Koos Kombi

Today Mother Mary took a break from playing the piano. She suddenly remembered a time Mona du Plessis came to her after a ‘do’ at the town hall. These memories come and go so she must tell them as she thinks of them.

Mona said to me – says Mary – “While we were at the town hall Kosie took the kombi, loaded up the de Villiers kids and drove to Joan and Jannie’s where our kids were. Then they all got in – Mignon, Jean-Prieur, Sheila, everybody and they drove up and down Hector Street!”

Of course I remember doing stuff like this – I loved “borrowing” the kombi – but I don’t really recall any specific accomplices! I spose it looked a bit like this:

Koos Kombi full_2

Doories Daze

On 2018/12/18 Stephen Reed wrote:

Had a late afternoon chat with Stanrey Kraarke this afternoon . .

( that would be a phone call across the Tasman Sea )

Pete replied:

Ah, good to hear the ancient old bullet is still alive!!

Hoezit Kev!!? ( I have cc’d him here)

I can’t think of Doories without thinking of you, the green TAV Datsun from the metropolis of Grootfontein, the chocolate Alfa and old Krazalski, Wartski, What-ski – those are wrong – what ‘ski was he, your boss?

Doories cars – and Ponte; Our salubrious quarters

I can still see the meticulous care with which you changed the crunchy, notchety gears in the Alfa.

Often when driving I remember your sage advice: WATCH OUT for an old toppie wearing a hat!

Mostly nowadays I see the old toppie wearing a hat in my own rear-view mirror! Gives me a bit of a start every time: Who’s that fuckin old fart? Oh, OK – only me . . . . As for Forever Young! I think we still are! Well, I think we should keep imagining that!

Oh, and we musn’t forget the outbreak of Dobie’s Itch in the Doories Res!!

Kev rushed back to work and got going amongst the pots and stills and fires and wooden ladles and other witchcraft paraphenalia he and Wartski used to keep in their secret factory and came back with a double-strength potion stronger than anything Dumbledore could have made, and CURED the dreaded ballache!! He was our hero!!

Stephen Reed wrote:

By gosh, we had a few laughs.

Another one: Sunday morning, Kevin having a sleep in – eyes closed …

Are you sleeping Kevin?

Kevin: one eye slightly opens

No No No … Just coasting

Pete wrote:

Ha HA!! I’d forgotten these! Exactly right!!!

P.S. We were so lucky Stanley-Clarke decided to stay in Res that extra year while he re-wrote ?pharmacology?

I mean, he could have stayed with any one of a dozen beautiful chicks. They all wanted his moustache! And we would never have met him.

It turned in to a magic, unforgettable year, and he was no small part of that!

Stephen Reed wrote:

Bullshit.

He was lucky to have had US there.

Bloody boring time he would have had otherwise . . .

Pete wrote:

Ja!! Too True My Bru!

And now here’s the man himself:

Kia Ora both of you ,

What a wonderful surprise hearing from the DOORIE BRO’s in particular the very Articulate Rhodes student Mr Koos Swanepoel himself, from Harrismith; and the attention-to-detail Mr Stevie Reed the boat builder raconteur himself from a little town in the free state that eludes me at this time!

This really made my day – thank you both for all the very happy memories and to think I could have missed that wonderful year if I had passed Pharmacology first go – and to think it was 45 years ago which has basically passed in a flash.

My boss in the very clandestine factory in Doories was Mr Pogeralski – so Pete, the grey matter is still intact;

As for that ointment which I prepared it was Whitefields ointment aka “Ung acid benz co.” Had I given that to you today I would be in serious trouble with “Health and safety”, “Quality and risk”, “Public safety”, you name it! But it certainly works.

Yes, and how can we forget the times we all went to the Jeppe post office to use their services “pro bono” utilizing your unbelievable skills ‘the long tickey” to gain access to their phone lines – Hello World.

Also will never forget the test at Ellis Park “pro bono” an absolute blast – thank you both for the wonderful memories that always bring a smile to my face .

And Stevie: Can you remember the movie we went to on a Saturday morning at the Cinerama we saw “Papillon” ??

I could go on forever – The Dev ? The Bend ? and many more. May leave that for another day.

Take care both of you and please keep in touch

Kakite Ano

Dee Student aka ‘Giscard . . . d’Estaing’


Notes:

Ellis Park “pro bono” – Less than fully legal entry to the rugby stadium for a test match; ahem . .

Jeppe Street post office “pro bono” ‘long tickey” – Less than entirely legal as well, say no more; ahem . . There were consequences! I got a phone call from the GPO: Are Your Name Swanepoel? I meekly coughed up for sundry long-distance international ‘trunk calls’ to Oklahoma!

Martha and My Man Friday

This beautiful 1938 Buick Coupe was a regular sight on the streets of Harrismith back in the Sixties.

Martha McDonald and her friend Carrie Friday used to cruise the streets going nowhere. Mom Mary called them Martha and My Man Friday after Robinson Crusoe. She says Roy Cartwright coined the nickname. Roy ran the Tattersalls horse racing gambling joint in town and was full of wit.

Years later Sheila found out that Pietermaritzburg car enthusiast and restorer Ty Terblanche had found it, bought it and restored it to its former glory. Well done Ty! What a beaut!

1938 Buick coupe2

Here’s the actual Buick we frew wif a stone decades ago! Martha and My Man Friday cruising around the metropolis of Harrismith ca. 1960’s

With childish logic and mischief we’d occasionally throw it wif a stone (as we’d mockingly say). Always missed, mind you.

The redoubtable Martha McDonald, asked one day if she had any children replied in the negative, adding loftily “My husband was too much of a gentleman.”

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Here’s a better angle to showcase those beautiful lines:

Buick 1938

From the front it’s much like other cars of its era, but from the side and half-back you can see why it gets so many oohs and aahs!

Buick sports coupe 66s 1938

edit March 2019: I read in Leon Strachan’s first book about Harrismith ‘Blafboom’ that Martha had actually bought this gorgeous 1938 Buick Century Sports Coupe 66S from Nic Wessels; and that she lived in Murray Street.

for some images, my thanks to conceptcarz.com and powerful-cars.com

The Marvelous Brauer/Stromberg

Very few people realise just how good the Stromberg is. One of those few is Brauer. He knows, as he invested a large portion of his student fortune in one at The Rand Easter Show one year (or was it the Pretoria Skou?).

We watched a demonstration in fascination. I mean EVERY time the good honest man hooked in the Stromberg the engine ran sweetly and WHENEVER he unhooked the Stromberg it spluttered and farted. Brauer was SOLD. He just KNEW this was the answer to his faded-white Austin with faded-black linoleum roof’s problems. Instead of taking it for a long overdue service and changing the oil, water, filter and spark plugs, he would sommer just fit a Stromberg. What could possibly go wrong go wrong, and who could doubt this:

Stromberg

Here’s an email thread discussing the amazing Stromberg phenomenon:

On 2015/08/30 22:29, steve reed wrote:

Subject: Re: Fat takkies

Further proof that nothing stays the same.

From our youthful past, it was always a “given” that the back takkies would be fatter than the front …Specially if you have the windgat  version.

Now the Audi RS3 has em 2cm fatter  in the front than the back if you have the windgat version.

Really…I am getting too old for all this.  Do they have to mess with everything?


From: pete swanepoel home

Subject: Re: Fat takkies

Yep. Because they can . . .

I remember the mindset change I had to undergo when diesels started getting status. Ditto when auto boxes started making more sense than manual? Had to quietly swallow a few ‘definite’ and ‘absolute’ statements made in ignorance!

One of my fascinations has been looking up when the first ____ (whatever) was ever fitted or used in a car.

First diesel engined production car — 1935 Citroen Rosalie

First patent for seat belts – 1885. But still not compulsory when we grew up and STILL not compulsory throughout the USA today. Politicians in many states wouldn’t dare vote for such a law!

First 8-speed manual – 1931 Maybach DS8

First automatic transmission – 1939 Oldsmobile Hydra-Matic, also the first 4-speed automatic.

First petrol-electric hybrid – 1899 Lohner-Porsche Mixte

First modern hybrid car – 1904 Auto-Mixte (Belgium)

First four-wheel drive car – 1910 Caldwell Vale

First trip computer – 1958 Saab GT750

and so on – almost always WAY before I would have guessed !


On 2015/08/31 00:18, Peter Brauer wrote:

A glaring omission has been noted from your ”when was it first fitted” list:

THE FAMOUS STROMBERG

Do you recall how I had Alan Saks (the great car fundi) going  on this one…


From: pete swanepoel home:

I do. Didn’t we see it some show or other? A great demonstration. If it had been a religion I’d have converted. I would be a Strombergie now.

Who would think Pretoria would have a skou!? What is there to show?

So Alan was not an all-knowing deskundige after all?! Even HE could learn a thing or two?

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On 2015/09/01 01:55, Peter Brauer wrote:

The one and only Pretoria Skou. Installed in my Cortina that Alan had driven in a few days prior and was subjected to the stop/start lurching and had many remedies and suggestions. I obviously thanked him for his advice BUT ALSO ENLIGHTENED HIM re: THE NEWLY PURCHASED SOLVER-OF-ALL-CAR-PROBLEMS . . . THE STROMBERG. Remembering the  “God-ordained” visit to the Skou and Stromberg stand where we witnessed the justifiably impressive presentation of a product that should have outstripped Microsoft in sales.

To which he chuckled and shook his head in disbelief. I hauled it off the floor behind the driver’s seat to show him. I remember a few choice expletives….”complete f…ing piece of sh-t” etc etc.

So that weekend I started installing said Stromberg, which involved a rare opening of the bonnet (a procedure I normally advise against to any motoring enthusiast). For starters (no pun intended), after glancing at the oil coated sparks, I thought that while the bonnet was open I might just clean the sparks and set the gaps. Before removing the Stromberg off it’s familiar position of lying on the floor behind the driver’s seat I thought I’d take the Cortina for a spin to see if it still could go after my risky DIY service.

old cortina.jpg

Shit a brick….it flew! (“why the hell didn’t I do that long ago!?” rolling through my thoughts as the apparently turbocharged Cortina used our sedate suburban streets as its new-found race track).

After getting back home I parked the car and almost forget what I’d started….THE STROMBERG.

I quickly installed it on-line on the main spark lead and couldn’t wait for Alan’s visit that arvie. Chucked him my keys and said he should take the Cortina for a spin to see if he could tell if the Stromberg had made any diffs………………. The rest is folklore history……….he was stunned into silence, well for at least 3 minutes – but a Saks record nevertheless.


From: pete swanepoel home

You forgot to put in the most important feature of the Cortina: The colour. What colour was it?

(I read about a popular radio talk show in the States: Two brothers had a “Car Experts” show. People would phone in and ask about the problems they were having with their cars. Long technical details of what the clutch and carburetor and shit were doing and where the smoke was coming out of etc etc – and the one brother would ask “Tell me: This Corvette of yours: What color is it?”).

.

It was light blue.

Power Brakes and Brauer Breaks

While staying at 4 Hillside Road Parktown we prepared for the holidays. I was taking the delightful Cheryl Forsdick down to Port Shepstone in Natal where I think she was meeting her folks, the redoubtable Ginger, fierce platinum miner or renown, and Mrs F. It was the grey and grey Opel Concorde OHS 5678’s longest trip and at the last minute I started to worry about the brakes. They weren’t the best. So I toddled off to the spare parts place and bought what they said would fix them.

21st birthday present!! An Opel Concorde DeLuxe 1700 in sophisticated tones of grey and grey. Note my reflection in the gleaming bonnet!

21st birthday present!! A 1965 Opel Concorde DeLuxe straight four 1700cc in sophisticated tones of grey and grey. Note my reflection in the gleaming bonnet!

The day before we were to leave I stripped the drums and put in the new shoes. Does that sound right? It was a fiddly job and took ages to get right, the springs kept springing. Testing them entailed many trips up and down Hillside Road under the closed arch of the big old London Plane trees. Luckily it’s a cul-de-sac. Jamming on brakes I would go screeching into the left gutter, then I’d go home and adjust the whatevers and then go slewing into the right gutter. Then beertime came and it had to be good enough.

A raucous year-end party ensued and unfortunately Brauer had invited himself. So even more beer than normal was swallowed and cleverer and cleverer. In the wee hours he spotted the grey and grey Opel Concorde sitting sleekly in the driveway, poised for its long journey to that last outpost of the British Empire. His drink-addled brain (brain?) had recently been thinking (thinking?) about the Mercedes “pagoda roof” sports car classic and he decided my car needed a conversion, so he danced on the roof in his old blue suede shoes (think I’m kidding? I’ll show you a photo). And the more us sensible people told him to stop the more he danced. You know how he is.

He thought he was doing this – and in fact had the cheek to suggest I should pay him for enhancing the Opel:

merc-pagoda

But in fact he did this:

opel-roof-brauer

I had to lie on my back on the seat and push up the roof with my feet the next morning so we could sit in the thing for our southward safari. I was careful to use the brakes as little as possible all the way through the Vrystaat vlaktes, down van Reenen’s Pass and on to the sparkling Indian Ocean where the sharks (but not yet the Sharks) were awaiting their annual dose of Vaalie flesh.

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Are we getting a pattern here?

Casa Blanca Roadhouse, Joburg

As students 1974-1977 we would frequent the Casa Blanca roadhouse at the foot of Nugget Hill below Hillbrow when the pocket money arrived from home. Squeezed into Joz Simpson’s lime-green VW Beetle or Steve Reed’s beige Apache or Bobby Friderich’s white Mini Cooper S or Glen Barker’s green Toyota, we’d ask the old Elvis-looking guy with a cap, flip-up sunglasses and whispy whiskers for a burger n chips plus a coke; Or a cheeseburger chips n coke 70c, or – as Steve reminded me – “if we were flush, the Dagwood with everything including the runny fried egg. Sheer luxury. Messy, but worth it!”

I don’t have a pic, but here’s the Doll House in Highlands North so long:

 

Every so often you’d be asked “Move forward” and you’d inch forward to make room for new arrivals behind you, till you reached the “finishing line” where you handed back the tray Elvis had clipped to your half-rolled-up window and drove off under the big sign on the wall: QUIET. HOSPITAL.

Deja Vu

Many years later (OK, twenty six years later!) work took me back to Jozi and I had time to kill in my hired car so I drove around Doories and Yeoville and Hillbrow. Lunchtime I pulled in to the Casa Blanca and I SWEAR there was the exact same oke who had served us twenty six years earlier, with his SAME cap, his SAME flip-up shades and his SAME whispy whiskers! Astonishing!

I told him cheeseburger chips n coke and how long have you been here?

“Thirty six years” he said “but I’m just filling in now”.

Charged me 70c. Plus twenty six years-worth of inflation.

Borrowing Dad’s Car Started Long Ago

1024px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_The_Fall_of_Phaeton_(National_Gallery_of_Art)

Helios gave his son Phaeton permission to drive the Sun chariot around the Earth. Helios was the Sun God, and a son of almighty Zeus.

Talk about “Don’t Spare the Horses”! Typical youth, the lad Phaeton took some sporting chicks along for the ride, lost control of those horses and the chariot ran amok. The world was at risk of being incinerated!

Grandfather Zeus was thus forced to kill him. Zap! He killed his grandson! Zeus could gooi a mean lightning bolt if you pissed him off.

I’m glad the punishment became a bit milder in our day.

Come to think of it, we never did get punished*. Never got caught, though I can’t imagine our folks didn’t have a shrewd idea of what was happening – at least an inkling. In the early days of illicit driving I used to drive the old blue VW Kombi OHS 153 around our large garden at 95 Stuart Street.

kombi2

Round the circular driveway, out into Hector Street and back in again. Back near the garages was the washing line and the Kombi just fit under it. Except I’d forgotten about the airvent on the roof. It caught the wires and pulled down the washing line poles. Some feverish spadework got them more or less vertical again and the old blue Kombi was parked back in its exact spot outside the garage.

Another time I reversed into the tap at the horse trough, the pipe broke and water sprayed out in a long arc. It was evening and the folks were out. Parking the Kombi I hastened to the tap and straightened the downpipe, getting drenched in the freezing water – it was mid-winter. That caused less water to gush but there was still a very visible spout. Rushing down to the front gate I found the stopcock that turned off the main water supply. That fixed it and I went to bed before the folks got home. The next morning I rose very early and turned the stopcock back on. “Hmm, the pipe must have frozen and burst last night” was the consensus at breakfast.

My butt was saved by Harrismith’s frigid winter weather!

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*Farnie Schoeman hastened to inform me not all parents were as tolerant as mine here.

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Later we were showed how to do car borrowing PROPERLY by Steph de Witt!

More than once. And again. And again.

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‘Son borrows Dad’s car’ predictably caused South Africa’s first serious automobile accident – 1903:

firstcaraccidentsa

On 1st October 1903, Mr Charles Garlick driving his father’s new 24hp Darracq with his friend Harry Markham and chaffeur Snellgrove as passengers, entered the Maitland level crossing from an open gate, only to find the opposite gate closed. Before they could open the gate or reverse out of the crossing, they were hit by the Johannesburg Express traveling at full speed.

Snellgrove was thrown clear, Garlick suffered minor injuries and Markham, with his arm already in splints from a previous engine-cranking mishap, had a badly broken thigh.

It was announced that the Garlick workshop would undertake repairs to the Darracq. A new chassis was obtained from Paris and the final result testified to the efficiency of Cape Town’s first motor repairers.

From ‘Early Motoring in South Africa’ by R.H. Johnston