May 13, 2021

Ultimate Drive

Your FREE Motoring Publication in the Western Cape

Local motoring icons with South African Car Showcase

Pezula Hotel, recently acquired by Village N Life, is proud to announce the launch of a Showcase of Special Cars with a distinctly South African story, on 28 April 2019 to coincide with two of the biggest annual events on the Garden Route calendar – the Knysna Motor Show and the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb.

Cars confirmed to go on display at Pezula Hotel from 28 April include an AC 378 GT Zagato, a Rossion Q1 and a GSM Dart – all vehicles with a distinct and exotic South African flavour. “The Showcase at Pezula Hotel is a celebration of South African automotive ingenuity and craftmanship,” says Maree Brink, Chairman of Village N Life.

AC 378 GT Zagato

“Not only is it a tribute to the fabulous vehicles developed and produced in this country, it also pays homage to local motoring pioneers – people like Rowland Fincher, John Myers, Alec Roy, Bob van Niekerk, Willie Meissner and Verster de Wit, as well as Jimmy Price, Basil Green, Peter Lindenberg, Colin Lazarus and many more.

“The Garden Route, and specifically Knysna and George has a vibrant classic car culture and a proud tradition of historic car events, while the Simola Hillclimb has been recognised as one of the top sports events in the country, and we are proud of our association with the event.

“Also, this year is the centenary of Zagato Atelier, the famed coachbuilder of Arese in Northern Italy who has designed and built customised bodies for most of the world’s leading manufacturers, and also for the AC 378 GT Zagato,” Brink added. “So, it is only appropriate to showcase this supercar at Pezula.”

Even more intriguing is the events that led to Zagato designing the bodywork for a vehicle conceptualised and developed in South Africa. The story starts in 2003 when South African car builder Jimmy Price was on a visit to Noble Cars to investigate other possible niche car-building projects. This led him to TVR and then to MG Rover, at the time under control of the Phoenix Consortium.

While nothing came of the talks with TVR, the MG Rover visit borne some interesting results. Having just acquired Qvale of Italy, MG Rover wanted to produce the X80, a new model based on the Qvale Mangusta, formerly known as the De Tomaso Biguà.

Now, the Biguà was the brainchild of former Maserati technical director Giordano Casarini who wanted to create “an Italian TVR Griffith”. Maserati loaned him to De Tomaso to oversee the development of the Biguà but with the demise of De Tomaso the Mangusta found its way to MG Rover.

While Price did not land a X80 contract (it later spawned the MG XPower SV) he however met Casarini and mentioned to him he was looking for opportunities to expand his Hi-Tech business. Casarini, with his expansive Italian connections, suggested they meet with Zagato.

Price had his reservations about this but Casarini went ahead. He and Price met with Andrea Zagato and came to an agreement to develop a TVR-type supercar. Price formed a consortium with Peter Lindenberg, Colin Lazarus, Larry Nestadt and Stuart Bromfield, and it was Lindenberg who suggested reviving the Perana name for the proposed car – as the special Ford Peranas built by Basil Green in the late 1960s and 1970s was revered in South Africa.

The partners established Perana Performance Group and during a follow-up visit to Arese it was decided the car will be tailored around the bodywork of a C6 Corvette and will use GM mechanicals, including the aluminium 6.2-litre Camaro LS3 engine delivering 325 kW.

Within five days Zagato chief designer Norihiko Harada came up with a design for the Z-One – a stunning, head-turning GT with a pronounced bonnet and a coupe silhouette, finished off with a blunt rear end – and the concept car was first displayed at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show.

The chassis of the production-ready Perana Z-One was completely designed and built in South Africa and Perana Performance planned to build 999 cars but the impact of the worldwide recession meant that fewer than a dozen made it out of the Hi-Tech facility.

The project floundered but legendary British sportscar builder AC Cars, who wanted to establish itself as a serious player in the sportscar market again, came to the rescue and the South African made Perana Z-One was rebranded the AC 378 GT.

Due to the worldwide economic meltdown uptake was slow, and by the end of the project only fifteen cars were produced, making the 378 GT Zagato a very rare and scarce sight throughout the world.

Even today the car appears modern and contemporary, and the styling of the Perana (and therefore the AC 378 GT) can be considered a blueprint for the current design direction of Zagato, the oldest and only independent automotive styling house in the world.

“Like the Zagato, the other vehicles on display also have interesting and fascinating histories,”Maree said. “We would like to invite all car enthusiasts to experience an unforgettable stay and visit our Showcase at the prestigious Pezula Hotel while enjoying the 2019 Knysna Car Week,”

Rossion Q1

GSM Dart