'Tank' 150cm x 60cm
Acrylic paint on canvas was used to celebrate that famous polished aluminum look of the 1950's Porsche 550 Spyder. To create this painting was much more challenging than I envisioned ... it always is.
It was a HARD battle to get it to look the way I wanted... but, as my figure drawing lecturer Carl Jeppe always says, "There comes a time ..." Then I knew I had to wrap it up and move on. Also, I humbly include the words of the master Michelangelo: "If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn't call it genius." Selling a painting for the amount of hours that went into it, is still a long way off, but I suppose that is what passion is all about... I absolutely love doing this. And I have loved doing this since I can remember. When I was still a kid, I used to crawl underneath my parents bed and drew pictures on their bed base... sometimes till I fell asleep. Those where the days:)
I've put a young Alois Klesse in the driving seat to show the early days of the Spyder's racing. The generous use of red is for obvious reasons. Racing was not safe in those days. It still isn't, but back then it was near disastrous.
This specific angle was chosen as it really shows off the unerring beauty of this classic Porsche.
Producing this documentary has taken me on an unexpectedly pleasant journey, winding through many different places and meeting interesting people. Through my travels I realized this was not just any old classic vehicle. It had a huge influence on motor racing and really helped put Porsche on the map as a race car builder. But it had something more ... it stole people's hearts. So about a year after reading the article which inspired me to work on this documentary, I tracked down one of the brothers of our buried local Spyder, an odd 13 000km up north. I simply had to go...
When I finally fixed my eyes on this beautifully crafted motor vehicle, it felt as though a thousand butterflies were competing for space in my stomach! After doing months of research and interviewing people who actually owned and raced a 550, the moment was bigger than I anticipated ... To see this aluminum super car of yesteryear in the 'flesh' is not easy to describe.
This 1957 Porsche 550A Spyder is proudly owned by 'Porsche Cars Great Britain' and kept in perfect condition at the Silverstone Race Track. There are very few of these still around, and it was a great privilege to be able to finally touch an original. This classic Porsche, which did not draw a lot of attention compared to the new Porsches on the showroom floor, was probably worth more than all the new models combined. It has so much character! I was allowed to take pictures from every imaginable angle and inspect all the nooks and crannies of this classic oldie. They unfortunately would not allow me to drive it ;-) but there was a surprise for me later...
After spending a really long time with the Spyder, a specially prepared Porsche Boxter was waiting for me outside and she was all mine for the day! Thanks to the Porsche Driving Experience team from Silverstone who really made the day special. I took the brand new Boxter out for a long drive through the green countryside's twisty back roads, passing a few formula one driver's residences. A few tractors also had to be passed and the Boxter's acceleration speed met my ALL expectations :)
What a well balanced sports car, with comfort and sport settings changing the vehicle's suspension from a sedan-like car to a very sporty race-like car at the flick of a button. Porsche specifically chose the manual Boxter for my driving day, as this was the closest modern day Porsche to the classic 550A Spyder with the mid-engined layout and open top.
Eventually, the curvy farm roads made way for the most amazing 5 course meal at the Porsche Center. What a treat!
After the fantastic lunch an instructor was assigned to me for the rest of the day to give me a few lessons on the track in the Boxter. This was new to me. I only did some karting at school, years ago, but no real racing on an actual track. The adrenaline made me sweat so much the windows fogged up and I had to switch on the aircon in the middle of the english winter! But what great fun. That thing just sticks to the road like you would not believe.
After a few laps and a lot of aircon, it was time to do the Kickplate. This was a flat metal plate with a lot of grip connected to a sensor which picked up the exact time when your vehicle's rear wheels was on top of it. The plate then mechanically shifted very fast either left or right while you are driving over it to attempt to spin the car around. The area was prepared as an ice road, so wet and slippery does not even begin to describe it. The trick is to keep the car straight and not slow down (no lifting!), correcting the steering as fast as possible in the RIGHT (or left) direction... easier said than done. Eventually I managed to save the vehicle every time, even after we switched off all the driver assist buttons, but in the beginning it was chaos :)
After the "Kick Plate" it was time for the 'Ice Hill', another slippery slope with two fountains of fast flowing water. I had to S my way up the hill trying to miss most of the water and get the vehicle to the top. Easy with all the driver assist functions switched on, not so easy with them turned off. But with a good instructor, I got there... eventually.
This was a day on another level. Right up there. Another BIG thank you to the guys and girls at the 'Porsche Experience Centre Silverstone'.
I stayed another 2 weeks in the UK to do an in depth course at the highly acclaimed 'National Film and Television School' in Beaconsfield, on documentary shooting and directing. Two award winning filmmakers ( Colin Spector and Zillah Bowes ) really put me through my paces. All in all a great learning experience making me a better filmmaker, storyteller and artist.
Here are a few more pics to drool over...feast yer eyes lads and gals!
After many hours behind the camera and many more researching, it seems like I have done most of the interviews. There might be one or two more in the pipeline as new information keep on emerging. With this a big thank you to all involved thus far.
Bobby Langer: Close friend to brothers Mervyn and Paul Richards. (the last driver and owner of the 550 Spyder)
Kobus Gous: Son of Dawie Gous (Owner of the 550 1960-1963)
Mike Gair: Friend and co-worker of Laddy Chester (Step-father of brothers Paul and Mervyn)
Quentin Fraser-Jones: Son of Ian Fraser-Jones (First owner and importer of 550 Spyder)
So after dreaming up this great idea of a road trip in search of the 550 'grave', reality bit with a miserable little question: How on earth was I going to get a bunch of Porsche-heavyweights (high profile, very busy...) to all be available and willing to join me on this road trip....simultaneously. Miraculously that was not a problem, these guys are amazing. Nothing was too much trouble for them and they were all excited to help solve the mystery... Peter, John, Mervin and Bobby, thank you so much!
Rigging my trusty old Toyota was quite a challenge, as I have never done an "interview" while being on the road...and driving....and following directions...and monitoring the recording of sound and video - who says men can't multi-task? Above my much loved Canon 5D with a Rode video mic connected to the rear window...
Above a Lilliput monitor rigged to the side window and connected to the camera, to see what I am recording...
Of course a GoPro on the outside to get some shots of the vehicle and surroundings... While monitoring the equipment, also checking the surroundings when stopping at a red light...some pedestrians where seriously eyeing my camera, but my right foot was at the ready :)
The suction-cup proved itself to be very sturdy.
Tip: Remove all the headrests for a better view of everybody inside. I loved reversing with this setup...perfect visibility.
Inside: More GoPro ...
For recording broadcast quality sound, nothing beats the Rode NTG2 on the dash, with a beanbag keeping it in place and reducing vibration...
Above the Zoom H4N sound recorder into which the Rode NTG2 is plugged in. Secured with Prestic/Bluegum. I felt like a fighter pilot, checking all my lights, buttons and stuff... highway to the danger zone... but switch off the radio, it messes up the sound recording. Not too much air-con either and no open windows.
No headrests - Pray no one rear ends you :)
Switch on the interior lights. I had a cloudy day outside so every bit of light helps to capture better images.
The trip was a lot of fun (once I relaxed about all my equipment) and considered a huge success - with a different and very interesting result.
More on this later... stay tuned.
Another one for the wall...
This is a sketch of Dawie Gous taking the Spyder through it's paces. Now for some colour...
Every story has a beginning. That moment when a spark hits the gas. For me, this journey of documenting the life and times of the Porsche 550A RS #0140, started the day I read a fascinating article (Accelerate Magazine, February 2014 p.56-62) written by Mr John Bentley, editor of said magazine and a confirmed petrol head (although Porsche is undoubtedly the 'blue eyed child' in his books) . His passion for oom Mervin's story and the history of this Spyder was contagious, and I found myself thinking about a possible documentary on the topic. Many, many months down the line, it's a fully fledged film project. What a privilege to be working on this one.
In a recent interview with John he recalled seeing the 550 Spyder for the first time in 1959 at the opening national race meeting on the Grand Prix circuit in East-London where Ian Fraser-Jones won the race (Border 100) in this 550 Spyder. This event is forever marked by John as the moment in time when his love for Porsches started. I guess we all have those spark to a flame moments, that become the sum of our life's work.
I am indeed deeply grateful to John for his help and guidance in continuously finding more information on the Porsche Spyder for the purpose of this documentary film. It's going to be epic.
The original "Driver's Manual" of the missing Porsche 550A RS Spyder #0140 is in the care of Mr. Peter Dorfer, also known as 'Mr Porsche Classic' South Africa. It was a privilege to page through this distinctively characterful document and be transported back in time. The deep oil stains, handwritten notes and sketches scribbled all over the document just adds to the feeling of eminence. Some of these notes on cam-timings and other engine settings might have been made by Mr Al Gibson or Mr Alois Klesse working late nights to get the engine ready for racing. Hopefully one day the Manual might be reunited with the Spyder.
A big thank you to Mr Dorfer who hosted me at Carrera motors. He sure is one of the most knowledgeable persons on Classic Porsches with a passion for these amazing motorcars.
A while ago I was given a truly stunning photo of the Spyder. Better than any other photo that I've tracked down so far, this one showed the 550 in all its splendour. This was truly an exquisite car and for the first time I understood what Oom Mervyn meant when he explained the emotions he felt upon seeing the Spyder for the first time. I felt truly inspired to try and capture its curvaceous aluminum body - it had such a sense of power and refinement, all brought together in one car. But instead of reaching for the camera (once more) instead I pulled closer my sketching tools to capture the sheer beauty of the car, only in a different medium. I've enjoyed creating the piece so much that I've decided to start working on a body of work to exhibit with the launch of this documentary. So watch this space!
Below is the photo of the famous Porsche 550 Spyder with Arthur Pillman bringing the car onto the grid for the 1961 Nine Hour - The first such event at Kyalami. Drivers John Love and Dawie Gous went on to win the event.
Photo: Andrew Embleton
The Porsche 550 Spyder was imported to South Africa through Lindsay Saker in 1958 by Ian Fraser-Jones. This is where the life of our Spyder starts... Below is a photo of Quentin Fraser-Jones holding a photo of his father with a big trophy in the car from Lourenço Marques (Mozambique). Ian Fraser-Jones went on to win the "SA National Championship" in 1958 and 1959 in the little Spyder.
Quentin still owns the original fire extinguisher used to prevent the Spyder from going up in flames..apparently it used to spew some serious flames from the exhaust when started up ...
To me this looks like a work of art in itself...when last did you see such a beautifully crafted canister...the guys from way back sure knew how to put design and craftsmanship into everything they did. I miss stuff not being imported from a cheap and cheerful China factory.
Another one of the big names involved with the Porsche Spyder is mr. Alois Klesse. He was trained at the Porsche factory in Germany and came to South Africa on a 3 year contract for VW Lindsay Saker in 1956. Mr. Klesse was the only person to work on the Spyder's Four Cam carrera motor whilst it was in the possession of mr. Ian Fraser-Jones. While taking care of the Spyder on behalf of mr. Fraser-Jones, Klesse enjoyed travelling extensively to the races in and around South Africa. Races including Lourenço Marques (Mozambique), Salisbury (Rhodesia), Bulawayo (Rhodesia), Luanda (Angola), Kyalami, Grand Central, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London were mentioned...what a job!
Later mr. Klesse also had the opportunity to race the Porsche 550 in the 1962 nine-hour at Kyalami with Dawie Gous. He went on to become a Porsche specialist and started Peco motors in Pretoria in 1964. Now retired, Alois Klesse still lives in Pretoria with his wife.
My wife reckons he looked like a model advertising either Ray Bans or the car :)