We visited the Jacobs family from Middelburg which owns one of SA’s most fascinating Nissan and Datsun collections...

Through the years, we’ve featured an eclectic range of collectors. They can usually be divided into two groups: those who collect cars from a variety of manufacturers (and type of cars), and those who focus on a single make. Riaan Jacobs is one of the latter; he knows everything there is to know about Nissan and Datsun in South Africa, and even abroad. He guided me through his family’s collection which features cars belonging to his dad Rudi and brother Thinus.

Riaan readily shares specifications, racing drivers’ names, historical dates and information about homologation specials at the drop of a hat. This unique collection – which features important local racing cars – has been built up over decades. He explains: “When I was little, my father drove a 1986 Nissan Skyline GTX 2-door and was always a keen supporter of Nissan. When we were old enough to buy our first cars, my brother and I didn’t want new vehicles. We each got a Datsun 1200 GX Coupé. Mine needed restoration before I could drive it. This was my first project and, during my first two years at university, I walked everywhere and saved money while trying to pay for the restoration. Two years later, it was complete and I could enjoy it.”

The car that started the collection was a 1977 Datsun 140Z Coupé. “I found it in Witbank in pieces but it was a one-owner car with just 15 000 km on the odo. That was 12 years ago. Until 2012, it was my only car. From there, I bought a 1980 160Z Coupé. This now belongs to my brother and he has done everything to convert it into a full racecar that can also be driven on the road. He has completely rebuilt it and it features a reworked KA24 2,4-litre engine with the best performance parts. My brother always focuses on one car and the result is quite impressive. What is great about this project is that you don’t need to think about originality but rather what will work best in terms of performance.”

That said, there are a lot of original and period-correct parts which pay homage to the original racecars. Expect to see this roll-cage classic at future motorsport events in South Africa as it is Thinus’ dream to take part in future events.

One of the most historically significant cars in the collection is a 1978 Datsun 140Z which is a recreation of the original car which won the Wynn’s 1000 at Kyalami. Riaan found a selection of the original racecar’s parts and bought the whole lot. “It is an original car that has been re-shelled. In that race, the 140Z came first, the 140Y second and the 1200 GX third.”

On the other side of the garage stands a 1967 Datsun Roadster with several local racecars neatly parked in a row. Rare Datsun prints, wall-mounted parts and memorabilia line the walls, but Riaan mentions he recently sold his large collection of Hot Wheels to a fellow enthusiast. He has kept his doubles, though, and they are neatly stacked against the wall.

“This is not a showroom but we have been working hard the last few years to make it a special place.”

They are clearly succeeding as the passion for these two brands is visible everywhere you look. Seventy-three cars have passed through the family’s hands since 2005. Their expertise and knowledge are patently obvious; it’s clear many more prized Datsuns and Nissans will come through these doors and into the Jacobs family’s loving hands.  

The collectors

Rudi Jacobs (58) and his two sons, Riaan (34) and Thinus (37), manage the family business in Middelburg. All three have a passion for their collection, although Riaan is the one who finds and collects most of the cars.