Mzansi Rides: Six cool cars with a uniquely South African flavour

Mzansi Rides: Six cool cars with a uniquely South African flavour

BMW 333i:

The original BMW M3 was nothing short of the dog’s bollocks when it was unveiled in 1985. Even today it’s celebrated as one of the finest performance cars ever made. Unfortunately BMW didn’t launch it in many markets – South Africa being one of them. No matter. With some help from Alpina Germany, BMW SA built us a pretty good substitute with the 333i. Equipped with a 145kW 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine it could nail 100km/h in 7.2-seconds and run up to 231km/h. Impressive numbers for the era. ABS brakes were optional as was air-conditioning. And if you chose the latter then the power steering would have to fall away due to space constraints under the bonnet. With only 204 being sold to the public the 333i remains a rare and sought-after beast.

Alfa Romeo GTV6 3.0

Alfa Romeo GTV6 3.0: 

The brainchild of SA motorsport commentator (and then Alfa PR manager), Roger McCleerey, and ‘80s tuner extraordinaire, Sampie Bosman, the GTV6 3.0 was created to keep the Milanese marque competitive in local circuit racing. Beneath its bespoke fiberglass bonnet lurked a special three-litre V6 engine built from parts sourced both locally as well as from Alfa’s now defunct competition division, Autodelta. Eventually tuned to deliver 145kW it proved more than a match for its BMW rivals and soon racked up the wins at tracks like Kyalami and Killarney. Apparently around 220 were built so, like the 333i, it is about as common as an uncorrupt government official.

Opel Kadett 200ts

Opel Kadett 200ts:

During my teen years the 200ts was a thing of legend: a seldom-seen unicorn with the power to crush any Golf GTI fool enough to challenge it to a drag race. Hell, up here in Johannesburg it could even beat a BMW E36 M3 into kerbside submission. Which is probably why the highway patrol unit then favored them as their whip of choice. Although pretty much identical in appearance to its lesser 200is sibling, the sleeper-status 200ts rocked a turbocharged motor that churned out an impressive-for-the-day 151kW. Other mods included a limited-slip differential and a six-speed Getrag transmission. They speculate that 500 were made but thanks to its unruly handling characteristics and foolhardy owners I’d guess that less than half this amount survive to this day.


Ford Sierra XR8:

Looking at it today the XR8 was one part Zef, one part American muscle car. A homologation special fashioned solely for the use in local Group One racing during the mid-1980s, this limited-run (just 250 were built) Ford came bolted to a five-litre V8 engine sourced from the third-generation Mustang. So what it lacked in top-end power it more than made up for in lowdown torque – a mighty 330Nm-sized slug worth of the stuff that ensured that this was the fastest Sierra ever produced. A beefier brake package was added to the mix plus a host of chassis and suspension tweaks for sharper handling. Those into racing back then will remember drivers Serge Damseaux and John Gibb threading them sideways through Barbeque Bend at the old Kyalami.


Volkswagen Citi CTi:

Reincarnation happened in 1990 when Volkswagen SA launched a saucier version of their popular Citi Golf. Basically a slightly more modern remake of the original Mk1 GTI that singlehandedly invented the hot-hatch segment in 1976, the CTi had an 82kW 1.8-litre fuel-injected engine that provided sprightly performance. In fact it there was little between it and the significantly more expensive Golf Mk2 GTi that was on sale at the same time. Unfortunately this – and their sporty bodykit – made the CTi tasty bait for crash-prone Boy Racers and car thieves alike. Finding a clean one these days is tough and if you do they are jealously guarded by their loving owners.


Daihatsu Materia Turbo:

One of latest cars infused with a uniquely South African flavour was this box-shaped Daihatsu hatch. In standard form the Materia was always a practical city schleper that could carry kids, pets and groceries in equally generous measure. However its retromodernist hotrod architecture soon tickled the imaginations of those in charge. So in 2009, out of an unlikely collaboration between Daihatsu South Africa and Steve’s Auto Clinic, the short-lived Materia Turbo was born to the Rainbow Nation with an under bonnet blow-off valve that whooshed with all the fervor of a WRC car. While the intercooler was fed a supply of cold air via a subtle bonnet scoop, low-profile 17-inch wheels were bolted to a body lowered 30mm by Eibach springs. With 110kW on tap and a 0-100km/h time of 8.9-seconds, this was a proper Q-car that could stick with a Golf V GTI through the first three gears. Just 50 were built, one of which resides in my garage – a testament to how fun this whacky creation is to drive. – Thomas Falkiner