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Classic Cars

Travel back in time

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Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.
George Burns

One of the stranger features of St Helena is the collection of classic cars, mostly not just in running order but actually in day-to-day use.

This page is in indexes: Island Activity, Island Detail

Ford Anglia, parked at the seaside [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Ford Anglia, parked at the seaside

Go to: Why are there so many classic cars on St Helena?Photographs of some carsOne you can definitely ride inSt Helena’s first carDreams…And also… the ultimate classic ‘car’Some older cars

Why are there so many classic cars on St Helena?

The answer is in two parts:

  • It costs a lot to import a car to St Helena. In addition to around £2,000 shipping cost, you also have to pay 35% import duty, so anyone buying a car in the UK for £2,000 will find themselves paying out around £4,700 by the time it’s landed here. Hence you buy an older, cheaper car.

  • Once you’ve got your car here, you tend to look after it! So cars are maintained and kept running far beyond when they would have been scrapped anywhere else.

The garage mechanics here do a wonderful job keeping these elderly vehicles running. One of the garages even hand-machines spare parts, so if your crank shaft fails and the maker went out of business in 1968, all is not lost!

Photographs of some cars


Some are beautifully maintained:

Austin A30, parked in Napoleon Street {1} [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Austin A30, parked in Napoleon Street{1}

1974 Mk.1 Ford Escort, parked in Napoleon Street {1} [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
1974 Mk.1 Ford Escort, parked in Napoleon Street{1}

Triumph Stag Mk.2 V8 3litre, 1973, parked at the Seaside [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Triumph Stag Mk.2 V8 3litre, 1973, parked at the Seaside{3}

Triumph Herald 1200 Estate, parked in the Grand Parade [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Triumph Herald 1200 Estate, parked in the Grand Parade

Ford Capri Mk.1, parked at the top of Ladder Hill [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Ford Capri Mk.1, parked at the top of Ladder Hill

Triumph Herald 12/50, parked in Jamestown [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Triumph Herald 12/50, parked in Jamestown

Ford Capri Mk.1 (slightly customised), parked in Jamestown [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Ford Capri Mk.1 (slightly customised), parked in Jamestown

Mk.2 Ford Escort [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Mk.2 Ford Escort

Austin Mini; unknown version, in Grand Parade [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Austin Mini; unknown version, in Grand Parade


Others are not quite so well looked after…

Ford Cortina Mk.2, parked by the War Memorial [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Ford Cortina Mk.2, parked by the War Memorial

Ford Cortina Mk.4, parked in Jamestown [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Ford Cortina Mk.4, parked in Jamestown

Ford Escort Mk.1, parked in the Grand Parade [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Ford Escort Mk.1, parked in the Grand Parade

Original VW Beetle, parked in Napoleon Street {1} [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Original VW Beetle, parked in Napoleon Street{1}


But whatever their condition they are always interesting. And because people here are so friendly, if you ask you can probably get yourself a ride. Want another go in the first car you ever bought? It may be possible!

Please note that all these photographs were taken recently but we can’t promise that all the vehicles mentioned above will still be running when you arrive.

One you can definitely ride in

Steve Biggs and his ‘Roller’ [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Steve Biggs and his ‘Roller’

If you stay at the Farm Lodge Hotel you will definitely get a ride in Steve Biggs’ 1971 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith{4}. He uses it to collect guests from the Wharf.

Or you could hire it for a wedding

In 1903, the president of the Michigan Savings Bank infamously told Horace Rackham, one of the first investors in the Ford Motor Company:

The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty - a fad.

St Helena’s first car

In 1919, eying developments overseas, motorised transport was prohibited by Ordinance on St Helena. For five years this was uncontested but in 1924 islanders began debating whether mechanised transport should be allowed on the island. The opponents maintained that St Helena had got on very well in the past with horses and donkeys and in any case they considered our steep and narrow winding roads unsuitable for a motor vehicles. Governor Charles Henry Harper was strictly neutral in the discussions, but did report to the Colonial Office that “after all, time is rarely of the essence of any undertaking in St Helena” and thereby let out a hint of his own private opinion.

The dispute raged on until 1927 when, in the face of considerable local feelings and opposition, the 1919 Ordinance was repealed and a new Motor-Car Ordinance was passed, making it lawful to import motor vehicles to the Island. To be ready for the rush of cars, in 1928 some 100Km of road were prepared. The following year, St Helena’s leading and most enterprising inhabitant, Mr Humphrey Solomon, imported an Austin 7, the first motor vehicle to run on Island roads. Registered as number 1, and sold to and operated by a Mr Withecombe, the car was fondly referred to as ‘the Number 1’{5}.

It’s (probably) not still running…it’s seen below at various dates:

The Austin 7, in 1935 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
The Austin 7, in 1935

The Austin 7, in 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
The Austin 7, in 1962

The Austin 7, 1970s? [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
The Austin 7, 1970s?

Within a year of its arrival the number of cars on St Helena had risen to 14, and there were also 5 lorries.

Also for the record, the island’s first significant motor accident occurred on 22nd September 1933 when a motor bus carrying hockey players overturned in Half Tree Hollow, throwing the occupants into the adjacent prickly pear bushes. There were some injuries but no fatalities.

Dreams…

This image was contributed to an Art Exhibition held at the Museum of St Helena in April 2008:

‘What Dreams Will Come?’, artist unknown [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
‘What Dreams Will Come?’, artist unknown{6}{7}

And also… the ultimate classic ‘car’

The world-famous 1929 St Helena Charabanc [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
The world-famous 1929 St Helena Charabanc

No trip to St Helena would be complete without a ride in the world-famous St Helena Charabanc.

The Charabanc in 1961 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
The Charabanc in 1961

Built by Chevrolet in 1929 and now operated by Corker’s Tours, you can book a ride at the Tourist Office. (It also does the infamous ‘pub crawl’ - visit every bar on the island and have a drink in each. After a few bars you won’t care about the rain!)

It is also used for wedding parties.

Top Twenty things to do [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]

Taking a tour is one of our Top Twenty things to do during a visit to St Helena.

Top Twenty things to do [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]

Some older cars

These are photos of older cars that used to run on St Helena:

Visitors on the Viceroy of India, 1939 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Visitors on the Viceroy of India, 1939

… [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]

… [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]

Main Street, 1949 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Main Street, 1949

Grand Parade, 1950s [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Grand Parade, 1950s

Bedford Truck carrying Flax, 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Bedford Truck carrying Flax, 1962{a}

Funeral Cortege, 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Funeral Cortege, 1962{a}

The Bridge, 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
The Bridge, 1962{a}

Governor Alford ’s car, 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Governor Alford’s car, 1962{a}

Main Street, 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Main Street, 1962{a}

Unknown, 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Unknown, 1962{a}

… [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
{a}

Market Square, 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Market Square, 1962{a}

Two Charabancs! 1962 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Two Charabancs! 1962{a}

Delivery Vehicle(?) Napoleon Street {1}, 1980 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Delivery Vehicle(?) Napoleon Street{1}, 1980

Cannister car park, 1980 {2} [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Cannister car park, 1980{2}

Jamestown car park, 1968 [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]
Jamestown car park, 1968

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]

Laugh at funny classiccars humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Classic Cars]


Credits:

{a} Copyright © 1962 Film Unit, used with permission{6}. The 1962 Film Unit consisted of Charles Frater, Bob Johnston and Esdon Frost who came to the island and made a half hour film called “Island of Saint Helena”, many sound recordings and photographic stills. The full film is available on YouTube™ www.youtube.com/watch?v=YngeIbFUEVw.



Footnotes:

{1} We understand that prior to Napoleon’s exile Napoleon Street was known as Cock Street. We do not know exactly when it was renamed.

{2} Note the double-parking - just like today!

{3} Not a good place to park when the sea is rough!

{4} The Silver Wraith was a long wheelbase variant of the Silver Shadow Mk. 1

{5} Actually the very first ‘car’ on St Helena was a species of cyclear brought out by Captain Mainwaring, a car mechanic. This vehicle, however did not prove successful, and during its trials it crashed into the wall of the graveyard - with Governor Harper as passenger. Hence ‘the Number 1’ could perhaps be more accurately described as St Helena’s first successful car!

{6} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged

{7} If you are the artist, or know the artist’s identity, please contact us as we’d like to offer attribution.



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