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Rotaries around the World Series: Rotaries Down Under (pt2!)
Submitted by Berny Herrera on Friday, December 12, 2003 - 2:50pm




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Now we what you're thinking, Down Under Oz (Australia) right? You're saying "didn't RotaryNews do an article about Rotaries Down Under in 2000?

This time we mean the other down under, South Africa. RotaryNews had the pleasure of visiting the southern most part of the African continent, and to our amazement; there are more than just big game animals in Africa.

It turns out that there are actually rotary vehicles, and more importantly rotary enthusiast in this part of the world, who knew? Although the total amount of rotary powered vehicles in the country is small, the diversity is quite large. In any of the major cities in South Africa, one would be hard pressed to see another rotary vehicle for days on end. But, we were very fortunate to see vehicles that ranged from R-100s to RX-8s, with a few non-RX rotary conversions in between on our visit.

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One of these vehicles, a brightly colored 323 4-door Rotary conversion, is what first caught my attention while scanning the staging lanes at a local Street Legal Drag event. Actually it was the sound unique sound of its rotary engine that attracted me to it. You know, you just can't hide that beautiful sound! In speaking to its owner, it turns out the car was running a pretty stock FC Turbo-II conversion and was just being shaken down for the first time that evening. After a few minutes of sharing rotary pleasantries, and drag tips with these nice okes (South African country slang for guys: dudes, cats, etc'), they pointed me in the direction of a very quick rotary powered mini truck.


Now we are not talking mini-truck as we know here in the USA, but the tiny type trucks that one sees on roads in Europe, Asia, or almost any other place outside of the states. This particular truck happened to be one of those very small vehicles. From afar, it looked very interesting with a big ROTOR-MASTER decal plastered on the side and big side pipes protruding from under the driver's door. I started to make my way over to the truck, to speak to the crew working on it.

I decided that before I talked to these guys, I would watch them make a run. The little truck wasn't exceptionally loud or even impressive in appearance, but boy was it fast. As I watched them cross the finish line, the lights flashed something in the 11 second range. Although not impressive by US standards, this was quite a fast run compared to most of the other street and race vehicles on hand. And one must also consider that Johannesburg, the city this was all taking place in, is 5800 ft. above sea level. So it was actually quite impressive for a street-legal vehicle. Now I really wanted to talk to these guys.

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Finally catching up with these guys in the pits, I was greeted by two of the nicest people one could meet anywhere. First was Mr. Arthur Joubert, proprietor of ROTOR-MASTER, and head wrench on the truck. Next was Mr. Rick Peters, owner of the little truck, and a one the biggest supporter of ROTOR-MASTER. I hadn't spoken more than two or three sentences to these gentlemen, when I knew that these guys were real rotorheads. Immediately, we got to the business of talking all manner of rotary speak, and before we knew it the conversation had gone on for hours. The track was closing up and we need to leave, but not before I got a great feeling from these guys, and more importantly, an invitation to visit the ROTOR-MASTER workshop.

It turns out that in the not to recent past, Arthur had held the title of quickest and fastest rotary in South Africa, with a fairly stock Capella Coupe. I say quickest and fastest, because in South Africa, they not only do ' mile racing, but they do something the equivalent of the 1 mile dash, from a standstill. The little yellow coupe had not only conquered the fastest rotaries in the land, but had also surprised many a vehicle with much larger engines. The car that finally dethroned him from the rotary crown, is a full tube chassis'd 323 beast. Arthur explained that he was looking to get his title back with a little something he was building at the shop. With this information and background, I couldn't wait to visit their shop.

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A few days later I found myself at the shop, looking over some very interesting projects. The first car that really caught my eye was a unique old-school rotary model that was under-construction, in the front corner of the shop. It looked like a cross between a RX-2 and RX-3 model. Inquiring as to its true model designation; Arthur explained that it was a RX-2, Series 3 model, which was never imported to the USA. Continuing the shop tour, I ran into a few other cool rides.

There were a few VW bugs, and a very interesting Porsche 924, rotary conversions, on the other side of the shop. Arthur seemed to be sorting the 924, for another guy who had screwed it up bad. The back part of the shop held a variety of cars, in different stages of build or conversions. A buggy with a huge turbo hanging from its rotary engine looked really scary just standing still. I don't think this thing could weigh more than a thousand lbs total, and I was sure that the engine was pushing upwards of 300 hp. What a ride this thing must be. Moving on, I went into a small room containing engine parts.

The engine room was a clean and tidy place that had quite a collection of ROTOR-MASTER's arsenal of ported housings. Arthur shared some of his porting ideas, techniques, and secrets with me. Like all true rotary masters though, he didn't share all of them, but he did let me snap a few pictures. I noticed a dyno sheet, up in the corner of the room, which showed some very impressive power numbers; I snapped a few pics of this too, to share with you all. After a few more hours of rotary BS, the tour was over.

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Fortunately for me, Rick the owner of the little truck, mentioned previously, invited me to his place, for a killer BBQ and a tour of his metal fabrication shop. Rick just happen to also have a killer turbo-motor on a stand in the back of his shop; waiting to go into a new R-100 that he's building to replace the little truck. Man, I saw way more than I would have ever thought or expected in South Africa, who knew.

Now one has to understand that Rotary cars and replacement parts in this corner of the world are almost non-existent, and that when available, are so incredibly expensive, that most people can't afford them. Even normal Racing Beat type aftermarket parts are cost prohibitive, and take an exorbitant amount of time to reach the country's shores. So, most guys have had to resort to home-fabricated parts and building techniques. These guys even make their own homegrown water and oil seals for rebuilds. I understand there is a gentlemen building short-track midget alcohol burning perif 12A monsters that produce in excess of 300 hp, with mostly home grown technology and parts. With all this in mind, it truly amazing, what the rotorheads in the southern most part of Africa are doing to uphold the name of the little engine that could. So, if you ever find yourself in South Africa, keep your eyes open for one of the few, but very dedicated Rotorheads in the other land down under.



A very special thank you to: Arthur Joubert and his wife and family, and Rick Peters, of ROTO-MASTER; for not only opening their shops, but their homes to RotaryNews.Com. Also to: Karis, and Jaco, Van Der Merwe, a couple of local rotorheads that pointed me in the right direction while I was in S.A. And to Chris Wall, editor of the best import rag in S.A.; Speed and Sound Magazine! Too bad he had just destroyed his modified RX-4 in a bad street incident.






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subject:
comment
author:
No Rotor
date:
October 25, 2004 - 1:36pm
not bad site need more rotors tho and what the fuk is a vw doin on there
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subject:
Rotary Powered VW... see the
author:
date:
December 27, 2004 - 11:19am
Rotary Powered VW... see the pic!

-Berny
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