Car make and model define the driver
Mashudu Netsianda, senior reporter
Much like “the hat makes the man”, to use the title of the 1920 collage by the late German graphic designer and poet Max Ernst, the automobile has become, over the course of a century, the accessory that defines a driver.
As a symbol, the automobile speaks eloquently of its owner, and sometimes in unflattering terms. Usually the make and model of a car defines a status symbol or the social and economic status of the owner.
The latest high-end models, especially those driven by the rich and famous, seem to increase the response from viewers.
For Mr. Martin Sherfield (48), a Bulawayo-based vintage car enthusiast who owns a 1930 Ford model and a 1930 Chevrolet, the script reads differently.
A vintage car is, in the most general sense, an old automobile, and in the narrower sense of car enthusiasts and collectors, a car from the period 1919 to 1930.
While most auto fans seem to be infatuated with the latest industry trends, Mr. Sherfield has never been moved by the changing trends in the auto industry. For him, when it comes to wheels, he prefers vintage cars.
Mr. Sherfield bought his first car, a Ford Model A in 1999. When he bought it, it was in a bad condition, but he managed to restore it to its original condition despite having took four years to completely rebuild it.
âI bought my first vintage car, a Ford Model 1930, and it was completely in pieces. I rebuilt it completely from scratch and it took me four years. I had to import some of the spare parts from the United States, âhe said.
Mr. Sherfield has two vintage cars in his collection and one of them, a 1930 Chevrolet, which is a six-cylinder (2.8-liter) petrol engine, is only used for hire at weddings, between other events.
âA lot of people rent my car for milestone events, especially couples who are getting married ask for my vintage car for their wedding procession and my fees depend on hours ranging from $ 100 to $ 350,â he said. .
âThe Chevrolet is strictly for weddings and I rarely use it outside of weddings because I don’t want it to wear out because it’s expensive to maintain. In fact, it’s my livelihood, so I have to take care of it.
His Ford Model A is his favorite car, which is specifically reserved for personal use. He actually went the extra mile to install modern sound and air conditioning systems among other new technologies.
The Ford Model A was the second biggest hit for the Ford Motor Company after its more famous predecessor, the Model T.
First sold on December 2, 1927, it replaced the Model T which had been in production for 18 years. Production of the Model A ended in March 1932, after 4.8 million had been manufactured in all body styles.
Mr Sherfield, who appears to be an expert on vintage cars, said the Model A was the first Ford to use the standard set of drive controls with conventional clutch and brake pedals, throttle and shifting.
âPrevious Fords used controls that had become unusual for drivers of other makes and a mirror was optional. The Model A was also the first car to have safety glass in the windshield, âhe said.
Mr Sherfield said the farthest he had driven his Ford Model A was during his five-week trip to Botswana.
âI use my Ford Model A to travel with my family and have done a lot of road trips. We have been to Hwange National Park and Great Zimbabwe several times and have made several visits to Victoria Falls and Matopos National Park. The longest distance I traveled was 4000 km when I traveled to Botswana and the trip took us five weeks, âhe said.
Mr. Sherfield developed a strong passion for vintage cars from an early age. Although he is not a qualified auto mechanic, his father was.
âI developed this desire for vintage cars from an early age. I really don’t know where it came from because my father certainly didn’t have a vintage car when he was a mechanic by trade. I remember very well when I was a little boy, I admired these vintage cars every time I saw them moving, âhe said.
Besides vintage cars, Mr. Sherfield enjoys old tractors, and a few of them in his collection, including old manual gas pumps, gramophones, and old stationary engines.
Mr Sherfield said it was through his daily interactions with his father and his observation of car repairs that he finally developed basic mechanical skills. The wonder of vintage cars goes beyond personal collections.
Today, he is not only an enthusiast of vintage cars, but an accomplished manufacturer of such cars.
âTypically it takes me up to two years to work on a single vintage car because I have to be precise with the parts, the body, the interior and everything else. The complete rebuilds that I have done so far in my career include three Ford Model A 1930, Ford Model T 1926, two Land Rover 1954, Morris 8, a model from the 1950s, âhe said.
Mr. Sherfield bought his Chevrolet in 2003 for US $ 2,000 in Harare, where it had long been left behind and parked under a tree.
âThe owner of the car died and left it in his wife’s hands, but she never did anything to him and she too died, leaving the vehicle with her daughter who did nothing either. She needed to sell the house and contacted me, saying she was selling the old car. I made an offer for US $ 2,000 and bought it, âhe said.
Mr Sherfield said they were running a series of races in Matopos around 10 years ago, along with other vintage car collectors.
âWe have been doing vintage exhibitions for a very long time, but today we can no longer because there are few left. Ten years ago we went to Matopos in a single dossier presenting our old cars, but now there are too few, maybe two or three in Bulawayo, âhe said.
He said the first car to arrive in the country was a French Gladiator in 1902. It was a chain driven single cylinder with battery ignition.
Mr Sherfield said one of the biggest challenges owners of vintage cars face when it comes to rebuilding them revolves around re-registering them, as most of them will not have logs of edge.
âNormally they don’t have logbooks because most of them would have been lost many years ago. So trying to license them is quite a challenge, if not nearly impossible, âhe said.
The rich history of the vintages once prompted the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) to exempt them from paying road licenses after lobbying by vintage car clubs.
This concession exempting cars over 40 years old had been in place since 2011, an initiative that was adopted by classic vehicle owners as recognition of the growing historical importance of their vehicles.
The exemption was, however, removed seven years later in February last year after a directive from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development.
It was withdrawn because the concession had never been formally legislated and, with the new policy waiver in place, all ministries were made to act in strict accordance with the law.
What remains now are free licenses for vehicles manufactured up to January 1, 1931, which are exempt under Chapter 13:14 of the Vehicle Registration and Registration Act 2001. Owners of old cars, however, urge the ministry to legislate on the license exemption. – @mashnets