Gordon Murray saves a GSM, South Africa’s own home-grown sports car
Fond memories of GSM Darts competing in his native South Africa won the rare model a place in Gordon’s heart and in his growing classic collection
The latest addition to my classic car collection has a strong connection to my early racing days in South Africa. It’s a GSM Dart. I well remember watching these little cars racing back in the Sixties at the Roy Hesketh and Kyalami circuits where they were very successful.
GSM (Glass Sports Motors) remains the only true South African independent car manufacturer and was the brainchild of South African engineers Bob Van Niekerk and Willie Meissner. The two met while studying engineering at Cape Town University, where Van Niekerk introduced Meissner to motor racing. During his university course Van Niekerk began building and racing specials (a story not too dissimilar to my own). It was also during this period of the mid-fifties that they first discussed their dream of one day building a lightweight sports car.
During a trip to England in 1956 Meissner discovered a new lightweight material called glassfibre. He persuaded Van Niekerk to join him and the two soon began making plans to produce their own car. While investigating the process of pattern-making and moulding a glassfibre body, they were introduced to Verster de Wit, who worked in the Rootes Group styling department. De Wit was another South African who had moved to England in the Fifties. Meissner had previously met him in South Africa through motor racing in the Cape. De Wit agreed to style the new car, which goes a long way to explaining why its shape and proportions have stood the test of time so well.
The team set up shop in a rented garage in Streatham and set about making the pattern from de Wit’s design, followed by the body mould. The first two bodies were sold to fund the project, but by now Meissner had had enough of the unheated garage and returned to South Africa where he set up a company to produce the Dart.
Van Niekerk decided to rejoin him in South Africa and Dart production began in 1958. The car achieved racing success almost immediately. A Climax-engined Dart won the 1959 nine-hour endurance race at Kyalami and I recall Darts being campaigned at Roy Hesketh, my local circuit, by the likes of Ritchie Jute, John Truter, Peter Gough and Jack Holme.
Only 122 Darts were produced, making it difficult to track one down for my collection, but I enlisted the help of André Loubser, who has long since been part of the South African automotive scene and knows a lot about GSM products.
André knew of a Dart with a fascinating history and directed me to its owner in Jersey. The chassis number is 5913 (the 13th car built in 1959) and it has been owned by South African Ed Rossler since he bought the car in 1961. Ed raced 5913 in South Africa for two seasons before shipping it to England to further his racing career. It was stored until 1970 when it was re-engined and modified for road use.
Ed moved to Jersey and stored the Dart until 2004 when it went back to South Africa for restoration. In 2014 it returned to Jersey and just last month I finalised its purchase for my collection – a great piece of South African automotive history.
Still wearing its Jersey plates, Gordon’s GSM Dart is a rare addition to his classic collection