The Concours: Beautiful and Beastly Machines

‘This place is like Heaven,’ my older son said.

Now, he is not usually given to that kind of enthusiasm and extravagance, so I took special note. Myself, I wouldn’t call the place Heaven – but it would rank close by. OK – we are talking about Schuhmacher’s 4×4 down Langata Road.

Rainald Schuhmacher is the man. A man I have real respect for. Because, back in the mid-90s, he rebuilt my already 20-year-old Range Rover and made it not only more potent, more smooth – but, also, much more handsome. (Wish he could do the same thing for us men!)

So I was not surprised to learn that, at last, Rainald has decided to enter the Concours d’Elegance. Sorry, let me give the event its proper name: the 2007 Schweppes East African Councours d’Elegance. It’s the second year that Schweppes has sponsored the Concours. A very fitting sponsor, I reckon, because judging by their posters the Schweppes PR team have their own good eye for elegance.

Perhaps you have already seen this year’s poster around town and in the press – the girl, long hair blown back, driving a classic convertible. Because this year’s Concours is only a week away – Sunday, 30 September.

Anyway, back to Rainald Schuhmacher…. I went along to his place for a chat.

‘What should I tell people that you do here?’ I asked.

‘Tell them that I finish what the Brits leave unfinished,’ he said.

Let me explain: he works exclusively on Land Rover models – whether the basic Land Rover, the Range Rover, the Discovery or the Freelander. And he not only rebuilds the old he also improves the very new – in terms of both performance and looks.

Of the three vehicles he is entering, the one that really caught my eye was the 1978 Land Rover 101, once driven over the Kenya terrain by the British Army – a real beast of a machine, with a Range Rover V8 engine, Salisbury axles, leaf springs, a 320 litres fuel tank and huge, huge tyres. ‘When everything else stops,’ Rainald said, ‘this vehicle always gets you home.’

Rainald is going to put the 101 to use in his special ‘Zenfaris’ – seeing wildlife, practising meditation and eating vegetarian food.

‘Sounds interesting – but I guess that sort of tour doesn’t include drinking beer,’ I ventured.

‘Why not?’ Rainald countered. ‘Alcohol is vegetarian, isn’t it?’

From Schuhmacher’s I went to meet another first-time entrant to the Concours – Motho Kimotho. A very different kind of character, with a very different kind of machine – but a young man who can also tell a good story.

Motho is co-founder of a company called Ancient Exclusives, which imports new and second-hand Super Bikes from Japan – and not only these special motorcycles but other models and also a range of spare parts and accessories. When I met him, he was riding a 1,000 cc Yamaha and sporting one of the accessories – a macho bike racer’s red and white jacket, emblazoned with Super Bike sponsors’ logos.

But Motho, though a lover of powerful machines, doesn’t come across as any kind of tearaway. He’s a very level-headed and thoughtful guy.

‘And what do you find attractive about these Super Bikes?’ I asked.

‘Well, they are capable of speeds of up to 300 kph,’ he said. ‘And they look very good, don’t they?’

‘Aren’t these 1,000 cc bikes dangerous?’

‘It depends how you ride them. I mean you could also kill yourself on a 250 cc bike, couldn’t you?’

I asked Motho what sort of people go along to the Concours.

‘People who are passionate about cars and bikes,’ he said.

True. But, more than that – the Concours is a great day out for the family. You must know the formula now: the parade of classic cars and motorcycles, the motor trade stands, a flypast, a parachute drop, the Sarakasi dancers…. Eric Wainaina will be there – and Mitch Ogwang of ‘Deal or No Deal’

A great day out. At the Racecourse down Ngong Road. Next Sunday. Gates open at 9 am.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation