With the decade coming to an end, I’ve realized that I’ve been really into all things cars for 10 years too.
As far back as I can remember I’ve liked cars, but my journey as an automotive photographer and writer started officially in 2011, when I landed a job at a now defunct South African automotive print magazine titled Max My Ride. Before then I was photographing pretty much anything I could to make a living, but hadn’t really found something I truly loved.
I learned a few things working at MMR, but mostly that my boss was not a very nice person. Nonetheless, I stuck it out for two years and made some really good contacts and friends in the industry and photographed some awesome stuff along the way.
After Max My Ride, I landed a job at another local car magazine called Speed & Sound. At first, things were way better than they had been at MMR, but around this time print publications were starting to see the effects of the digital world. The magazine made some retrenchments, and although I wasn’t affected, I decided it would be a good time to move on.
I started up an automotive web project with a friend, called SXDRV, but after two years of that finally made the decision to become a full-time freelancer. That was in May 2017, and it’s been the best decision of my life.I Am The Speedhunter
I first came across Speedhunters around 2012, and clearly remember Sean Klingelhoefer’s feature of the Big Red Camaro. Visiting the site became a daily ritual, and I always thought to myself how amazing it would be if I could ever be more than just a reader, but didn’t actually think it would happen. But you never know until you try, right?
In November 2016 I took a chance and submitted an IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER story on a Vorsteiner GTRS4 wide-body BMW M4. After emailing, I kind of forgot about it, but right at the beginning of January 2018 I received a surprise mail from the SH team telling me that my story had been accepted. I was amazed and astounded; it was a pretty proud moment for me, to be honest.
For me, the remainder of 2017 was super busy. I submitted one or two more features throughout the year, and at the start of 2018 I thought I would give it another try and popped off another email. I was pleasantly surprised when Paddy replied, saying that he’d love to work with me. I had some hope again and my next feature was the 1968 Ford Mustang above, which I dubbed Black Death.
This feature was and is still today one of my personal favourites. It was clearly also quite popular among our valued readers, as it even made the cut for the top 10 feature cars of 2018.
2018 was another blur, but at the end of it, Paddy made my year by inviting me to become an official part of the Speedhunters team. With this personal life-goal achieved, it was time to get cracking, with 2019 being my first year as a Speedhunter.
South African car culture is quite unknown to lots of people around the world, and I was very excited at the prospect of bringing coverage from our little part of the world – the other down under, at the most southern tip of the African continent – to the global car community. I just have have to say, whoever named our country ages ago must’ve been damn lazy. I mean, c’mon, couldn’t they have been a little more creative?
Anyway, my first pieces of coverage for the year was the annual Passion for Speed festival, which sees a bunch of awesome race cars from yesteryear and current times, attack the track for a full weekend of action. It’s always a fun event to attend and the variety makes it really good.
In the same month, I also popped into the studio of Porsche restorer and reimaginer Dutchmann, and checked out their recreation of a Porsche 912 along with a matching Jawa speedway bike they’d built. These two builds really remind me of how much I love the classics.
The biggest surprise from here was when I downloaded the photos from the shoot and saw that cool lighting strike in one of the shots. What a stroke of luck!
With the 2019 running of the epic Dakar Rally concluding at the start of the year and Toyota taking a historic first win, I felt it very fitting to go pay them a quick visit. Hallspeed, the builders of the victorious Hilux trucks, are based only 30 minutes away from where I stay.
The way they put these things together is something to behold, and being able to see all the nitty-gritty details inside and under these vehicles was a great privilege. Here’s to wishing them all the best for the 2020 rally, which is beginning very soon. For this, F1 driver Fernando Alonso joins their ranks after a few successful tests this year.
I attended some street car drag racing events for the first time in a very long time. It was hot and dusty, and I came home sunburnt and stinking of burnt rubber smoke. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Actually, it was.Finding Variety
Another highlight of the year was shooting this road-legal Porsche 917 replica – as powered by an Audi R8 V10 and manual Lamborghini Gallardo gearbox – on the streets of a little town called Vanderbijlpark. People could not stop staring, and who could blame them.
I travelled to another small town – a single street farming town to be precise – to seek out a pretty large Datsun and Nissan collection, most likely the biggest one outside of Nissan’s own museum.
A real big privilege was interviewing Willie Hepburn, a 77-year-old South African racing legend who’s been competing non-stop for 54 years. I still have to find the time to do a proper feature on his fire-breathing Opel Rekord.
Shortly after, I took a trip down to the coastal holiday town of the Knysna, to attend the annual Simola Hillclimb. This was my #1 race event of the year, the one that I’ve been covering since 2011 and will continue to as long as I’m able. I love the diversity, the horsepower, and the pure adrenaline rush this event offers. The quality of the hillclimb has been steadily increasing year after year, and the cars just keep getting crazier and crazier.
Later in the year came four of the coolest cars I’ve shot, each one of them in different parts of the country.
First there was Pieter Zeelie’s stupid-fast, off-the-wall Toyota MR2 Super GT, complete with V6 turbo motor and sequential gearbox, wide body conversion, and amazing aero.
Then I took a trip down to Cape Town to explore the scenic coastal roads that lead to Chapman’s Peak in an Outlaw Porsche. The weather was miserable but the car wasn’t. If I had the option to buy that car and use it as a weekend cruiser, or even a badass daily driver, I’d be all over it in a heartbeat.
Staying with the older stuff, but definitely more on the extreme side, I visited an old friend who’d recently finished a five-year-long build of an R30 Skyline GTX. All the body panels had been replaced with carbon fiber items and covered in a smooth chocolate colour. Along with a side-exit exhaust and an L28 motor that’s been built to redline at 9,000rpm, this one was a real lightweight, stripped-out screamer.
Another Nissan also made my favourites list this year. This Midnight Purple, perfectly-executed R33 Skyline GT-R ticked all the right boxes for me. Nothing was over the top; it had a solid motor build and super-tasty, super-rare Nismo LM GT-1 wheels. It’s currently my favourite R33, and the location I got to shoot it in was also mega. It doesn’t get much better than a deserted mountain road.
Being able to introduce our audience to the crazy world of ‘spinning’ was pretty great. Not everyone will understand it, not everyone will like it, but it’s deeply rooted in South African car culture, and is a form of motorsport that’s growing at a rapid pace over here. Drivers are crazy, their cars are ratchet, and it’s just complete sensory overload.
To end the year on a high note, the historic 9-hour race returned to Kyalami after a 37-year hiatus. It was glorious. Being able to finally experience this caliber of racing in South Africa was nothing short of mind-blowing. I walked many kilometres over the course of the event, got drenched with sweat and soaked in rain, and man was it tiring. But come next year, I’ll be doing it all over again, as this event is so worth it.
My first year as a Speedhunter was a great one. I published 45 articles, took just shy of 30,000 photos and had a great time doing it. I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds, and I look forward to bringing you some more unique African flavour.