Located In Bloemfontein, Fanie du Preez and his family’s passion for cars runs deep, but interestingly it grew from a business founded on tow trucks.
Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
When you enter Fanie du Preez’s garage it is clear that there is a particular era (and make) of cars that is of interest to him. He might have studied law, but he soon realised that was is not his true calling. Today Fanie and his brother manage Dups Towing, which specialises in the transportation of heavy equipment and trucks – a company founded by his uncle. It is clear that there is a deep love for all things transportation in the family. After hours his collection occupies his time while even his wife and children are as fond of the cars as he is.
The entrance to the garage is highlighted by the perfect cupboards along the walls. Here numerous model cars are exhibited. Fanie smiles and then shows me the exact car he played with as a six-year old boy, a '50s Mercedes-Benz 219. He even has pictures of him as a boy playing in the gravel with this specific model car.
We walk through the collection and although Mercedes-Benz cars from the 1950s to the early 2000s dominate it, there are a number of examples from other manufacturers scattered between these German cars.
There is a beautiful 1970 Ford Capri Perana, signed in the engine bay by none other than the late Mr. Basil Green himself. This is not the only Ford though, there are another two, a 1970 Fairmont GT with its large 5.7-litre V8 engine and a run-of-the-mill, but perfectly preserved 1984 Ford Cortina bakkie.
The oldest car in the collection is from just after the Second World War, a 1947 Willys Jeep and it is for Fanie a strong reminder about the first six years of his life when his father farmed all the way north in Kenya.
The Willys was, for the best part of its life, on a farm in Masina. “I know almost the entire car’s history. These were original army vehicles and the first owner bought it at an army auction. I sent all the Jeep’s details to my brother in the USA who took it to the Jeep Museum and they were able to confirm that it was a 1947 model.”
“I have done nothing major to the Jeep since I bought it. I had to do some work on the waterpump, but parts are easily obtainable if you need anything.”
Thankfully, all the cars in the collection are often driven and used for excursions.
“We would, for example, take three cars out for a drive. I have some Concours-winning Benzes and if it is raining, I won’t take them out, but if it starts to rain along the way then they get wet and dirty. That is not an issue for me.”
One of the longest trips Fanie and his wife have done with friends took place a few years ago, driving his 1957 Mercedes-Benz 219 for 5 000 km over the course of eight days through South Africa and Namibia. A large part of the route entailed long stretches of gravel roads – if there ever was a description for a road trip, this would be it.
“I wanted to experience what my parents did half-a-century ago when they had to drive between South Africa and Kenya. My first car was a Volkswagen Beetle and then I owned a 1962 and 1963 220 and 220S Fintail in the early 1980s. The Fintail I had to sell to pay for my study fees, but eventually I was able to buy it back. In the end it was out of my hands for only two years. I was buying, repairing and selling cars as a hobby depending on my financial needs, but then I started to realise that some of these classic cars were getting scarce. I would arrive at a motor show only to notice that were fewer examples of a specific car compared with a few years ago.” That is part of the reason why Fanie has started to keep cars when he spots a good example.
The fact that Fanie joined his father’s business in the late 1980s allowed him to use the tools and infrastructure to work on cars, a passion that his brother shares with him: “My brother is an absolute technical guru and he, for example, restored the 1966 Ford Mustang for me as well as this 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Pagoda. We are also currently busy with a 1968 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3. It is a complicated car, but owing to our knowledge of trucks and the hydraulic and air systems on these large vehicles, it helps us to understand the systems in the 6.3.”
Between learning to fix things and doing technical or restoration work on these cars, the joy this family is getting from driving and sharing these cars with fellow enthusiast is very evident.