Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can set you up for an amazing experience, and this was one of those times. To set the back story... I was at Kyalami Racetrack for the Festival of Motoring Media day where I was finally going lay eyes on the all-new Suzuki Jimny, a 4x4 that everyone who's ever spoken to me knows I have an unnatural obsession with. Not long after arrival, I not only saw the Jimny, but I touched it, sat in it, poked and prodded it and imagined owing it, so to say my day was going great is an understatement. Miles away from the pit lane there was another Suzuki display at Kyalami's 4x4 section, and so I cycled up (as one does at events) there to take a look for a bit, and when I had enough (caught my breath) I headed back, but the security decided it was time for a power trip and said I couldn't use the walkway tunnel under the track with my bike and I had to take the long way around. Cue some choice swear words before taking the scenic route. The thing is, as annoyed as it was this unplanned extension on my trip lead me around the outside of the track, and in a few spots I found that I had access to the raised platforms usually reserved for the TV cameras at the big race events. Just like a cat can't ignore catnip, a photographer can't ignore a good vantage point.
At the first platform I managed to snap some pics of the many different cars doing hot laps of the track, from little Korean econoboxes to Chinese SUVs, RS model Renaults to M-Division BMWS and more. As I was about to move along I heard something that sounded very different from the rest, sort of like the end of the world, but angrier. The car was so loud, so fast and had so much presence that I didn't even raise my camera on it's first pass. After snapping out of it, I readied myself for a few shots of the beast, which turned out to be a Mercedes-AMG GT4 in full race spec with legendary Mercedes-Benz ambassador and four-time German Touring Cars (DTM) championship winner Bernd Schneider at the wheel. I moved along to the other platforms for a few more pics and then made my way home. After a bit of a siesta followed by some editing, I posted some of the shots to my Chris Wall Media Facebook page because I thought they were good enough to show off. It seems I wasn't the only one who thought so, Kevin Rohrscheidt came across them and made contact to get permission to use the images on his social media pages. Seeing as Kevin was one of the top chaps on the AMG GT4's crew, I agreed and sent them across. These guys see pics of their racecar all year round, so that was a pretty cool request. Kevin said I should pop past the pits on the Saturday to say hi in person, but I wasn't going to be going. As (good) luck would have it, Chad Wentzel from Sportech Cars asked if I could get to Kyalami on the Saturday to get some shots of his newly completed Hamann-kitted Mercedes-Benz GLE 63s.
As you can see from the pics above, I did make my way back to Kyalami, and after getting some shots of the Sportech car, made my way to the AMG pits to take Kevin up on his offer of seeing the car up close. I met Kevin who thanked me for my photos and immediately introduced me to Bernd Schneider as"this is the man who took those photos yesterday". When a man like Bernd shakes your hand and thanks you for your "great photos" it does put you on a high of sorts, I won't lie. While I was letting that sink in, Kevin chatted to a few important looking people and turned to me with a "so when Bernd takes the car out again, you go with". When I thought it couldn't get any better, everyone cleared out from around the car for roughly 20 minutes to give me access to shoot the the amazing AMG GT4 with no one messing up my shots. Usually shooting in such a small space isn't ideal, but I soon found that it was actually hard to get a bad shot of the car and I certainly made the most of it.
This Mercedes-AMG GT4 is a beast, put together with the best of the best parts available making it super fast, safe and reliable. Usually the word reliable isn't used to describe a racecar, but this one needed reliability because even though it's rather expensive at roughly €200 000.00, it can be part of your garage. The car conforms to GT4 rules and regulations making it a great option for wealthy gentleman racers or even those wanting a shot at a championship title. There's a Customer Racing Program available that offers comprehensive vehicle support that includes technical training, on-site services, as well as an online order system for spare parts. Country dependant, there's also an internal championship, test days, and a driver pool that completes the Customer Racing program features. The standard specs of an AMG-GT4 are mighty impressive with the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 producing up to 375kW and 600Nm, and mated to a sequential AMG 6-speed racing transmission the car can hit 100km/h in less than 4-seconds. Top speed will see the GT4 racer surpass the 250km/h mark too, which is more than fast enough for just about every racetrack on the planet. It's not the power and the speed that makes the car special, it's the suspension and brakes, well at the hands of Bernd Schneider anyway. The suspension is made up of aluminum front and rear double wishbone axles with shock absorbers that have adjustable rebound and compression allowing precise set up for the track on hand. Massive 390mm discs up front and 355mm discs in the rear combined with calipers the size of my office desk means that the AMG-GT4 can stop on the proverbial dime. When you add a Bernd into the system, jumping on the clamps produces almost enough force to relieve your eyes from their sockets.
After taking a ridiculous amount of photos and waiting for the next driving session to come up, it was soon time for me to suit up for my hot laps in the passenger seat. You should know by now that Mercedes-AMG don't play around, and so instead of jumping in the car and having the driver tell you to buckle up, you first have to put on a full fireproof race suit, a pair of proper race shoes, a helmet complete with comms to the driver and lastly a HANS device to make sure your neck stays happy in the case of the unimaginable. With the suit and helmet on, and the Schroth harnesses tightened so much that you can barely take a full breath, things feel very claustrophobic and I won't lie, I was about 35 seconds away from a panic attack freak out situation, but as soon as the helmet comms were connected and I could chat to Bernd I calmed right down again. The boosted V8 fired up and we slowly moved to the front of the pit lane to head out. When the green light was given, the AMG-GT4 warped forwards and all of a sudden I wanted more. As mentioned, the handling and brakes in the AMG-GT4 are properly mad, but when you're heading down the mineshaft at silly speeds and you see the 200m braking board fly past, followed by the 150m, and the 100m before even thinking about touching brakes, you start to understand just what you're sitting in. The G-forces generated make you understand why you're strapped in so tight too, it's mind boggling as to how the Michelin slicks maintain the levels of grip that they do. My favourite part about the shotgun ride, apart from getting an extra lap in, was when Bernd pointed out a car ahead of us that was already accelerating out of the corner; "You see that GTR? They say it's 800hp. Watch this." We passed that Nissan like it just seized the motor, which caused an involuntary "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yeah!" to escape my mouth. Best passenger track experience to date, hands down!
As you can tell, this was one for the books. Taking a few photos of an amazing car lead to an unforgettable Mercedes-AMG experience that not many people get to do. It's one thing going in one of these cars, it's another doing it with a legendary driver at the wheel. I'm humbled at the opportunities I've been given just by wielding a camera at events, and this Mercedes-Benz-filled day ranks among the best days I've had at a racetrack. A huge thanks goes to Kevin, Bernd and the rest of the AMG team that was here in SA for the Festival of Motoring. When I win that European lotto, I'll have one of these bad boys in my garage, that's a promise.
Oh, and I'll add in a full album of pics on the Chris Wall Media Facebook page in the coming days.
Well, I don't know who "they" are, but they obviously weren't talking about the all-new Suzuki Jimny or myself. Ok, sure, it's a car, not exactly an idol, but still. Everyone and his dog knows that I have an unnatural love for the Suzuki Jimny, and as a result, every single leaked image, video and spec sheet of the new one that's been shared on social media has seen my name tagged in it at some point or another. Even if I tried to pretend an all-new version wasn't on the way, I'd have to be living under a rock with Vodacom-like signal in the middle of Tweebuffelsmeteenskootdoodgeskietfontein. So yeah, over the last year I've seen it all, I know a fair amount about the new Jimny, all that was left was to see the retro-styled 4x4 in the metal. Queue the media day at the latest instalment of the Festival of Motoring at Kyalami.
The awesome folk at Suzuki SA extended an invite to a pre-launch reveal of the car at FOM, the first time outside of Asia, and there's not much that would have kept me away. Actually, even if I didn't manage to crack an invite, I may or may not own some wire cutters and I may or may not know a dark corner of Kyalami where the surveillance cameras can't see short people... It wasn't long before the covers were pulled off two brand spanking new Jimnys and Suzuki's Charl Grobler gave a full history of the game-changing 4x4. In 50 years this model has just entered it's 4th generation, unlike some cars that have a new incarnation every 18 months, basically because when you have a perfect recipe from the get-go, there's no need to fix what ain't broke. Charl's intro wasn't too long, but it felt like HOURS, I just wanted touch one of the two models on display. Why? Because over the years there have been a few cars I was looking forward to seeing after following all information from inception to release and when I eventually managed to see them up close, it was more of a case of 'meh' than 'whoa'. This all-new Jimny was 110% WHOA. Seriously, every angle, feature, surface, line and accessory was better than any pics could show. Yeah, you know I'm a little (a lot) biased here, but judging from everyone else's reactions, I wasn't alone.
This all-new Suzuki Jimny is all that and a bag of chips. It's much bigger, yet it's not. This automaker has a talent for making small spaces appear larger than they are, and so while all dimensions have grown a little over the outgoing model, the available space is much better. The retro design of the Jimny is great, and with the way the world is loving old new things, this little 4x4 is going to be an international best-seller, I'll bet anything on that. Like with the new Vitara, the Suzuki designers have incorporated design cues from the previous generations. So that angular design harks back to the very first generation LJ and second generation SJ; the round headlights with seperated round orange indicators come from the first generation LJ10, the side bonnet slits, angular windscreen and steel wheels are taken from the second generation SJ and the clamshell bonnet and upright grille come from the 3rd generation Jimny. There's a few more things too, but will leave that for the launch (fingers and toes crossed for that one).
There will be two versions available in SA, a lower-spec GA and higher-spec GLX, both of which have a full-sized spare wheel, ABS brakes, brake assist, electronic stability control, dual front airbags, the AllGrip Pro® 4x4 system with low range and a brake LSD traction control system with limited slip differential. AllGrip Pro® allows the driver to comfortably switch between 4x2 (front-wheel drive), 4x4 high and 4x4 low range via a secondary gear lever. The all-new Jimny gets an all-new powerplant too. It's up in capacity to 1500cc from 1300cc with the new K15B motor in play, and so power is now at 75kW and 130Nm. This engine is 15% lighter than the old one, and with a few other tweaks it uses over 14% less fuel than both the manual and automatic versions of its predecessor. As with outgoing model, there's a choice of a 4-speed auto or a 5-speed manual transmission, spec-dependant. The GA-spec is aimed at the guys who will be doing serious 4x4, so some of the luxuries have been removed, like the touchscreen infotainment system, alloy wheels and there's no auto option, among a few other things. Indicative pricing guestimates that by the time it hits showrooms in November, this version will cost around R265 000. The GLX-spec has a chunky leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, electric windows, colour-coded door handles and mirrors, 15-inch alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps, remote keyless access, central locking, front fogs, cruise control and a 50:50 split rear bench with two headrests. For the first time ever in SA, the new Suzuki Jimny features a 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone connectivity, something I hope will filter to the rest of the Suzuki range. This GLX can be had in manual or auto and should hopefully retail at an estimated R300 000 and R320 000 respectively.
This is usually the part where I say something like "it's expensive, but if you take a close look at everything, it's worth it" because I think I need to help justify a price that should really be lower. In this case though, the all-new 4th generation Suzuki Jimny is a bargain and worth every cent. There's plenty more details to list, especially with interior spec and features, but I'm leaving that for a more in-depth review at a later stage or you'll have no reason to read that upcoming post. While I know you expect some fanboi ramblings from me, I can tell you that others I know are as impressed as I am and they're not die-hard Suzuki fans. To replace the outgoing Jimny, the new version needed to be absolutely brilliant in every way, and that's definitely the case. I'm willing to bet that within 18 months, this little 4x4 will already have cult status and will be sold in more markets than ever before. The all-new Suzuki Jimny is my favourite car ever, and I'm yet to drive it.
The Jimny Heritage Walk
The folk at Suzuki arranged some old models for display at FOM, including that first little LJ model that made the world realise that bigger isn't always better. It's the first time I've seen one in the metal, it's size is just too damn cool, I'd love me one, but they're as rare as an influencer who'll say something bad about a product. The various SJ models are also something I'd love to have in a collection one day, take a look at the small gallery below.
I'm lucky enough to get invites to some amazing events, and this last one from the folk at Motul was one for the books. You'd think that being involved in all things racing and motorsports for close on 20 years now, that I'd have experienced just about everything out there. Oddly, I'd never attended a cross country event though, and now that I have, it's surely not going to be the last. As I've said in previous posts, Motul South Africa has been on a massive branding offensive since OEM Lubricants have taken charge, and it's been working. I'm yet to attend a professional race series that's not strewn with Motul banners and logos, and in the world of offroad cross country racing in the South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) the premium lubricant company has a pretty firm imprint. Besides sponsoring events, the company also sponsors some race teams and also individual sportsmen, and that brings me to Red-Lined Motorsport. Also known as Red-Lined Adventures, the team competes in the SACCS in a monster of a Nissan Navara piloted by experienced wheelman Terence Marsh. Every driver needs a navigator, and for this race that seat was reserved for Joey Evans, a man who needs no introduction but will get one anyway.
First off, we know that Joey can only be a great guy because he attended the same high school as me, but besides that the man really is a legend. Seriously, Joey is a self-confessed adrenaline junky and has one of the most amazing stories to tell, which he often does as an inspirational speaker. A keen racer of off road motorbikes since he was young, Joey set his sights on competing in the one of the toughest races on the planet - The Dakar. Back in 2007 he was in a serious accident that crushed his spinal cord and left him paralysed from just below the chest, and as expected, his dreams were shattered, on hold. Yes, I said on hold. Doctors gave Joey a 10% chance of ever walking again but 10% is still not a 0, and instead of the accident stopping Joey from achieving his goals, it made him more determined than ever. After years of painful and intensive therapy, Joey not only managed to walk again, but was eventually fit enough to ride his bike and compete in the Dakar. Joey didn't just enter the race, he was the ONLY South African to finish. You don't really get a better story than that; all the amazing successes and hardships are covered in detail in his book - From Para to Dakar.
There's plenty info available about Joey Evans online, but I thought I'd get you some different information by asking ten quick fire questions instead of doing an in-depth interview.
First off, in what year were you a baby owl in Norkem Park High?
I started there in 1998 and managed to klap high school in just 5 years against the betting man’s odds.
You’ve always been a two-wheel man, how different did it feel being in the Red-Lined Motoring Adventure roaring four-wheel drive V8?
It was insane! Racing 2-wheel KTMs will always be my first love but that car is like a four-wheel motocross bike! I was blown away with what the car and Terrance were capable of.
On the KTM, you’re in charge and you decide when and how to apply the gas. How different is it being in the navigator seat with someone else in control?
At first I kept looking out the windscreen picking the best lines and obstacles the whole time. It took a bit of practice (and losing my place in the roadbook) to realize I needed to just focus 100% on the navigation and trust Terence to keep us alive. His life was as much in my hands as mine was in his.
Was it easy to learn the language of navigation?
Because of the bike racing I fully understood the roadbook and where we needed to go. The challenge was definitely trying to put all the pictures into words. The fact that that the car is much faster than a bike just put the pressure on even more. I felt like that old Leon Schuster skit where the cakes keep coming off the conveyor belt faster than the guy could catch them.
Did you have any scary moments out there?
Hell yeah. About 400km of them. But seriously Terence has some proper driving skills and so we fortunately never had any close calls serious enough to cause soiled linen.
How did you feel physically during and after the race?
Pretty good. I worried about getting motion sickness but fortunately that wasn’t a problem. There was one really rough section that shook me up good and proper but otherwise nothing that a few anti-inflammatories didn’t sort out.
Have you tried racing one of these Nissan monsters yourself?
On the day we went out for a quick pre-race test run, Terence gave me a chance to take it out for a lap. Now THAT was a once in a lifetime experience! I’m also pretty sure that Terence has never felt that nervous in the car before. I also think we owe a farmer for a couple rows of mielies.
Has this experience inspired you to try your hand at race in a car, or are you sticking to the KTM?
This boy's blood is orange, but man if I won the lottery I’m pretty sure you would find a Red-Lined Nissan nestled amongst the orange sea of bikes.
What’s next for Joey Evans?
My main focus at the moment is growing my corporate speaking business. My goal is to share my story all over the world and at the same time hook up with some locals for a ride too! I have a cool idea for another big adventure too but it’s early days on that still....
As well as being an accomplished racer, you’re also an inspirational speaker. Let's end off with an inspirational Joey Evans quote.
Haha - let’s keep it simple - “Do the things you think of.”
On to Red-Lined Motorsport then... The company specialises in not only building Dakar-spec off road vehicles, but it offers corporates, or anyone else that wants to try, high-speed passenger rides and driver training in the Namibian dunes. The company also races in the aforementioned SACCS where driver (and company CEO) Terence Marsh campaigns one of their specially prepared Nissan Navaras. These things are monsters fitted with Nissan's VK50VE lump, which is a 5.0-litre V8 that kicks out 390hp and 500Nm and that's mated to a sequential 6-speed Sadev transmission. The suspension is obviously the best of the best too, including a double wishbone setup in front with a live rear axle and Reiger shocks all round. Seeing one of these blast off the line is mind-blowing, but the BF Goodrich tyres manage to afford an unbelievable amount of traction in the dirt.
Now my invite was to spend a day with all of the above at the 4th round of the SACCS called the Atlas Copco Bronkhorstspruit 400 where Terence would drive and Joey would switch from two wheels to four to try his hand at navigating. As I said, this was my first time attending one of these events, and once I had walked around the pics checking out the different cars in the different classes, I was going to watch the start of the race and then chill until they returned, hoping to snap one or two cool shots of the Navara in action. That was not to be, and the new Navara I'd been given for the weekend began to make more sense. While the racers well, race, the crews sort of run ahead on more direct roads to keep tabs on the cars and checkpoints. With a Navara at my disposal, I was able to get to a few of the checkpoints before the Red-Lined Navara and set myself up to get some action shots. The thrill of the chase, the convoy of 4x4s, getting into position for some photos and dodging dust clouds was absolutely awesome. It's something I could do for days on end.
The all-new Nissan Navara is pretty wicked I must say. It was my first time behind the wheel of one, huge thanks to Motul for hooking me up. I was given the 2.3D LE 4x2 DC AT to use as the chase car at the Bronkhorstspruit 400 and as expected, the harshly corrugated sand roads, mud and soft silt-like sand were all easily navigated, although in some sections I did have to be a little lighter on the throttle to keep it straight. Of course that wouldn't be a problem in the daddy 4x4 version, but unless you go offroad daily, the 4x2 is more than enough bakkie. There's 140kW available from the turbodiesel powerplant, but it's the 450Nm that's addictive with power coming in from as low as 1500rpm. The 7-speed auto box is good too, smooth and I never experienced it hunting for the right gear, changes were smooth and quiet and always matched my throttle input. The cabin layout is typical double cab, but that's not a bad thing. There's ample space, a good infotainment system with navigation and a great seating position on rear comfortable seats. The multifunction steering wheel is chunky in hand and behind that the new instrument cluster gives a nice, modern touch. One thing I liked a lot is the reverse camera that's incorporated into the rearview mirror. Overall, a really solid bakkie with a good engine and transmission combination that's great to drive on the long road or around town, although parking can be a mission sometimes because the Navara is massive, if you live in a complex this ain't being parked in a garage. Just two things bugged me, at my (lack of) height you can see under the bulges in the bonnet while you drive, and then at night the infotainment system shines directly into the centre of the rear window and then back into the centre of your rearview mirror, which I found somewhat distracting. I haven't seen anyone else bothered by these things though, so it could well just be me.
So back to the racing then. It seems like Mr. Evans takes to motorsport like the proverbial duck to water. During the first lap he admitted to a few late calls and one where the team overshot a corner, but other than that it was smooth sailing, so much so that round two was just brilliant. By sailing I mean racing and by smooth I mean rough and bouncy and harsh, but you know what I mean. By the end of the race the Evans / Marsh duo finished 4th in class and 8th overall. It was a top-notch effort from the team, and everyone involved that makes these events happen; Motul SA, Red-Lined Motorsport and Nissan SA. As said, it was the first time for me attending one of these events, and I hope it won't be the last. I had so much fun racing around to get photos, and I'm quite happy with the results too. The only downside to the whole affair? That super fine red dust gets in EVERYWHERE, including all the camera equipment, but I'll be better prepared next time.
As usual, the full album of pics will soon be available on the Chris Wall Media Facebook page - Like √ Share √ Tag √ A huge shoutout goes to Motul SA for this opportunity, very much appreciated, thanks guys!
The weekend of the 10th August was the date set aside for the 3rd instalment of the prestigious Concours d'Elegance hosted by Concours SA. The venue was to be Mandela Gardens inside the gated community of Steyn City, and it was pretty fitting considering the upmarket status of it all. The field of entrants was smaller than I expected, but the quality of the cars entered was absolutely bloody brilliant. Cars on display ranged from the early 1900s to modern day Ferraris with a host of things in between, each of them in the cleanest possible condition with owners hoping to walking away with an award or two, or possibly the coveted Best of Show. The defending title holder was a Ferrari F40, which arrived this year wearing new shoes, some 5-spoke OZ Racing wheels. Everyone loves an F40, but with black aftermarket wheels, the car managed to get at least five times cooler, maybe ten. Owner Keith Rivers was clearly not there to defend the title though because as I arrived and saw the car's new wheels, I could hear the judges scoffing at the break from originality from afar. While it looks amazing, it would lose the car some points on originality.
I didn't get shots of all the cars like I usually would, just the ones that looked like they wanted pics taken, so there will probably a few missing from the full gallery that will be on my Facebook page. I was there to cover the event for myself, as well as for Motor Magazine, and the latter is where you'll find all the details on the auction that took place after the concours event, and which is why I'm sharing these pics from the show now. Anyway, back to the cars, one of my favourites seen at shows is Gavin Roberts's absolutely minter of an Opel Superboss in the uber-rare maroon paint, the car is so damn good that it placed higher in the scoring than many other cars worth much, much more. Some of the older Porsches on display also gave me goosebumps though, like Marek Letowt's BMW E28 M5 and Chad Wentzel's '58 Corvette.
Like I said, there were less cars than I expected, which is not a bad thing. I think with the event being held at Steyn City, more people made the effort to check out the happenings than when the event was held at Sun City, so I think 2019 will see both the list of cars and the attendees increase. There were plenty car owners that I know with show-winning cars that would be able to compete with what I saw, which is great because the event can only get bigger and better from here. I also made sure to watch the judges, and to get close to hear some of the mutterings, and there's really not much difference between how a show like this is judged when compared with the aftermarket shows that I've judged. Having a pre-selection stage is obviously the best first step, but it also allows a list of cars to be compiled which will give judges a chance to do their homework on some of the rarer models. With this kind of show, you need to be really clued up on the cars entered so you can point out what's original and what's not and so proper research and homework needs to be done. Cleanliness is one of the factors judged too, although with the cars being parked outside on grass, I think a little fine dust would need to be forgiven. I do know that one of the E36 M3s on display was stripped down for a proper detailing, not just plastic covers and seats, the engine was dropped - that's the level of Concours SA. I'm not sure which of the two below though, but definitely one of them.
Overall, the Concours d'Elegance by Concours SA is a brilliant event that I was lucky to attend, thanks to Greg Marucchi for organising me access at the last minute. This is one that I've added to my annual "must attend events", and you should too if you're as passionate about cars as I am. I'd love to see more of the cars enter from the private collections I know of, there's hundreds of cars out there at this level, some even better too. Well done to all the winners (as seen below), I hope to see you all next year among some new cars and faces.
For more on the event, it's sponsors and supported charities, head on over to the Concours SA website, and for the rest of the images, head on over to my ChrisWallMedia Facebook page.
Strange thing happening lately. I seem to be gravitating towards BMW content, not by choice, but that's not a complaint either. That goes for events and private shoots too. During one of my recent commissions, one car I saw that's both easy to shoot and also makes my nether regions all warm and fuzzy is the BMW M4 DTM Championship Edition. Of course the one I could see myself driving would cost a chunk over the R2 300 000 list price. That's if you could find one for sale, there's only 200 of these in the WORLD and just 15 in SA.
Powered by a twin turbo inline 6 with a 3.0 capacity, power is rated at 368kW with a stonking 600Nm and the resulting performance figures come in at 0-100km/h in 3.8-seconds with a top speed limited to 305km/h. I think that limiter can be removed too, but I'm not sure why you'd wanna.
This one is a member of the BMW Driving Experience for now.
#BMW #BMWDTM #DTM #ChampionshipEdition #M4 #RareAF #BMWDrivingExperience #OneOfTwoHundred #FastAF #TheHotness #LottoCar #SoMuchOfWant #ChrisWallMedia #CWM #Photography #AutomotivePhotography #ShootingCars #Photographer #ShooterForHire #Cars #Streets #Michelin #MichelinPilotSport #MichelinPS #StreetTrackCar
As many of you who follow my online shenanigans will know, I'm rather pro-Suzuki. So much so that I'm often asked if I work at the company. Alas, I'm just a lowly freelancer, but I have the opportunity to try out new cars from time to time (there would be more if a bunch PRs actually answered any e-mails) and this gives me a change to be able to compare plenty cars available out there. While many I know love the bigger cars, I've alway been a fan of the smaller ones for some odd reason, and this is a category where Suzuki excels. I don't think the company has ever made a bad small car, even the weirdly shaped Splash was pretty good. The company's '"bread & butter" model since 2005 is the Swift, a top seller for the brand in many markets, accounting for 30% of all sales in SA and racking up more than 6 million sales worldwide. When an all-new model was on the cards it had to be every bit as good as the outgoing model, or better. Thankfully the latter it is.
The automaker has the insane ability to make each new model lighter than before, and this means they can use smaller capacity engines and still have the cars feel quite nippy and manoeuvrable on the roads. For the new Swift, Suzuki has widened (40mm) and shortened (10mm ) the little hatchback as well as both the front and rear track and the overall wheelbase have been increased. Up front the track 40mm wider and the sees a 35mm increase - as a result the wheelbase has been stretched by 20mm too. So the car looks a little lower and more squat on the road, which is no bad thing, especially when you look at the effects on cabin space. Front passengers have 10mm more wiggle room in the shoulder width department and rear pPassengers now have 23mm more head room. Seating is also lower which not only creates space, but also adjusts the car's centre of gravity. The Swift has never had a boot you could describe as spacious, but this new generation sees space increase to 268 litres, a pretty hefty 58 litres more, and the 60/40 split with a foldable rear bench ( GL-spec) sees space increase a lot more.
Inside the all-new Swift things look good, a clear improvement from the outgoing model. This is a budget car, but the materials have managed to not look too cheap, and while there are plastics all around, they're pretty good and the tactile feel is ok. The gauge cluster looks more along the lines of what you see in the Baleno model with a handy driver information screen in between the speed and tacho. The dash layout is similar but the entertainment section of the dash is angles a little more to the driver now making things easier to see and use. My one bug bear with the Suzukis we get in SA is the infotainment system because the colour TFT screens as see in international markets are not an option in SA, and with the pricing and practicality of the car also aimed at younger tech-savvy buyers, this can make or break a sale sadly. That said, what is in play works as it should but connecting to Bluetooth (GL trim) can be a higher grade affair. I often get calls from new Suzuki owners asking for help to set it up, no word of lie. You also get a sporty D-shaped steering wheel (with infotainment controls on the GL trim) that feels good in hand. The seats have also been redesigned and are now firmer and more comfortable. All trim levels of the all-new Swift feature air conditioning, front and rear electric windows, power steering and remote central locking. GL-trim gets a better audio system with the aforementioned Bluetooth-connectivity, a USB socket and electronically adjustable wing mirrors. There's also a fair amount of storage space scattered around the cabin.
With a lightweight body and chassis, the engine could some in a little smaller and have the same effect on making the Swift move along, and even though the lump is normally aspirated, it actually does surprisingly well on the road. It certainly feels better than the numbers suggest. The all-new Suzuki Swift gets an all-new engine, and as with the rest of the car, it's also nice and light thanks to its all-aluminium construction. At a smidgen under 1200cc, the little engine is rated at 61kW with 113Nm, but I think the secret to the punchy feel is the high 11:1 compression ratio. It also helps with efficiency, something Suzuki is particularly good at, with a small 37-litre fuel tank in play, the new Swift is able to cover a massive 750km - the thing is rated to sip just 4.9-litre/100km on the combined cycle. Let me just put that into perspective quick; every single launch I've attended would have a car with a certain claimed consumption figure and with the way the journos wring the life out of the cars, the claims are seldom seen. On this launch the new Swift I drove returned 5.1-litres/100km. ON A LAUNCH! That's mighty impressive. It helps that the car is fitted with a nice, close ratio 5-speed manual transmission on the GA and GL models, although that AMT is also an option on the GL (I've still never managed to try this transmission). Overseas markets get a small capacity diesel lump, which no one here will miss I'm sure.
The all-new Suzuki Swift is a great drive, the men in white coats have worked some sort of magic into the build process because while everything is lightweight, the car feels pretty solid. Even with that small engine, you'll often find yourself ahead of the traffic if you drive like me, it's responsive and doesn't battle to rev up, even with a full compliment of passengers and a kitbag or two in the boot. The steering is direct and there's good feedback from the 14" wheels, and the brakes are sharp and tight, but it does take a lot to get the ABS to kick in, which is good. The transmission is smooth and the level notches into place almost as if it's pulled there, which I like a lot and makes me really need to sample the upcoming Swift Sport - that's gonna be a cracker! As for the test of the interior bits, the heater and aircon work fast and also don't sap power from anywhere, well if they do it doesn't feel like it. The seats are comfortable and visibility is good all-round, all in all it's a decent place to be.
Added to the all-new Suzuki Swift is an all-new Suzuki Dzire. The small sedan is no longer just a Swift with a boot, it's a range all on it's own now with some key styling differences to differentiate it, along with the boot. Engine and transmission spec is the same though. These will be great in fleets and for things like Uber; affordable, light on everything and ample space. Of course, to be a top-seller in a brand, a car needs to have a price point that appeals to the market out there, and Suzuki are pretty damn good and putting bargains together. The base Swift, the GA model, starts off at just R159 900, but if you call now, you'll get the higher-spec GL trim at a launch special of R169 900 (usually R175 900). When compared to other cars in this price bracket, the new Swift is a no-brainer. Sure you can get yourself a Datsun GO or a Renault Kwid for similar pricing, but there's a clear difference between a well-spec'd small car with great safety features and an amazing track record, and a death trap disguised as a funky car.
The all-new Suzuki Swift (and Dzire) can only do well for the brand, not only in SA, but globally. I'll be keeping an eye on sales figures but I have no doubt things will improve over the previous generation's sales figures, I'll put money on it. All that's left now is to get that Swift Sport on to our shores...
1.2i GA MT SW14 R159 900
1.2i GL MT SW15 R175 900 - LAUNCH SPECIAL R169 900
1.2i GL AMT SW16 R189,900 Price includes 5yr / 200 000km promotional warranty
Retail price includes a 2 yr / 30 000km service plan
1.2 GA MT SD6 R161 900
1.2 GL MT SD7 R177 900
1.2 GL AMT SD8 R191 900
Price includes 5yr / 200 000km promotional warranty for as long as Suzuki SA feels like running the promotion, seriously. That's pretty damn cool of them. Retail price includes a 2-year / 30 000km service plan.
It's funny thing with the Suzuki Swift Sport. You can be at an event packed to the rafters with the most brand-blind enthusiasts who will happily get into a fist fight for dissing their preferred brand or saying another brand is good, yet when the Swift Sport is mentioned, you get a unanimous "Ja, those are good little cars hey?" There's a reason for this; the Suzuki Swift Sport is that damn good! This exact Champion Yellow one is the last to be sold new (demo) through a dealership in SA, and I was lucky enough to take it for a test drive before that happened. As many of you will know, I'm a huge fan of Suzuki products, I've driven every single one except for a Kizashi, but never at the coast. Thanks to Suzuki SA's Brendon Carpenter, I had the chance to drive the last of the last SSS cars in SA, in Cape Town. That's one tick on the bucket list.
At the coast, the little 1600cc powerplant comes alive. Sure, at the Reef it's a sprightly thing, but that extra coastal air pressure will see you swapping cogs fast enough on the short ratio 6-speed transmission to get the wheels to spin in 2nd, as opposed to the little chirp heard in Jo'burg. With a revvy normally aspirated 1600cc motor that produces just 100kW and 160Nm of torque, its miles behind when compared to the current hot hatches that everyone raves about. Bigger capacity motors with turbocharging is the way of the world now, but there are those out there (me) who still have a taste for the original hot hatch recipe that was made famous by the Mk1 Golf GTi from 1976. That car featured an 1600cc 8-valve lump with mechanical K-Jetronic fuel injection that was packed in a compact, lightweight body that afforded the car a decent power-to-weight ratio. It could hit 100km/h in 9-seconds. Add eight more valves and electronic fuel injection to that description and you could be talking about the Suzuki Swift Sport. It's easy to chuck a powerful motor in any hatchback, and with Suzuki's racing expertise it would have been quite easy, but the essence of the SSS would have been lost.
My afternoon with the car left me with smile cramps. Seriously, it's so much fun to drive but is just that little bit more special at the coast. The accelerator is nice and responsive, the steering is as direct as it gets and that "feel" that everyone makes a hoohaa about is there in spades. From puttering around at 1200rpm to thrashing the car to the redline, you always know what the car wants to do. The suspension geometry and a taught chassis make for an amazing combination, you can chuck the car around like a red-headed stepchild and it will obey every instruction you give it. If you want to go a little more balls to the wall, you can take the traction control off for a little lift-off oversteer fun but it's not really necessary as the nanny filters only kick in if you get things very wrong. The suspension also bugs me as I'd want the car to be lower because I'm from Kempton, but it's so good you don't want to mess with it in case you detract from it's capability. You also don't get chucked around in the cabin, some great seats are in play with high side bolsters to keep you firmly in place when entering hooligan mode. Also, there's some great dials to keep your eye on, it's actually a pretty good place to be seated. There is one single let down, and that's the old-school infotainment system that's really just a radio with Bluetooth functionality. That said, who wants an interactive touchscreen jobbie when you're carving up mountain passes or racetracks? You know how Toyota and Subaru were harping on about the 86 and BRZ making such low power because it's all about the drive? Well they can learn a thing or two from Suzuki. Personally I think they went boostless on those cars because those boxer motors like to eat ringlands for fun...
So why am I posting about the last of the last Suzuki Swift Sports? That's because today (6 June 2018) I'm headed to Durban with Suzuki SA to sample the new generation Suzuki Swift. I've seen plenty images of the car online, I've watched hours of reviews and while I'll miss this outgoing model, I'm looking forward to the new stuff. When news first broke about a new Swift, I was patiently waiting for details on the Sport model hoping that it would remain normally aspirated. Alas, Suzuki decided to turbocharge it. The reasoning isn't because it wants to try and play with the competition, it was purely based on efficiency and emissions and turbocharging is the answer to better figures all round. What I do like about the new Suzuki Swift Sport is that it's retained all the same ingredients made famous by that little Golf 42 years ago; it's compact, lightweight, has brilliant underpinnings, and still uses a small capacity lump, albeit with boost. Dropping 200cc but adding a turbo has seen the power remain much the same at 103kW but torque rises to 230Nm. On the plus side, for those who have more money than the need for a warrantee, boosted cars can make more power much easier than normally aspirated ones. I envision a future of plenty 200kW SSS cars running around soon.
While the new Swift Sport will only arrive later in the year (or possibly next year) it's time to say farewell to the last of the last proper fun cars. I'll report back on the new Swift range in the meantime of course, I'm just hoping they have given the local market enough blingy tech to look at inside so that no one even looks at competitor cars in this segment. I have my fingers crossed that the new Swift is all that's it's cracked up to be, but Suzuki hasn't disappointed me yet...
You can see an overview of the outgoing Suzuki Swift range over here if you like.
Chris Wall Media was lucky enough to garner an invite to the latest product launch from OEM Lubricants for new additions to the Motul Additives range, as well as the introduction of some top-quality car care products under the Lescot banner. If you follow this blog or any of my social media accounts, you'll be well aware that I'm involved in all things motoring and have been for roughly 20 years now, and this has afforded me the chance to meet many amazing people. Over the years a handful of them has stood out from the rest, and after this launch I have a new name added to the list - Wayne Plit. The man is definitely a role model no matter where you're from and what industry you're in. In short, Wayne is a self-made entrepreneur who is worth more than a pretty penny right now, and the fact that he spends a fair amount of his hard-earned money on rare 2-door and classic sportscars is an added bonus.
A shortened version of Wayne's story goes like this: When he was doing his national service in the army, he used to buy wrecked cars and he'd pay to have them repaired at the army's workshops, and once completed the cars would be flipped for a profit. After getting some funds together from this pasttime he bought run down apartments in Jo'burg and used the same fix up and flip strategy, selling the properties at a profit. To say he was successful at this is a gross understatement, and the properties that were bought got bigger and bigger as too did the company. Jump forward some years and Wayne's company was sold off for a few hundred million Rand. Yeah, you did read that right - quite a chunk of change. In between all the business dealings Wayne remains on the lookout for rare and special cars to add to his steadily growing collection, many cars are still flipped for a profit, but some are just what he wanted and they form part of the current collection. Many of the cars are so rare that you cannot put a reasonable price on them. I'd list some of these for you, but it really would take too long, at current standing the collection is pretty close to the 300 cars mark. Of course you'll also find some stunning motorcycles in there too as well as amazing memorabilia and hundreds of scale models.
So how does Motul link to Wayne and his amazing car collection? All of the cars Wayne has are in exceptional condition, each one permanently on a trickle charger so when he feels the need to drive I dunno, say an early 80s Audi Quattro Sport S1, all he needs to do is get in, turn the key and he's off. Keeping a huge collection of cars of this calibre in perfect condition takes some doing, and over the years Wayne has navigated to the Motul brand thanks not only to the quality of the products, but also the thanks to fact that they have a range of lubricants specifically formulated for older performance cars from every era that cars have been raced in. Not only engine and transmission lubricants, but also rare hydraulic oils for things like the suspension, clutch and brakes of a 60s model Citroën DS.
Enter OEM Lubricants. A little over two years ago the powers that be at Motul were on the hunt for a new company to represent them in South Africa because the one originally appointed to do the job was terrible at best - and that's being kind. With Wayne and his newly formed company driving the Motul brand we're seeing the company logo splashed across many serious racecars, driver's race suits and at many prestigious race events like the annual Knysna Speed Festival. With a brand that has a deep history in international motorsports, things are now on the right track. To add to the range of Motul lubricants available in SA, OEM Lubricants is making a comprehensive range of Motul Additives available to dealers and consumers. This range is specially developed to help restore and maintain engine performance through the fuel system, the products help remove deposits from the fuel system and the engine, the results of which can lead to improved performance, better fuel economy and a friendlier environmental impact. There’s a product for just about every application you can think of; Fuel System Clean, Diesel System Clean, Valve and Injector Clean and even DPF Clean that has been developed to address the issue of Diesel Particulate Filter system clogging. Engine Clean and Automatic Transmission Clean are self-explanatory ones. Of course the people in my circles already swear by the Motul Lubricants and octane boosters.
With Motul recently acquiring French car care product manufacturer Lescot, it made sense for Wayne and OEM Lubricants to launch the brand in SA too. If there's one thing Wayne knows, it's how to get old cars back to the best condition possible, so when a man with a collection as extensive as the one seen in the Motul Museum recommends a detailing product, you damn well better take notice. Lescot has more than 40 years experience in developing and manufacturing high quality car care consumer products, and as such, the range on offer is quite extensive. You'll find a dedicated product for just about every conceivable car part that needs some loving, as well as a few products that can cover many needs. With car care products, someone can tell me that XXX product is the best, but if you don't physically show me, I'll never really believe you. To show the Lescot range off, an original Ford Escort RS2000 that was sleeping in a downtown basement awaiting a refurb was used. The car was given that usual half/half treatment, and I must say, that 40-year-old red paint that had faded to a lackluster orange was brought back to life and then some. The old Ford features many black plastics that the sun and time have taken their toll on, giving things more of a glittery silver look than actual black. Lescot New Black Exterior was used on these parts and yeah, straight back to black. The results were so good I'm gonna be getting myself a bottle ASAP to blacken some faded parts on my 2002/3 Corsa. To add to the range, there's also a host of Lescot microfibre cloths, brushes, mitts and buffing aids. I quite like the detailing pack in it's own dedicated case - detailing porn!
Using the Motul Museum as a venue to launch the new lubricants and car care products was just amazing. It's a place of wonder and mystery that will make any automotive enthusiast weak at the knees. The cars are breathtaking, there's almost too much awesomeness to take in. The best part is that if I ever get to go there again, the cars will be different as the displays are changed around for various reasons. When Motul was launched under OEM Lubricants, many cars on display were chosen for their link to SA's motoring history, so the likes of Opel's Superboss and BMW's 333i were on display. Take a look at some of the cars I snapped on the night, but bear in mind there are plenty more, I was just rather overwhelmed.
Motul On Track
I did mention that Motul is now a stand out feature at many race events around the country, and I witnessed the brand's impressive presence at the last round of the popular and action-packed Inland Championship that I shoot for quite often. Just because I'm cool like that, here's a small gallery of the racecars in the Motul Modified Production Cars (MPCs) category.
Yeah, thanks to the kind folk at OEM Lubricants and Motul South Africa, we're giving away some wicked goodies. To stand a chance to win yourself one of two wicked lil hampers consisting of a Motul carry bag, Motul cap, Motul pen, Motul key ring and a Motul octane booster (one petrol and one diesel) , all you have to do its follow these five easy steps:
1 - Like the Oem Lubricants, Motul South Africa and Lescot Facebook pages (that's THREE pages in total).
2 - Like the Chris Wall Media Facebook page (I like likes!).
3 - Tell us when Wayne started fixing and flipping cars.
4 - Name one product from the Motul additive range.
5 - What car was used to demonstrate the Lescot Car Care range?
Add your answers to the comments section below. Random.org will be used to draw a winner, the draw will take place on 31 July 2018. We'll then verify the winner has the liked the relevant Facebook pages. Your prize will be couriered to you, or delivered personally depending on where you live.
Some events are better than others, and this was one of them. The event (as you probably know by now thanks to all the coverage on the Book of Faces) was put together by Racewarz and was supported by some big names in the motor industry. Michelin was on board (and the reason I was shooting on the day - commissions like this make what I do worthwhile) along with the likes of Racing Hart Concepts, RACE South Africa, Shelby South Africa, Daytona Group, The 357, the Ferrari & Moto GP store, Prestige Marques and Lexus East Rand - among others.
With a sponsor/vendor list like that, a great turnout of wicked cars was a given, and come 11:00, the Sandton City rooftop was filling up with over 600 cars counted, most of which were modified in some way or another. The eye candy included hypercars, supercars, classics, daily drives and a host of rare, lesser-spotted imports. I snapped a few hundred images for Michelin that can be seen on their Facebook page, but as usual, I pulled some images from the batch to give a little more of an edit than usually seen on event pics, and this post is here to you them.
I've shared a few of these on my social media pages and the above R34 GT-R seems to be the favourite by far, but there was so much tasty metal on hand it really isn't easy to choose a favourite. At one point I snuck away from the masses with a few tasty cars who's owners wanted some cool shots, and Nate from Racewarz arranged for car girl and fitness model Megan Jane Wesson to pose for us. I don't usually shoot cars with people, but I'm quite pleased with the results. Take a look below...
In amongst all the serious supercars were some pretty cool classics and modified streetcars. One of my favourite shots of the day was of a trio of E30 BMWs parked against a wall. I had to wait a few minutes for the foot traffic to clear off leaving me with about 10 seconds to get in some shots before the walkers moved back into frame. I don't edit my images a lot (mainly because I still need to learn how to) but I did remove some road markings and a pavement in the foreground that didn't look right. The Beemers were super clean, and I couldn't ask for a better shot even if I planned it. Here's a mint 325iS, and E30 convertible and a 2-door E30 sitting pretty in a 1-2-3 split, because why not?
Added to the wicked R34 GT-R was a few other Nissans that deserved an extra edit. The best part (for me) is that the R35 GT-R is so commonplace at these kinds of events and race meets that a lone 350Z actually stood out more. Of course it did help that it's modified inside and out and a punch of the gas pedal released a roar and crackle that literally made a kid walking past cry.
One thing you can always count on at any event on SA soil - a great turnout of VAG cars. From a Liberty Walk Porsche to top of the line Audi RS models to neat Mk1 Golfs, there was something for everyone. On the way to the event I drove in a 2-car convoy with Haydn's RS7 and the Sandton streets were quiet enough to get some rolling shots in. Yeah, I was ahead in a Corsa, but only because the Audi stayed at idle most of the way. Of course when he did touch the gas pedal, the monstrous thing made me look like I hit brakes...
Apart from the trio posted way above, there were a few more desirable BMWs scattered around the rooftop parking lot. Again, from old to new, stock to modded and everything in between...
So yeah, as you can see it was a pretty damn good event packed with awesomeness, and the total count was pretty much where the World Record for a rooftop park off currently sits, so the next event that should be held around September will actually be an attempt to bring that World record to SA. Until then, I'll catch you at whatever events my camera and myself end up at.
Thanks for looking.
I'm lucky enough to get invites to some really interesting launches and I always do my best attend. Last week well-known East Rand-based tuner SporTech Cars invited me to the launch of their latest creation, a wide body Ford Mustang. It was set for Saturday the 19 May and as luck would have it, I was already booked to cover a race meeting on the far side of nowhere. Luckily man man Chad Wentzel also needed some images of the car for press releases and to share online to get awareness on this brilliant project and so I was commissioned to shoot the car on the Thursday before the big reveal. Awesome!
I obviously expected something that would turn heads, but this thing is just insane man! First off, it's bright yellow (as if you hadn't figured that out by now) which made me happy. Not only is yellow pretty much the best colour car to shoot, it makes a change from the usual colours that modified Mustangs are seen in. Sure the dark blues and greys more commonly seen are nice, but yellow is, I dunno, fresh. Wide kits can be a hit and miss, but I really think this works with the dimensions of the Mustang. Sure not everyone will agree, but if we were all the same this would be a pretty boring world. As you can see it's properly wide, the kit adds 100mm extra on each side. With more space created under the arches a decent set of wheels was needed. Enter the coolest Foose wheels I've seen in person; Foose Phoenix - F451 Concaves in 20-inches. They have a "brushed face with transparent brass" finish and the colour works just right with the yellow paint.
All these changes weren't made to any old Mustang either, under that bright paint you'll find a full Roush setup, meaning that 5.0 V8 is fitted with a supercharger - the only thing that can whine and still make a man happy. I drove in the car to get to the shoot locations, and while we didn't exploit the hundreds of available ponies in the process, that low down supercharger torque is super addictive and will quickly flatten your credit limit if you have bad self control. We cruised around for a bit to find a spot for some pics, and I shit you not, on every single street we turned down people whipped out camera phones to snap some pics. The owner wanted SporTech to turn his Mustang into a head turner, and that's exactly what he got and more. I hope to see this car pitch up at a few of those increasingly popular breakfast runs, it's guaranteed to have every car spotter carrying their camera bag in front to hide their, um, happiness.
Well done SporTech, well bloody done!
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.