Spokes on the water

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2007, 12:00am

It's a trek to the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade and it can be sweltering when you get there, but the new harbourside walkway seems an ideal site for a car show.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department proved the area's potential last Sunday, when it literally rolled out the red carpet for the Collectors Car Club, whose 35 models were the highlight of a carnival celebrating the reclamation's opening to the public.

The haze obscured the sun, but bonnets and leather seats were still scorching with no shade. The club says more than 10,000 people braved the heat for free fun, games, cycle rentals and a waah at some of the oldest and fastest cars in town.

A thick, red security cordon restrained the exuberance of youngsters who got too close to the pristine paintwork, but few families could resist a Mother's Day snapshot with the centrepiece, a 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I.

A 1924 Vauxhall LM14/40 Sports Tourer stole the show. The car was originally shipped to Australia, where it was used as a template for locally made cars, the club says. Many visitors may have been surprised to learn that the Vauxhall rivalled Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Bugatti in its day, with a chassis of ground-breaking aeronautical aluminium instead of steel, leaf-spring suspension and a four-cylinder, 2.3-litre, side-valve engine on a ladder frame.

'The owner [Victor Ma] would like to use this car to join the Paris-Beijing Rally - like the Paris to Dakar Rally, which he did last year,' says club spokeswoman Connie Lau. The names of those who own the remaining cars at the event weren't released, but there were several highlights, from a swish, black 2004 Porsche Carrera GT to a sporty 1957 Austin Healey 100/6 and a gold, four-headlight 1966 Porsche 911,

one of the first in the series.

Also resplendent in the harbour haze were a 1950 Bentley Mark VI, a 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II, a gleaming 1972 Mini Pick-up, a 1975 Daimler limousine, and two gorgeous fasties: a 1994 Ferrari 512 TR and Jaguar XJS-V12 of similar vintage.

Such is the collectors' range of cars that a 1993 Honda NSX lined up with a 2001 Hummer H1, a 1976 Triumph TR6 and a 1978 Honda Civic.

Lau says the waterfront is an excellent venue. 'It's totally different from the built-up Chater Road concours site. It's open and comfortable, although there aren't many trees. But the smell of the sea, the fresh air and the wind on your face make you relaxed and refreshed,' she says. 'It's a bit hot, but pleasant. Most car owners enjoyed the event very much - as much as the spectators.'

Lau says the collectors were specially invited to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's event - but she doubts that other car clubs will be so lucky.

'To my understanding, the department has no intention of making this location open to rental by car clubs,' she says. 'It would spoil the tranquillity of the Waterfront Promenade. This is a quiet location for people to get away from the noisy, busy city life.'

But attendance at the show again reveals the car culture of a city with arguably the best collections of modern and classic cars and bikes in Asia. And as the collectors prepare for two handover celebration cavalcades, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department might consider opening the site to more car shows. After all, each car is as much a work of art as a painting or a sculpture, especially in a city that has raised three of the world's best automotive designers, Anthony Lo Wai-kei of General Motors and the Aero X, Pinky Lai Ping, who designed the Porsche Cayman, and Chelsia Lau Jia-bao of Ford.

West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade, open 6am-11pm daily. Entry from: the east at the junction of Austin Road West and Nga Cheung Road, TST; the west at the Western Harbour Crossing exit. There's a metered car park for 30 cars and two coaches near the eastern entrance