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  • Waldo Scribante at the wheel of his 280 SE 3.5 Coupé – one of his 50 cars
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    Out to the Cape.

    Two men, two cars and a life full of dreams. Chris Carlisle-Kitz and Waldo Scribante already took to the wheel as kids in Africa – and ever since, they have not been able to keep away from old cars.

    Text: Marc Bielefeld | Fotos: Jürgen Berderow

The sun is finally shining again.

Last week, a hurricane tore across South Africa, felled trees and blew cars into the sea. But now the sun is finally shining again. Table Mountain has a red-brown glow and the ­asphalt on the road is dry, so now this story about true passion – an obsession even – can begin: a story of two men and a good number of cars, a story of youthful dreams and childhood memories. It’s all about the smell of oil and petrol, about a growing affection for old metal. And, of course, it’s also about Africa.


Chris Carlisle-Kitz loves life. Down below on the Cape, it’s not just the sun that’s shining.

Chris Carlisle-Kitz loves life. Down below on the Cape, it’s not just the sun that’s shining.


Waldo Scribante at the wheel of his 280 SE 3.5 Coupé – one of his 50 cars.

Waldo Scribante at the wheel of his 280 SE 3.5 Coupé.


An early start in Cape Town.

The two men get into their cars ready for an early start in Cape Town. This is Chris Carlisle-Kitz, 72, with his leather jacket and grey beard. Born in Tanzania, he’s a true multi-­talent who has dabbled in a number of things, even escaped death once, and when you ask him how many cars he has had in his life, he simply answers, “I’d better not say.” Instead of giving a number, he turns the key in the ignition. The 300 SE from 1964 with its long fintails starts straight away. The engine comes up to speed and purrs heavily and rhythmically.


The two are addicted to cars.

Then there’s Waldo Scribante, 55, with a large hat on his head and his car’s immense bon­net before his nose. His denim shirt bears the inscription ‘Mercedes-Benz Klub Suid-Kaap, Startnummer 21’. He’s sitting behind the wheel of the 280 SE 3.5 Coupé, a car from 1970 with a red interior, so painstakingly restored, painted and polished that Table Mountain is perfectly reflected in its body­work.

In response to the question as to how many cars he owns, Waldo Scribante delivers a clear-cut response: “Fifty. But I obvi­ously don’t include the model cars in that.” He then adds: “I just can’t stop collecting cars. No chance!”


Chris and Waldo. The two are addicted to cars. They set off. On the cards today is a brief tour, just like they often do. This time they’re heading for the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost point of Africa. The two drive for the sheer pleasure of being in a car. They love the chrome, the valves, the pneumatic suspension technology; they know every single stitch of the old cars like the back of their hands. But there’s more to this than first meets the eye. This is a dream that was already alive in their hearts at a very early age. A dream featuring vast open spaces, clouds of dust on the horizon, cows mooing, and then the smell of old oil sumps – and the pair, almost like a couple of young kids, seated comfortably behind the wheel.


Out of the town and into beauty: from Cape Town, the pair head south.

Out of the town and into beauty: from Cape Town, the pair head south.

The two SE models make a beautiful couple.

The two Mercedes-Benz cars cruise along the foot of ­Table Mountain, while Cape Town starts coming into sight. In the distance are the port and the shores of Table Bay. The two cars float their way over there like a couple of time machines. Small wing mirrors, ­ivory-coloured steering wheels. Huge chrome trims wrapped around the headlamps. And then there are the wooden inserts around the instruments that are true to original, right down to the finest of details. Even the old radio, the “Becker Grand Prix”, is still installed. And what a silly question – of course it works!

The two SE models make a beautiful couple. Both have been on the road for around 50 years and both have undergone hundreds of hours of restoration work. But where does the desire for such a hobby come from? Chris: “It’s an addiction – and that’s a good thing. Anyone who doesn’t have a real passion for something might as well just dig themselves a big hole and jump right in.”

A long way.

Chris’ route to his passion was a long one. He first studied literature before becoming a teacher, a manager and even a chicken farmer. Then he became seriously ill with legionnaires’ disease and was left fighting for his life for five years. He survived the bad times and decided to make a fresh start: in car restoration. He taught himself, learning from books, but also took evening classes, before eventually establishing a small business – and so, car after car, he restored the vehicles with his own hands. Old Mercedes-Benz vehicles regularly left his workshop, and Chris has dealt with so many cars that he’s no longer able to recall them all. “I know, it’s crazy,” he says, “but I simply can’t leave these classics alone.” Especially joyful are those occasions where the vehicles leave the garage again looking like new.


The market near Fish Hoek turns into a fan zone: the classic cars just draw in the looks.

The market near Fish Hoek turns into a fan zone: the classic cars just draw in the looks.


Totally normal in South Africa: an ostrich comes close to the car for a quick nosy.

Totally normal in South Africa: an ostrich comes close to the car for a quick nosy.


The first classic car.

The two guide their cars in the direction of Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek, passing by the long beach in Muizenberg as they go. Surfers are riding waves, while a number of curious onlookers stand and look at the two Benz models, asking the usual questions. When was it built? How long did it take to restore? Where do you get the spare parts? Waldo and Chris happily answer these questions before getting back behind the wheel and driving on.

Waldo Scribante, president of the Mercedes-Benz Club of South Africa, got hooked in a different way: he had always been interested in mechanics and his parents took him on tours across South Africa as a child. Now a radiologist with four practices, he first purchased a classic car in 1996: a long-wheelbase 300 SE model with fintails.


“My toughest project.”

That was both the starting point and the point of no return for him. He was actively involved in bolting pieces together, banishing the rust and chasing after spare parts the world over. And then there were more cars – lots more. He had his friends bid along at auctions, he drove to ­various meetings, scoured the internet at night for old Mercedes-Benz models. His fleet just kept growing, until one day he had to rent a huge hangar for all his treasures.


Waldo tells of a particular 250 SE Cabriolet from 1967, his “toughest project”. He managed to come by a Mercedes ambulance from Germany; he can also call a 130 H from 1935 his own, as well as a 320 model sedan from 1938, a 220 SE Coupé, a 300 SE Coupé, and even a 300 SEL 6.3 once owned by the King of Lesotho. Waldo Scribante’s collection is unparalleled – and will remain that way. Fifty classic beauties. And the number just keeps rising.


Old steering wheel, vertical speedometer, padded dashboard: totally 1960s.

Old steering wheel, vertical speedometer, padded dashboard: totally 1960s.


An incredible route.

The two cars reach Cape Point at the entrance to the national park. The landscape starts to look even more sparse and rough. In the east, the jagged Swartkop mountains reign over the surroundings, hiding the ocean behind them. An ostrich is strutting around the place. It’s an incredible route for taking old cars for a tour. And a route of legendary acclaim: its end is marked by one of the world’s three major capes. Seafarers get goosebumps and car drivers step on the accelerator pedal, because this is a truly dream-like route through a famous corridor. But Chris and Waldo don’t handle their rarities with kid gloves. The engines of the two Mercedes hum past Neptune’s Dairy, overtaking tourist buses, pick-ups and even a motorbike. Up ahead, the view through their windscreens presents them with a final rocky outcrop before showing them the Cape. An arm stretches out of the rock and, just like the jagged fin along the spine of a lizard, it reaches into the sea, where it is washed with waves and spray. ­Africa’s land’s end, the highlight of the tour.


They already got behind the wheel when they were little.

Chris and Waldo park their cars and get out. There’s a good reason for the fact that they’re now standing here in front of these two cars in such savage surroundings. It’s a sight that goes way back in time, back to childhood in fact: they both already got behind the wheel when they were little nippers. In Germany, this would be the unat­tainable dream of all youngsters, but in the vast empty spaces that Africa offers, it is totally commonplace. Waldo first drove a Mercedes – his father’s 280 SE – at 11 years of age when he used to take it for a spin around his parents’ farm. He drove it across the forest and dust tracks, right up to the ranches in the outback and markets in the villages. A young lad all alone behind the wheel? So what? No one batted an eyelid. This was Africa. “I can still remember it well,” says Waldo. “I could hardly reach the pedals.”


The 300 SE parked in front of South Africa’s greatest personality: Nelson Mandela.

The 300 SE parked in front of South Africa’s greatest personality: Nelson Mandela.


The old Coupé overlooking False Bay – a scene transformed into a work of art.

Red, beige and the deep blue sea. The old Coupé overlooking False Bay – a scene transformed into a work of art.


“A big car for a small lad.”

Before long, he was driving with classmates to his first races, working on the cylinders and talking the lingo about the transmission. In these early years, young Waldo saw an old Ponton ­model parked in a shed and instantly dreamt about restoring such a vehicle one day.

Chris was just nine years old when he drove alone for the first time. It was a Mercedes-Benz 170 D, built in 1949. He first drove it across the runway of a disused airport in Daressalam, Tanzania, and shortly afterwards also took it out of his father’s garage himself. “A big car for a small lad,” recalls Chris. “That’s where it all started.”


The power of childhood mem­ories.

Today, decades later, the pair are standing in front of the two cars with their shining chrome trim ahead of a backdrop of the sunburnt hills of South Africa. It’s just a Sunday drive, but it’s about so much more than that for these two men. It’s about the power of childhood mem­ories. It’s about growing up in a time and a world in which a driving licence was just an unnecessary scrap of paper. In the case of Chris Carlisle-Kitz and Waldo ­Scribante, this left life-long marks.

You can take the lad out of the car, but you can’t take the car out of the lad.


Waldo Scribante at the wheel of his 280 SE 3.5 Coupé – one of his 50 cars