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Baywatch – Celebrating sun, sea, sand, and Shelby

If the popular lifeguard drama Baywatch, celebrating its 30thanniversary this year, was produced in South Africa, Camps Bay in Cape Town – with the impressive The Bay Hotel as a backdrop and an iconic Shelby Mustang on set – would have been the perfect location for it …

It has been thirty years since the sexy stars of the TV series Baywatch first bounded along the beach in slow-motion – supposedly to rescue bumbling bathers from strong sea currents while continuously being distracted by incessant interpersonal troubles …

Anyway, the storylines never really mattered as much as the bouncy bits (in Iceland viewers complained about subtitles on the show, as the text would get in the way of “vital” parts of the imagery) and the series became a global hit, reaching an estimated audience of one billion viewers worldwide.

The action drama, about a group of elite lifeguards on the pristine beaches of Malibu, Southern California (and later Hawaii), was aired in over 200 different countries, was translated into 48 languages, and was described as “the most popular show in the history of the planet”. (It was awarded a Guinness World Record for having the largest global TV audience in history.)

It also made Mitch, CJ, and their pals patrolling the beaches in skimpy swimsuits household names, and shot actors such as David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Erika Eleniak, Gena Lee Nolan, Jason Momoa, Alexandra Paul, and Yasmine Bleeth to international stardom.

First airing in 1989, the series ran for eleven years and spawned a plethora of spin-offs; from associated TV programmes to feature films. Last year, to mark 30 years since **Baywatch** began, the series was digitally remastered in HD with over 350 new songs created to score the montages.

A new Pantone colour, Baywatch Red, was also created, as featured in the costumes worn by the cast of the era-defining series. Interestingly, those memorable one-piece suits worn by the female leads were designed by a sport swimsuit company and inspired by actual competitive swimming gear. Each red swimsuit was also tailored differently.

Mustang and Baywatch

What is not so well known, is that after an unspectacular premiere season, broadcaster NBC cancelled Baywatch in 1990 and the series was on the brink of extinction. Intriguingly, around the same time, the Ford Mustang pony car faced a very similar fate …

Actually, the decision that would irrevocably change the future of the iconic, all-American muscle car was already taken in 1985. The idea was to phase out the third-generation Mustang based on the Fox platform in favour of a front-wheel-drive platform developed jointly with Mazda.

However, when word got out that Ford was planning to abandon the rear-wheel-drive layout of the Mustang, the American buying public revolted, sending Ford hundreds of thousands of letters in protest. Ford still went ahead with the front-wheel-drive (FWD) car (the Probe, debuting in 1989) but the carryover Fox-body Mustang still outsold it, prompting Dearborn to order the development of a new rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Mustang.

Still, the company did not completely discount the FWD idea, and development of both RWD and FWD platforms went ahead. In 1990, some people at Ford realised the FWD model would not work and quietly swung resources towards the RWD concept. By now it was too late for a new platform, so the existing chassis was overhauled and dubbed the Fox-4.

Mustang programme manager John Coletti and designer Patrick Schiavone secretly prepared three concepts with the code names Bruce Jenner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Rambo. “Jenner” was deemed too conservative to be a Mustang, “Rambo” was considered too wild, so in the end, “Schwarzenegger” was chosen to become the generation-4 Mustang. So, the Terminator saved the RWD Mustang from termination …

What became of Baywatch? Well, after being rejected by NBC, it was resurrected for syndication in the international market and British broadcaster LWT (now part of ITV) stepped in to help save the programme. It became so successful it was aired on all continents except Antarctica.

Snake in the Bay

Special Mustang models like the SVT Cobra and Cobra R returned with the fourth-generation model. After an update in 1999, it spawned the first Bullitt, a Mach 1 revival, and the 2000 Cobra R. There were no Shelby versions, though, as the Shelby-Ford partnership was over by 1969. It was revived in 2007 and since then Shelby has developed several bespoke Shelby Mustang models.

Still, we are convinced the stars of Baywatch – if it was to be resurrected now (there are rumours …) – would be seen in the Super Snake version at least, and well-known racer Peter Lindenberg, the local distributor of Shelby, kindly supplied us the latest 2019 model for our shoot.

It is an eye-catching beast. Based on the latest S550 Mustang this limited-edition package, each with a unique CSM number included in the Official Shelby Registry, has been extensively reworked, featuring a new hood, rockers, spoilers, splitters, grilles, rear tail panel, and rear diffuser assembly. The Shelby theme is continued inside with finely appointed stitching and badges.

Powered by an 800 horsepower (nearly 600 kW) cross-plane crankshaft variant of the Ford 5-litre V8 Voodoo engine (named the Predator) with a Whipple supercharger, the powerful Super Snake emits a magnificent sound, and with nearly 1 000 Nm of torque, it whips from 0-100 km/h in 3.5 seconds.

With a Penske-tuned suspension, MagnaRide dampers, 20-inch forged wheels, high-performance tyres, Brembo six-piston front and four-piston rear brakes, and Shelby exhaust it effortlessly carved up the Chapmans Peak road, yet it is still tractable enough to burble down the Camps Bay main drag at snail’s pace. The track-tuned suspension is hard, though, and amplifies every road undulation.

Nonetheless, this fastest of all Shelby Mustang specials is a magnificent and very collectable machine, ready for everyday use but with more than a healthy dose of muscle car appeal.

The Bay Hotel

Camps Bay got its name from a sailor, Frederick Ernst von Kamptz, who married Anna Koekemoer, widow of Johan Wernich who unexpectedly passed away in 1778. Von Kamptz was now the legal owner of the land, and the area was subsequently renamed “Die Baai Van Von Kamptz”. Over time this became Camps Bay and the area was officially incorporated into the City of Cape Town in 1913.

The history of The Bay Hotel, part of the Village & Life collection, can be traced back to another Camps Bay landmark, the geometrically domed Rotunda. Situated close to the lush lawns and beaches of the bay, the Rotunda, built in 1904, became the focal point of the Cape Town social elite in the Victorian era.

Famously, it is the oldest single-storey dome construction in Cape Town, and as with the ubiquitous row of palm trees along the beachfront, was part of the plan of the then-mayor, James Riddell Farquhar, to turn Camps Bay into a ‘little Brighton’ – a holiday resort resembling the English seaside resort.

The building had languished by the 1950s and it was set to make way for a seven-storey block of flats. Residents of Camps Bay protested, demanding that the beautiful example of Florentine architecture remains and that a new building does not obstruct their view of the ocean. Reacting to the outcry the City Council rezoned the Rotunda, saving the original building, which was then incorporated into The Bay Hotel. It is still used to host events.

Text: Ferdi de Vos | Images: Ryan Abbott | Model: Robin Jansen | Costume: Bacon Bikinis, Canal Walk Shopping Centre