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 :)
I recently made contact with Francois Pillman and Rita Pillman, the son and daughter of one of the major players in the Porsche Spyder's history. Their father, Arthur Pillman was the sponsor and motor-sport engineer of the Porsche 550 team, which included the famous drivers John Love and Dawie Gous. As can be seen below, they won the Kyalami 9 hour races in both 1960 and 1961 with the very successful Porsche 550 Spyder RS.
29 9 h Porsche Gous A. H. Pillman & 1st
October Johannesburg 550 / Love Son (Pty.) Ltd.
4 9 h Porsche Gous A. H. Pillman & 1st
November Kyalami 550 / Love Son (Pty.) Ltd.
Rita sent me this fantastic, never seen before, photo (below) of Arthur Pillman, Dawie Gous and John Love JUST after winning the 'Rand Daily Mail" 9 hour Endurance race on Kyalami. You can still see the dirt and oil on their faces, exhausted after driving the 615 miles during the 9 hours in the reliable Spyder. These three men were motorsport giants in their own right indeed.
Rita, now living in the States, also sent me an image of a very interesting watercolor done in 1963 by Andrew Embleton with the text: "Porsche RS Spyder, Kyalami 9 hour Race 1963, 3 Times Winner, Dr. Dawie Gous by Andrew Embleton". The colors have almost completely faded over the more than 50 years since it has been created. Only the strongest pigments, mainly reds and black have remained. I could not find any other photo with the number "3" on the car, as in the artwork. Maybe it referred to the 3 nine-hour wins stated in the text on the painting? But from the helmet it is definitely dr. Dawie Gous and the Spyder aka "the Tank".
Thanks to the Smokejumpers team for all the support with the "Unearthing the Giant Killer" documentary. They make sure everything happens behind the scenes...
It was such a privilege to bless oom Mervyn with this piece of modern art - and happy he was indeed. "Now I can see my brother every day..." he said.
The artwork features some photos from when mr. Richards and his brother were young men, some 50 years ago. Mr. Mervyn Richards is in the center with the black jacket and his brother Paul to the left. All the 550 photos are of the South African #0140 Spyder.
As soon as the cameras started rolling we were transported more than 50 years back in time to the passionate world of a young motor racing enthusiast.
And so we've officially stepped into movie editing phase....where we start weaving together all the bits and pieces of many lives and timelines, brought to life with various interviews. Hours and hours of footage to be exact - it's going to be tough selecting the best of the best. One interview in particular that stands out is the one with the late mr Al Gibson...a fascinating person to meet. Mr Gibson was the mechanic who kept the Spyder in top form - known as the man who knew the ins and outs of the complex fourcam carrera motor powering the 550 Spyder. The stories he shared is fascinating and sometimes downright hilarious...what a privilege to have interviewed him. RIP oom Al.
Oom Mervyn Richards touched our hearts so much with his kind soul, that we wanted to bless him with something truly awesome. Here is what the team created for a canvas print....they do me proud. Well done team Smokejumpers.
When you meet the person - as in THE person that stands central to the story you're telling as a filmmaker - it's always incredibly special. You spend your days, weeks, months, sometimes years researching everything about the story you're telling, and somehow all of that is validated once you meet the person in real life. Words take shape and become a real living person. Nothing beats that feeling.
So when I met oom Mervyn, it was a really noteworthy moment. No longer a person on a yellowed history page, here he was shaking my hand. And he was just as I imagined him to be. The cautious, caring, soft spoken elder brother I found in between the lines of the screenplay....
I met a legend. And I feel privileged to be the one telling his story.
We had an awesome time at the Kyalami track day with the Porsche Club. It's hard to explain what it feels like to spend an entire day hearing the roar of those mighty turbos and seeing Porsche models in all shapes and sizes. It was also a truly blessed day for our film Unearthing the Giant Killer - we got to talk to so many people about it....and found out that although most are vaguely familiar with a Porsche Spyder 550 being buried somewhere deep, most also thought that it was pure urban legend. It was a great feeling to be able to tell them that this was indeed an actual part of South African racing history - and that we're making the film that will tell all about it. Unearthing the story, so to speak ;-)
Why not sign up for our newsletter here to get all the production news as we progress? If Porsche is in your blood, this is something you'll want to be a part of...
Until next time, keep smiling, keep driving the dream.
Today is about to be a pretty special day....not only are we introducing the production of our film Unearthing the Giant Killer to the Porsche Club community at Kyalami (at what was supposed to be the last race at this unofficial national monument), but we also have a very special person as our guest there today. Mervyn, one of the two brothers that last owned the most iconic racing Porsche Spyder 550 here in South Africa, is joining us for a day of excitement - and reminisce. It's a real privilege to have you here today Mervyn!
P.s. To the guys at Porsche SA - well done! Thanks for buying Kyalami and preserving an unmissable part of South African racing history. You guys rock!