Hi Tech Automotive: South Africa’s secret car manufacturer

 

And it’s here, in South Africa. In PE. In a secluded top secret location down a lane of trees. to a gate with a security guy whose job is to keep you away.

Why?

Because Jimmy Price has spent a long time building cars. A firm relationship with Peter Lindenberg has seen the duo build quite some stuff in their time, not only cars either, most notably the Wesbank Raceway. However the current focus of obsession is cars. Shelbys no less. Specifically GT40s and Cobras in the main.

And note, these are not knockoffs. They are the real thing, the actual Shelby. Superformance, the rights holder to Shelby Heritage cars in the USA has an agreement seeing Hi Tech Automotive sitting with the world wide rights to produce and sell right hand drive Shelbys.

So how do you build a Shelby? The answer lies in meticulous attention to detail, and by that, I do mean meticulous. The cars only carry the Shelby stamp and are registered into the Shelby register as an authentic car because they have been made that way. What this means is a vast array of manufacturing takes place to produce just about every single item on the car. Plus R&D is continually developing the process for new Shelby cars which means yet more machining, more manufacturing and more time in producing a car that matches the original in every way.

Good enough then that the cars you see in the Ford vs Ferrari movie, were built in and came out of this factory.

It’s a fantastically stupid business if I’m honest. Who on earth would spend the kind of time building such a thing? And yet, exports of these cars are, shall we say, buoyant? A few are sold locally but the numbers compared to export are pretty small, making the exclusivity factor of owning the real thing a proper satisfaction guarantee.

As the cars are literally hand built, with hundreds of hours in each, customers can spec their cars (within certain Shelby parameters) to be as they want them. Once the car is almost complete the final selection of engine and drivetrain concludes the process and the car is added to the Shelby register as an authentic, not replica, Shelby.

The time taken just to do the polishing of the paint work on the car is borderline insane in today’s day and age. It’s done by hand. Pretty much everything is done by hand. Bespoke is the word that makes the most sense here. And every car that leaves isn’t so much ‘just another Shelby’ as it is a work of art.

It makes the exclusivity factor high on appeal, but equally the fact that what you own is authentic perhaps holds even more appeal.

I cannot help but shake off the “built in a garden shed” notion from my mind, having seen the Hi Tech operation now. I just always thought it would only ever be mad dogs and Englishmen that would take something like this on – and I couldn’t be more wrong. If I ever run a car show, there will be a segment devoted to this product.

I’ll also admit to being frustrated because there are, unsurprisingly, no vehicles in a press fleet of any description. So you can see feel, touch, smell and even taste the car with a quick lick if there is nobody watching (it needs salt) but I couldn’t drive one.

There thus only two ways of getting a test drive. You can either just buy one and be content with being stupidly happy for the rest of your life, or you can beg, plead and speak nicely to Peter Lindenberg at Shelby SA. You might get lucky. If you do, I don’t want to hear about it.

William Kelly

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