"This was never planned, it just happened," says the owner of one of most diverse car and bike collections in South Africa. We take a stroll through a beautifully presented dream garage.
Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Photography: Rob Till
Wall-to-wall cars and memorabilia – there is no doubting this collector’s main interest. He’s a collector at heart – stamps, coins, diecast models, you name it – but it’s obvious that his days are mostly filled with everything car-related.
“My first car was an Alfa Romeo Giulia Super,” he says. “I had to buy another one more recently because I have such fond memories of that car. It may have had only a 1.6-litre engine but nothing else came close to its performance. I only sold my first one so I could buy a 1976 2.0-litre GTV. I replaced the GTV with a new 2.0-litre Alfetta Super Executive – the one with the twin headlights – when I got married in 1981. I still have a similar one in my collection. I had it for 13 years and then Alfa Romeo pulled out of South Africa in 1982 – that was a great loss to me.”
Unsurprisingly, he was one of the first customers to buy a 2001 3.0-litre GTV when Alfa returned to South Africa in 1996, but it was around this time that his attention turned to another significant brand. He says, “I bought my first Porsche – a 928 S2 – in 2005. I sold it in 2010 and upgraded to an S4 the following year. I only sold that car later in 2011 when I found my current S4, which is probably one of the best examples in the country.”
Buying those first two 928s was the pivotal moment that eventually lead to his collection. He says, “I discovered that I really enjoy the chase involved in finding ever better examples of cars I’m interested in.”
It wasn’t long before his memorabilia collection filled most of the rooms in his house, which he bought around 10 years ago. “I’ve basically converted it into a museum, although I’ve kept a flat at the front. I initially rented garages when I ran out of room to store the exotic cars I was buying at the time but enlarged my own garage when I realised I was just making other people’s garages look pretty. It was never planned, it just happened.”
The memorabilia collection is clearly very important to him. Signed pictures, race suits, helmets, gloves and trophies – all of them donated by racing drivers – capture the golden era of motor racing in South Africa in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.
He says, “I first went to Kyalami in the Sixties to watch Formula One, Formula 5000 and all the support races.”
Little did he know that he would later meet those racers. “I invited a few racers from this era over for a barbecue 10 years ago – I think there were six of us in all. A few years later there were 150 of us! It’s really special to meet them and get to know their personality quirks. It makes every signed photo and helmet all the more special.”
It seems that this is just the tip of the iceberg. “I still have piles of memorabilia that need to be signed and displayed,” he says.
Alfa Romeo Spider 2.0 S3
Standing in the centre of the collection, this Spider deservedly attracts considerable attention, although it doesn’t actually belong to him. “Its owner has nowhere to store it so I was only too happy to add another Alfa to the collection,” he explains. It’s totally original – it’s never been restored or repainted and the interior hasn’t been touched. Once you’ve driven an Alfa, you’re hooked – just seeing it standing here among all these other cars is enough to get me extremely excited.”
964 Porsche 911 Carrera 2
This 60 000 km 964 911 Carrera Cabriolet he bought in 2006 – just a year after buying his first 928. “The 3.6-litre engine made its debut in the 964,” he says. “It’s a great car to drive, with a really exploitable power band. And I’m not alone in thinking so.” Supply and demand plays a big part in these cars’ steep price hike – 964s were much easier to find a few years ago than they are today.
“A specialist dealer in Johannesburg – not far from here, in fact – had it up for sale. I try to keep a sensible balance between keeping the mileage relatively low but still taking it on the sort of trips that it was designed for, including several different Porsche club and classic runs.”
Mercedes-Benz 280 SL
Parked opposite the Porsche 928 and next to a Harley-Davidson is a well-preserved R107 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL. “One of the stand-out features of this car is the fact that it has a manual gearbox,” he says.
“Most R107 SLs were automatics so it’s very difficult to find a manual model these days.” He is the right-hand-drive SL’s second owner and, like the Porsche 928, it has covered very few kilometres for its age – just 66 000 km. “It’s not as powerful as its siblings, but it’s 45 kg lighter than a 350 SL and 85 kg lighter than a 450 SL, so it feels lively. It was tricky to buy, though. The first time I asked the previous owner if he would be interested in selling the car, he told me in no uncertain terms to get lost. Then three months later he phoned me and asked me if I was still interested in it.”
“The R107’s shape has always appealed to me. There weren’t many sports cars around when I was a youngster – and the SL really was considered to be a sports car – so its design really stood out.” As we stroll past a Chevrolet Firenza Can-Am wearing a ‘NOT 4 SALE’ registration number, I ask him if fellow enthusiasts ever ask if any of his cars are for sale. “I quickly tell them that nothing is for sale,” he replies. “However, I would sell a car if I managed to find a better example elsewhere.”
Chevrolet Firenza Can-Am V8
“This car is unique to South Africa and comes from a time when cars were built locally for racing,” he explains. “When Basil Green famously developed the Ford Capri Perana V8 with official Ford backing, engineer and racer Basil van Rooyen spotted the potential of the little Vauxhall and fitted it with the small-block V8 engine from a Chevrolet Camaro Z28. They performed extremely well on the track.” Only 100 roadgoing Can-Ams were ever made for the road. “It’s owned by a friend of mine and he asked me if I’d like to display it alongside my cars so fellow enthusiasts can see it in the metal.”
The rear wing was standard and while many have been tweaked or tuned over the years, this one is still mostly standard.
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
“I had been looking for a 612 Scaglietti for a while – I saw one when I visited the factory with the Ferrari club back in 2010 and thought that it would suit me well. I bought mine from Ferris, a Ferrari specialist dealer in Johannesburg.”
A grand tourer makes perfect sense in a country where it’s not unusual to cover vast distances, and that’s exactly what he used it for during a road trip from Upington in to Cape Town. These roads are used by car manufacturers for high speed and hot weather testing so he could really stretch its legs. In all, he covered over 2 000 km during the trip, as evidenced by the road rash on the Scaglietti’s nose.
“I never thought I would own a black Ferrari, but I think you can get away with the less obvious colours on the bigger Ferraris. That said, I think the smaller mid-engined Ferraris look best in Rosso Corsa. The 612 is a great car to drive – extremely comfortable and hugely fast.”
TVR had little success in South Africa, so while importers did sell a few in the early 2000s, they are very rare. This is exactly why he wanted to add one to his collection – that and the fact that it brings a totally different flavour to the collection, being one of only a few cars he owns that dates from the 2000s. “I bought it from a classic and exotic car dealer in Johannesburg in 2013. I think it’s very good looking, sounds great and is terrific fun to drive, but you do need to know what you’re doing. I need to constantly keep an eye on it, too. I don’t think the build quality is particularly good, especially on the body and interior – if I don’t constantly tighten and fix things, it starts to fall apart.”
Another British car, this time from the opposite side of the market to the TVR. The Daimler looks almost as good as new from a distance and closer inspection reveals that it has covered just 30 000 km.
“This car is a multiple concours winner,” he explains. “I didn’t actually go looking for it – a friend of mine who owns a car dealership found it in 2013 and thought I might like it. When I saw the condition it was in, I bought it on the spot. I’ve always liked the shape of these Jaguars. It’s low and sleek – the classic shape. No wonder it didn’t change significantly between 1968 and 1992. New Jaguars might be wonderful cars but they have lost some of the classic styling which has always appealed to me.”
Alfa Romeo Alfetta 1800 GT
This is one of three cars the collector and his assistants have restored in-house and it’s almost finished. “It belonged to a friend of mine,” he says. “It was an absolute rust bucket in need of complete restoration. We had to cut out some parts of the body and replace them with new panels. But it’s a matching numbers car, so it was well worth it.
He found the Alfetta in 2012 at a Ferrari function where it was being used to demonstrate car polishes. It had stood in someone’s back garden under trees for many years so only half of the car was cleaned to better advertise the various products.”
Sourcing parts for it was tricky, though. “You must remember that South African-specification cars differed from European in many ways. For instance, mine has rubber bumper inserts, but they were thin plastic everywhere else.”
Alfa Romeo GTV6 3.0
“Like the Firenza Can-Am V8, the Alfa GTV 3.0-litre was unique to South Africa,” he says, “and like the Firenza, it saw the light of day because of motor racing. Not many rival cars could catch them on the track during the early Eighties. The motor industry did great things in South Africa back then in terms of motor racing and the sports cars you could buy – this Alfa hails from a lineage of cars that include the likes of the E30 BMW 333i and Opel Kadett Superboss.”
Built for racing homologation, this was a factory-approved car although the development work was done in South Africa. Only 212 were built and each had unique running gear and a special NACA intake duct in the bonnet.
His car is original and has needed little work. “We’ve done the upholstery and will eventually go through the entire car to see what else needs to be done,” he says.
As we wrap up our visit, his phone rings. Another car to be added to his collection in the coming days, perhaps? He smiles and shrugs. “The three most iconic cars for me are the Lamborghini Miura, Ferrari Dino and Jaguar E-type, although I’ll never stop looking for Alfa Romeos because there have been some great examples over the years. I’m definitely still looking.” Something tells me that this eclectic collection will be ever-changing for the foreseeable future.