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Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday May 2, 2012 as promotional material for Weekend Witness/VSCC Cars in the Park
Born and raised in Camperdown, where his parents farmed, John Truter was just 20 when he entered his two-year old 1954 MG TD in a grass track event at the old Polo fields, in Mountain Rise. He chooses not to remember how he fared that day, but admits to having entered a few more events after that.
By 1963 he was offered his first sponsored drive, with the Campbell Racing Team, driving one of its two Sunbeam Alpines at Hesketh. He won that event and went on to become a regular on the team, racing together with Keith Berrington-Smith. Other cars in the stable were a Triumph TR3 and an Austin-Healey 3000.
By October of that year, the team had bought the first of its three famous GSM Darts. This one was fitted with a special 1640 cc Cortina racing engine with five-bearing crank, GSM inlet manifold, a pair of Weber 40 DCD carburettors, a standard Anglia gearbox and the Flamingo’s four-link rear suspension. This was NP 18808 that, later fitted with a 1588 cc Lotus twin-cam engine, went on to become one of South Africa’s most raced cars in a career spanning 10 years.
Bramhill Motors bought the car in 1967 and Truter followed it as driver, staying with the team until 1971 when he branched out on his own. While with the team, he built a Lotus 23 replica that was renamed the Bramhill. NP 18808, in the meantime, changed hands a few times after Bramhill sold it to Pat Duckham in 1970, with Truter himself owning it for a short while between 1976 and 1977.
Although engaged in other activities, Truter had no regular circuit drives for about a year-and-a-half after leaving Bramhill, until acquiring an old Elva fitted with a Lotus twin-cam motor. He rebuilt it with a Lola T212 body and called it the JTS (John Truter Special), shamelessly borrowing from the famous John Player Special (JPS) logo in the process. He raced it for a couple of years before selling it to buy a 1600 cc Mark 1 Escort for saloon car racing.
In 1976 the Escort made way for a 2,0-litre Alfa Romeo GTV that he sold after a couple of years in order to build himself a second Mark 1 Escort. He campaigned this car until 1979.
Among the “other activities” mentioned above, Truter found time to captain the Pietermaritzburg stock car racing team in a challenge series against Durban drivers, between 1965 and 1967 and again between 1971 and 1975.
He also drove a Chevron B19 with John Rowe in the 1973 Bosch 500 – it could not be called a six-hour race because fuel conservation regulations demanded that a fixed distance be stipulated. There was time, too, to compete in about a dozen Three, six, and nine hour - endurance races up until the Roy Hesketh circuit closed in 1981. This final ride was in a Porsche 906 belonging to Red Whitehouse.
After hanging up his racing gloves, Truter concentrated on commercial interests, selling his old service station in Edendale Road and moving the business to Boshoff Street. He rebuilt the service station into a used car venture with his son, Lawrence and a partner, during 2007 and acquired the hotel next door somewhere along the way. Now officially retired, Truter spends at least one week each month at his Sea Park beach cottage.
Comments for today’s aspiring racers? “There was no big-bucks sponsorship back then,” he said. “We did it all ourselves, but most of all, we helped each other and had fun.”
John Truter powers the Bramhill Dart through Angel's Angle during a 1968 race meeting at Roy Hesketh
John Truter as he is today
John Truter and Campbell Racing: A winning combination
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
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So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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