Launch - 11 September 2021
A number of people have taken a keen interest in this car since the project began. With the car finally finished, it was decided to host an event where all of the people could get to see the car, but more importantly, pay tribute to all the talented craftsmen who were involved in this project and contributed to the build of this car.
The event was held at 'Wat Swaai Jy?' in Pretoria, a classic car facility owned by the husband-and-wife team of Corber and Nadia Viljoen, who not only service, sell and store classic cars, but also offer a meeting place for clubs and launches. There is also an independent onsite detailing studio.
I made a short speech:
"A very warm welcome to everyone and I am delighted that you have joined us today.
People probably wonder why I would want to host an event like this, and for me its all about sharing and gratitude.
When I was a boy of maybe nine or ten years old, I remember seeing some new exotic car pull into a parking spot and I walked up to the owner as he was closing the door and asked him if I could look inside. He answered no and walked off. I often thought back on this and over time I have made a promised to myself never to be that person.
A friend of mine posted something on WhatsApp not so long ago which made an impact. He said: “Own something special – it doesn’t matter what it is but own it!’
Now, there are a number of us here today who own something special, and I think with that comes a responsibility and an obligation to share it. This is me saying to everyone: ‘Come, come have a look, come touch and feel it and share in my excitement, because it is very, very exciting to finally be finished. Never be that person who dismisses that boy (that boy could be 60 years old) who wants to have a closer look.
During the build of this project, I have encountered many extraordinary people. A project like this is never just one person’s work, but the sum of many contributions and I think it is important to acknowledge and pay tribute to the people that have helped make my dream a reality. I am well aware that for many of these craftsmen, their contribution has been far more that what they have been compensated and for that I am grateful.
At the start of this project, I bought a 1:18 scale model of the Rote Sau to use as a reference. These official scale models are usually very accurate, and I took the model and car to Hendry Dearlove at Speedspot to get him to build the roll cage. The brief was to build the roll cage so that it looked like the original through the glass, but on Henry’s suggestion, it conformed to modern requirements with cross bracing in the roof, side impact bars and a safety bar behind the seats. Henry also built the exhaust manifold following the arrangement on the scale model, and this was built with the engine in place. There is absolutely no space to work on a 6.3, so this is a major achievement.
Wilco and I visited AMG in 2013 to check out the Mercedes-Benz replica. During the visit, we took a whole lot of photos of the car, using hands or fingers to get a sense of perspective in the photos. Once the rims had been made, I took this pack of photos to Leon Wannenburg and said: “Here! Build me this.” Leon’s work was phenomenal, and all those wheel arch extensions have been painstakingly made out of steel. The modification to the rear wheel arch was extensive with high cuts into the fender and all the modifications neatly filled in with steel panels. It has been beautifully done.
In March 2018, the car was stripped down and sent for paint to Anton Raaths. Up to this point the car was just going to be a nice presentable race car and I wasn’t going to spend a fortune of the paint job. However, when we got the car back a few months later, the paint job was beyond anything that I had expected. Anton spent hours cleaning the bottom of the car and we got it back painted top and bottom. I was completely blown away with how it looked and it’s because of this that the project took on a new path and became a high-quality restoration.
One of the details that you will notice about the car is the quality of the interior wood and leather. I thought it was important to retain the wood, and the wood was restored by Shelton Manuel in Cape Town. Shelton is also responsible for re-making the door panels – the heavy hardboard backing has been replaced by laser cut aluminium and upholstered in leather. The dashboard has been stitched and upholstered in sued to look period correct, and the seats were re-done as well – Shelton’s work is superb and I’m grateful for his contribution.
Many enjoyable weekends were spent with my good friend Alan Zeederburg working on the wiring of the car. I have known Alan since a teenager, and he has become a good friend. Not only is he a dyed-in-the-wool classic car enthusiast, but probably the best sparky in the world as far as I am concerned. Alan was very accommodating and the wiring on this car has all the hard old wires replaced, new features like the spotlights wired in, with everything re-sleeved using original plugs and fittings. Alan has taught me the black art of soldering, as well as splicing and joining wires properly. It was great fun, and thanks for your contribution, Alan.
I met Alan Poulter a few years ago through Chris Carlisle-Kits, and Alan has become a very close friend. He was responsible for the gearbox overhaul, the clutch conversion part 2 and the engine rebuild. Many, many hours of care went into that engine, and it has been built to a very high standard. I think the engine block has been apart five times because he wasn’t happy with something, and Alan doesn’t take short cuts. He has a work ethic that is rare today, generous with his time, an all-round good oke and a gentleman.
Alan, thank you for all the time and effort that you have put into this car, and for all your support.
The engineering on the engine was done by Kevin Brink at Allan Y. Brink Engineering. Once again things didn’t go according to plan, and I want to thank Kevin for finding holes under the valves seats once they had been fitted that we didn’t know were there. Thanks for your efforts, Kevin.
This car would never run if it weren’t for Rolf Frommjohan of TW Diesel in Witbank, who has breathed his magic on the complex Bosch mechanical fuel injection system. Rolf is a fundi on anything Bosch, having done his apprenticeship with Bosch in Germany back in the early 70s, at a time when Porsche were sending the fuel pumps of the iconic 917 back to Bosch to be set-up for the next race.
Rolf, thanks for all that you have done, and I know that there is more work in that car than what you have charged me.
There are many details on this car that would go unnoticed if it weren’t pointed out, like the main fuel tank. The original steel fuel tank was sent to Barry Ashmole of Classic Car Garage in Stellenbosch with the brief to replicate it in aluminium. And that’s exactly what has been done – the tank has been formed by hand from aluminium sheet, ribbed like the original and baffled inside. I am awed by his talent and you can read up about the build of this fuel tank on the website. Barry is not here today, but I would like to acknowledge his contribution.
From the start of this project the rims have been a compromise that has irritated me. It’s one of the features that was so obviously wrong with the car, but about a year ago I was referred to Theo de Groot at Motorworx. Theo has a fascinating operation and does, among others, all the rims for the Cobra boys and for Bailey Cars. Theo was very willing to take on the project of re-producing the rims, and this has been a monumental effort on his part. It has taken a lot of patience and perseverance from his side to keep going, because not much went according to plan. However, the results are spectacular, and I am very pleased indeed.
Theo, I cannot see how you have made a cent out of this, but it is a feather in your cap, because out of all the replicas that have been built so far around the world, only this car and Mercedes’ own car have got the rims right. You can be very proud of what you have achieved, and I am hugely grateful for your contribution.
I would also like to thank Richard Gilson and his team at Grit for spending hours to do the final spit and polish on the car.
Finally, I would like to thank Wilco, my partner of 21 years. As I said at Chris’ memorial, there are few of us car guys who have partners who support our interest. There are even fewer of us that have partners that not only support it, but actively encourage it. Wilco has been that person to me and has pretty much been a garage widow for the past few years. He has never complained and would often walk down into the garage to find out if I wanted something to drink or eat, and just generally find out what I was up to.
THAT sort of support is priceless and am the luckiest guy alive.
Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to making my dream a reality."
From left to right:
Leon Wannenburg (Bodywork); Grant Viljoen (Owner); Rolf and Rolfie Frommjohan (Fuel Injection), Alan Poulter (Engine & Gearbox) and Alan Zeederberg (Electrics).