Until now, the oldest car is that I have driven is probably a 1955 MGA that I once resprayed for a friend. Thereafter it’s likely my own elderly vehicles circa 1970. So it was quite an occasion to be offered a drive in a 1927 Model A Ford. How did this come about? It was thanks to a delightful, low-key wine festival in the stunningly beautiful Breedekloof valley.
For those who haven’t visited this area, it’s between Rawsonville to the East (close to Worcester) and Bainskloof to the west along the banks of the Breede river. One of the most prominent wine farms is Bergsig, situated on the R43 heading towards Wolseley and Ceres.
Owned by the Lategan family with forefather Willem Lategan planting his first vines in 1843, the three brothers Lategan now handle the business of making some pretty decent wines. But during the Breedekloof wine festival, a sideline attraction offered people a drive in a 1928 Model A Ford. Thinking this would be an opportunity not to miss, we bought some tickets and commandeered managing director and winemaker De Wet to take us for a spin towards Bainskloof pass past the Calabash pub. It was then that De Wet stated that it was only his second trip in the four-door cabriolet. He then added that I should drive it back to the farm. At first hesitant to be put in charge of something so old and precious, I realised this offer was unlikely to come my way again so I accepted. There wasn’t much leg room so a sit up and beg stance was required.
The accelerator sits between the clutch and brake pedals and consists of a button with about 25 mm of travel. To the right of this is another button acting as a footrest. So I found it best to rest the right side of my shoe on the footrest and squeeze the accelerator pedal with the left side of my shoe.
I grated the gears during up-shifts because I underestimated the big jumps between its three forward ratios. I should have waited a second or two to allow the flywheel effect to slow the four big (825 cm3) pistons down.
Surprisingly, I was better at downshifting with a brief dose of revs with a double de-clutch. The brakes were not very effective but I wasn’t planning on going getting back to the winery in too much of a hurry anyway.
Worse than the gentle braking ability was the degree of free play in the steering. This made it tricky to keep the car moving in a straight line, especially with the narrow road and two single car width bridges to negotiate.
De Wet said his father, Prop Lategan bought it recently from a gentleman in Hermanus and that all parts when needed are available off the shelf from the United States, so hopefully these vehicles will be around for ages yet. Over 4,5 million were made which is quite remarkable seeing as we are talking about the 1920s and 1930s!