Nick Sheward is a self-confessed petrolhead, and a very passionate one at that. As a youngster in the late ’60s and early ’70s, he loved visits to Kyalami racetrack with his father and brother, and even though that’s a long time ago now, many memories have stayed with him over the years, like the Capri Peranas and local South African racing legends Basil Van Rooyen and Bob Olthoff.
And it’s these memories that have shaped Nick’s hobby of classic race car restoration, which he completes in his home garage after work and during the weekends.
Nick’s first restoration a long time ago was a 1948 Willy’s Jeep which he found on a farm near Que Que in Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe) in 1979. He purchased it in parts, literally gathering up pieces around a farmyard, and with no formal training but plenty of practical knowhow – and a shop manual – proceeded to restore it. Nick got it rolling, and then brought it with him to South Africa in 1981.
A 2.5-litre Chevrolet engine was fitted, as was a roll bar and carpets, and four years later Nick finally finished the Jeep after essentially rebuilding it twice. He learnt a lot from the build, as Nick says he does from every build, and after selling the Jeep wasted little time acquiring a new project.
Next up was an AC Cobra replica, purchased in 1989 and completed in 1991. Built from a kit, and rocking a full-house street 302ci V8 engine, Toploader gearbox, Jaguar suspension and diff, and brightwork from the UK, it was a real dream build for Nick. The car received 2nd and 3rd place awards at the National Concours in 1991 and 1992, but the itch to build something unique came real quick, so it too was sold on.
Nick was on a fishing trip in Zimbabwe in 1994 when a fellow petrolhead mentioned an original Ford Perana V8 race car out in the local countryside parked under a tree. It had been imported in 1973 by Ron Lupson and raced for many years. Nick could not believe it; if it was the real deal, this was the original Group 2 1971 Team Gunston Capri Perana – one of the cars he’d watched race at Kyalami as a youngster.
After two unsuccessful years trying to purchase the car, Nick finally got his chance at ownership when it was brought to South Africa. Bob Olthoff told him exactly what to look for in order to identify it, and with all of the owner history intact, the Perana’s authenticity was confirmed. It wasn’t in great condition, having been extensively raced and then parked up outside, but all the important bits were still there. This time Nick made a successful deal, and following a full restoration the car was demonstrated during a historic meet at Kyalami in 1999, the same track it had debuted on some 28 years earlier.
Nick joined the local Historic Racing Club in 1996 with the intent of racing the Capri, but sanity prevailed – it was too good to race, he was told. Nick sold the Perana to a racer/collector a year later.It’s An Addiction
At around the same time, Nick had a friend in Welkom, South Africa looking for the Team Gunston BMW 535 for him, when he came across a 745 race car in a scrapyard. He told Nick: ‘I don’t know what it is, but it’s in Winfield colours, has A7 on the side and local racing legend Tony Viana’s name on it.’ Quite sure this was the one and only Wesbank Modified BMW 745 from 1986, Nick contacted the scrapyard owner and drove down to Welkom the very next day with a trailer in tow, immediately sealing a deal and bringing the car back home.
The BMW 745 restoration took shape as funds and time permitted, and while that happened Nick purchased another project, namely the ex-Tony Viana BMW M5 Wesbank Modified, which was also found hiding in Welkom, but in a burnt-out state. In a stroke of luck, at some point in time Tony Viana had swapped the 745’s racing suspension into the M5, so Nick was able to reverse that modification. Of course, the components were fully restored before being fitted back into the 745.
As the restoration neared completion, Nick was approached by Paulo Cavalieri, one of Tony’s Viana’s teammates, who wished to acquire the 745. The engine was not assembled and the wiring and oil pipes were still to be finished, but the pair agreed on a figure and the BMW was sent to Alec Ceprnich at Evolution 2 Motorsport to be completed.
After the 745, Nick found himself back in the midst of another old Ford Capri race car restoration. Again, the car was found in Welkom, which is now sounding like the place to start looking for South African motorsport relics…
The car was a Capri 3000 that Johann Barnard Sr. had raced, and Nick promised to offer it to back to the Barnard family first if he ever wished to part with it. The Capri was completely restored and Nick raced it for six or seven years on and off, but eventually stayed true to his word and sold it to Johann Barnard Jr. in 2011.
Along with a love for race Capris, Nick today owns an original Capri Perana V8 in pristine condition that he keeps at home in a separate garage.
After completing the Barnard Capri 3000, Nick found an original Ford Sierra XR8 for sale – another one of those South African homologation specials.
To give you a brief rundown, 250 of these cars were built by Ford South Africa between 1984 and 1988 in order to homologate the Sierra for local Group A racing. They were based on the local-market Sierra XR6, but instead of a V6 engine up front, they received a Mustang-derived 5.0-litre V8 plus many special components – some unique to the XR8 and others modified XR6 items. With 216hp and 374Nm on tap, the Sierra XR8 could go 0-100km/h in 6.95-seconds and carry on to a 231km/h top speed – impressive figures for the time.
In Nick’s hands the XR8 was never going to stay stock, and he quickly settled on a recreation of the John Gibb Presto Parcels car, which was built and maintained by Ford South Africa factory for the 1985 Group One Series. Nick met with John and discussed the car in Durban one Saturday morning, and thanks to that personal encounter, valuable info and memories were shared. It took Nick a year to build this one, and it’s still his current race car of choice.Twinning Is Winning
Although all of these cars and builds are really amazing, their stories aren’t the reason why I came to visit Nick at his home. A couple of years ago, Nick posted photos on Facebook of a pair of special cars he had acquired. These turned out to be the 1991/92 BMW 535 Wesbank Class B cars, as raced by Deon Joubert and Tony Viana.
I recently hit Nick up about them, and it turned out he’s now owned the cars for five years, and at the time of the photos had been restoring them for three years.
Nick found the Deon Joubert car in South Africa, and the sister car raced by Tony Viana in Zimbabwe. It made sense to restore both at the same time, so deals were made with both owners.
As an added bonus, Nick also managed to acquire the original body moulds in Cape Town from the company who had made them almost two decades earlier and amazingly still had them in storage. These now hang inside Nick’s garage.
The two cars were originally built for BMW South Africa by Owen Ashley in 1990, while all the machining work was handled by Eddie Pinto.
When Nick got them, both cars were a bit bruised and battered from all the years of racing, and many non-original parts had been fitted. One was even turbocharged, so there was a lot of restoration work to be done.
The five-year restoration process hasn’t been easy for Nick, but looking at the now basically finished projects, it seem like it’s been worth every bit of effort.
Both cars run their original M30 motors with carbs, backed up by their original Xtrac gearboxes. Nick had new pistons made in the USA for both engines, and Vanderlinde Developments assisted with cams and heads work. Nick’s also had great help from many people, including Lion Postma who assisted him with metal work and motor/gearbox assembly, Nico Visagie who redid all the wiring on both cars, and Gerhard Heyns who has remanufactured all the components that were either missing or damaged beyond repair.
With both cars, the focus was on as much authenticity as possible, and to that end the bodies, pedal boxes, brakes, seats, steering wheels, blocks, sumps, suspension, and wheels are the original components. Even most of the bolts are the original items.
Nick says that this pairing has been one of his most enjoyable, longest lasting projects, and once they’re completely finished, he’d love for them to go to a museum or private collection – as a pair if possible. Of course, he’ll be shaking them down at the track before that happens though.
Poking around Nick’s shop, it became clear that he’s probably got enough parts to build a dozen more cars. There’s various engines, suspension bits, wheels and so forth around the place.
Just before heading off, I spotted an engine in the middle of the garage that I could not recognise. I asked Nick about it, and seeing his eyes light up I knew this was probably part of another very special project lying in wait.
The engine comes from the only 1991/2 Opel Calibra Wesbank Modified race car in existence, originally built by Owen Ashley for Opel and driven by local Opel racing legend Mike Briggs. Just having the engine would’ve been quite pointless, so of course Nick has pretty much the entire car packed away in pieces, ready for restoration – including the original Ryan Falconer Racing engine that was in the Calibra when it came off the track after its final race. Nick also managed to source a new Hewland F1 gearbox for the car, which he says was more pricey than he’d like to admit.
It’s always been Nick’s intent to restore the Opel, but there’s been some overseas interest in the car in its current state, so only time will tell.
It’s thanks to people like Nick that so many race cars from bygone eras of motorsport can be viewed in museums and – even better – out on the track. Without people like him, so much history would be lost. I never got to see the cars that Nick has restored race in period, so being able to take a look at them up close was really special.
Nick left me with three great tips when it comes to finding these old gems – or any collectable car for that matter.
1. Follow up on every lead.
2. The harder you look the luckier you get.
3. If you snooze you lose.