We've featured Frikkie Esterhuizen before (check out his Firenza Can-Am video below), but in this article we take a look at the rest of his amazing collection.
Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
It might just as well have been the entrance to a high-end car dealership. The tall ceiling, tiled floors, memorabilia and then, most importantly, the neatly parked cars all pristinely presented and plugged into trickle chargers.
The collection is an eclectic blend, with a pleasing nod to cars manufactured locally – from the Chevrolet Firenza Can-Am to the Jaguar XJ Series II – which, interestingly, was still built in South Africa two years after worldwide production had ceased. Along with these are models Frikkie had owned earlier in life but, for one reason or another, let slip through his fingers, like the 1958 Studebaker Hawk. It took Frikkie four years of convincing before the previous owner caved. Then, in the upper garage, you’ll find the serious performance cars: Shelbys, Ferraris and more.
While the collection is varied, there is one clear line that connects many of these automotive dots... Frikkie’s love for V8s. “My dad worked at a Ford dealership in Bloemfontein. Our family drove Fords, although I did also appreciate the Chevrolet models. Every time my dad got a new car from the dealership to be tested, he would pick me up and we would go for a drive. As a boy, I built draadkarre (cars made out of wire) and swapped these for soccer and rugby balls. Then I started building kaskarre (go-karts made of wood). Let’s just say I became a wheelsman at that time! The first car I owned was a Ford Taunus.”
Anecdotes like these and nostalgia for the period has led Frikkie to own no fewer than three Chevrolet Firenza Can-Ams. Each one is as immaculate as the next, with one of the three Can-Ams fitted with a highly tuned V8 race engine.
The red 1958 Studebaker Hawk in the collection is not his original car but one he found at the George Old Car Show and bought after cajoling the previous owner. Frikkie owned a Studebaker Hawk when he was younger which he bought from his father. “I was still in the army and I used to drive my father’s Studebaker often. He didn’t know that I was saving my money and didn’t expect me to make an offer on the car. I bought the car from him and drove it for 19 years.” Eventually I sold it for a lot more to a farmer.
“The collection started growing and a few years ago I visited the annual Old Car Show in George. There at the show was this Hawk, exactly the same spec as our family car from all those years ago.”
The car has gone on to win best-in-show prizes at various car shows since. As we climb into his prized Hawk, Frikkie opens the glove compartment and takes out a stack of small vinyls. He shows me the aftermarket, but period correct, Philips seven singles vinyl player. It is from around a decade after the car was manufactured. “I had to buy this unit from overseas and fit it to the car, just as was the case with the Hawk I owned five decades ago.”
He inserts one and Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock starts playing. What follows are several anecdotes of when he owned his original Hawk all those years back, dating his girlfriend and now wife of 40-plus years.
“What is special about the car for me is that it feels like I’m married to it. I look after the car and enjoy it. I don’t drive it hard though, after all, it has won a number of awards at car shows, including at the show where I saw it for the first time. It is a car that is very close to my heart.”
Parked in the centre of the collection is a South African homologation special, the 1973 Chevrolet Firenza Can-Am. Frikkie has three of them, and is obviously a big fan of these cars, fitted as standard with 5.0-litre, V8 engines. Two are standard and the one has a more powerful racing engine installed. “The car was unveiled in 1973 when I was 22. This car was just, and still is, different to other cars – the driving experience is wild! The first time you tickle the throttle with some verve, the car slides to the left and right and you struggle to keep it in a straight line.”
The most notable racing success of these cars came in 1972 at the 9-Hour Endurance race when Basil Van Rooyen and Geoff Mortimer claimed 11th place while Van Rooyen achieved no fewer than 11 wins in a row (!) in 1973.
We walk along to another South African special, the 1968 Ford Cortina MKII Perana V6. This is a car that was the brainchild of Basil Green. “I had a red one when I was still dating my wife.”
There is another Perana in the collection, the 1970 Ford Capri Perana. These cars were also South African homologation specials, but these units were fitted with the 5.0-litre V8 engines from the Mustang. “One of my other Can-Ams and this Perana came from the same collector. However, he didn’t want to part with the Capri Perana, so I had to wait a little longer before he sold it to me. But in 2019 I finally bought it.
"This is my first Capri Perana. It is a powerful car and it has so much racing history with Basil van Rooyen. I took this car to Basil so that he could go through it to make sure it is completely original and has all the hallmarks of the cars as they built them back in the day. This car’s seats have been reupholstered though and it has also been fitted with new carpets.”
We walk upstairs and take a closer look at the Ford GT40, standing out among an impressive collection of Ferraris. V8s, the lot of them...
It was built by one of the best and most experienced companies that manufactures these cars, Hi-Tech Automotive in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. “This model was built in 2004 and it was raced for many years by the well-known South African legend and racer Peter Lindenberg. The GT40 is the best Ford ever produced. This car is fitted with a Ford Racing V8 engine and has won races on many circuits throughout South Africa. When I bought a new Shelby Ford Mustang from Shelby South Africa in 2016, I saw this GT40 in their workshop. The body was off and I could see the entire car. It has been completely tidied up following years of racing. I bought it and as a bonus he also gave me a lot of his racing memorabilia with the car.”
“As a kid I remember how the GT40s battled all other cars on track and even today it is a gorgeous racing car to look it. In most instances I only buy numbered cars, or it must be an interesting car. That way you are sure of the value of the car, now and into the future.”
Frikkie explains that maintaining these cars takes up a fair share of his time but the family helps with the running of the cars (who can blame them!) and when a car has stood for a while, it will be taken out for a proper run before it is cleaned and, once again, parked safely in the garage. It seems the right way to do it!