Metro police spokesman Superintendent Sbonele Mchunu said the impounding of 22 cars was part of a clampdown on illegal drag racing in Springfield.
This comes after a video emerged of a man being beaten for “disturbing” a drag race by skipping a red robot. Another video - posted on YouTube - shows a white Corolla Tazz, apparently belonging to the man, turning into Umgeni Road seconds before two racers come speeding down the road. The incident reportedly happened on Saturday night.
In a four-hour operation on Sunday morning, metro police seized cars modified to “enhance their performance”.
“We get continuous complaints about drag racing in that area," said Mchunu, "and this is just the start of operations to get these vehicles off the road. They are very dangerous - with modifications, you don’t know how a car is going to react to normal driving on a public road,” said Mchunu.
On Tuesday the cars were driven to the Road Traffic Inspectorate station in Pinetown to be “marked” as having been taken off the road. Mchunu said this and the suspension of the vehicle licences meant they could not be driven on public roads.
“The owners will be fined and will have to alter the vehicles back to manufacturers' specifications,” he said.
'No legal grounds'
However, an owner of an auto body shop, who did not want to be named, said there were no legal grounds for impounding a car because it was modified.
“If we were to stick to manufacturer specifications, then changing tyres could be seen as a modification,” he said.
The most common modifications requested by his customers were to lower the vehicle using springs that retail for about R1400, or imported springs and airbags which can cost as much as R40 000.
Engine work started from about R300, with the most intricate modifications running into hundreds of thousands, he said.
“A Volkswagen Golf GTI, for example, is lower than a normal Golf," he pointed out. "So when you modify your Golf's suspension to the same standard as a GTI, all of a sudden it’s illegal?
"As far as I know, the regulations say the vehicle can be any height as long as the tyres don’t touch against the fender and they don’t stick out a certain number of millimetres.”
He believes the law is vague, making it difficult for his industry to know where to draw the line.
“Metro police frustrate us and we have to get the car registered all over again,” he said.
Approval needed for modifications
Automobile Association spokesman Layton Beard said a vehicle needed to be approved by the South African Bureau of Standards and the government before it entered the market, based on specifics such as the body, performance and features.
“If you then alter these, you may get to a point where you change what was originally approved,” he said.
Beard quoted the National Road Traffic Act, which stated that modifications needed to be approved and therefore the vehicle deemed legal to drive on public roads.
“The bottom line is to have modifications done by somebody who is properly accredited and to have that modification approved," said Beard. "What is most important is that the modification does not compromise safety.”
The owners of the impounded vehicles were expected to appear in the municipal court on Wednesday.