A few times I've read from members wanting to know about an article written by Ian Schwartz in the very old site that is long gone called "Katriina's Renault" or something close to that. The article was called "G for Grief". Ian is wellknown in ZA and he wrote this last year of the doings and screwings in the heydays of R8s. Just a refresher for some. Here it is, have a laugh and giggle.

"Really nice to hear from you again. Thanks again for your kind words and great efforts at accurately fleshing out what is (for me at least) a fascinating story about truly amazing cars.

The funny thing is that I get keener by the year at ignoring my own ‘pearly wisdom ‘ (idiotic advice??!!) about not flogging these things to death on the track. I would love to run- or see running- a hot race-Gordini again, just because there are thousands of people out there who have no idea whatsoever of what these cars can do. Frank Copping has certainly kept alive in more recent times what a Gordini-engined (Dauphine) can achieve, as has Cindy Evans sporadically.

The Tarlton escapades to which you refer are basically true- it reminds me of a young wide-eyed ‘plaasmeisie’ from the Western Transvaal I picked up hitch-hiking maybe thirty years ago. She asked me if “it was all true everything she had heard about Hillbrow?” to which I replied “ABSOLUTELY-every last word!”.

Having through lack of skill and/or grip written off my poor Gordini on the first lap of a Castrol Clubmans’ scratch race at Jukskei Sweep in 1987, (It got past Gary’s (SABAT) Porsche and then died maybe 15 seconds after the picture was taken) its 1434cc Gordini motor with 77mm crank and Fiat 1500 cc pistons was lying idle. Harry Thiart and Eikie Kotze knew of a basically complete R10 body at a friend’s scrapyard in Kempton Park whose logbook revealed had last belonged to one Mr. Walter Nkoatse. They had an enthusiastic Yankee friend Bud- I forget his surname (Light?)- who was keen to assist with and supervise some drag racing, so we borrowed Walter’s car, fitted the Gordini mill and took it to Rainbow Drag Strip, running it on methanol and methanol/10% or20% nitromethane mix. First time out we ran in the mid 15’s on methanol, and somewhere in the 14’s on methanol-nitro mix. This looked suitably encouraging for the four cylinder street class at Tarlton, for four cylinder unsupercharged cars OF ANY CAPACITY, which was being dominated by Manny Keyser’s daughter, Charmaine, I think, in a 2 litre-plus Beetle I recall, which she drove to and from the track. She was great! She was a really good looking girl who wore tight jeans and quickly popped on high heels in the car at the end of each run, really rubbing it in with the macho greasy boys she was trouncing in the class (and some classes above!). We were allowed methanol in this class- we warmed up on petrol then changed jets and timing and ran the methanol, and managed to win some silverware and broke an SA Record for the class, lowering it to 15.21s. (It sprouted a bad gearbox oil leak after the first run at Tarlton which sprayed oil all over the clutch, so we sprayed the clutch with petrol and simply drained all the oil, running it henceforth on no oil in the ‘box. The funny part was that spectators and turbo/V6/V8 competitors could simply not believe the performance of this rather tatty little car with its 1434cc mill on 13”rock-hard second hand road tyres on the back, Walter’s skinny 15” retreads on the front, and the front shocks removed for weight saving as they were dead anyway ; one after another they would spend minutes first peering into the engine bay, then leaning down and looking under the motor from first one side and then the other- but without saying a word.


For the second meeting we took a permanent marker and sign-wrote (scrawled!) across the rear- No cc’s, no nitrous, no turbo, no nothing!- for the benefit of the curious spectators. Charmaine had her revenge though- the VW became a trailered car, fitted now with an evil 2.8L from Manny’s own car which used to run in the 12’s I think, and she retook the record in the high 14’s I seem to recall. It was a lot of fun, but basically highlighted what a reasonably light car with light engine parts, a good track motor and rear engine traction could do. In the eliminator classes, run on handicap, some potent V8 drag cars would start a few seconds after the Renault, and as they caught up to it at the end, you could not even hear your own motor-you would have to look at the rev counter to see that your mill was still working! We managed to actually beat some turbo’ed Escorts and wheel-spinning Mazdas, Morris Minor-2L turbo Fords and even ‘beat’ Dorino Trecani’s big block Chevy De Tomaso Pantera in this way to win the Eliminator Trophy as well, but of course he had been started a few seconds after the Renault.

Thirty years later that same mill is ready for a new project, and could run within hours, but the funny thing is that it was not particularly carefully or expensively built- it could really do with a strip down I imagine before running in anger again.

Thanks for the feedback on the Webb from Carletonville- I am amazed that it is not your Dad, with the way that these things seem to work.

It would be very interesting to see if you could catch up with the Wetton brothers- I still have a big valve supercharged head ‘off Jody’s car’ from a motor which old man Black bought from Max Scheckter in East London- I am not convinced that it is salvageable. A supercharged Gordini again would be great, and I know that Brian Evans has actually been quite industrious with one for some years.

Your collection of big and bigger Gordini’s sounds great!

All the best


Regards, Frans.