The Concours: Kenya’s Favourite Family Fun Day

The call came. Like the first call of the cuckoo in England, Bob Dewar’s mobile call is the reminder that another year has passed. Yes, next Sunday will be the CBA Africa Concours d’Elegance and the 48th year that this favourite motor show and family fun day has been organised by the Alfa Romeo Club. And, as every time, Bob makes sure all the event’s many volunteers are lined up, well-informed, and in the mood.

I have talked with a couple of the competitors: Tor Frost, showing one of the oldest cars in the Concours – his 1928 Fiat 109A – and Tumaini Muthiga, entering his newish but, in another sense of the term, classic motorcycle – his 1999 Harley Davidson.

The Fiat has been in Tor’s family for many years. His grandfather, Maurice Frost, was the overall winner of the Concours back in 1990 – the first year I covered the event. Tor is very keen about the pedigree and history of the car that has been in the family since it was new in 1928. It was the farm car of Tor’s great grandfather – and it suffered the indignity of being a chicken coop for a number of years.

‘It’s a very cool car,’ says Tor, ‘and one of the oldest cars in Kenya – and it still runs.’ I asked him why, apart from the family tradition, he enters the old Fiat in the Concours. ‘I love cars,’ he said. ‘I love tinkering with them.’ But Tor recognises that, if he wants his beloved Fiat to be in an overall winning condition, there is more than tinkering to be done; the paintwork is chipped and the leather has become somewhat crazed. Nevertheless, his 1928 Fiat109A will still be one of the most prized entrants this year.

I left Karen to drive right across the city to Tumaini Muthiga’s place near the Thika Road Mall. After admiring his shining Harley Davidson, I asked him the same question – why he spends so much time and effort in entering for the Concours.

‘It’s a passion,’ he said. ‘It feels so good when you have put in the work, and when you take it to the Concours people appreciate it. And the love of bikes and cars is in the family, I suppose. My dad was a biker; my brother was a biker. When I was growing up there were always different kinds of cars around, and I got used to doing things with them.

‘And why the Harley? First, they are handcrafted. The engine has always been durable. And so much thought and time go into the designs. And on the road it’s like driving a Mercedes. It’s the top of the range for biking. And the noise – it’s like a song that comes from the pipes. And why I enter the Concours? It’s very important for me to win! It feels so nice when my name is called out.’

Tumaina said that the Concours used to be thought of as a mzungu event – but that is no longer true. He is certainly right. Most of the competitors are now African Kenyans. But not only that – the event deserves the ‘Africa’ in its name. This year, for the cars, there are nine from Uganda, one from Rwanda and one from Tanzania; for the bikes, there are two from South Africa, as well as the group of 20 bikers from Uganda.

And for spectators? Each year there are about 10,000. This has become the most popular annual family fun day. As well as the competitions and motor trade exhibitions, there will be the children’s entertainment centre, live bands, and plenty of places for eating and drinking. The gates open for spectators at 9.00 am. The tickets are 1,000/- for adults and 500/- for children, pre-event at any CBA branch or on the internet. On the gate, the prices are 1,200/- and 600/-.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation