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The one who got away

Everyone has a tale about a car they loved, and lost. We asked MIWA directors to tell us about theirs.

Everyone has one: the car that should have been theirs – and would have been, were it not for some regrettable decisions. We asked our directors which cars they wish were parked in the garage.

Teresa Spenser Higgs – MIWA Chairperson Border region

Being from the feminine side of the fence, I must admit I am more likely to long for a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes than a car! Having said that, I have always joked that I would like to own the new look VW beetle as it makes a statement – that statement being that I have so much money I don’t mind spending it unwisely. However, being married to a technician, I accepted years ago that my husband will be the one making the decisions when it comes to choosing vehicles.

Les McMaster – MIWA National Vice Chairman

Les with his blue Datsun 160U SSS.

The first car I purchased as an 18-year-old apprentice was my dream car; the one I so wanted to own and which I revered as the ultimate cool machine totally suited to the hip fraternity of that era. I had just completed my military service and had saved the ‘danger pay’ I received for serving on the then South West African border, as a member of the South African Defence Force.

I can clearly recall the moment I first set sight on this car, as I was passing on my way from work. It stood there in a used car lot, just beckoning me to stop and feast my eyes: the most beautiful blue 1969 Datsun 1600 SSS in the entire world. I remember my heart pounding in my chest with excitement. I hastily made arrangements to test drive this vehicle and, having satisfied myself that everything was in order, I purchased it.

My life was forever changed. This Datsun was my pride and joy; not only because it was my very first car, but because it drew loads of attention wherever I went (plus, how could I forget the countless trips to the drive-in with dates who were not too keen on seeing the movie). I quickly bought and fitted California deep-dish mags and revamped the exhaust system to give a deep-throated roar, which just sent chills of joy up my spine with every acceleration. 

My regret, thinking back, was that I didn’t keep that Datsun. I sold it to purchase a brand-new Datsun 160U SSS, which was a phenomenal vehicle in its own right – although it never really had the magic of its predecessor.

When I still couldn’t get that car out of my head many years later, I decided to purchase a Datsun 1600 SSS and clone my first car. It took a long time and a lot of searching, but I finally found one in fair condition. I completely stripped it down to bare metal and rebuilt it as a clone of my first car. I just couldn’t wait to start it up after reconditioning all the mechanical parts. 

Finally, the day arrived … I had just finished the final item of the assembly. I put the key into the ignition and started it. No words can express the feeling of utter enjoyment that exploded within my being. In a déjà vu moment I was 18 again; a feeling that can bring a 61-year-old man to tears. I proudly drove the Datsun home with the exact same feeling that I had with that first drive home all those years ago.

I still have my Datsun and, after five years I still drive it around, even participating in a classic car rally to Maputo in 2019. I still get the appreciative recognition from other road users when I drive around. I would even put a bet on it that I could still get a date to the drive-in if they still existed, that would really put the cherry on the top (although we would probably want to watch the movie this time!)

Nowellyn’s image of his living dream to restore his favourite car..

Nowellyn van Vuuren – Vice-Chairman Border region

Cars aren’t everyone’s passion – either you love them or you don’t. My favourite car of all time was a Ford Anglia station wagon. I was lucky enough to be the second person who owned this car. 

I was just a little boy when I realized that my mother’s late uncle – a foreman at the Ford Motor Company – had this car in the garage. He’d bought it from the factory line. 

I still remember my excitement the day I bought that car. I paid R600, which was a lot of money for a 17-year-old. We collected it from the house, where it was covered under five years of dust. I was so pleased to get it outside – we all deserve some sunlight.

After many long nights and weekends, I had transformed the car from its faded green state to its former glory. 

I made so many happy memories with that car. My biggest regret is selling it – it would have been such a fun little car to own, and I would have loved my family to have the same kind of experiences. I’m still on the lookout for a car in a similar condition to buy.