Buick Riviera 1972
In the 1970’s, when American styling could be described as “generic”, the Buick Riviera with its sharply pointed boat tail was definitely unusual. It was also indecently fast for its day, although that year was hampered by more stringent emission standards. As a consequence, the 1972 model was somewhat slower than its predecessor.

Rear View Buick Rivera 1972
Front View Buick Rivera 1972
Ford Fair Lane 1964
Fair Lane was the name of Henry Ford I’s mansion in Dearborn, Michigan. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, a considerable number of Ford models were named after it. The top 1964 models were the Custom, Galaxie and, the slightly smaller, Fairlane. The Fairlane 500 had the top trim level and its styling inspired by Ford’s then current image of “Total Performance”. It was one of the last Fords to be assembled in South Africa from knocked-down parts imported from America. Since the 1970’s, Fords built in South Africa have had a more European, British and, more recently, Asian origin.

Ford Fairlane 500 - 1964
De Soto Custom Suburban 1947
South Africans of a certain age have fond memories of the huge De Soto Suburbans, which were used by companies such as Springbok Safaris for conveying tourists to the Kruger National Park. Seating nine on three rows of bench seats, and having ample space for lots of luggage on the roof-mounted grids, these attractive cars deserved their reputation for comfort and reliability. After having been pensioned-off by the tourist trade, these cars became taxis, running up huge distances without any major attention – proving that they were somewhat over-engineered. This came at a price though: fuel consumption that can be expected of big eight-cylinder cars.

De Soto Custom Suburban 1947
Mars Carette (probably 1905)
In the early 1900’s, many small cycle companies and motor companies built three wheeled cars known as tri-cars. An American, Dickinson Morrette, built the Eagle 1 and La Va Bon Train which would lead to many small run-abouts being build for the next fifty years – like the Morgan, Bond and Messerschmitt. This Mars Carette is fitted with a water cooled White and Pope engine, delivers 2.5 BHP and has two forward gears. Like the 1905 Carette, it has a foot operated clutch and hand operated throttle, making driving somewhat complicated.

Mars Carette (probably 1905)
Chevrolet 4100 Golden Anniversary 1976
One of the best-known advertising ditties of the 1970’s was Chevrolet’s “Braaivleis, rugby, sunshine and Chevrolet…”, epitomising the South African way of life. In retrospect, the 2500/3800/4100 Series deserved it, because it offered stunning good looks, more than adequate performance, predictable handling and a comfortable ride – all at a most affordable price. It had high local content, with the body panels pressed and the engines manufactured at GM’s plant in Port Elizabeth. The body design was that of the Opel Commodore with a slightly different radiator grille. This particular car wears a “Golden Anniversary” badge, commemorating 50 years of car assembly by GM South African Ltd.

Chevrolet 4100 Golden Anniversary
The Volkswagen Beetle 1952
Described by many to be the most successful car in the world. The first definitive version of the Beetle was designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and presented to the public at the inauguration of the Wolfsburg factory on May 26, 1938. Series production only started after World War II and lasted right up to 2003 when the very last Beetle left the assembly line at Puebla in Mexico. By then, more than 22-million Beetles had been built. From 1951, SA Motor Assemblers and Distributors assembled the Beetle at Uitenhage - the plant eventually taken over by Volkswagen with the last South African Beetle coming off the assembly line in 1979. This particular Beetle was purchased new by Arwa in Parys and used together with a trailer for deliveries. In 1956/7 it was purchased by Mr D R Pretorius who worked for the Town Council of Parys who used it on a daily basis for his inspections.

Volkswagen Beettle 1100 - 1952
The Volkswagen Beetle 1957
At the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1957, a redesigned VW Beetle with a much larger rear window was exhibited and became available in South Africa in 1958. Other changes included a flat accelerator pedal instead of the previous roller pedal, a redesigned dashboard and an optional fuel gauge. Volkswagen Beetles performed particularly well in tough rallies like the East African Safari, the Pretoria-Lourenço Marques Rally and the Round Australia Rally. A Volkswagen Beetle, driven by Leicester Symons, was the first two-wheel drive to conquer the Sani Pass across the Drakensberg from Natal to Lesotho.

Volkswagen Beetle 1957
The Volkswagen Beetle 1976
By 1976, Volkswagen’s Beetle was running into some stiff competition. In Germany the new Golf, ultimately replacing the Beetle, was a roaring success. In South Africa, where rumours were rife that Golf was on its way, Volkswagen SA created several “special editions” to sustain public interest like the 1974 “Fun Bug” and the exciting and powerful 1977 1600SP. Had the 1976’s fuel consumption been lower, the Beetle may have lasted longer in South Africa but when one could travel farther, faster and with less fuel in the new VW Passat, the buyers who could afford it, went for the more expensive car. On February 17, 1972, the 15 007 034th Beetle was produced, beating the record set by Henry Ford’s Model T. On the 18th of January 1979 the last Beetle came off the production line at Volkswagen South Africa’s Uitenhage plant - a reign that lasted 28 years and saw 288 353 locally produced Beetles.

The Volkswagen Beetle 1976