Roaring Forties, Cape Town, South Africa. A detailed report.

Hi all,

I’ve been reading the many posts about the unfortunate Roaring Forties saga, sometimes with amazement and sometimes with amusement. The one issue that’s heart warming and highly admirable is the ‘rescue fund’ and the many contributions that were made by forum members. This is an indication of the strong buddy system that exists in our close knit GT40 world. Well done, guys.

I’ve had private E-mails from a few people suggesting that I state my case. Also both Mark Worthington’s and Tim Kay’s posts saying that they haven’t heard a peep from me and suggesting that I was involved with RF from the start have also motivated me to explain my role now. As this report unfolds these gentlemen will discover that I was never directly involved with either CAMCO or Robert Logan’s company other than having acted as Robert’s consultant in Cape Town from the first week of August 2005 until October 23. Last year I announced the CAMCO/RF deal which could have implied that I was an associate/director/partner of CAMCO which was and is not the case. I did the post in journalistic/messenger mode as I did before with all my posts on the development of the Superformance monocoque in Cape Town by Robbie Senekal and his team, the same team building the RF cars.

I could have made a short announcement in one paragraph (without being verbose) that I had nothing to do with either CAMCO or Roaring Forties other than having acted as a consultant for Robert Logan for two and half months. End of story. However, a most unfortunate and negative post by Robert about me has now motivated me, belatedly, to explain my role in greater detail and also to defend myself.

The post dated November 1 2005, in response to a thread started by OLIVER – ‘WHAT IS THE BUILD AND DELIVERY TIME OF YOUR RF’ (Dated October 20 2005).

I quote:

‘In August this year I employed André to keep me informed on a weekly basis as to the progress of the cars. I was paying him from Australia. I had been actively aware of the justifiable worries of our customers and the progress reports were to alleviate these worries. The reports that were sent were of a ‘general report’ in that they were of the progress of outside contractors, like the glass work and shots of the moulds being made. I had requested specific reports on the individual cars and so I despatched Sam (one of my staff) from Australia to see how things were going. He made a template of the reports and came back to Australia with a detailed report of the first four cars build. I reconfirmed my requirements for the reports and the type of report and to use the templates that had been given to him. The reports continued in the OLD style and no amount of jumping up and down by me was able to change the style or contents of these reports. I eventually threatened to sack André and lo and behold a functional report that I had requested. The problem was that it was not nice reading. They had not given the progress that I would have hoped for.

(A reference to a hockey tournament follows)

On arrival into Cape Town I had discussions with André regarding the reports. André had been closely linked to the staff and he confessed that that he had used his discretion regarding the contents of the reports. His loyalty in my opinion was misguided.’

I’ll come back to this issue below but first a report on the CAMCO/RF association.

The whole saga started just over a year ago when a UK forum member suggested to Robert Logan that if he wanted to have his cars built more economically relative to the Australian dollar he should consider a deal with Robbie Senekal in Cape Town, who previously headed up the CAV and subsequently the Superformance monocoque engineering teams.

Herein after Robert Logan will be referred to as Robert and Robbie Senekal as Robbie.

In November 2004 Robert invited Robbie to visit him in Melbourne to discuss the way forward. A deal was struck whereby Robbie’s company, the Classic Auto Manufacturing Company (CAMCO) would manufacture the RF cars on a contract basis with Robert not being a partner/director/shareholder of CAMCO but simply a customer. RF would send a kit to Cape Town from which new chassis and other jigs would be made and also new production moulds for the bodies.

As a former salaried employee Robbie made it quite clear to Robert that he had no working capital for a venture of this magnitude. Robert said that he would take care of the finances and any parts not available in Cape Town. Robbie must just ‘holler.’

Robert arrived shortly thereafter, stayed with Robbie and his wife at their house and one evening met the team, including me, over a barbeque.

In March last year the body/chassis kit and several other parts arrived and the project got underway. During the initial months I used to visit the factory from time to time to check on progress, basically as a friend an interested observer, just as I did with the development with the development of the Superformance monocoque.

My next meeting with Robert during his visit in August was business related when he asked me to act as consultant and to report progress to him on a weekly basis.
Robert correctly realised that Robbie needed someone to assist him with the various tasks that lay ahead and that as I had previously been involved with GT40s I would be the ideal person.

From now on all South African rand (ZAR) values will be quoted in US dollar equivalents.

I struck a deal with Robert whereby I would work from 8 am to 1 pm for $635 per month, about one tenth of what I would have earned had I been employed in a formal management position. I was happy to do so for this paltry amount as money was tight and that a bigger and better picture could lie ahead. Also if I had the afternoons free to pursue my other business interests and journalism I was happy with the deal part of which was that I would set up the parts division, the bolt bar, liaise with existing suppliers and appoint new ones as and when necessary. I worked my way through the parts manual with Robert and he pointed out various modifications to parts, etc. A most important aspect was to find local suppliers of parts sent from Australia, to liaise with existing suppliers and to find new suppliers and sub-contract manufacturers. Without this follow up it’s quite clear that no cars would be built.

Robert returned to Australia and my job commenced. Almost on the first day the enormity of the task struck me and I realised that this was no half day job, proven by the fact that not only did I start working full days but it continued into the evenings and week-ends.

Bear with me, I’ll now do a post mortem on Robert’s above-mentioned post. I let him know via E-mail in no uncertain terms about my unhappiness about his report. It was he who once suggested during a heated argument about my reports that whatever we discuss or argue about must ‘stay between these four walls’. To diffuse the argument I sarcastically apologised for the terrible way in which I reported to him and he then turned this around to read a so-called ‘confession’ with regard to the staff. I reminded him of his suggestion and told him that to have gone public on a world wide forum with his nonsense message was a betrayal of trust. I also told him that the use of the word ‘confession’ was totally out of order as that word applies to criminals, liars, cheats and wrong doers.

At no time did Robert give me any guidelines during his August visit as to the format in which I should report and I therefore had to use my discretion as to my choice of words, in other words how to report to him on what I’ve done, where I’ve been and whom I’ve seen, etc.

The template he refers to was only given to me by Sam on the last day of his visit, ie Friday, September 9. I then for the first time, a month later, realised what was required of me but the template was poorly formatted. Robbie and his secretary, Candice, redesigned to template into a more reportable form with tick off columns. I then completed the reports of chassis numbers 118RFO6051066, RHD, UK; 119RF06051066, RHD, UK; 108RF06051966, LHD, USA; 109RF06051066, LHD, USA.

The forms were faxed to Robert and he was none too pleased as all four cars were virtually at identical stages, ie clad chassis with suspensions and steering racks bolted on. This is why he said in the above report that it didn’t make good reading. No doubt he had hoped to hear of assembly going ahead at full steam, which was not the case. I said that at least I had opened a character reference on the four cars and that I could expand on the forms as and when the cars were to be assembled.

By that time it dawned on me that we had been operating on entirely different wavelengths. I had attached great importance to chasing up the parts, pushing suppliers, in particular Keith Bright on the making of the new moulds, to get a move on. Believe me I was doing the rounds virtually on a daily basis. (see following copy of my E-mail to Robert, dated September 11, to indicate what I mean). I assumed that Robert would attach equal importance to this vital side of the business but judging by his comment that the reports ‘continued in the OLD style’ meant that I had misjudged the situation and that he wasn’t interested.

He also certainly never told me to my face that he was going to fire me but he might have done so behind my back.

In short, my association with Robert was bedevilled with communicating on different wave lengths, misunderstandings, messages being twisted around to read something else, etc. I normally have no problem in communicating my thoughts in three different languages to people or understanding what they want from me.

We now arrive at the most important issue of this whole saga and that is a question or finance and working capital.

On an occasion when I noticed little activity on the factory floor, I asked Robbie what was happening he said that there was no money in the bank to make meaningful progress but that he was busy arranging bridging finance through a friend. Bear in mind again that Robbie made it quite clear from the onset that he had no working capital. I suggested that I should do a financial investigation to which he replied that Robert ‘would bite my head off’ if I interfered and was to get on with my appointed tasks. Fortunately a few days later Robbie said that Robert would welcome a financial report.

I must remind readers that orders for only eight cars had been received (six fully builts and two kits) even though Robert spoke of about 30 orders. My investigation revealed that an amount of about $145,000 was required immediately, ie for parts, creditors to be settled, salaries, wages and overheads, to complete the eight units.
This was in addition to funds that Robert had transferred and parts that he had supplied.

In an E-mail dated October 9 I informed Robert of the situation and I quote, ‘The issue of great concern is that some R900,000 must be found to complete the first eight cars…….’

Robert arrived about a week after I sent him the E-mail and I raised the question of my report on the diabolical financial situation. He took the wind out of my sails by asking me if I was looking for a fucking degree in accountancy. I replied no that I wasn’t and that I was simply in the nicest possible way informing him of the situation. I had the distinct impression that Robert just didn’t want to accept the situation for no offer of a solution was forthcoming. Robbie had in the meantime raised some bridging finance but this was drip fed which made no real impact on the situation.

He asked if he could address the staff on the factory floor. After having given details of his family background and career in the Royal Navy he shocked me by reprimanding the staff for not having completed the four cars on the floor, saying, ‘That the only way to get money into the bank is to build and ship the cars.’
With the financial position just having been discussed with him and the fact that many parts had not been received, he made this bizarre statement. If there are fairy godmothers in Ireland who can wave magic wands to create miracles we sure as hell don’t have them in South Africa.

Then after the meeting when we drove off to see suppliers he thanked me for sending him the financial summary which he said he studied with interest. By then I was totally confused and thought that the quicker I extricate myself from the mess the better. On Sunday, October 23 I typed my letter of resignation which I delivered to Robert the next day.

I would also point out that Robbie and his team worked for salaries well below market related incomes in the hope that things would improve once the company became profitable. The whole team, having previously worked on two GT40 projects, was quite capable of building the RF car, even though different is some aspects.

Now in fairness a critical look at CAMCO. If readers are of the opinion that I would protect and cover for my friend Robbie at all times the answer is both yes and no. Robert posted at one time that, ‘Despite a lack of requisite management skills Robbie is working very hard’, or words to that effect. I would agree. Robbie is a qualified tool, jig and die maker and I’ve always sold him as one of the best all round engineers I’ve ever known with a vast array of experiences in general engineering, casting, engraving, vacuum forming, fibreglass, metallurgy, etc, having built his first working steam engine at age 16. I’m sure that the expression, ‘Put him in there, paint the windows black and throw the key away,’ applies to Robbie. I’ve never sold him as board room material and in this regard he might have been out of his depth flying to Australia to put a deal together with Robert.

A problem with the CAMCO staff was that because there was always a question of waiting for parts there was never full activity on the factory floor, which led to loss of focus, inefficiency and chit-chat on the factory floor. At one point I confronted Robbie with an issue regarding a staff member, which he didn’t like and this erupted into a flaming row. Another issue during this time was that Cape Town had an unusually hot and windy summer and all this added up to frustration and short fuses.

At all times when Robert was here he was privy to all aspects of CAMCO’s operation. He stayed with Robbie and his family for most of his visits and was made to feel like a member of the family. Conversely Robbie and his accountant had no idea of RF’s financial position in Australia or of deposits taken and in fact it was assumed or felt that RF was a well-known, well structured and profitable company

Another bizarre situation of which I was informed was Robert’s approach to Auto Futura to build his cars. This must have been a pipe dream of note for if there was no money forthcoming for CAMCO how would a deal with AF have been structured with customer deposits having been sent in advance. AF would have regarded this a new deal and would have insisted on being paid in full before cars were shipped.

After this rather blunt but factual report my conclusion may come as a surprise. Even with what is now known I don’t believe that Robert Logan is a dishonest person and in fact I’ve always regarded him as an honourable and likeable straight shooter, despite my communications difficulties with him. His enthusiasm for his cars has always been infectious and his technical knowledge of his product amazing. I think that he got himself entangled in web that got too big for him and consequently he was clutching at straws and in desperation made some bad financial moves. I believe that Robert remained in denial about the financial position and somehow hoped that the Cape Town team would find a magic solution. For some reason Robert thinks that I’m sometimes misguided but I’ll now apply that word to him. In a sense I can sympathise as some 15 years ago I was also involved with a business that had run into trouble and I started clutching at straws, hoping for fairy godmothers and believing that I could trade out of the problem. In situations such as these, no matter how unpalatable, one must face reality and act accordingly. I trust that when Robert is judged in the days that lie ahead my sentiments will be taken into account. I feel sorry for him. His dream has gone and no doubt his family will be badly affected.

Take it easy,
André 40.
In my humble opinion if I had not followed up on these vital issues there would have been no RF cars built. Robert stressed the importance of sourcing these parts and suppliers, but in his post he said that my reports continued in the OLD style, which implied that all this was irrelevant to him.

If there’s one person who deserves a pat on the back in all this, it’s Robbie’s secretary, Candice, a loyal, long suffering and efficient lady who not only gave me a great deal of support in my role but had to put up with arguments, shouting matches and bad language.

Candice put together a bill of materials that stretched to 27 pages and which consisted of some 5000 parts, from large to small.

This is only one of several E-mails to Robert, dated September 11, 2005. There were others regarding tooling up for the bending of the exhaust pipes, Ford Cortina steering racks from Italy, head lights from Hella and much else besides.

Hi Robert,

Payment received, thank you.

It was really great to have Sam here for the week and I believe that we made some good in-roads. I'm sure that my report will duplicate Sam's feed back to you, but here goes anyway.

Much of the week was spent on setting up the parts shelves and the bolt bar and soon I will identify every single part that goes into the car.

I'm pleased to report that all the suppliers we called on were helpful, friendly and knew their business.

We called on the following companies:

Thorp Delta, the nearby Opel/Chevrolet main dealer. They can supply the trunnion, bearing and flange but at a high retail price. The parts manager offered to supply at cost plus 10%. I'll keep in touch.

Keith, Brightglass. Making good and steady progress as evidenced by the three sets of pics.

Wright Seals. They can supply the fibreglass/aluminium backed heat cloth at a price that made Sam happy.

Docking. We took the starter motor to them and I'm awaiting feed back.

Clutch & Brake Services (CBS). We took the two pressure plate and clutch plates. Five-speed pressure plate and two clutch plates not a problem and six-speed pressure plate almost definite. I'll keep in touch.

Called on Hyflo for hoses and were pointed to Dave Sinclair of Racetech with whom we've had previous dealings. Dave called and we're awaiting quotes.

Called on Rubber Products & Mouldings and have sourced all the rubber mouldings and door seals, etc.

Called on VW Barons and the plastic part that goes with the clutch release mechanism is ridiculously expensive, ie R423 for a small plastic part that's worth about R10! Robbie is scratching his head, figuratively speaking that is and I'm sure that he'll 'make a plan.'.

Two visits to Jimmy’s Trim Shop to check progress and foam shaping for comfort and lumber support.

Called on All Gear to check on progress with machining of six-speed shorter shaft.

Collected four rear uprights from Ajax Foundries.

Called on Stateside, importers of American car parts. Left Corvette caliper with them to do research on sourcing.

Called on Audi dealer to check on prices of new and recon Audi gearboxes.

Called on distant relative, gearbox specialist, Edgar Johnson, to discuss beefed-up and modied Audi gearboxes to handle higher torque. Can be done.

Over and above our agreed weekly report I'm sure that from now on I would be able to let you have at least two to three reports per week plus pics.

Onwards and Headlong Through The Waves (specially created for you as a Naval man!).

Kind regards,
André Loubser
PO Box 31
Constantia 7848
Cape Town
South Africa

Tel/Fax +27 021 712 0030 (H)
Cell/Mobile 082 723 5632
E-mail [email protected]

October 23, 2005

Dear Robert,

This is to inform you that I’m withdrawing from our association with immediate effect.

It makes no commercial sense for me to continue my involvement with you and Camco as there is no long-term benefit for me. With the benefit of hindsight it is quite clear that I became involved with a company with a serious shortage of working capital, which not only held up production but which also had a direct bearing on my ability to meet your requirements. However, I believe I made a meaningful contribution to the ‘common cause’ by setting up the parts division and by sourcing suppliers.

Following our meeting on Friday and having reviewed certain issues, I don’t believe we are destined to be business associates. However, I do not believe this should affect our friendship.

My virtual full-time involvement during the past two months not only prevented me from pursuing my other business interests but has cost me a fair amount of money. I will now vigorously follow my ‘dreams’. As Winston Churchill said ‘Today’s dreams are tomorrow’s empires.’ Trust me I will make it happen.

You suggest that I am sometimes misguided. My wife entirely agrees and comments that I’m the only idiot she knows who would work on a full-time basis for little money and still get shot as the messenger!

I wish you and your new partners well for the future.

I attach my invoice for R3,000 for three weeks work in October.

Kind regards,

Alex Hirsbrunner

Lifetime Supporter
Well, that is an interesting (and frustrating, for me) post.

To possibly provide some additional insight into what was happening from a customer perspective, I would like to add that I received the following email on 7/17/05 (well prior to the October 9th realization that an additional $145K would be required to complete the first eight cars). Note that my car #129 was well down the list from the initial 8 cars.

Based on your comments regarding Robert's behavior, I am assuming (and hoping) that Hershal was also kept in the dark since he was "outside the four walls".

<font color="blue">From: HERSHAL BYRD [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Sunday, July 17, 2005 11:58 PM
Subject: Chassis #129 is in the line !!

Hi Alex & Theresa,

I am happy to announce that your chassis 129 has been started. The progress at the factory is going well and we are ahead of our projected schedule. I have a photo of all the ones that are going in the line this week. One of those in the photo is yours. Sorry but I'm not sure which one. There is also a photo of a rear clip fresh from the mold to give you an idea of the quality fiberglass. As you can see by the light reflections that it is very smooth.

The first two S.African GT40's will arrive here in Phoenix sometime near the end of August. I will send you pictures of these cars when they arrive. Just a little little tease for what's to come.

I also have a shipment of flywheels that will arrive here in late August. If you would like one of these so you can have your engine balanced to it, please let me know, and I will send it off when it arrives.

At this point I will need the 40% additional payment of $26,172.50. Please Make the check out to..

Hershal Byrd
/* address removed */

I want to thank you two for being patient. I'm sure you are very anxious to get you GT.

Once again if there is anything else I can do please call or shoot me an e mail.

Your Friend,
Hershal Byrd

/* photos of chassis, radiator, rear clip removed */</font>



John B

Temp Selling Pass
Thankyou andre



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Ron Earp

Oliver, please quit posting on the thread - it'll be read by everyone and the link has already been forwarded to the administrators and attorneys. I'll move it to the proper location, Consumer Watch, which has almost become "The RF Saga" forum to keep from clogging up the rest of the forums.

I to received emails like Al's from agents and directly from Robert. It is very clear from this post and information that Robert was aware of difficulties with car construction and delivery, however, many customers were led to believe that their car would be coming soon with the date always rolling back - September, October, December, March, May....... I clearly should have known better. I am going to have a hard time believing that RF Australia didn't know about the severity of the problem and sincerely believed there was a solution near at hand.

Alex Hirsbrunner

Lifetime Supporter
Hello All,

Just to be clear, my posting above should not be construed as a validation of the information presented by Andre. I am simply providing additional information that I have available to me.

Finally, I have received a comment regarding the email from Hershal that makes me want to reinforce that I have no information that points to any wrong doings by the agents of RF.

Thanks &amp; Regards,

Al H.
Hi Al and all,

I go along with that. There is no way that either Hershal Byrd (RF US agent) or Rick Chattell (RF UK agent) could remotely or in any way be implicated in any of this. At no time did they ever communicate directly with CAMCO or were they privy to production times or schedules (real or imagined) other than through information relayed to them by Robert Logan.

My report will prove that Al's chassis number 129 to be delivered in August was a pipe dream of note, predicted by someone smoking I don't know what!

The more this saga unfolds the angrier I'm getting and the more I regret that I was ever involved.

Andre 40
Hi affected RF customers,

I’ve received an E-mail from an RF customer who asked why, when I knew the situation by the time I quit, ie October 23, I didn’t make a post warning customers.

A good and valid question.

Firstly when I walked out I had nothing further to do with either CAMCO or Roaring Forties and any comments from me would have been inappropriate.

Secondly I was aware of on-going discussions to raise additional working capital and if this had transpired all would have been well, the business would have continued and everyone would have been happy, ie Robert, CAMCO and above all the customers eagerly awaiting their cars. Imagine the massive law suit I could have had around my neck had I made a negative post and had a rescue package been successful.

I’m sure you are all familiar with the expression, ‘Shooting the messenger.’
André 40

Peter Delaney

GT40s Supporter
Oliver, please go away (again) - or at least stick to the Off-Topic threads. You even have one there totally dedicated to you &amp; your ego problem - what more could you want ?

Your first few posts after re-admission were almost normal (&amp; I'd swear that you actually used a spell &amp; grammar checker) - it can be done. But no, it didn't take long for you to revert to your old 8th grade ways :

- Playground bully : get attention by being bigger, ruder, more obnoxious than the rest.

- Never miss a photo-opportunity (even using someone else's photo)

- Make a whole lot of noise, but don't add anything constructive

- Compulsive attention-getting syndrome - you just have to post some inane comment on just about every thread that is alive

- A puberty problem : perhaps understandable for a 19 year-old in the 8th grade, but the avatars &amp; other pics are a tad tacky for this Forum (&amp; I bet your twin sister did not thank you for the "all-fours" pose).

In short, Go Oliver, Go - Away !!!!!

Kindest Regards,

Peter D.