Ford GT40 Replicas: The South African Chronicle - Part 2
Around the time Kit Car Centre started offering GT40 kits, an entrepreneur from Cape Town, Andrè Loubser, was instrumental in having one of these kits built up by Norman Lewis, an ex RAF electrician, for a client in the United Kingdom. The car was built in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, and finished in 1990/91 and turned out to be a splendid specimen in the pale blue and marigold, Gulf Racing colours.
Soon after, Andrè took his GT40 costing schedule to a top UK GT40 replica builder, GT Developments (GTD) in order to set up a contract whereby replicas could be built in Cape Town. This became a sound idea economically as the South African Rand was weakening against the British Pound at that time. It took seven years of nagging and pushing to seal an under-licence manufacturing agreement with GTD. Andrè had met up with two young men from Cape Town, James Fischer and Oliver McCloud, who, after making a fortune selling the design rights to a ‘Snake Board’ (skate board), were looking for an investment. They formed a new company, Cape Advanced Vehicles (CAV), named after Ford Advanced Vehicles, the company Ford had set up in Slough in the UK to build the original Ford GT. CAV would build GT40 replicas with James and Oliver as joint CEOs and Andrè as managing director.
A team of experts were brought together including Robbie Senekal (a top all round engineer), Keith Bright (a fibreglass specialist), Ken MacLeod (who had worked under John Wyer at JW Automotive in England) and Norman Lewis the auto electrician and brilliant fabricator.
In May 2000, the first of the GTD space frame chassis cars were shipped to the United States. Andrè had contracted in Jean Fourie, a local car builder who had built several Cobras and Porsche Speedsters, and he was soon appointed production manager, although he still retained is own business.
There seemed to be a problem with the GTD licence and when a new managing director replaced Andrè, it was decided to change to a stainless steel monocoque chassis and continue manufacturing outside of the original agreement with GTD. Only about two space frame cars were being built per month at that stage with the possibility of doubling this figure. With the introduction of the monocoque, a lot of time and production was lost and by March 2001, Andrè resigned from CAV, and soon so did many others including their production manager Jean Fourie.
Back at CAV the focus on the monocoque chassis caused delays in manufacturing and few cars were being shipped. Due to poor management, an inferior product and the improvement of the Rand Dollar exchange rate, the company went into liquidation in January 2004.
Jean Fourie, together with John Spence, raised some capital and bought the assets of CAV from the liquidator, formed a new company, Auto Futura, and continued production. The company is now on a good footing, producing excellent GT40 replicas under the name CAV GT. Jean decided to introduce many design changes that improved the car. The stainless steel monocoque chassis has been improved and the suspension layout follows that of the original cars but with modern improvements. These CAV GT cars are being shipped to eager buyers in the USA, UK, Europe, Malaysia, Brazil and Australia. To date, 162 cars have been built, making Auto Futura the largest manufacturer of the GT40 reproduction. Auto Futura is also the only GT40 manufacturer allowed to use the Gulf branding on their cars, since signing a licence agreement in 2007.
In 2002 after Andrè Loubser had resigned from CAV, Jimmy Price of High Tech Automotive in Port Elizabeth, asked Andrè to help gather a team to build GT40s in Cape Town. A facility headed by Robbie Senekal was set up. Jimmy had somehow acquired original FAV drawings and a set of Mk. 2 GT40 body panels in the US. “There were 1537 original poorly photocopied monocoque and suspension drawings which Robbie had to convert to CAD. A daunting task, but necessary if Jimmy’s idea of creating an exact replica was to be achieved” said Andre. A beautiful new factory was completed in October 2002. Robbie had by then made all the complicated jigs and tooling and the monocoque started taking shape. By the end of 2003, the monocoque was completed with five others in various stages of production.
Due to the strengthening of the South African Rand in mid 2003, both CAV and High Tech Auto took strain in their export endeavours. CAV eventually crumbling and High Tech Auto pulling the GT40 replication project back to the main facility in Port Elizabeth. However, both projects have survived. The Auto Futura CAV GT is possibly the best replica available, making an appearance and being driven by Sir Stirling Moss as a pace car during a preliminary race at the 2006 Le Mans 24 endurance races in France. The High Tech Auto car is in production and now being dubbed an ‘original’ as, apart from air conditioning and modern brakes, the car is exact in almost every detail. These cars are being distributed by Superformance in the US.
Also in 2002, and soon after Jean Fourie resigned from CAV, he was approached by Peter Bailey of Bailey Edwards Cars in Johannesburg, to design and build a space frame one off track GT40 replica that Peter himself could replicate. The car was built, raced successfully, and replicated. Peter’s production has also found buyers locally and abroad and is produced as a BE 40.
Allen Grant, a former works driver for the 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe, and Robbie Senekal had put together a facility, Classic Auto Manufacturing (CAMCO) in Cape Town. This was to build sports cars and for a short period of time in 2005 they took on the task of building GT40 replicas for Roaring Forties, a builder in Melbourne Australia. This project was under funded and short lived.
Vic Wait, 2 September 2008
- Andre Loubser
- Jean Fourie and Willem Jordaan of Auto Futura