Pensioners shape Kenya’s vintage car market


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Paul Chemngorem works on his 1969 MGB GT which he entered in this year’s CBA Africa Concours d’Elegance. PICTURES | COURTESY

One of the downsides of the Concours d’Elegance is that you tend to relax until the 11th hour, then you end up losing points for no reason – in a competition where every half point counts. Sometimes cars just won’t gel and something is still wrong and you have to work all night to fix it.

That’s what 72-year-old Paul Chemngorem fears as he polishes up his vintage cars ahead of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club’s Concours d’Elegance at Nairobi Racecourse.

“This year, I am entering two of my old Volkswagens, one a 1956 Beetle and the other a 1962 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. This is category 3 – from 1000cc to 1300cc. same cars,” explains Paul, who has been competing in vintage and classic cars for 24 years now.

“It’s a very expensive hobby. You keep buying new cars to replace the old ones.”

Paul first claimed the vintage car throne in 1998. He was in his early 50s.

Another veteran participating for the umpteenth time is Sati Gata-Aura. The 76-year-old’s first stab in the competition dates back to 1985.

“I am retired but car restoration is now my job. I still work 14 hours a day,” he says at his home in Nairobi.

Sati Gata-Aura stands next to his 1947 MG-TC during the launch of the 2022 African Concours d’Elegance at the Panafric Hotel in Nairobi. PICTURES | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Sati owns the 1997 Nissan 160J (1595 cc) and a 1947 MG TC convertible.

“I’m the only person to have entered the most competitions,” he says, adding, “plus, I have the most podiums more than anyone else.”

For Anwar Fatehdin, 85, it was a rather zigzag road to rodeo.

He has three horsepower in this race – a 1947 Ford F100 half-ton pickup, the 1929 Ford Model A two-door sedan, and another 1931 Ford Model A two-door sedan.

“My first participation in the Concours dates back to 2018. I have long been a fan of vintage cars (since 1967). However, I did not participate. This changed in 2018 when Alfa Romeo Owners Club approached me to bring my classic car. I also participated in 2019 with the aim of acquiring the best exclusive club memberships,” he says.

Anwar Fatehdin shows off the interior of his 1929 Ford Model A at his home on September 17, 2022. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

It may seem that the event is heavily geared towards older people. So how do they get young people to join?

“It’s expensive, but it’s like going to the casino. It’s very hard for people to appreciate when you do things that don’t pay off. When young people come here[Concours event]they will be able to appreciate the heritage of the cars that were available at the time and see how they operated before,” says Paul.

Sati offers more or less a sounding board, going as far as the diagnosis of ill-being.

“The younger generations have neither the patience nor the time. It’s hard work and few people want to do it. Sometimes you can work on a car for up to two months. You must be dedicated. When other people are having fun outside and you’re under the car, it’s not easy,” he says.

For Paul it boils down to what we like, noting that he is a grandfather but that he gently guides with a firm hand but does not impose. A velvet hammer.

“Everyone has a passion. When I was young, I loved cars and admired different types of vehicles. Volkswagens were very popular cars and I bought my first car, which I exhibited, in 1973,” explains Paul.

“I take a kick out of it. It makes me happy,” adds Anwar.

18 cars

Maintaining these vehicles is not cheap. Paul owns over 18 cars, some for everyday use and some as project cars.

“If you like something, you keep it. It’s like playing golf, you start with a low handicap as you progress. I have collected these cars over the years and serviced them myself.

“I am a mechanic, but not by profession, and I learned as a key boy for the Kenyan Safari Rally drivers who were competing in the East African Safari Rally. Now I am able to rebuild. And when you do restoration, you have With the help of a mechanic that I trained, I fix all my cars myself,” he says.

However, nothing comes without challenges. “The challenge is spare parts. When I’m outside the country, I look for them or import them, but it’s very difficult.”

“It can take up to two years to rebuild a car. It’s not about rebuilding, it’s about rebuilding so that the car wins a show,” adds Sati. He has eight cars in his collection. In this year’s competition, he has two dogs in the fight.

A Nissan 160J 1600cc and the MG TC 1300cc convertible. For Sati, the goal is to parade the kind of vintage and classic cars that Kenya has.

In the last contest, there were 28 entries from outside Kenya. This edition, held before Covid-19 shut down the world, saw John Wroe narrowly beat his daughter Veronica as his 1930 Ford Model A won the 2019 edition.

John Wroe, collector and restorer of vintage classic cars in his home in Karen. PICTURES | DIANA NGILA | NMG

In previous editions, car winners have included a 1928 Chevrolet, a 1928 Ford, a 1926 Fiat, a 1934 Alvis Firefly, a 1934 Railton, a 1951 Daimler DB 18 Barker and a 1952 MGTD.

This year’s event attracted 70 cars and 40 motorcycles. Cars will be classified into 12 divisions while motorcycles will contain eight categories.


Judging is based on cleanliness, condition and there are bonus points for age. As the Competition is open to all brands and all types of cars and motorcycles, it is not possible to assess originality and this characteristic is not taken into consideration.

As he prepares for the contest, Paul has a few choice words.

“You have to be resilient in terms of maintaining these cars. You have to feel them and ride them. These cars also represent history. I believe in heritage and I love history. If you can, get yourself one car and try to restore it. Maybe your fathers and grandfathers have such cars, take them. It’s a nice project, it will keep you busy and it’s also fun.

For Sati, it’s all about winning. “The Concours d’Elegance taught me that there are two types of competitors. Some contestants enter to compete, and others to win the show. I belong to the latter. I have won three times as overall winner and I have not failed to get on the podium in many editions. This year, I have no intention of losing.

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