We visit Tyrone Morris at what he calls his “carthedral”, one of the most impressive Volkswagen collections in South Africa.
Words and images: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Tyrone Morris’s knowledge on all things Volkswagen Beetle will keep any enthusiast on their toes. As I walk through his very neatly parked collection, he shares anecdotes of his time as a child when his dad owned a Beetle and talks me through from those early day all the way to the present – details about the quality of the chrome Volkswagen used in the '60s and '70s, to specific badges used on the cars and seat trimming for selective special additions – I just listen and try to take in as much as possible.
To the untrained eye all these Beetles might seem the same, but parked next to each other the subtle differences are noticeable, be it bodywork, wheels, windows or in the cabin.
“Blindfold me and close my nose, and I’ll still be able to tell you which car is which when I climb behind the wheel.” Tyrone’s love for the Beetle started off as a young boy when his dad owned a 1971 model.
“The Beetle that I’ve owned the longest is of a 1971 vintage - the same year I was born – so we understand each other. I bought it when I came out of the army in 1990, and I’ve owned it since then. My dream was always to have a Beetle Cabriolet, but they weren’t really available in South Africa, except for some very early ones that made their way to South Africa in knocked-down format.
“I had given up on ever finding one and settled for a 1956 oval-window Beetle. However, then a couple of years later in 1997 I found this 1965/66 Cabriolet. It is the first one with the bigger windows and it has the vent on the dashboard and these were also the first Beetles to be fitted with the larger 1.3-litre engine. These models were built by Karmann in Germany.
“My father had a 1971 Beetle. That car I had to wash, polish and clean, and, when needed, I had to push it. Honestly, I wasn’t a Beetle lover as a child, everyone had one and it was a bit of a donkey. But that was our family’s car. We had one car in the family, from childhood to when I left the army. It had 365 000km on the clock.
“I have a Fun Bug, an S model and also a 1600 L. The L is another example of an honest car. It is as '70s as you get, the brown and the bright orange combination. I can restore it, or just keep it tidy as it is such fun to drive.” Another rare Beetle in Tyrone’s collection is a 1984 Velvet Red Edition.
There is a garage that house a few more cars though, and it is here where the highlight of the collection resides, a car of which there are only two in South Africa. It is the Ultima Edition, painted in Harvest Moon Beige – the very last batch of “modern” classic Beetles that were manufactured in Mexico. Enthusiasts will know that in Mexico Volkswagen continued to manufacture the Beetle to as late as 2003, and this specific car is from the very final day of production, 30th of July!
“It is one of 3 000 built, of which one half was painted beige and the other half Aquarius Blue. I took delivery of that car when I lived in the UK and then upon my return to South Africa I had to do a lot of admin work to be able to import it.”
As expected, there are a number of updates that have been incorporated into this Beetle compared to any other Volksie. This includes, to name just a few, the relatively modern cabin with a CD player and a 1.6-litre engine (referred to as the ACD engine) that features fuel injection. However, it is still a flat-four engine.
Interestingly, the only other Ultima Edition in SA can be found only a short drive from Tyrone's house and he knows the owner.
Managing such a collection takes time and effort, but there is a strict schedule Tyrone follows: “I have a 40 km route that I drive each car on. I always aim to drive three cars a day so that each car is run once a week.”
There are few more plans with the collection, the first, for now, is providing a good garage for the cars. Apart from that I’m sure more exciting developments await in the future with this always-evolving collection.