COLLECTION: Air-Cooled Goodness in Pretoria

vw beetle

Leon Potgieter’s 4-car air-cooled garage is one of the best we’ve come across, offering some fascinating car and aviation paraphernalia. He takes us on a tour...

Words and Images: Wilhelm Lutjeharms

“It all started with my wife who wanted an old house and myself wanting a house with enough garages. That is not an easy combination to find. Then we found this property and thankfully it ticked all the boxes," explains Leon Potgieter. 

ejection seat

“Because I’ve worked in the aviation industry my entire career, some cool paraphernalia has crossed my path. For example, the wing hanging above is a Mirage F1’s horizontal stabilizer and on the other side is an Impala drop tank. It (the tank) is mounted under the wing of the plane, and once it is empty it can be dropped to the ground. The latter is usually only the case during a war situation – usually they are used over and over again.

“The aircraft seat is also from a Mirage and they are full ejection seats. They will become guests’ seats eventually. Then there is still a Vampire’s air inlet that will become part of the garage. These are just some of the parts I’ve collected over the years.”

March F1

One of the most interesting exhibits in his garage is a 1987 March 871 Formula One wind tunnel model. A few parts must still be fixed, but it is quite a model to have and it even has the correct exterior colours. On the same shelf is a door from a Porsche 911 GT3 race car that won at the Daytona racing circuit in the USA in 2005. The signs that Leon have collected during his travels over the years add wonderful nostalgia and a sense of adventure to his garage.

VW Kombi

But, soon our attention turned to his cars. There are good reasons why each car is parked where they are. Leon explains that the Kombi needs to be on the end for more than one reason. The first reason is that if the Kombi is parked on any of the two centre spaces, it blocks the view through the rest of the garage.

Porsche 911 Targa

Leon has been busy with a restoration of his 911 Targa for several years. It is a 1968 2.0-litre S variant. The car was mechanically sound when he acquired it, but the usual areas demanded attention, including the rubbers, seat trim and exterior paintwork.

Porsche 911 Targa S

"No expense was spared in the light restoration of the 120 kW Targa, with parts such as the chequered cloth seats coming courtesy of RUF in Germany. The factory 6x15-inch Fuchs wheels are refurbished with immaculate lips and a silver centre section, in line with the car’s vibrant exterior hue. “For a Sunday car, I think the Targa offers a more rounded package than a Coupé.” Only 925 of these S Targas were built, making it a rather desirable classic 911 .

Kruger Park

We walk over to the 1959 Volkswagen DeLuxe Microbus at the other end. “I started restoring this bus, but then I ran out of time. I sent it to a company who did not do a great job. However, shortly after receiving the car back I did a trip with it through the Kruger National Park, and I decided that I was going to keep it as it is for now and enjoy it. During that trip I towed it to the park, and drove no less than 1 000 km within the park over the course of eight days, before we towed it back to Gauteng. 

VW Beetle

“The Volkswagen Beetle is from 1956 and it is an oval-window rag top. The car belonged to the same owner who had the bus. I like the fact that the Beetle has these ‘ZA’ and ‘Jurgens’ badges on it. Apart from that, this is a highly-specced Beetle as there are a lot of factory features fitted to the dashboard, additional lights as well as gauges. However, I fitted the temperature gauge. Up front there is also a tool kit. Because of all these unusual and special specifications, I was really drawn to this Beetle.”

VW Beetle

Leon did some work on the Beetle as the seats and upholstery needed some attention. “I reupholstered the original seats and put them away, and then I installed Porsche 356 Speedster seats and replica wheels. Other than that, I am never going to paint or restore this car. I’ve only polished the paintwork.”

VW Beetle

Leon is also busy building a higher performance engine for the Beetle. It will still be a 1.2-litre, four-cylinder engine, but it will have a twin-port and twin-carb set-up with an original Okrasa kit. Air-cooled VW enthusiasts will know all about Okrasa and the engines and accessories they supplied in that era. 

“This is the not the Beetle’s matching engine, but it is a period-correct engine for the Beetle.”

Porsche 911

We move on to the red 911, quite possibly the most fun car in the collection.

“This is the very first car I ever bought, when I was 19. I bought it from John Abbot as a 1968 912 that had experienced an engine fire. I then converted it into a 2.7 RS replica, but didn’t do a great job. I didn’t know anything about building cars at that stage. It was this car that started my interest in all things Porsche. At that stage it was really a fun car because it had all these spoilers and it was very loud!

Porsche 911

“In 2007 I went to Europe with a friend and we did a long road trip. During this trip we visited Kremer in Germany. We even visited DK Engineering and Autofarm in the UK. I then realised what a terrible car I had built, so I stripped it. It was also during that trip that I learned about the Porsche 911 S/T, what made it special and what parts I would need to build a tribute vehicle. 

“Over the years several other projects received preference but, eventually, a few weeks ago I was able to finish the car! In 1971 Porsche Kremer raced at the Spa 1 000 km race with a 911, and my idea was to build a car that was as faithful as possible to that car.”

Porsche 911

“Under the lid is 2.5-litre, flat-six engine with twin spark, aggressive camshafts, aluminium pistons and high-compression sleeves.”

It is difficult not to sit down and talk all things air-cooled with Leon for another two hours. I think another coffee date with that S/T replica could be on the cards... 

1 comment

  • Love the article – love the attention to detail!

    Gerrit Burger

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