VW Wonders

Roaring Race Rod

By |December 5th, 2013|Featured Articles, VW Wonders|


All photos by Mike Schmucker @ Studio88 Photography and Aircooled Wonders.

Ever since the wheel first appeared on chariots 3200 BC, man has been obsessed with the ability to travel distances in less time than ever imaginable. This need to travel faster and faster is inevitable , with names like Sir Malcolm Campbell, Craig Breedlove, Burt Munro, Andy Green, Richard Noble and many more in the record books, all pushing the limits of man and machine. These speed capsules driven by visionary men would have no meaning if there wasn’t the perfect surface to run them on. Bonneville’s salt flats in Utah, USA is probably the most famous venue of them all, with its history stretching as far back as 1930.

We all know that imagination never rests and that man will always look for new horizons to conquer. This is no different when it comes to land speed record attempts and on 28 October 2008, Richard Noble and Andy Green announced their latest plan to travel 1000 mph on land with the Bloodhound project. Their choice of venue? Hakskeenpan, Northern Cape, South Africa.

Around the same time Jan Els seized the opportunity to make a lifelong dream come true. Jan has been planning South Africa’s very own Speedweek for years and on 14 September 2012 petrolheads from all over South Africa rolled  on to the dusty pan of Hakskeenpan for the inaugural Kalahari Desert Speedweek.

For many it was a dream come true, […]

Conquering Africa: the ’59 way

By |June 27th, 2012|Featured Articles, VW Wonders|

To tell the story of an extraordinary 1959 Volkswagen Kombi named Mabel, I’ll need to jump 40 years forward and start the telling with a newborn friendship between two young men, Wernher Hartzenberg and Espen Svensen. Both of us had one thing in common: the desire for adventure. We did not know at the time what impact this meeting would have on the rest of our lives and how we would both find respect for a vehicle that was once upon a time advertised as the people’s car.

It was 1999 and the first ever African Beetle Marathon was just the event to dip our toes into the river of adventure. Boy, would this little stream soon flow like a fearsome river through our veins.

Espen was born in Oslo, Norway. With his forefather’s Viking blood running strong, he decided it was time to see the world. He was so sure about his fate that he purchased a round trip ticket that would take him pretty much, well, around the world. Being an adventurer there would be no better place to kick it all off than in South Africa.

On the other side of the world, a young student, Wernher, was just getting ready to start his adult life. I was like most other South Africans, brought up with the mindset that once you finish your studies, it is time to face the real world, and that meant getting a 9-to-5 job. Luckily, I was young and also knew how to use my free time. That year’s summer break was going to be different; I was going to go BIG one last time.


Pan Africa Safari in a Samba

By |March 3rd, 2012|VW Wonders|

In the early 1950’s a Dutch couple, Willem and Truus van der Mark followed their forefather’s footsteps and decided to elope to South Africa. This choice was primarily made on the fact that the couple both loved animals and that Willem’s talent as a documentarian would be taken to new heights, as he could capture wildlife on his 16 mm camera. Back in those days when television was unheard of, news clips appeared during movie intervals at the cinema. It was during such movie intervals that Willem‘s documentaries were screened.


My chance to buy the last of the last

By |November 25th, 2011|Featured Articles, VW Wonders|

Article by Tyrone Morris

When the law was passed in Mexico that taxis had to have four doors back in late 2002, the final chapter of the air-cooled beetle would unfold.

VAG as we know had contracted vw mexico to produce beetles for the european market back in the late 70’s, as demand still warranted imports into Germany from latin America once the Germans had ceased european production in 1978. The ships kept on docking into Emden until European safety regulations halted the final batch of 50th anniversary beetles to Europe in 1985. This could have been the end for the beloved air-cooled icon, but luckily the Mexican government encouraged and incentivized ongoing local production as the taxi industry benefitted by the supply of these green and white “vochos”, ironically resembling the old german polizei colours. An ongoing lease of life for the air-cooled model echoes the rebranding of the golf1 legacy in South Africa. It appears that the two death-defiant models even shared some parts, i.e. the steering wheel and interior of the late mexican beetles mirrors that of the late mark 1 golfs.


When First Is Not First

By |October 20th, 2011|VW Wonders|

Article by John Lemon

VWSA has recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of the first Beetle off the production line in Uitenhage which took place on 31 August 1951.

There are only a few surviving photographs of what should have been a momentous occasion, however the few that survive do tell a very interesting story.

During 2000 in preparation for VWSA’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2001, I was asked to research and write some articles on the history of SAMAD (South African Motor Assemblers and Distributors) as VWSA was then known as and some of the cars built there like Studebakers and Austins.