Classic Cars in
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Quick overview of South Africa
Car of the Week
1927 Ford Model T Tudor (very rare car)
Henry Ford - In 1903 the Ford Motor Company was established in Detroit. Henry
was a farm boy who was fascinated with horseless carriages. He had been building
gasoline buggies for several years and had bankrupted two companies already. While
other auto makers designed luxury cars, Henry Ford designed a basic car that anyone
could afford. Here he is standing next to his iconic Model T.
In 1909 he astonished the world by marketing the world's most inexpensive automobile
and offered qualified workers an unprecedented $5 a day. Ford became an overnight folk
hero; a champion of the common man. His obsession was mass production and in 1913 he
introduced the first moving assembly line for cars. Within 18 months, the time needed to
build a Model T was reduced from 12.5 to 1.5 man-hours.
The Model T was basic transportation which had a very long and celebrated eighteen-
year run. This Ford put a continent on wheels and revolutionized agriculture not only in
Ameria. In the twenties, sales dwindled as competitors offered more advanced cars with
accessories which were not available on a Model T. Even obstinate Henry Ford could
finally see the end was near for his beloved Tin Lizzie. In unconventional fashion his
factories were shut down in June of 1927 while the world awaited Henry Ford's next
creation. Dealers put up signs in the windows of empty showrooms urging would-be
consumers to wait for the new Ford.
Edsel Ford, Henry's son, created the stylish design of the new Ford Model A. The 40-
horsepower engine was also new. The car featured shocks, four-wheel brakes and a
conventional three-speed transmission. The Model A was as sophisticated as the Model
T was simple and had 2,030 more parts than its predecessor!
The all-new Ford was front page news around the world. When it was finally unveiled
on December 2, 1927, hundreds of thousands of people in Canada and the United States
mobbed venues to see the sensational new Ford, many coming out in snowstorms. In some
centres, police had to control the mobs. Sales shot through the roof and all was well again
as Ford battled to fill all the orders. Over a period of four years he produced five million
Model A’s, or more than 5000 cars a day at peak production (Cape Town to Bellville
bumper to bumper). The logistics must have been mind-blowing, considering that there
were no computers and virtually no telephones at that time.
The first Ford to arrive in South Africa was a 1903 Ford Model A, which was imported
by Mr Arthur Youldon of Johannesburg. In September 1903 Mr Youldon, an importer,
was in New York where he saw Henry Ford demonstrate his new car. He immediately
placed his order with Henry Ford, who informed him that it would be the first Ford to
be sold outside North America.
Car of the Week History
Rare Classic Car Books
Auto Union & Audi
1903 - 1980
Royce & Bentley
Interesting Old Cars & Info
Old Car Adventures
Dixieland Band arrives in Style
Our regular Dixieland Band arrives in style at one
of our Crankhandle Club meetings in Cape Town
First Car in Southern Hemisphere
As early as 1896, in what is believed to have been the first car in the Southern
Hemisphere, Mr John Percy Hess of Pretoria made the decision to import
a Benz "Velo" from Benz & Co of Mannheim Germany to South Africa. During
the same year this car was shipped to Port Elizabeth and then transported to
Pretoria. It was the start of a business relationship which lead to Mr Hess
becoming the sole agent for Benz & Co in South Africa.
On Monday, January 4th at 4pm.1897 at Berea Park in Pretoria, in a widely
advertised event, Mr John Percy Hess first drove the car with a Mr A.E. Reno
(his business Partner and co-founder of the Pretoria News), and a Dr W.J. Leyds,
then State Secretary of the Transvaal, as passengers. President Paul Kruger
was also invited to ride on the car, but he preferred to just watch the event.
In honour of President Paul Kruger attendance a "vierkleur" flag was attached
to a pole on the carriage and a gold medal was minted to commemorate this
occasion. A large number of spectators who came to see this spectacle had to
pay an entrance fee of 2 shillings and 6 pennies.
The following week, the Benz was shown at the Wanderers in Johannesburg
and then sold to Mr A.H. Jacobs, a coffee importer. Every customer who
purchased 500g of coffee from his shop in Pritchard Street was allowed to see
his car. Unfortunately, some months later, this car was destroyed in a fire.
First Ford exported to a country outside North America
The first Ford to arrive in South Africa was a 1903 Ford Model A, which was
imported by Mr Arthur Youldon of Johannesburg.
In September 1903 Mr Youldon, an importer, was in New York where he saw
Henry Ford demonstrate his new car. He immediately placed his order with
Henry Ford, who informed him that it would be the first Ford to be sold
outside North America. The Ford Motor Company was founded earlier that
year, on 16 June 1903.
The car only arrived in February 1904 in Port Elizabeth from where it had to
be transported by train to Johannesburg. This car survived to this day and
can be viewed at the Franschhoek Motor Museum in the Cape, which has a
large display covering 100 years of motoring in SA.
The first two Ford agents in South Africa are believed to be Arkell & Douglas
of Port Elizabeth and Georges Chapart of Durban. Mr Chapard, a Frenchman,
travelled throughout Natal and later also the Orange Free State, selling the
popular Ford Model N, the predecessor of the Model T.
Other early Ford dealers followed such as Mr H.G. Holmes of Kimberley who
later moved to Cape Town and Atkinson's Motor Garages of Bloemfontein,
which much later were incorporated in the McCarthy Group of companies.
Since Ford's inception in 1904, Ford of Canada was given the task by Henry
Ford of supplying right-hand drive vehicles to all the British colonies,
possessions and protectorates. Ford
the US factories were geared solely to lhd production.
During July 1923 Mr Charles Holmes and Mr H.F.A. Stockelbach visited the
Ford factory in Canada to investigate the possibility of starting an assembly
plant in South Africa, as preferential tax and duty applied to Commonwealth
Countries, it was advantageous to assemble Canadian kits in South Africa.
This was realised in February 1924, when an old wool packing shed in Port
Elizabeth was used to start the assembly of the Ford Model Ts.
Oldest Cars in South Africa
South Africa's Own Successful Cars
GSM Dart & Flamingo
Bob van Niekerk, Willie Meissner and Vester de Wit conceived and designed this
car during 1956. Then they formed the GSM company and started manufacturing
the first two prototypes during 1957. The car proved to be almost unbeatable in
South Africa as well as various racing circuits in Europe.
cars were launched as open cars and a removable hardtop only followed later.
The Flamingo was a further development and differed in many respects.
A good number of these cars have survived in South Africa, as well as in the UK,
USA and Canada!
This Ford engined sports car
made its first official appearance at the Spring Motor
Show at Milner Park Johannesburg in 1957. The car was conceived and developed
by John Myers, Robert Hudson and Dr Alan Roy.
During the 1970’s, a Cape Town firm called InterMotorMakers (IMM) became
known for the assembly of Lamborghini and Lotus cars from CKD kits.
The main driving force behind IMM was an archtect named Gerrie Steenkamp
who, together with well-known National Rally driver Nic de Waal (an Engineer
who today practises as a naval architect) set about to create a two-seater sports
car. This is known today as the Caracal.
The car is built on a VW Golf GTi 16V platform and uses VW mecanicals. An
interesting fact is that the Caracal is built “back-to-front” – i.e. the Caracal’s rear
end was the Golf’s front end before the “conversion” – resulting in a mid-engined
lay-out. The cabin is also done with the Golf’s interior (seats, dashboard, etc)
resulting in a truly professional, market-ready product.
I believe that some 4 of these beautiful cars were made: one was destruction-
tested by Volkswagen, one was sent off to VW Germany, one was destroyed in
an accident and the “show-model” survived.
When I bought the Caracal, it was in a fairly good, road-going condition. Because
of the car’s huge importance to South Africa’s motoring history however, I decided
to put the car through a complete restoration. This, regrettably, turned sour and
I have to re-do almost the entire job! Currently, I’m hoping to get the restoration
done soon – and properly this time!
Old Car definitions
Antique Cars - Built before 31st December 1904
Veteran Cars - Built between 1st Jan 1905 & 31st Dec 1918
Vintage Cars - Built between 1st Jan 1919 & 31st Dec 1930
Post-Vintage Cars - Built between 1st Jan 1931 & 31st Dec 1945
Post-45 Cars - Built between 1st Jan 1946 & 31st Dec 1960
Post-60 Cars - Built after 1st Jan 1961
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