I know that the objective of this feature is to usually select and then write about five favourite vehicles one has driven over the years and why they are so special to me. However, I am doing things slightly differently as this article is about five of the major happenings – or interest areas – I have experienced and enjoyed in a career in and around the local motor industry that stretches back more than 50 years.
It all started when I joined the Pretoria Motor Club in 1961 and blossomed when I was appointed the first motoring editor of The Pretoria News in 1968. Later that year I made my move into the motor industry when I joined the public relations department of Chrysler South Africa at its new facility in Silverton, Pretoria (now owned by Ford). That company later morphed into Sigma, Amcar and Samcor, before I decided to move on and joined the public relations department of Toyota SA in Sandton in 1988.
I retired from Toyota at the beginning of 2007 but have remained involved in the motor industry as a freelance journalist, which keeps me current with the latest developments and provides an outlet for my views on a host of matters motoring.
No. 1 in my personal Big 5: My interest in motorsport goes back to my school days when I used to go to the Grand Central circuit in Midrand, to watch motor racing, while avidly reading British car- and motorcycle magazines to stay informed on the international scene. When I got into the motor industry I always wanted to know when the various companies I was involved with were going to enter Formula 1 racing. Imagine my delight – and the high-level emotion! – when Toyota took that route, and I attended the launch of the F1 car at the Paul Ricard circuit in France on March 23, 2000.
No. 2 in my personal Big 5: I was privileged several times to visit Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji research and development centre in Japan. It was always awe-inspiring and included driving and being driven in a variety of concept cars – including hydrogen fuel cell, petrol- and diesel-electric hybrids, a car with an ultra-lean burn four-cylinder petrol engine, and even a car fitted with an experimental six-cylinder two-stroke engine with an overhead camshaft and regular valves. This was also the place where I and a group of SA journalists watched a Corolla being crash-tested, which was most dramatic.
No. 3 in my personal Big 5: I have been able to spectate at many kinds of motorsport at the top international level, from F1 Grands Prix, to MotoGP, Superbikes, World Rally Championship, World Endurance Championship, IndyCar (in the U.S.), IMSA Sports Cars (also in the U.S.), Japanese GT championship, World Rallycross Championship, and the Isle of Man motorcycle TT. However, the outstanding motorsport event – and a biggest heartbreak – came at the 1999 Le Mans 24-Hour Race when the leading Toyota lost time with a punctured tyre only 20 minutes from the end of the race. This allowed BMW to score its first and only win in this famous race, with the Toyota GT-One, driven by a trio of Japanese, having to settle for the runner-up position.
No. 4 in my personal Big 5: I had an early interest in motorcycles and rode various 50cc models from 1957, when I was in Form 2 at Pretoria Boys High. I rediscovered motorcycles – this time classic models – in about 2005 when I bought a 1968 BSA 500 Royal Star. A 1963 Triumph Bonneville joined the collection later. During this period, I took the opportunity of visiting numerous motorcycle museums in various parts of the world, as well as joining local classic motorcycle clubs and avidly reading a host of British classic bike magazines. I also attended major motorcycle races including a memorable visit to the Isle of Man TT in 2011.