South Africa has produced some interesting sports and performance cars over the years, some completely developed locally while others were more a variation on an existing platform. Mike Monk reveals 10 of the best.
It all started 50 years ago when South Africa was somewhat isolated from the rest of the world and its motor industry had to maak ’n plan in many ways in order to not only survive, but keep the country motorised. It was a tough environment, especially when local content rules were implemented, and the challenge was met head-on by entrepreneurs and manufacturers alike. While some developments were unique and aimed at the mass market, such as the Austin Apache, the Chev Nomad and the Chev Hatch, others were simply existing models with different powertrains – an engineering talent that South Africans had been adept at since the pre-war years, especially in motorsport. So, little surprise then that in later years the country was to produce some intriguing performance cars, many of which have become legends and much sought after both here and overseas. Here is SA’s sporty Top 10.
SA’s first locally developed and manufactured car, the Protea was ‘a sports car for the enthusiast’. Only 28 or so were built, but it was a pioneering achievement.
GSM Dart 1957
GSM was founded by Bob van Niekerk, Willie Meissner and Verster de Wit, and the simple yet sophisticated Dart proved to be a legend in its own lifetime.
GSM Flamingo 1962
It was only natural that the Dart would spawn a coupé derivative, and it offered all the attributes of its sibling. Many of both models are still in active use.
Ford Capri Perana 1970
Developed by Basil Green, the 5,0-litre Capri Perana was the only V8 Capri ever officially sanctioned by Ford. It was raced with great success by Team Gunston.
Chev Firenza CanAm 1973
Take a two-door Firenza body and insert a small-block Chevy 302ci V8 motor under the bonnet and you have a road legal race car. Thunderous – and fun.
Austin Apache TC 1973
Styled by Michelotti, the Apache was an amalgam of the Austin/Morris 1100 and Triumph Chicane. The TC boasted twin carbs that raised power from 46 to 55 kW.
Ford Sierra XR8 1984
Powered by a Mustang 302ci V8 and a Borg-Warner T5 transmission, the ‘jelly-mould family hatch’ was transformed into a formidable bi-winged track car.
BMW 745i 1984
The overseas 745i had a turbo 3,2/3,4-litre six, but SA’s version featured the naturally-aspirated M88 3,6-litre engine as used in the M1 sports car.
Alfa Romeo GTV6 3,0 1984
Already blessed with Alfa’s charismatic V6, a 3,0-litre version of the GTV6 was developed to tackle BMW in Group One racing – and it worked. Bellissimo!
BMW 333i 1986
SA was denied the first-generation four-cylinder M3 so it created the 333i by squeezing-in the 733i’s 3,2-litre six with Alpina manifolds.