Ferrari has a long and proud history in this country. Here we trace its journey to becoming Scuderia South Africa...
It's a little known fact, but Ferrari has a long history in South Africa. We were actually the second concessionaire for Ferrari outside mainland Europe, with only the United Kingdom offering Maranello’s finest before us. The local distribution arm was a company called TAK Motors – the Transvaal Agricultural Koöperasie – which, given its name, makes you wonder how it imported Ferraris. As it turns out, one its owners, Raimondo di Boyle, had come to South Africa from Italy after World War Two to set up a business selling tractor parts. He knew the Lancia brothers in Italy and, through that connection, began importing Lancias to SA. As the Lancia brothers were closely affiliated with Ferrari, one thing lead to another and Di Boyle also started importing Ferraris, with the first vehicle being a 1957 212 Barchetta racecar (chassis number 0154).
As Luigi Viglietti, one of the brothers who would later be the official importer of Ferraris in our market, puts it: “This makes South Africa an historically important market for Ferrari. There were a lot of important and unique Ferraris here at one time, but because of the crazy money they’d started to fetch, most of them left the country for Europe or the USA.”
An example of this is the Ferrari 625 F1 that won the Rand Grand Prix in Palmietfontein in 1956 with Peter Whitehead behind the wheel. At this, stage there wasn’t really any other dealership in the country except for TAK. With Luigi, his six brothers and two sisters, the Viglietti family has, of course, been closely associated with the brand for many decades. They first opened a motor-repair shop in 1972 and later got to know TAK Motors, which then approached Viglietti Motors Pty Ltd about the possibility of servicing and selling Ferraris in Cape Town.
It was only in 1994, however, that Viglietti was given the official agency. Luigi explains: “In 1994, TAK came to an end and Ferrari was looking for a new importer. It approached a number of potential companies in Johannesburg, but nothing came of it. You need to remember that Ferrari was conservative at the time; it wanted a small showroom with maybe three or four cars. Low-key stuff. “Eventually, Ferrari decided to take our offer, but we had a lot of work to do to comply. I travelled to Maranello for meetings and it was only around a year later that we could announce that we were now officially the local importers of Ferrari in South Africa.” One of the brothers, Carlo, still services and restores Ferraris at a specialist centre in Johannesburg and he recalls some highlights of the past 40 years: “There are so many memorable moments, but a standout was driving Jean Alesi’s 1991 Formula One car here in South Africa, as well as still being hands-on with cars such as early Ferrari 250 GTEs, right up to modern day 458s.”
In the late 2000s, Viglietti Motors sold part of the business and, a handful of years later, the current shareholder took over the reins and Scuderia South Africa was founded. The CEO of that company, Mervyn Eagles, explains the reasons behind the name: “Heritage is a hugely important aspect of the brand and Scuderia refers to the badge and team of Ferrari. I couldn’t think of a better way to tie ourselves to this brand.” Three years ago, Scuderia Durban was opened, signalling the third official dealership in the country, along with locations in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Today, with sales growing, Ferrari has never been better presented in South Africa.
The local Ferrari club
Its official name is the Southern Equitorial Ferrari Automobili Club and is the oldest Ferrari owners’ club in the world, having been founded in 1967 by the late Pierre Kelfkens. He decided to start a club shortly after purchasing his 275 GTB short-nose in the mid-1960s and Kelfkens took it upon himself to write a letter to Enzo Ferrari, asking for his permission to start an official club. Ferrari wrote back: “I am grateful for your personal interest and your passionate commitment as president of the club and as a friend of Ferrari.” An official letter from Enzo Ferrari himself is not something a lot of institutions can lay claim to... Today, the club’s most prominent event is the annual Kyalami Day that draws a crowd of up to 15 000. The club is represented in a number of provinces, with over 400 members and round 800 cars. www.sefac.co.za
It is not only Ferrari HQ that offers certified restorations. In 2014, Scuderia South Africa opened Carrozzeria. This is the company's official body shop and it’s also a Ferrari Classiche agent, which means it can perform full restorations.