Getting up to Speed with collector car kinship

Three generations of classic car passion: Jacques van Rooyen with his brother Leon; father Nico Junior and grandfather Nico Senior

Three generations of family memories live in a 1957 Chevrolet Belair for the Van Rooyen family from Umhlanga, which they say reflects their family history and passion for classic cars.

Jacques van Rooyen, the marketing director of VRG Properties – the youngest of the collectors – points out that his grandfather, Nico Senior’s, most treasured vehicle is the Chevrolet Belair

“This was a culmination of the passion, effort and time that my grandfather put into this car and my highlight was when this car was restored and complete. The feeling was indescribable. All three of us were there to collect our masterpiece and that moment was filled with a lot of emotion. It’s the car my grandfather treasures the most and what was so special was having three generations working on this together,” says van Rooyen who was born into a car loving family.

Prized possessions: L-R 1957 Belair Chevy; 1956 Ford Sunliner; 1958 Apache Chevrolet pick-up; 1956 Vauxhall Velox; 1982 Alfa Romeo Spider

The Van Rooyen’s, have over the years, acquired a number of  classic cars including the Aston Martin DB9, a 1956 Vauxhall Velox, a 1965 Humber Super Snipe – the actual car used in the Nelson Mandela movie Long Walk to Freedom, a 1958 Apache Chevrolet pick-up, a 1982 280 SL Mercedes Benz, a 1982 Alfa Romeo Spider, a  1957 Belair Chevy, a 1956 Ford Sunliner, boasting the original Ford Thunderbird motor, and is the only one in SA to that spec as well as a 1966 Ford Anglia and 1976 VW Beetle 1600S.

In addition, the family is collecting BMW M series cars of which the 1995 M3 is very precious.

“My grandfather started off as a motor technician and worked on the very same cars we are collecting today. Back in those days, he loved these cars but could never afford it. Over the years the family progressed in business and we managed to buy back the cars my granddad loved. There is no greater joy than watching this passion become a reality,” says Van Rooyen whom has been a car enthusiast ever since he was a child.

He adds that stepping into one of their classics felt like you were taking a journey into a by-gone era filled with sentiment.

“It allows one to appreciate the fine details. There is also this wonderful sense of ‘old school-ness’, a very warm nostalgic feeling which takes you back in time and encourages you to ensure that the legacy lives on,” he says.

1965 Humber Super Snipe, the actual car used in the Nelson Mandela movie Long Walk to Freedom.

The most valuable of the collection, says Van Rooyen is the Ford Sunliner, known as “Dad’s baby”.

“That’s number one in the collection. It’s the only one in SA. It’s a Ford Fairlane with a Thunderbird motor, soft top and we absolutely love the way it drives.”

Van Rooyen maintains that apart from the restoration process of bringing these old classics to life, doing it together as a family was most special.

“When we drive, the smile on my granddad’s face is priceless.”

“These cars have such character and are unique and special. There is great effort and time put into restoring the vehicles, but it also comes with hard work, sweat and tears. But most importantly it’s given us fantastic memories that will last us a lifetime,” he says.

The family’s next project is to restore a 1967 Mustang Fastback Eleanor.

Their impressive collection will be showcased at the second annual Concours d’ Elegance Durban on 28 July at Durban Country Club.

Event directors John Aritho & Avish Maharaj said they were delighted to have the Van Rooyen Group showcase their classics and encouraged other collectors and enthusiasts to take advantage of this exclusive Durban experience.

“This event is set to take you back in time and we want our guests to take in this experience; appreciate the fine art of classic cars and perhaps start your own project and leave a legacy,” said Aritho & Maharaj.