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Hotrod builder Etienne Botma

Broadcast dates : 13th November 2005
19th November 2005

Etienne Botma is an artist who just happens to have an all-abiding passion for motorized madness.

His art studio in Centurion near Pretoria is well known for supplying fiberglass elephant tusk replicas and other African art paraphernalia, mainly because Etienne hates the idea of killing animals for wall hangings.

But a year or two ago, Etienne decided to once again turn his attention to motorcars, and if you are prepared to wait a few months, he’ll deliver a classic 1930s Ford hotrod to your doorstep.

Its body will be in fiberglass, either with 1932 or 1934 detailing, and the Street Rod Factory provides cars in either kit form, or as turnkey, ready-to-drive items.

So what IS street rodding? It’s an American off-shoot of the international automotive brotherhood that had its birth some sixty years ago. Youngsters began chopping up the old cars they could afford, giving them what today would be called "street cred."
A lack of money, but a desire to be different, gave rise to the street rod movement, in much the same way that old South African Golfs are given the dropped, smoke-windowed treatment today.

Thousands of kilometers away from the United States, Etienne Botma is fortunate in having skilled body workers like Nico Fakude and Jeffrey Mathebula to hand-form replicas of The American Dream, tailored to our unique South African requirements.

Even in America, where street-rod eligible cars were built by the million, fiberglass replica street rods have been around since the 1960s. And today they are a recognized branch of rodding.

In South Africa, sourcing real Ford coupe bodies is almost impossible, so the fiberglass route to street rodding makes even more sense.

The idea behind Etienne’s Street Rod Factory is to offer the classic thirties street rod experience to a customer with average mechanical skills.

The amazing aspect of this car is that the moulds were largely the product of Etienne’s imagination, as he had no original steel body to work from.

Just one look at the proportions of Etienne’s fiberglass Ford recreation tell you he’s got it right.

There’s that perfectly chopped roofline, the widened mudguards and running boards.

The excellent ripple-free glass finish makes this replica rod a cut above the rest.

Replicas are a great idea if items like the doors fit and the moulding is done accurately.

With his elephant tusk experience calculated to fool big-game hunters, a hot rod was a cinch for our African motor man.

Etienne has his hot rodding routes in Kwazulu Natal, where he became something of a street rodding legend with a violently modified Morris Minor.

The addition of a V8 engine and some trick suspension mods saw Etienne run ten-second quarter miles in what was still essentially a street machine.

His collection of trophies for drags and car shows speaks of a long career in petrol-hedonism.

There are certain de-rigeur hot-rodding bits and pieces that complete "The Look". One of these is "The Bug Catcher".

That’s the big air-scoop normally associated with a giant supercharger, but also suitable to a pair of huge Holley carburetors.

As for engine choice, Ettiene is a card-carrying bow-tie Chevy man.

The engines are the fun part of hot-rodding, the dress-up bits that make guys and girls go whoo! ---whaaa!---wazzad?

The nitty gritty of the replica are these components that make up a Street Rod Factory chassis.

These Mild steel pieces have all been carefully sized and cut in readiness for the next project.

This is Etienne’s personal rod, although he’s ceded ownership to his wife Nora and daughter Kerry Lee.

It’s known as a hi-boy, because the body sits atop the chassis, rather than being channeled, or lowered for a more ground-hugging look.

The hi-boy is also characterized by its open-wheel style, popularized in the late 1940s in the very early days of street rodding in America.

Etienne’s car uses Jaguar XJ6 suspension front and rear, and a supercharged 5,7 litre Chevy V8, which makes it an extremely fast car by any standards.

With over 300 kiloWatts and an all-in weight of around 900 kilograms, this car will reel off sub five-second 0-100 any day of the week.

As for top speed… well, whatever blows your hair back.

This all fibreglass body with steel chassis is to Etienne’s standard hi-boy spec. But if you want one with mudguards, Etienne and his crew will build you one.

Running Jag suspension means that the car is easy to set up to tried-and-tested factory specs, as all the pick-up points are to original Jaguar factory settings.

Hot rods have gone through countless fashion swings in their sixty-year history, and this 1940s look is very popular right now.

Neat Botma touches are the moulded flame-pattern door panels, the use of standard old Smiths Jaguar instrumentation for retro cool, and a chopped windscreen.

But it’s the way this car moves that really gets your attention!

A sign of a well-sorted built-up car is the way it rides, and the way its engine behaves in hot, slow-running conditions.

Despite being filmed in high summer, Etienne’s car ran cool-and-collected all afternoon.

The Jaguar independent suspension is a natural dress-up item when it’s located outside its production cradle and nicely painted.

In keeping with the pre-1970s look, Etienne went for the body colour chassis and suspension look, rather than using chrome.

And what a commuter car!

That 671 Weiand supercharger whine is enough to curl your toenails. And at an all-in price of under R200 000, this is some sports car too!

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