advised, new plug wires can be expensive so make sure you pull them out by grasping them at a point that’s closest to the engine. Inspect the car’s spark plugs and replace them if they look fouled, white or oily. With the spark plugs removed, turn the engine over with the key several times to let the oil you put into the cylinders lubricate the cylinder walls and to prime the oil and fuel pumps prior to ignition. You should keep cranking the engine until the oil pressure gauge reads normal or your oil pressure ‘idiot’ light goes out before returning the spark plugs and leads back to their correct position. Since you’ve removed all the old gasoline, you’ll need to remove the air filter cover and liberally spray some engine starter fluid into the mouth of the carburetors for the best chance of a start when you turn the key. With a couple of pumps of the gas pedal and giving it a little choke, your sleeping machine should come to life.

Before you leave the garage Once the car starts, don’t rev the engine, just let it idle and warm up.

With the car running you return the air filter cover, check the transmission fluid level and look underneath the car for leaking fluids. But don’t take it out for a trip around the block just yet. By now your clothes and hands have gotten a bit greasy. Turn off the engine and get a little dirtier by checking all the hoses for dry rot and look for belts that are cracked or in need of tightening. Give the suspension a good lube job and look for worn or loose ball joints, deteriorated bushings, rusted shafts, leaks at the shocks, and missing or broken bumpstops. Thorough check of the brakes should be done before you leave your driveway. Your inspection should include the friction linings, drums and rotors. Calipers and wheel cylinders are subject to corrosion, as well as leakage. With the car up on jack, rotate each wheel by hand with someone working the pedal. Each wheel should brake solidly and release cleanly. These few steps are imperative to ones safety if the car has been in stor-

You’re ready to roll age for more than a year. A twenty minute trip close to home will loosen everything up and evaporate all the moisture in the exhaust and in the engine. It will also give you a chance to listen for any rattles and engine misses while keeping an eye on the car’s gauges for any abnormalities. Once you get home, make a list of what you uncovered on the trip; knocking engine, brakes pulling to one side, stiff steering, etc. Also, re-check your fluids and look for any new leaks that the “loosening up” ride could have created. After you have made all the corrections the car would need to safely go on a longer run outside the proximity of a good push home, don’t forget to check your running lights. This may seem like a lot of work just to get a car running, but if you want the engine to give you years of hassle-free service, a little elbow grease and time now can save a big headache, and extensive maintenance later.

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Tips for storing your classic •First and foremost, imagine you are getting your Classic Car ready for a show. Preparation will avoid many a sore head when you take the car back out of storage.

Jaguar E Type (1961-1974) - Probably the most famous British sports car of all time, 70,000 were made over a 14 year production run, including a V12 version.

•Ensure that the boot is clean and dry, The boot seal is rarely perfect and some moisture can collect and condense in the inner wheel arches and floor. Air it out well for a day or so, then place a desiccant sac (you know the silicon gel packs you get in boxes with say, a power drill or a television) in here before closing it up.

•Change the engine oil. Dirty oil is contaminated with acids and water that can cause premature bearing failure and rust inside the engine, if you are planning on leaving your classic stading for an extended period of time.

Fun Facts

We’ve decided to kick up the difficulty level of the weekly “Mystery Car” by doubling the number. These photos are from reader John Mueller’s photo album. The radiator of the early roadster is visible only from the side, but as our readers are sharp-eyed and knowledgeable, we’re betting someone will be able to identify them. If it helps, that truck was photographed by the Drake Bros. Studio in Silverton, Oregon. The roadster is presumed to have been photographed in that area of Oregon, too. So, can you help identify them?

Regulars

The Competition spot

Top four classic cars of all time

•Make sure the Brake and Clutch master cylinders are full of brake fluid. Brake fluid can absorb water very quickly. By reducing the exposed surface area of the fluid, the water absorption can be reduced. If you can, bleed the brake and clutch systems.

E-mail your answers to competition@classic.co.za and stand in line to win an all inclusive holiday for two nights at this months car festival in Kynsna.

This months winning letter Dear Classic The recent ressession has had a huge impact on my families life, with both my wife and I losing our jobs, money has been tight to say the least, and we have been forced to sell many of our house hold possession. Parting with my 1980 Mustang however was simply not an option, as my dad gave it to me when I turned 18, and after his death last year, it is one of the last things I have to remember him by. However my wife and I failed to see eye to eye on this subject with her arguing that we needed the money and telling me I was being selfish. I stood my ground and have done everything in my power to prevent having to sell it. I finally found a job at the beging of this month working at Mc Donalds. Going from the CEO of a large company to working behind a till has been a difficult change, but atleast I am earning enough money to tide my familly over until somthing better comes up. Even though the last year has been rough, getting to drive my Mustang to work each morning makes everything seem ok. I know that soon things will look up again. Thank you so much Classic, you bring a smile to my face evey edition, keeping my passion alive.

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Regards Mustang lover

Email us your letters and stand a chance of winning a R1000 voucher

Aston Martin DB5 (1963-1965) - With just 1,000 made, the DB5 found fame as the transport of Sean Connery`s 007 in the film Goldfinger, making it probably the best known of all Aston Martin models.

Ford Capri (1969-1986) - A true cult classic, the Capri`s enduring popularity is reflected in the huge volume of parts still available and the sheer volume of owners clubs. Over two million were sold during a 17 year production run.

In car insurance terms, classic and vintage vehicles are generally divided into four categories: -Veteran: Vehicles manufactured up to and including December 1904. -Edwardian: Built from January 1905 up to and including December 1918. -Vintage: Manufactured between 1919 and 1933. -Classic: Typically pre-1973 but there are exceptions.

BMC Mini (1959-2000) - The original Mini was a revolutionary small car that allowed much increased passenger space within a small body and influenced a generation of car makers.

-Cherished: Collectable or rare cars aged five to ten years old.

Volkswagen Beetle (1935-1985) The original VW Beetle is a cult classic that enjoyed a 50 year production run and once held the record for the most produced car in history, with 21 million sold by the late Seventies.

Top 7 Selling Imports of 1963

1. Volkswagen - 240, 143 2. Renault – 22, 621 3. MG – 21, 270 4. Triumph – 20, 117 5. Volvo – 14, 175 6. Fiat – 10, 805 7. Mercedes Benz – 10, 378


Feature

Determining the Market Value of Your Classic

How Do I Find Out What Category to Put My Car In?

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o appraise your car, rate each of the following items listed on a scale of one to five, using five as the maximum value. Then total the points that you’ve given the car to determine which of the six categories it would fall into. • Category 1 would be a 90+ point car • Category 2 would be a 80-89 point car •Category 3 would be a 70-79 point car •Category 4 would be a 60-69 point car Category 5 is would be a 40-59 point car •Category 6 is any car under a 40 point car Be very objective in placing a value to each of the areas listed. You may want to contact a member of the local car club for the marque your evaluating to help you.

Inspect and Rate the Exterior Body Stand 3 feet in front of each headlight and taillight so that you can view the side panels at an angle to inspect for waves or bulges or any signs of poorly done body repair. •Check for paint blisters for signs of rust, especially over wheel wells, along rocker panels and around headlights. •Use a magnet over various parts of the body to check for body filler, signs of previous damage and those typically known for rust. •Check for uniform gaps between the body and the doors, trunk and hood. Points________

Doors

By Tony and Michele Hamer By Tony and Michele Hamer a classic or collector car requires quite more homework homework than buying a new or or used Buying aBuying classic or collector car requires quite a abitbitmore than buying a new used are no warranties, the manufacturer no longer in business and recar. There arecar. noThere warranties, the manufacturer may nomay longer be inbebusiness and replacement placement parts may be difficult to find. We’ve put together a helpful categorisation questionparts may be difficult to find. We’ve put together a helpful categorisation questionnaire that will naire that will ensure you purchase the car of your dreams rather than be stuck with a total ensure you purchase the car of your dreams rather than be stuck with a total nightmare. nightmare.

•Check to see if the doors sag when they are open, as this will be a sign of worn hinges. •Look for signs of aging and cracking in the weather seals around the doors and windows. •Check for paint blisters that would indicate rust, especially along the bottom edges. Points_______

Hood and Trunk •Inspect the hood for any rippling, denting and underlying rust. •Check under the carpeting in the trunk and around the wheel housings for rust.

•Are the hood and trunk aligned properly so they close and latch easily? Points_______

Top •Originally convertibles built prior to 1950 had canvas tops, vinyl tops appeared in the 1950s. Is the top made from original-type material? •Is the material worn or discolored, is the stitching coming apart? •Convertibles built from 1965 into the 70s usually had glass rear windows. Is the rear window of the convertible top of the original type? •Check the condition of the convertible top mechanism, does it lower and raise easily and does it fit snugly in place. •Check for dents on vehicles with metal tops. •On vinyl covered metal-topped cars, inspect its condition and assure it’s sealed tightly without rips or other damage. Points_______

Undercarriage •Does the engine, transmission or rear axle appear to leak oil? •Check for rust around the chassis, shocks and suspension. Points_______

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Inspect and Rate Paint, Glass and Trim

radios that have been installed and cut into the dashboard? Points_______

Paint

Upholstery

•Does the finish reflect a high gloss or is it dull? Is the finish smooth or does it have an orange-peel texture? •Can you spot any runs, cracking or drips in the paint that would indicate an unprofessional finish? •When possible you should ascertain if the car is painted in its original color? •Look for indications that the car has been repainted by checking doorjambs, inside the hood and trunk. If it has, how well does the re-paint colour match the original? Points_______

•Inspect the condition of the door panels, seat coverings and headliner. •Do the interior coverings appear to be the originals? Even if they are in good condition, if they are not according to the original specifications of the car, it will affect the value. •If the seat coverings have been replaced, check to make sure a good foam foundation is underneath. Points_______

Trim •Inspect all chrome plated trim pieces. Is the chrome bright and shiny or is the base metal starting to show through. •Are the headlight and taillight housings or any other plated die cast parts badly pitted? •Pitting on die cast parts is not easily repaired. •Inspect the grill for damage and broken parts. •Check for missing or dented stainless steel trim on body side moldings. Points_______

Glass •Check for factory markings on the glass which would indicate originality. •Inspect the weather seal around the glass for cracking that would allow water to leak in around the seal. •If it has cracks, then look for signs of water leakage on the dash or around the inside of the rear window. •Inspect the glass itself for chips, cracks or discoloration. Points_______

Floor Coverings •Are the carpets worn, soiled or torn? Do they seem to be the original color or pattern? •Look at the step plate along the bottom of the door coverings; are they deteriorated or missing? •If possible, always pull back the carpet to inspect for rust on the metal flooring underneath. Points_______

Interior Trim •Is the interior trim complete and to original specification? •Check for missing door handles and window cranks. •Are the door handles and window cranks in good working order? •Make sure all power accessories are working, such as windows, locks, seat mechanisms, antenna and side mirror adjustors. •What is the condition of the window moldings? Are they chrome plated or painted as original? Points_______

Inspect and Rate the Mechanics Engine Operation •Does the car start and the engine run? If not, there is no way to appraise the engine or most of the cars other mechanical components. •If the car starts and the engine is running, listen for expensive sounding noises. •Stand behind the car at the first start up and look for any smoke coming from the tailpipe. Blue smoke would indicate the engine is burning oil. •While the engine is running, check the oil pressure; it should be at midrange. •When checking the engine’s oil, is it fairly clean or is it black and thick which would indicate long intervals between oil changes and possibly poor maintenance and care. Points_______

Engine Compartment •Inspect the general condition and cleanliness of the engine compartment. •Does the wiring appear to be in original and good condition? •Is there frayed insulation and obviously un-original wiring patched in? Points_______

Inspect and Rate the Interior Dashboard and Instrument Panel •Inspect the general condition of the instrument panel and dashboard. Look for wear and aging on plating, knobs and switches. •Are there knobs missing? •Do all the knobs and switches work, for example the lights, horn, wipers, etc.? •Is the lettering around the knob plate worn or have letters missing? •Are the gauges original, intact and working? Or do they have non-original gauges or aftermarket

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Brakes and Steering •If you drove the car out on the highway would you feel safe in doing so? •Do the brakes stop the car within a reasonable distance without pulling to the side or making grinding or screeching noises? •Is the steering tight? Does it keep the car in a straight line with minimal correction, or is there an excessive play which would mean some or all of the steering components need rebuilding. Points_______

Transmission •If a car is equipped with a standard transmission, check the condition of the clutch; does it engage smoothly and fully disengage the transmission. •If the car is an automatic, are the shifting points smooth or does the transmission seem to slip? •Check the automatic transmission fluid. The color should be bright red and not brown with a burned smell. This would indicate the transmission has internal damage and will need an overhaul. Points_______

Rating the Authenticity, Features and Desirability Authenticity •In addition 14to the originality of the paint, interior and engine,

evaluate the cars overall authenticity. •Take into consideration the accessories that are included with the car such as special wheels, fancy wheel covers and other dress-up items. •Are the engine and the accessories painted in authentic colors? •Do these extras match what was originally offered on the car? They may be attractive but if they’re not authentic, it will subtract from the car’s value. Points_______

Special Options •Examples of special options that will enhance the car’s value would be a higher horsepower engine, upgraded trim or interior package, sliding sunroof or an overdrive transmission. •Price guides may assign a premium of 10% to 30% to these features, individually or in combination. Points_______

Desirability •Although desirability may not be a factor used by Price Guide publications, it should be a factor to you before writing the check or applying for financing. •What do you really like or dislike about the car? •Is it the car you’ve always wanted, the convertible you never had or is it the car your ex-wife never let you buy? •If the car resonates deeply in your soul, add points reflecting its appeal. Points_______

Add Up the Points and See Where You Stand Once you have added up the points that you have given the car during your inspection, you can determine what category it would fall into and then compare against appraisal and pricing guides. •90+ points would mean the car was in perfect or excellent condition - Category 1 • 80 to 89 points would be a completely operable car of show quality - Category 2 • 70 to 79 points would be a very good car but starting to show signs of aging - Category 3 • 60 to 69 points would mean the car is a well cared for daily driver, but may need some mechanical or cosmetic attention - Category 4 • 40 to 59 points would mean the car was needing a restoration of the motor, body, interior and/or chassis - Category 5 • 40 points or less would be given to a car that requires an extensive restoration and a significant amount of parts and labour - Category 6


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Photo essay

The Buick

Through the ages...

Owned by General Motors, Buick is one of the world’s oldest car brands, with a rich tradition of innovation that dates back to the turn of the century. Aimed at traditional American luxury-car buyers, Buick cars tend to place a priority on a plush ride rather than sporty performance. Although historically known for catering to retirement-age customers with its full-size sedans, the auto maker’s lineup has expanded to include SUVs and crossovers designed to bring younger buyers into the showrooms of Buick dealers. We take a closer look at the journey of Buick, and some defining points in its history.

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Buick Skylark 1953

Buick Wildcat 1954

Buick18 Roadmaster 1955

Buick Apollo 1974

Buick GSX 1970

Buick Special 1962

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Reader Profile

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East London Borgward enthusiast Gavin Hesse stripped his 1957 Borgward Isabella Coupe down to its bare bones before rebuilding it to its former splendour. We interviewed him amount his Isabella

What made you buy your Borgward Isabella Coupe? My father owned two Borgward sedans and I remember driving to Rhodesia in one of them as a child. My first car in the 1960s was my dad‘s Borgward. My brother also owned one and he worked for the Borgward agency in East London in 1958 and 59. So there is a nostalgic connection, but I also recognise the technical excellence of the car.

Where did you find it and how much did it cost? I saw an ad in the paper in 2003 and found it on a small holding in Nel-

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spruit. I bought it for R25000, which I thought was a bit much.

What kind of condition was it in? It had a fair amount of rust and was in a general state of disrepair. It was standing outside and had not been used for about 18 years.

beautiful. When my wife is with me they ask her where it comes from because many people haven‘t seen one before.

What is the furthest you have driven in your Borgward Isabella? To Port Elizabeth and back.

How long did it take you to restore it?

What is the highest speed you‘ve driven it?

It took me three-and-a-half years, working six days a week. I stripped it down to nothing.

The fastest I‘ve gone in it is 96 miles (155km) per hour, but it can do 100 miles per hour.

Are you pleased with the result?

What is it worth now?

I‘m very happy with it. It‘s a lovely car and rides very nicely for its age. The suspension is very good and it keeps up with traffic on the open road and in town.

Does your car turn heads? Yes – women especially say it is very

I put about R25000 into fixing it up. It‘s probably worth about R150000.

Would you ever part with it? No. I bought it because I recalled the days when I enjoyed the car and not for resale. I really love driving it so I

won‘t be parting with it.

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Take a road trip through South Africa’s most fabulous scenery

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By Clare Nullis Far from the crowds and traffic snarl-ups on South Africa’s much-vaunted coastal Garden Route is a stunning inland alternative that showcases some of the country’s most fabulous scenery but passes unnoticed by most visitors. Route 62 starts from just outside Cape Town and runs to the city of Port Elizabeth. It winds through scenic spa towns, vineyards and fruit farms, breathtaking mountains and floral feasts – not to mention the self-proclaimed Ostrich Capital of the World. The best news for tourists is that it is possible to combine Route 62 and the Garden Route, named after its dense and lush vegetation, for a truly unforgettable journey, made even more priceless. Instead of taking the N2 highway from Cape Town to George (a journey of about five hours, and that’s without road work) as most tourists do — go on the N1 highway to Worcester and then follow the inland route to George. It’s shorter and infinitely more beautiful and you only miss a small part of the Garden Route. The road is empty and can be enjoyed at ones leisure, really making the most of the enjoyable drive in your classic. Here are some of the highlights along the way:

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orcester and Robertson are both wine and fruit growing centers in the Breede River valley. The wine farms are all open to the public and are magnificent. A short detour from Robertson is the village of McGregor, at the foot of the Riviersonderend Mountains, prized by artists and wealthy South Africans seeking to escape from modern pressures into olde-world charm, this is a highly recommended detour, and gives you some extra time to feel the leather of your steering wheel between your fingers and the smooth surface of the tar under your tyres. Montagu is surrounded by the most amazing rock formations and is a beautiful base for mountain biking and hiking. It boasts wonderful hot springs – a huge hit among children — which stay open late at night and take on additional charms under a starry sky. (We were once there at dusk when a snake slithered from the mountains and came to rest upon the ample body of a female visitor snoozing in the shallow waters!!) It’s definitely worth an overnight stay — there is cheap caravan (camper) and chalet accommodation at the Montagu Springs resort and a pricier hotel called Avalon Springs, and lots of guest houses in the village. Calitzdorp, known for its port wines, and Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital, lie a couple of hours farther down this magnificent road, which is lined by a multicolored display of indigenous flora in spring. Oudtshoorn is a bustling tourist center because of its location and its ostriches, prized for their tough leather

and low-cholesterol meat. There are several farms offering tours and – for the brave – ostrich rides. We were pampered for a night at the Rietfontein Ostrich Palace Hotel near Calitzdorp – which bills itself as the world’s oldest ostrich farm which turns 100 next year – and enjoyed exceptional food and accommodation at very reasonable prices (it’s a deservedly popular breakfast and lunch spot for mountain bike tours). There are plenty of hotels, guest houses and game reserves catering for all budgets in the area, and restaurants are fantastic – just don’t ask for a boiled ostrich egg for breakfast as it takes two hours to cook! The awe-inspiring Cango Caves lie about 30 minutes from Oudtshoorn. If you are relatively fit and don’t have claustrophobia, try the 90-minute “adventure” tour through the “Tunnel of Love” and “Devils Chimney,” otherwise just take the standard walking visit and marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites. Authorities have become stricter with weight limits ever since a guest got stuck for nearly 10 hours last year, trapping more than 20 other hapless visitors with her. Beyond the caves lies the formidable Swartberg Pass, which winds precipitously down to the hamlet of Prince Albert. (A road from there leads through total isolation in the Karoo desert to Gamkaskloof or “The Hell”). It’s worth a detour if you have time. If not, don’t worry as the scenery is also amazing on the Outeniqua Pass down from Oudtshoorn to the coastal town of George. Even better is the spectacular untarred Prince Alfred’s Pass linking Oudtshoorn with Plettenberg Bay.

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George is one of the main tourist hubs on the Garden Route, so called because of its dense vegetation. South Africa’s last remaining passenger steam train, the Outeniqua Cho Tjoe, runs between Mossel Bay, the first town on the Garden Route, and George. Some visitors only go as far as George and then return to Cape Town, missing out on the loveliest parts of the route. The other two big attractions are the towns of Plettenberg Bay, locally known as Plett, with a beautiful beach and a “big resort” feel about it, and Knysna – very busy, but scenic with highly recommended outings to the Featherbed nature reserve. There are unlimited accommodation options – but everywhere gets full during the December-January summer holidays. Indian Ocean currents mean that the waters of these coastal resorts are much warmer than beaches around Cape Town, which is chilled by the frigid Atlantic Ocean. There are plenty of attractions all along the route, including an excellent monkey sanctuary as well as elephant and bird parks. To avoid the crowds, seek alternatives to the three main resort towns (Mossel Bay, Knysna and Plett). The village of Wilderness, for instance, has a long sandy beach, lovely lakes and is next to a beautiful national park. Nearby Sedgefield is also an excellent base. There are plenty of water sports and adventure activities as well as birdwatching and more leisurely pursuits. Near the end of the Garden Route is arguably its most beautiful part – the Tsitsikamma national park, a stretch of ruggedly beautiful coastline frequented by whales and dolphins and bordered by indigenous forests. It’s the starting base for the world-renowned five-day Otter Trail through forests and rivers – but you need to book months ahead and be prepared to carry your own bags and food. The three-day Dolphin Trail is for those who want a bit more luxury. There are many extreme sports activities, including bungee jumping. You can swing through the forest on in the Tsitsikamma canopy tours at Storms River Mouth. Or stroll on the endless beach, watch the waves and swim in the lagoon at Nature’s Valley, which is a secret hideaway and, as its name suggests, comes close to being paradise on earth.

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