Origins of the Mercedes-Benz Club of South Africa.
The history of Mercedes-Benz in South Africa by far outstretches the history of the marque’s club here. Although the enthusiasm, interest and involvement of “fans” of the marque throughout its history here, cannot be denied and underplayed, it was not until the late 1970’s that this was harnessed and organised into the beginnings of the Mercedes-Benz Club.
A South African first
In 1896, John Percy Hess of Pretoria decided to import South Africa’s first car. He requested his bank, the Bank of Africa, to arrange payment to the manufacturer, Benz & Co. of Mannheim, Germany. The car was shipped to Port Elizabeth in December 1896 and transported to Pretoria.
It did not run under its own power until one month later due to a delay in the arrival of the benzene fuel for the engine!
On the 4th of January 1897, first public demonstration of the Benz Velo took place at the Berea Park sports ground in Pretoria and at 4pm that afternoon, Hess drove his two-seater Benz Velo for the first time.
His first passengers were A.E. Reno, his business partner, and W.J. Leyds, the State Secretary of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek. President Paul Kruger was invited for the ride, but declined and watched from the side-lines. A golden medal was minted for the occasion. Spectators had to pay 2 shillings and 6 pennies entrance fee for the pleasure of witnessing this wonder, the horseless carriage.
The publicity blurb, urging Pretorians to attend this “red letter day” event, proclaimed that “the motor car, like the bicycle, has come to stay and will be the craze of the century.”
A week later, the Benz was shown at the Wanderers in Johannesburg and sold to a coffee importer, A.H. Jacobs. He showed the car off gratis to anyone who purchased 500g of coffee from his Pritchard Street shop. A few months later, the car was destroyed in a fire.
Subsequently Hess became the sole agent for Benz Motors in South Africa.
Since then, history records Mercedes-Benz as it is known today.
The marque makes its mark
Cape Town’s Van Riebeeck Festival of 1952 hosted an impressive display of post-war Mercedes-Benz cars, commercial vehicles and trucks, including Unimogs. This event led to the establishment of the first Daimler-Benz branch in 1954, followed by the Mercedes-Benz dealerships throughout the country – and eventually the local manufacture of the marque.
With the opening of a production plant in 1973, South Africa became the first country outside of Germany to manufacture Mercedes-Benz engines.
1975 – 1978: A loose arrangement of interested supporters and owners of Mercedes-Benz cars got together and appointed a chairman, Frank Liebenberg, who started the formation of the 1st unofficial Mercedes-Benz Club of South Africa. He also designed the original Green and Gold badge. Hennie Lottering took the wheel from 1977 – 1978.
One newsletter, named the “Merc-nut”, saw the light. Unfortunately, no formal structure and constitution was introduced, and although they had monthly meetings, the club ran aground.
Another attempt at forming a club, this time for Mercedes enthusiasts in Kwa-Zulu Natal, was started in 1978. Geoff Scallon, Chris Carlisle-Kitz and Jack Green were instrumental in getting proceedings underway. The first KZN meeting was on Friday, 14 July 1978, at the Rugby Hotel in Pinetown. They were unfortunately not recognised by Daimler-Benz AG. Since there were too few people who stayed the course, the KZN region sadly disbanded.
Passion and perseverance paid off
In 1981, with the assistance and guidance of Herr. Henner von Eisenhart of Mercedes-Benz South Africa, the energy and enthusiasm of a few loyal owners of the Mercedes-Benz marque initiated a fresh attempt to establish a formal Mercedes-Benz club. Under the chairmanship of Steve Rademeyer; this attempt was to succeed.
On 19 November 1985, the Trade Mark Users’ Agreement between Daimler-Benz AG and the Club was officially signed at the Company’s Headquarters in Pretoria. This time, an official Constitution was drafted and submitted to Daimler-Benz AG for approval. Legal assistance with the use of trademarks and logos was sought and, under the guidance of MBSA, a Club logo was established.
A legal reality at last, the Club was officially launched on 23 November 1985, with the inaugural dinner held at the Hotel Hamsin, Pretoria. An impressive 75 guests attended this meeting and Club proceedings got underway with Steve Rademeyer at the helm as President. He was assisted by Pierre de Villiers as Vice Chairman, and a total of 11 Committee members. Several senior executives from MBSA were in attendance and what a send-off they gave us!
Rallye Méditerranée-Le Cap from Algiers to Cape Town – January 1959
Centenary of the Automobile 1986
100 Jaar Bertha Benz Eeufees Tydren – 6 & 7 Augustus 1988
As ons terugkyk deur die geskiedenis, vind ons byna altyd agter elke man wat sy merk gelaat het, is ‘n vrou wat grootliks bygedra het tot sy sukses.
Bertha Benz was so ‘n vrou. Sy het by haar man gestaan toe die balju op sy werkswinkel-toerusting beslag wou lê. Sy was daar toe sy eerste enjin op oujaarsaand 1879 vir die eerste keer op eie stoom geloop het en in Augustus 1888 het sy en haar seuns Eugene en Richard die driewiel Benz Patent Motor van Mannheim tot Pforzheim bestuur.
Bertha Benz het toe aan die wêreld getoon dat die toekoms aan die motor behoort.
Om hierdie eerste langafstand rit te gedenk het die Mercedes-Benz Klub in samewerking met SAMCA die Bertha Benz Eeufees-Tydren van Pretoria na Rustenburg en terug gereël.
Centenary of the Car in South Africa – 1997
130 Year Anniversary of Bertha Benz – Sunday
The Mercedes-Benz Club of today
Since its inception, the Club has experienced rough rides and good times, strengthening, growing and being enjoyed by its members. Today the club boasts a central National Committee and six active Regional Committees.
The STAR highlight of our Events Calendar is the Annual AGM and National Gathering, with our Mercedes-Benz SA sponsored Gala Evening. The regions host this highlight on a rotational basis.
Another major STAR event is our annual National Concours, hosted by the Northern region, where members get the opportunity to proudly show their cars.
Our annual President’s Braai has become a STAR event, coinciding with the SCOCC’s George Old Car Show, the biggest Classic Car event in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Club’s newsletter, THE BENZ LENS, is published quarterly and is available in digital format.
We are also active on Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We are glad to develop this new website with the help of the MB International Club Management.
We also have a unique set of Club regalia for sale to members.