Jimmy Price of Hi-Tech Automotive & Superformance

When we started CAV in Cape Town in the latter half of 1999 I suggested to my partners that it might be a good idea for me to go to Port Elizabeth (500 miles due east of Cape Town) to meet up with Jimmy Price owner of Hi-Tech Automotive like on a diplomatic mission.

Port Elizabeth, incidentally, is often referred to as the Detroit of South Africa for it was there that the Ford Motor Company of South Africa was established in 1924 and two years later General Motors of South Africa.

I duly flew to PE and as I walked towards Hi-Tech's reception I wondered what Jimmy would be like. I was told that he was quite a big guy and could a big guy building big macho V8 sports cars be a mean, tough cowboy?

No, just the opposite. I was met by a friendly, smiling Jimmy who immediately said, 'Listen buddy, before I invite you into my office for a cup of tea or coffee I want to warn you right up front that I also intend building a GT40 sometime in the future'.I thanked him for the warning and said that if we both were to build a handful of GT40s each per month we wouldn't be scratching the surface in the US or elsewhere in the world.

I was then invited into his office and was I turn introduced to Marlene his PA and other staff members. I took along my journalistic scrapbooks going back some 35 years. As someone who only became involved in the car business in 1989, aged 43, he said he envied me my history in particular having lived in Europe from 1962 to 1968, (the swinging sixties!) the era of the Cobras and GT40s. I said that history is all very well but it doesn't put money into your pocket other than getting paid some small amounts for writing articles! I returned the compliment and said that he had shown many of us the way in the rather hazardous world of building sports cars. In 15 years Hi-tech Automotive has become the largest replica car manufacturer in the world and the second largest privately owned specialist car builder either after Morgan or TVR, I'm not sure which.

Talking of history, it's amazing how when one is involved in a particular sphere of activity certain people keep popping up in one's life. At the 1963 Le Mans my American Porsche colleague, Randy Edwards from Orange City in Florida (wonder where he is today) and I were standing in White House corner just after mid-night when a car came though in the mist, lost it and rolled with head lights arcing through the sky. At the time I didn't know who it was it was but it turned out to be Bob Olthoff in his Austin-Healey. When I met Bob a year later in London I was able to tell him that a fellow countryman was witness to his whoopsy. Today Bob is the Superformance distributor in North Carolina. A group of us from Porsche went to Le Mans together that year including one Evi Butz, now Mrs Dan Gurney. I did a posting on this many months ago but it might have been missed by some of the new forum members. Another complete coincidence is that Robbie Senekal, who is heading up the new GT40 Mk11 project was a partner with Ron Rosen, the Ohio Superformance dealer, in a rear window louvre (like Miura) manufacturing business in Johannesburg in the early 1970s. Small world indeed!

During that first visit to Jimmy he was about to order the tooling for the replica Halibrand wheels (in LM6) and immediately agreed to supply CAV. He also offered that his lady, who specialises in the rather complex export procedures, would be available to advise, guide and train the young lady we had appointed at CAV for that purpose. When I thanked him for his generous offer and in particular to a potential opposition company he said, 'It's a pleasure - we are there to help one another'.

I greatly admire 'Big Jim'for his unique achievement. He's a straight shootin guy with a great sense of humour and who plays it strictly to the rule book. I'm honoured to be able to call him a friend!

In 1976 my friend Richard de Beer formed a company, Rich Industries, in Port Elizabeth to manufacture fibreglass products and to build sports cars. In the early 1980s he became one of the first people in South Africa to build a Cobra replica. He also developed an MG TD replica powered by a Ford 1600 'Kent' engine. At this point, in 1989, he met up with Jimmy Price who had been involved briefly with another car project. Jimmy has a civil engineering background and up to that time had built buildings, roads and tennis courts. He was also a power boat racer and in this sport won his Springbok Colours, South Africa's highest sporting award. Jimmy was interested in being more involved with the world of cars.

Jimmy and Richard became partners and an order was received from the US for 26 MGs per month. After only one MG was sent to the US the Sullivan Code kicked in and all imports from South Africa were banned because of its unacceptable race policies. Back to the drawing board!

In 1992 Jimmy and Richard parted company and Hi-Tech Automotive was formed. At the time there were heavy duties on imported luxury cars and Jimmy saw a legal gap whereby he imported luxury cars in CKD form from Europe and the US, assembled them and sold them at competitive prices. This basically funded Hi-Tech Automotive's car building side in particular the Cobra replica. It didn't come easy and Jimmy told me that once he was so broke that he had to trade in empties to buy a Coke! He also spoke of sleeping on the factory floor after working long hours to meet production schedules.

As Bob Olthoff and Bob Bondurant (ha, ha, remember the name spelling saga of a few months ago!!) raced Cobras together in the 1960s a deal was put together whereby Olthoff would go the US to North Carolina to become Jimmy's agent and Bondurant would assist in the venture in several ways and by making his workshops available for a start. Thereafter various Superformance agents were set up.

Cobra replica exports to the US were as follows - 1994, 40 cars; 1995, 60 cars; 1996, 85 cars; 1997, 130 cars; 1998, 170 cars; 1999, 250 cars. Today about 40 cars per month go to the US.

Since then the Superformance Coupe has been developed as has been the S1 Roadster, a modern version of the Lotus Seven. Jimmy has also replicated all the press tools for the steel body for the 1932 Ford Hot Rod. About 20 Noble M12s are sent to the parent company in the UK. This is another success story. Lee Noble comes from the UK kit car industry and has to his credit the Ultima, a Ferrari P4 replica and the Noble M10. He then designed the Noble M12 and this car without a history in the formal sector, let alone a racing heritage, has taken on the big names big time! The M12 is now available in the US. Whereas NASCAR is part of the furniture in the US the oval concept is relatively new in South Africa and Jimmy builds all the South Africans SASCARS, virtual copies of their American cousins.

Just after the Christmas shut down the entire Cape Town staff on the GT40 project hired a mini bus to go to Port Elizabeth to meet their counterparts at Hi-Tech. They had a barbeque for about 600 people - QUITE A BIG ONE! The Cape Town gang booked in at a caravan park, near Hi-Tech and close to a mountain pass. Then one of Jimmy's guys turned up in Jimmy's personal, blue Noble M12 (the one in the pic) and proceeded to take his Cape Town cousins up and down the mountain pass, one after the other, in the M12. There were many pale faces and the guys just couldn't believe the shattering performance and race car roadholding of the car!

Fate decreed, as did some other factors, that Jimmy would set up his GT40 factory in Cape Town and not Port Elizabeth. Perhaps one day, when the time is right, I'll tell the full story! One thing is for certain, the MK11, with full monocoque will be one of the finest GT40 replicas ever produced. I mentioned in an earlier posting that it was only when I saw all the loose, laser cut monocoque panels laid across the factory floor by Robbie Senekal, that I realised what a complicated structure it is. Someone on the forum asked if a MK1 will follow. Yes, that is the plan.

Here's hoping that 2004 will be a great year!
Andre 40.
Thanks for taking the time for such an informative post. Great to know background on some good companies.

Rick Muck- Mark IV

GT40s Sponsor

I agree, Jimmy IS a class act. I regret that our business venture did not work out, I would be have been honored to do business with him.


Thank you for some great history and the time you took to write it. I am the former owner of a Superformance Cobra, and now own a Kirkham. My next project will likely be a GT40 of some sort and CAV is on the shortlist already. I have heard rumors and will see some pics shortly of a CAV factory that has been sold recently, supposedly the one that is building Cobras for Shelby. Is this anything you know about and how will it affect production? Is it simply the act of moving facilities?
Andre this is a very informative story. I wonder how the relationship is today? Especially since now you will be doing the new "old" shelby cobra at a fairly competetive price I understand. I'm still trying to find out exactly what's included and what's not on the CAV to compare apples to apples and $ for $. I hope thay can be delivered as promised on time. Also with the rand being much stonger than before I hope the pricing remains intact and there are no shorcuts to make up the $ difference. As for Jim Price no question, hands down a stand up and very approachable man. I give him full credit as he has built a small empire in a very short time. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Rick Muck- Mark IV

GT40s Sponsor
I seem to recall that Andre stated some time ago that he has no current connection with the CAV operation and therefor cannot relate any current situation.....at least officially.

Still, think about it....you can today buy any one of several GT40"s, a whole sh!thouse full of Cobras, any number of kick-arse tuner Mustangs and FoMoCo themselves are building a a "new" Ford GT. And we used to call it "the good old days...."

I think I will use a blue steel .38 to estabish credit at the local bank so that I may avail myself of these choices....

Happy new year and may your next year be better than my last...

Rick /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shocked.gif
CAV has not changed hands. There may soon be a new cobra dealer here in Canada. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif
Hi Frknfast,

I have nothing to do with CAV. After spending seven years negotiating an under-licence deal with GTD and motivating the formation of CAV, which got going in August, 1999 I sold my shares in March, 2001. It did not work out for me as hoped but I suppose Eric Broadley could say the same about his deal with Ford on the GT40! Personality clashes and differing opinions are nothing new in the specialised automobile field!

As there have been a few questions on the forum about what is going on in Cape Town I'll give you the basic background.

My relationship with Jimmy is a good as ever and right now we are discussing another joint venture project. His entire Cape Town staff is ex-CAV, as has already been mentioned on the forum by a member, and they are all friends of mine.

I could claim to have indirectly motivated the setting up of Jimmy's GT40 Cape Town operation although I'm in no way involved in the GT40 project other than on a friendly basis. I recommended Robbie Senekal, CAV's former chief engineer, to head up the new operation as general manager and chief engineer. Robbie then appointed several of his former CAV colleagues who had systematically resigned during the preceding 10 month period, so there was no stealing of staff as was claimed. Anyway you can steal cars, TVs,etc, but not people, who have minds of their own.

Jimmy finally decided to set up in Cape Town in March, 2002. He immediately commissioned the building of a new
26 000 sq ft factory whilst temporary premises were rented.

I heard that CAV and Carroll Shelby were planning to build Shelby's cars in Cape Town but right now I'm not in a position to comment on that deal or anything elese to do with CAV. It'll no doubt come out in the wash.

Take it easy,
Andre 40

Ron Earp

There is a lot of news circulating over on the Cobra Forums regarding the CAV deal and Carrol Shelby. Without a doubt, according to posts there with pictures, CAV will be (is right now according to those folks) producing CSX numbered chassis for Carrol Shelby.

Now, I haven't seen anything with regatrds to GT40 production or what will happen to dealers. Will CAV dealers sell Shelby cars? Will Shelby sell GT40s? Will Shelby sell CSX Cobras and cut CAV dealers out of the deal? Will CAV dealers become Shelby dealers?

I imagine some of the CAV folks know, so, Gary or Bob any news?


Ian Clark

Hi Ron, Best wishes to you and all forum members for the new year!

Regarding CAV and Shelby and Superformance, all the companies involved tend to stay clear of rumors and speculation until an official product announcement is released.

Although prudent, this can be frustrating for those of us who are information addicted.

What I can say, is that which is already known: CAV is building CSX Cobras for Shelby, Shelby decides who distributes his cars, CAV did not change hands.

Regarding the eventual entrance of Superformance to the GT40 replica business, I believe it's a great move and takes sales away from nobody as the US and global markets for these cars has not been touched.

2003's been a banner year, take care and have a great day!

What do you know about this?


Ron Earp

These pics have been floating around on the Cobra forums as well and with no clear answer. I have been looking into it but still haven't found out what is going on, or at least, haven't found enough reliable info that I feel can be posted. As Canuk40 said, noone is saying anything until deals are solid. I can agree with that, but something as simple as buildings appearing to be for sale or CAV moving, that should be easy to comment on. Rumors are rampant and cheap.
Re: Jimmy Price of Hi-Tech Automotive & Superforma

I can confirm the statements by Ian as being what I have heard. I have know idea about the building for sale.
As Canuk40 said, noone is saying anything until deals are solid. I can agree with that, but something as simple as buildings appearing to be for sale or CAV moving, that should be easy to comment on. Rumors are rampant and cheap.

[/ QUOTE ]

Ron, the first thing I asked someone else about the "sold" rumors were was it just part of a simple real estate deal, versus sale of a business. That should be an easy one for someone from CAV to answer. I am just presenting factual pictures and questions that are unanswered.
Hi Ian,

You are dead right. In the world of kit cars and specialised there is room for everyone.

Just think of how many millions of cars the big manufacturers, ie GM, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, etc, build per year and sell to a world of 6 billion people, (yes 6000 000 000!) people.Not only do they survive but they seem to go from strength to strength.

Even though Hi-Tech/Superformance is the largest replica manufacturer in the world 40 Cobras per month also don't scratch the surface. There is room for every specialist car builder anywhere in the world but one thing, TOP QUALITY is essential and the key to survival.

I'm appalled at what I've often seen seen in the past, cars built not only by individuals but by companies, in particular Cobras, both in the UK and South Africa. In fact, when I see them coming coming from the opposite direction I start checking the verges to see where I can duck to if something falls off or bump steer sets in. I'm now so far behind that I don't want to die, yet!

With regard to CAV I've made a brief statement in this post and it's not up to me to involve myself in futher comments. In fact as I don't really know what's going on I wouldn't want to be guilty of rumour mongering. But, yes, as per the above pics the factory has been sold.

Andre 40
Considering the numbers of cars that CAV has sold in such a

short time, coupled with the impending CSX builds, doesn't

it stand to reason that CAV may just need more room? This

certainly wouldn't be the first time that a GT40

manufacturer outgrew their facilities. The factory building

in the photos, doesn't look anywhere near big enough to

build both cars simultaneously.