by Janine Erasmus
A passion for football and the venerable Volkswagen Beetle has resulted in the creation of a growing fleet of one-of-a-kind stretch Beetles in South Africa, vibrantly decorated in national colours and football elements.
A group of four football fanatics at an unassuming panel-beating shop in the industrial suburb of Lindo Park, east of Pretoria, have turned their enthusiasm for the Beautiful Game into an eye-catching mobile show of support for the home team, Bafana Bafana. The national squad takes on Mexico in the opening game of the 2010 Fifa World Cup on 11 June in Johannesburg.
Auto electrician Wynand Viljoen, mechanic Chris Neuwenhuizen, and panel beaters Tinashe Zivovo and Wellington Mugocha are the enterprising foursome.
As their way of getting involved in the World Cup and adding to the growing buzz around the event, they have channelled their creativity into producing two stretch Beetles so far, with another one in production.
Heads turn when these cars are on the road, and fans who wish to turn up at World Cup matches in style may rent them for their grand entrance.
“I started building the first one for the fun of it,” said Viljoen, “and it has just taken off. I’ve had enquiries from a number of people, including a local coloured community and the Home Affairs department.”
The Afrikaans Taal en Kultuur Vereeniging (Language and Culture Organisation) has also expressed interest, as they have arranged a World Cup song in Afrikaans.
Labour of love
“It took us about three months to build the first one,” said Mugocha, explaining that the stretch Beetle starts off as two cars that are each reduced by two-thirds and joined to produce the limo-style end result.
One Beetle is cut at the windscreen and the other is cut at the rear window post. The two bigger sections are then welded together, providing a blank canvas for lavish football-themed refurbishment.
The third stretch Beetle is just a shell at this stage, but once the welding and panel-beating work is finished, it too will emerge as a tribute to football and a testament to automotive skill.
The team has not yet decided on a theme for the third car, but are working on some ideas. They hope to build another two or three, according to Mugocha.
“The red one has a number of improvements on the white one, so our third car will be the best yet.”
Proudly South African
Fans need not worry about their safety – each car is completely road-worthy, and has received the green light from the licensing department.
The first vehicle off the production line was the white model, which is topped with a huge fibreglass football. On the right-hand side of the car, just under the ball, sits a huge pair of flashy sunglasses, similar to the oversized accessories seen on makarapas – colourful modified hard hats worn at football matches. The lenses of the glasses are fully functional windows.
The red Beetle carries a giant vuvuzela – the plastic African trumpet that either excites or irritates – just above the sunroof. The 4m-long instrument is wired to the sound system, an installation of teeth-jarring power, and is also used as the hooter. A standard-sized vuvuzela can fit onto the lower end, amplifying the sound.
Inside, each has room for six people to sit in comfort. In addition to the driver and passenger seats, the white car has two double seats facing each other, while the red car’s seats are arranged conventionally, all facing forward.
Both interiors are decked out in a football and vuvuzela theme, though with different colour schemes. Central locking and power windows have also been installed.
The national flag and the words “Bafana Bafana” are prominent features of the exteriors. Both cars are powered by the trusty 1 600cc Beetle engine, which has seen thousands of Beetles around the world clock up vast mileage.
Bafana Bafana’s inconsistent performances of late have not fazed the four colleagues at all, nor shaken their faith in the home side, despite some negative comments from members of the community.
The foursome is convinced that South African football fans are set to be pleasantly surprised by their team’s World Cup performance.
“We are 150% behind football and Bafana Bafana,” Mugocha said.