Finesse rings loud from a photo taken on October 27 that captured a fleet of Mercedes Benz cars parked at the Kenyatta National Hospital compound.
A beautiful face here, with the headlight design suggesting a wink. A more beautiful, broader face next. An enthralling red body follows. Then a redoubtable, stern black body. Looking at the cars in the photo, one gets a serving of the curves and contours that Mercedes designers have been hammering into their various car models over the years.
How more than 15 Benzes found themselves in one spot is a story that begins in the mind of Mr Amon Somolong, 30, the president and co-founder of the Mercedes Benz Club of Kenya.
An idea he conceptualised in 2013 led to the formation of a Benz Owners’ Club, which today has 225 members and is not only registered with the Attorney-General but also recently earned recognition from Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes.
“We are now the 80th accredited club in the world by Daimler AG,” Mr Somolong told the Sunday Nation. “We are members of the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.”
His club is among the many that enable car enthusiasts to come together depending on the make of their rides.
In Kenya, the longest running organisation of the kind is the Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club, which was founded in 1970 and has been operational ever since. “The club holds regular social and sporting events for its members and their families,” says a message on their website.
Then there is the BMW Owners’ Club of Kenya, which was started in January 2013 by car enthusiast Daniel Wako.
The club’s events manager and social media publicist Claire Ng’eno told the Sunday Nation that it has approximately 100 active members.
She shared photos of events held by the BMW Owners’ group. In one of the photos captured at an event held in January, a row of snazzy cars with the signature BMW split grilles meets the eye.
“There are all sorts of cars, from the classics to the latest BMWs. All I can tell you is that people love their cars. In fact, most of our events are not only for networking purposes. They are also for bragging,” said Ms Ng’eno, smiling.
Another grouping is the Bundu Rovers Club, which brings together owners of Land Rovers — vehicles famed for their hardiness and off-road prowess powered by four-wheel driving. The club started in 2008 when a handful of Land Rover owners would converge at a garage for maintenance.
“We spend our time together getting engaged with a whole variety of activities from drives, camping, training, family fun and pay-and-play days at various places, not to mention getting in touch with our green side doing tree planting activities with the Nairobi Greenline Initiative,” says a post on their website.
Cars belonging to members of the Mercedes Benz Club are seen at a parking lost, when they visited children suffering from cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, October 27, 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY
With the encouragement of their founders Alex Bonchenki and David Copperfield, the club’s members relish off-road trips, where the power of their machines is tested to the maximum.
Related to the Bundu Club is the Land Rover Owners’ Club Kenya, which mostly deals in marketing the vehicle’s latest models.
Searching online, one also encounters different clubs for owners of Range Rovers, Nissans, Peugeots, Subarus, Volkswagens among other models.
After our interviews with the representatives of Mercedes and BMW owners, it was clear that the clubs engage in similar activities: business networking, fun drives and charity.
They both said it is easier to get a mechanic, spare parts and do-it-yourself solutions when people are together as a group.
Chatting platform WhatsApp has made it easier for members to get instant solutions for their problems.
“Sometimes I can get lights on my dashboard and I don’t know what they mean. So I just take a photo of the dashboard and I send it to the group,” said Ms Ng’eno, adding that members are always ready to give assistance.
Driving in groups is another major event for the associations.
Mr Somolong said they organise longer drives for the Mercedes owners so as to “clean” their engines.
“Most of our cars are touring cars. They’re not city cars per se. These are cars that you enjoy better for long distance. That’s why we have most of these drives and even have a term called ‘kutoa carbon’.
“When you’re driving within the city — the short distances — your engine accumulates a lot of carbon. What happens is, you’re advised to take long drives so that you can clear it and your engine becomes healthier,” he said.
Charity is never too far from their drives, Mr Somolong said. “It is one of our main mandates as a club,” he said.
On October 27 when their cars decorated the KNH parking lots, they had gone to visit children at the cancer ward.
“We made contributions and went to visit the children and bought them a few things here and there just to keep them moving,” said Mr Somolong.
“Previously, we’ve done charity in Kajiado. We have also adopted a children’s home called Loving Hands Home in Gilgil. We’re going there on December 15. We’ve gone there twice, and so far we’ve contributed around Sh670,000,” he added.
For the BMW owners, December 14 to 17 has been set aside for a drive to Mombasa, where they plan to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor to donate food and other items.
“All drives that we do always have a charity activity,” Ms Ng’eno said.
For those with a big heart but who do not like lumping themselves according to the make of their cars, there is an initiative called The Great Run that is co-ordinated by, among others, Daily Nation motoring columnist Baraza JM.
On December 1, participants of the run, now in its 14th edition, will drive to Isiolo to a Child Welfare Society of Kenya facility. They will have more activities on the unforgiving roads of north-eastern Kenya on December 2 before returning to Nairobi.
Back to the car clubs, most members are also into classic models. A number of them have featured in Concours d’Elegance — an event for old, classy models — a couple of times.
The problem, Mr Solomong said, is the government’s ban on importation of cars that are more than eight years old.
“We are looking at partnering with other motor clubs and anyone in this industry to talk to the government and see how maybe there can be an exception for quality classic cars,” he said.
Both the BMW and Mercedes club leaders have in place a strict vetting mechanism for new members, who have to pay a registration fee and subscribe every year. “Being a car enthusiast and a petrol-head, I’ve really got to learn a lot about cars,” Mr Somolong said when asked how he has gained from being a member of the Mercedes club.
Ms Ng’eno said: “Being in the group has also given me access to different mechanics who are experienced and know how to handle BMWs. There are not many mechanics who know what they’re doing when it comes to BMWs.”