South Africa has some excellent motor museums scattered between Franschhoek, White River and even little old Matjiesfontein. Collectively the cars are worth millions, a fortune on wheels. You don’t have to be a total petrol head to enjoy a visit to a car museum, but it helps. It’s not just about big boy’s toys, either. A lot of women I know are just as crazy about cars. So get your anorak out, sally forth and smell the fumes.
When I was five, my father took me to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in Hampshire, UK, one of the most celebrated and oldest car museums in the world. I was addicted for life, but couldn’t understand why he drove a crappy Chevrolet when there were such beauties as Bentleys and Bugattis to be had!
- The Franschhoek Motor Museum set within the glorious grounds of the Rupert family’s wine estate L’Ormarins, is the Rolls-Royce of South Africa’s car shrines, representing the finest of this country’s motoring heritage.
Among the hundreds of cars in its collection, some 80 spotless, shiny, roadworthy motors are on display at any given time, including the personal cars of the late patriarch Anton Rupert.
For just R80 (R60 for pensioners) you can revisit your wildest automobile fantasies, under the careful guidance of immaculately-dressed ushers who speak in hushed tones. Online booking only.
- A few hours up the road lies the historic Karoo village of Matjiesfontein and its famous Lord Milner Hotel. The Transport Museum’s eclectic collection of old cars include the odd hearse and a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow that once belonged to the late Laird of Matjiesfontein, hotelier extraordinaire David Rawdon. Admission is by way of a donation.
Enjoy a trip on the village’s old double-decker Routemaster London Bus with hilarious on-board commentary by local wit, entertainer and raconteur Johnny Theunissen, who also plays the scabrous piano in the hotel bar.
- Up north in the Mpumalanga Lowveld, the White River Motor Museum is another petrol head’s treat. Located at Castlebridge Centre just outside the town, this museum houses a historic collection of motors dating from a Model T Ford to sixties Minis and a host of varied cars, bakkies and farm equipment.
- Some 23 kilometres outside White River, Herman Nel’s Old Car Haven features the owner’s prized collection of old Fords and Lincolns. By appointment only, Herman will guide you through the annals of Ford history, starting with a rare sixties Zephyr. The tour cost is R300 for a group of six. Tours will begin when the Covid 19 lockdown is over.
- Near Pretoria the Centurion Classic Cars Museum offers a splendid collection of VW combis and Beetles dating from the 1950s to the 1980s. Also closed until the end of lockdown, the venue features an authentic classic 50s diner.
- Just up the road in Irene, you can visit the somewhat derelict Cadillac that belonged to General Jan Smuts. The dusty old limousine is housed in a shed at the Jan Smuts House Museum and is in desperate need of restoration.