- Classic Car Club of Ceylon holds its Classic Car Run
The pandemic has cost us a great many things, one of them being events like motor shows and the various other meetups that vehicle enthusiasts used to have where they could meet other like-minded enthusiasts, look at cars, and hopefully find solutions to their respective automotive woes.
To mark the end of the year (their 29th year, to be precise), the Classic Car Club of Ceylon held their first mid-to-post-pandemic event on Sunday (19) with a Classic Car Run – a classic car parade of sorts held in partnership with Cinnamon Bentota Beach.
Cinnamon Bentota Beach, of Cinnamon Hotels’ most recently reopened resorts, used to be the famous Bentota Beach Hotel and is now spanking new having undergone a comprehensive renovation to create a luxury travel destination for any discerning traveller. The resort has a heritage dating back to the ‘60s, when it was first expertly designed by one of Asia’s most influential architects, Geoffrey Manning Bawa, and even to date, has an impressive collection of art from an array of local artists, both celebrated and modest.
The Classic Car Run saw over 35 classic car owners joining in, starting from Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo and then parading through a pre-planned route to Cinnamon Bentota Beach, with exciting checkpoints and competitions for participants along the way.
The first leisurely meetup of any kind the Classic Car Club of Ceylon has had since pre Covid-19, this was also a chance for some of the Club’s members and their families to enjoy the new Cinnamon Bentota Beach resort, connect with other classic car enthusiasts, and sample the beautiful vistas and amazing fare the hotel had to offer.
The Cinnamon Lakeside was a proper gallery of classic automobile history on the morning of the Classic Car Run, from the sporty ‘70s models to some of the more classic looking cars of the late 1940s and early 1950s making an appearance.
After the run from Colombo to Bentota, Brunch sat down with new Classic Car Club of Ceylon President Clive de Silva for a chat on what the pandemic has been like for classic car enthusiasts.
Sharing some background on the Club with us, de Silva explained that the Club is due to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, and boasts close to 350 members who are all enthusiastic about classic cars, preserving them, and showing off their beauty and history to other enthusiasts and the general public, both by showing the cars and organising public and educational events.
But what doth a classic car make? De Silva explained that this is governed by a set of rules, the chief among them being that to be considered a classic car, a vehicle must be over 35 years old. “That doesn’t mean that any vehicle over 35 years old is considered a classic car, however. There are lots of cars that have turned 35 but aren’t considered classic cars. They have to come from a line or brand like Triumph, MB (Mercedes-Benz), or similar, or not be commonly available, or a car that has some sort of historical significance,” de Silva said, adding: “Sri Lanka is very lucky because we happen to have a lot of classic cars in the country, as well as people who are interested in restoring and preserving them.”
De Silva also spoke with us about the classic car community in Sri Lanka. Noting that it is indeed a time-consuming and expensive hobby, he also shared that for many of the younger members of the club it is also something of a tradition. “A lot of the love for classic cars comes from our parents, grandparents, and so on. I got into classic cars thanks to my dad. I was three or four years old when I saw my first classic car, and that was when I caught the bug. In the last three to four years, lots of younger enthusiasts have been able to clearly see the difference between modern-day and classic cars.”
The pandemic, de Silva shared, has strangely helped to boost interest in classic cars and their restoration. He attributes this to the fact that people have been at home with more time on their hands to work on passion projects (and classic cars are always a passion project), renewed interest in classic cars through their portrayals in television shows and other pop-culture, and younger enthusiasts seeing the potential in restoring and maintaining classic cars that their parents and grandparents have spent years maintaining or that they can see just lying in a garage somewhere.
Commenting on the challenges of being a classic car enthusiast and owner, de Silva said: “Part of being a classic car owner is the trials and tribulations that come with it. We try to encourage people to restore them and use them and drive them on the roads and enjoy the experience and sounds of driving a classic car. Breakdowns are also part and parcel of owning a classic car and learning to fix things on the go is also something you learn as a classic car owner.”
Speaking a bit more on breakdowns and restoration in general, de Silva noted that one big challenge to classic car owners brought on by the pandemic was getting parts for restorations and repairs. “A lot of these parts have to be brought down directly from the UK, the US, or Germany,” de Silva said, adding: “With the financial issues, duty issues, and importation issues, there has been a massive impact in being able to successfully restore cars. There is, however, a bit of luck in that since British cars and brands like Mercedes-Benz have been here for some time, it’s often easier to find certain spare parts. In terms of physically being able to restore cars, the pandemic has helped because most people have very busy lives and working from home has helped them to be able to better plan projects where they can get involved personally. A lot of people have made restoring a certain classic car their pandemic project and getting the younger generation involved too.”
Speaking on the success of this most recent Classic Car Run, de Silva extended his thanks to Cinnamon Bentota Beach and shared that typically, the Club used to hold six or seven events each year, from car runs, to rallies to motor shows, and other events. One event, for example, British Car Day, highlights all British classic cars still running around Sri Lanka. This most recent Classic Car Run was more or less the first event held by Club since beginning of the pandemic, and de Silva shared his hopes for a more eventful 2022, saying: “Now that 2022 is coming, we’ve got a quite a few events lined up from up-country climbs to rallies, and so on. The whole thing about the Club is that it’s not just about the sporting aspect of classic cars at these events; it’s about getting families together and building an atmosphere where everyone can enjoy themselves, and that’s what we hope to do in 2022.”