Thrilling Escapade: Classic and Super Cars Conquer the Cape 1000
Imagine an annual event in Cape Town, home to some of the most incredible and stunning roads in the world, where the finest classic and modern cars money can buy carve through the picturesque landscape.
It's called the Cape 1000, a road trip of over 1000 miles, and it challenges drivers and their vehicles while breathing in awe-inspiring scenery. With 57 cars in the line-up from six classes ranging from an SL500, a classic Ford truck, to a stunning Shelby Daytona, to more modern monsters like an LS-powered Ultima and Aventador SVJ, the Cape 1000 was a spectacle any motoring enthusiast worth their salt would drool over.
Well, we did it, in style, of course, and I was lucky enough to bring my wife Sarah with me on this adventure as we experienced the best of motoring, hotels, and food the Western Cape has to offer.
Day 1: Starting at the V&A Waterfront
Upon arriving at the V&A Waterfront, Sarah and I were excited as we had no clue about our awaiting adventure. Cars slowly trickled in as we registered ourselves and our vehicle for the week.
Once kitted in our attire, the first challenge met us in the harbour. This came in the form of a 1957 MGA Roadster and a bag full of stickers. The car was amazing, but with such exotic edges, applying stickers turned out to be more entertainingly frustrating than it perhaps should have been.
After fighting the stickers for around half an hour, we caught word that sticker-applying professionals were wandering around, so we headed out to try and grab one to help perfect our heavily branded British sports car.
Day 2: The Race Begins
One of our bigger concerns for this trip was the possibility of rain and the lack of a permanently-fixed roof in the MGA Roadster. The rain had come, and although the clouds were holding for now, the ground was wet, but nothing would stop the Cape 1000.
I was under the impression that the excitement and drama would build slowly throughout the trip, but almost immediately, we came across a challenge. This came as a truck dumping diesel onto a wet road surface. I thought ice was slippery, but when driving a car with no computerised support and tyres, the width of a coin, even 20 km/h, proves a terrifying prospect. Our drive to Camps Bay proved to be the slowest yet one of the more exciting parts of the trip.
Fortunately, the diesel issue subsided, but the rain became the second obstacle of our 1,600 km trip in the first 10 km. The rain was brutal, and visibility was frighteningly limited, with no roof, wipers, or glasses. Despite its intensity, we quickly outran the rain, enabling us to enjoy the stunning roads around Cape Point into Simon's Town.
After a short trip through Somerset West and along the coastal roads, we arrived at our first regulation rally stage. It's a rally that's not particularly exciting to spectate, but it is entertaining and challenging for the driver and co-pilot. The rally stages require participants to follow their road books as accurately as possible to get to a designated checkpoint as close to the recommended time as possible. Competitors are given a stopwatch and must drive as close to the speed provided by the road book. The Cape 1000 trip was covered in these stages, and the vehicle with the most consistently accurate times would be crowned the winner of the Cape 1000. These stages were more challenging for classics and imported cars, especially those with either mile-per-hour speedometers or, in our case, completely broken speedos.
The rally stages added an exciting spin to an otherwise spectacular road trip. However, the supercars seemed almost out of place, especially when watching a Bugatti Veyron doing 40 km/h in an 80 zone.
The first day of driving was over with a spectacular collection of cars, including a few Lamborghini fan favourites, such as the Aventador SVJ, Huracan Performante, Diablo, and Murciélago. As we pulled into the parking lot with a stunning view over Hermanus, we checked in and got ready for a particularly special cocktail party. The bar was situated in a cave on the water's edge, adding a fitting end to a stunning day's drive.
Day 3: Driving Inland
The second day of driving was the longest, covering just over 450 km. The route took the group inland to a collection of perfectly smooth, straight roads where Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Bugattis could stretch their legs. I cannot mention the speeds achieved, but you can only imagine the smile on my face watching these machines fly past while going foot to the floor in the MGA at 110 km/h. With a few rally stages in between, spirits were high as cars began to flock into George.
After the local police closed down the main road, the various cars headed out to make noise in the otherwise quiet town of George. The day finished at the best golf course in the country, Fancourt, where the competitors prepared their wallets and partners for the auction dinner, and what an evening it was...
The items up for auction were an official invitation from the first Cape 1000, a signed model Ferrari, and a photograph of the finishing line in the Silo district, taken from the previous year. Many thousands were shouted out as buyers were willing to raise their hands, knowing their money was going towards a good cause, the QuadPara Association of SA. The night marked the halfway point of our journey.
Day 4: Backtracking and Experiencing Fine Dining
On the fourth day, we backtracked along the previous day's route toward Lady Smith, with all participants eager to revisit the stunning landscape. The classic cars, including ours, took off first as they were no match for the speed of modern vehicles. The older cars faced challenges with the heat, while sports cars had to navigate around trucks on the passes. During the last leg of the day on the Franschhoek pass, we discovered a cracked spark plug and a malfunctioning thermostat in our car. Thankfully, the event mechanics quickly replaced the faulty parts at Le Franschhoek Hotel, allowing us to continue our journey.
Unfortunately, some cars were already out of the race at this point. However, the drivers, now mostly driving rentals or second options, arrived at the hotel for a unique fine dining experience. I'm still trying to figure out how Ross and his team managed it, but they closed Franschhoek for the night, allowing us to indulge in an unforgettable fine dining style. We had starters at one restaurant, mains at another, and desserts at a third. The atmosphere was memorable, the food was delicious, and we travelled in style on luxury buses. The night's craziness provided an opportunity to meet new people and laugh with new friends.
Day 5: Wrapping Up the Adventure
The last day of the trip was short but packed with excitement. We started with a short drive through the beautiful Winelands of Franschhoek before returning to the mountain passes. After a morning of exhilarating driving, the vehicles arrived at Killarney race track for a track session.
Watching the classic cars relive their glory days on the track was refreshing. Cars like the Austin Healey, various Alfa Romeos, and a selection of special Porsches tore up the race track. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to experience a 1950s sports car on a track, but it was a lot of fun. The supercars showed off their speed and sound before the drivers set out to demonstrate their consistency in a timed event. The driver who set the closest two-lap time won. Of course, some drivers wanted to go flat out, but a skilled Porsche owner completed two laps in identical times.
The last leg of the trip was emotionally charged, especially for drivers of the older cars. After covering 1,600 km in five days, we finally arrived at the Silo district and were met with a medal to commemorate this unique drive. Drivers gathered for photos and storytelling from their adventures around the Western Cape. It was a precious sight to see cars from all sides of our passion in the same place at the finish line, surrounded by the public, heightening the energy of such an accomplishment. There was a feeling of triumph, as this was more than just a road trip, but rather a celebration of motoring, old and new.
The final dinner was filled with laughter and camaraderie at the unique Cape Town Aquarium. Prizes were awarded to the most consistent drivers, grouped by vehicle type, with winners receiving stunning crystal trophies and plaques amid applause.
The evening ended on a high note with the auction of the last item – a highly requested event flag that fetched a whopping R110,000. The event exceeded our expectations, offering incredible experiences, new friendships, and breathtaking roads. This unforgettable week showcased the finest cars and solidified the Cape 1000 as South Africa's most beautiful drive.