Eclectic Benoni Collection

Benoni Collection

It is not often that you find a large American truck as part of a collection. But that is exactly what we found when we walked into an enthusiast’s quirky collection outside Johannesburg.

Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms

“My dad was a diesel mechanic and used to work on bulldozers. To make a bit of extra money he bought trucks over the years and restored them – I helped him with that part of the projects. 

“I started off fixing lawnmowers for neighbours and then motorbikes for farmers. Coming out of the army, my dad asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I wanted to become a pilot. I failed horribly in the airforce and was not accepted. Then I thought, what about becoming and airplane mechanic? 

Dodge Ram

“I did all the tests and courses and then I did my apprenticeship at SAA. They used to give you a magnificent apprenticeship. We focused on nearly all aspects of the plane, that included the engines, wings and airframe. Following a decade of work there, I accepted a job at a chemical company. From there I started my own business." 

That explains this collector’s ability to work on this collection of engines and vehicles – his hands are clearly ready to tackle any job. 

“Later on in my career when I started to have a little time on my hands, I attended a show and saw these stationary engines. After the show I bought my first one, and today there are about 60 engines in the collection. 


“These engines are usually bolted down and are used to run a water pump or a small factory of some sort. We’ve been all over South Africa collecting these engines. We’ve even driven from here in Johannesburg all the way to Melkbosstrand to buy an engine. But mostly we’ve found them in the Free State and then also a few in KwaZulu-Natal. Each time it is a road trip and that is part of the fun. 

“Usually, you also have to uninstall the engine from where it was fixed. You need equipment and some sort of crane. It becomes quite an interesting experience – almost like a long weekend away. 

“The excitement is also to get it going once you have installed it at home. Sometimes it takes two to three years to restore them and get them running again, while still doing your day job.”

And then there was a Peterbilt!


It is 1986 Peterbilt 359 truck that impresses most though. The building was built in such a way as to accommodate this truck. It stands proudly with its massive radiator grille and chrome front bumper. 

“It is fitted with a straight six-cylinder Caterpillar 3406 turbodiesel engine. It develops 316 kW, and over 2 000 N.m of torque. It was an amazing trip when I bought it. We flew over to the USA and I bought it in Kentucky. We drove it up through six states and parked it in Kansas. We left it there for six months until we could arrange transport with a ship. When it came here, it was also taken on a trip through Namibia and Zimbabwe. 

“Subsequently I’ve used it for local trips when I've needed to pick up stuff, including for work-specific journeys.”


There are also a couple of hot rods in the collection. Both are 1932 Fords, the one fitted with a supercharged 5.6-litre Chevrolet engine, and the other one with a Chrysler Hemi V8. There are also a couple of American Dodge bakkies (more small trucks!) and a number of motorcycles. These include a beautiful Yamaha XT500 and a Suzuki RV125. 

One of the most interesting pieces parked on a bench-type trailer is a 37-litre Rolls-Royce Griffon aircraft engine. It is quite a sight, especially seeing it on its own and having the opportunity walk around it in such close proximity. 


“They ran these engines in the last of the Spitfires from World War Two. They also used them in a number of the other airplanes, including the Shackleton, which is where this engine originates from.”

This enthusiast lure for adventure doesn’t stop there. He also has an old bus that he has converted into a type of camper. He admits that the challenge is also to find a place to park it when it comes to selecting an overnight spot. Even so, that has been part of the adventure. 


One of the most notable projects in the collection is a Hudson Pacemaker that needs to be restored. Fans of the CARS movie franchise will recognise the vehicle as it looks similar to the Hudson Hornet that stars in the movie. Another project is a Chevrolet C20 bakkie which will shortly receive a Cummins engine. 

Whether it is engines, cars, trucks, bikes or planes – this enthusiast clearly has an intense interest in all things machine. 

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