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One of the pioneers responsible for building South Africa’s first, and only, 100 percent local sports car, Bob van Niekerk, has died at the age of 85.
The last of the brilliant triumvirate responsible for the GSM Dart roadster and Flamingo GT cars, Van Niekerk met fellow motorsport enthusiast Willie Meissner while they were students at Stellenbosch University in the early 1950s.
Meissner would also become a local legend as a result of the performance parts he developed for Ford four-cylinder engines, notably Cortinas.
Their dream of a uniquely South African car took them to London, where they teamed up with Verster de Wit, a South African employed as a car-body designer with the Rootes group.
Although hopelessly undercapitalised, the trio persevered with their idea.
They were fortunate that they arrived in Britain at about the same time as a new product, which became known as fibre glass, hit the market. For the trio of Afrikaners, the rest was a case of “’n boer maak ’n plan”.
They had no wind tunnel at their disposal, so the body aerodynamics were resolved by building scale models (there were 13 in all). The three would attach strips of cloth to them and hold them out of the window of De Wit’s car, while he drove as fast as possible along the nearest stretch of open road.
When the design was completed and a name agreed on, they returned to Cape Town, where the car became a sensation when it was revealed to the public.
The GSM factory closed after the sale of more than 200 units, whereupon Van Niekerk turned his attention to the design of offshore boats, at which he was equally successful.
Darts were raced for the first time in the False Bay 100 at Gunners’ Circle on New Year’s Day 1958, where Meissner and Van Niekerk did well to finish 11th and 14th in exalted company.
The Dart roadster, with its removable hard top, was followed by the Flamingo GT in 1962, and the GSM Club are planning to hold its 50th anniversary celebration in September. - Argus Motoring