Drivers who go slower
Unimog drivers don’t like fast at high revs, but riding high at low revs to go, well, anywhere
The 2015 installment of Pretoria’s version of Cars in the Park was the biggest yet, with cars streaming (and steaming) from as far as Richards Bay and PE to the Zwartkops Racetrack near Ladium.
Wheels was on hand to witness this event on the invitation of Mercedes-Benz Unimog owners, a very special tribe of petrolheads indeed.
Willem Burger is one of this group of intrepids.
He rebuilds old Unimogs in Centurion and he explained driver enthusiasts can basically be divided into two groups — those who like to go fast at high revs, and those who like to go high at very low revs.
He said rebuilt and new Unimogs are ideal vehicles for the latter group, especially those who suffer the added affliction of being addicted to the other side side of the horizon.
Only the Iveco Daily 4x4 can compete with the Unimog in river-fording, mountain-scarping ability, but the new Italian does not (yet) have the reputation that gave the old Unimog such a passionate following across Africa.
Diana and Tom Limpert fall in this category. Since their first trip across Africa in a VW Caravelle, the two Germans have been dreaming of the day they can equip a Unimog to “tour anywhere in the world”.
Ian Matonsela is a rare Unimog owner, who uses his go-anywhere vehicles for the original purpose for which they were designed when German engineers were sent to farm potatoes after the World War 2.
Those engineers had designed the first, tiny Unimogs as multipurpose agricultural workhorses that could traverse ploughed fields and drive equipment like saws and mills through power transfer units.
Matonsela also uses his Unimogs for an agricultural purpose — to collect harvested marula seeds in Mpumalanga’s deeply rural areas which his company, Maganu Productions, then coldpress to extract the marula oil.
He also has a Land Cruiser and 4x4 Mazda bakkies, but told
Wheels only the Unimog can cross rivers and climb rocks without breaking axles.
The Beetle Boys
Three young men who also like their wheels to be legendary are Khume Mtshweni, Sihle Dube and Mpho Moeketsi, who all are proud owners and repairers of VW Beetles.
“I have a 10-head on my 1,6 so everywhere I go, people notice me,” said Mtshweni.
For the show, Moeketsi loaded a few suitcases and a toddler’s BMW on his roofrack.
“They all ask me where my spare wheels are in case I break down,” he laughed.
When he finished restoring his beloved Beetle, the bespectacled young man next intends to get his hands on a “molofish” — or old-style VW combi — to turn that into the classic camper.
Next to them Deon Knox just grins at their dreams to restore a combi like his rusted 1962 van.
Instead of repainting it to a high gloss, he plans to add a coat of matt varnish and leave the rust like it is. Judging by the number of rusted classics at the show, the oxidised look is becoming high fashion.
Down in the dumps
Having spoken to many people at Zwartkops, Wheels can add there is a third group of petrolheads — those who rue the wheels that got away.
One such a man who is not just ruing a few old panelvans he let go, but is actively trying to kick himself for it is Rudi Oosthuysen (82), a retired mechanic who once had the bodies of two old DKW Schnellasters Kastenwagens “cluttering up” his workshop in Newlands, Johannesburg. Oosthuysen loaded both bodies on a trailer and pushed them off the dumps.
At the Pebble Beach auction in 2013, a mint-condition DKW Schnellasters Kastenwagen sold for $101 750 (R1 290 871).
“I can tear my hair out,” he laughed when he told Wheels after seeing a 1957 DKW Kastenwagen which belongs to Russel Osner from the Eastern Cape. • For more information on Unimog adventures, visit Unimog Freunde Club on Facebook.
Addicted to the other side of the horizon: Diana and Tom Limpert from Germany are dreaming of the day they can afford a Mercedes-Benz Unimog to tour the world.
Khume Mtshweni, Sihle Dube and Mpho Moeketsi are all proud owner-repairers of VW Beetles. Next, they want to fix up an old-style molofish, like this 1962 VW Combi (main photo).