André Loubser (right) presenting a bust of former Guild president Lord Strathcarron he had made to current president Nick Mason (left) at the 2011 Goodwood Revival Meeting.
The Guild committee was saddened to learn that overseas member André Loubser passed away unexpectedly while attending a car club event near his home in Cape Town on Sunday, 25 October. He was 80 years old.
Fellow overseas member and friend Graeme Hurst penned this obituary to André, who contributed much to the local classic car and racing community throughout his career. A career that spanned the design, production and marketing of cars as well writing about them. And one that saw André working with some big names in the racing community.
Like many automotive journalists, André Hugo Loubser’s love of cars began at an early age when he started collecting Dinky cars. By the age of just seven he
moved onto the real thing when he took his father’s Morris 10 for ‘a drive’. The Dinkys soon gave way to another all-too-common passion: collecting car brochures from local dealerships. André would later joke that his school satchel was usually 80% brochures and 20% school books!
The son of an English teacher, André was schooled at Cape Town’s prestigious Diocesan College (known as Bishops) and was by all accounts a prolific reader who spent much of his teenage years following the local and overseas race scene through various publications. He also enjoyed a flair for sketching, often frustrating his teachers by using school notebooks to bring to life his thoughts on ‘improving’ the lines of production sports cars such as the Mercedes 190 and 300 SLs.
After leaving school in 1957, he worked for an oil company before taking up a position as a PA and salesmen with a motor dealership in the provincial town of George, some 275 miles east of Cape Town.
It was a rather far-flung location but his responsibilities there would pay a fruitful dividend towards his dream of working abroad for a German car manufacturer after he was asked to host Porsche works boss Baron Huschke von Hanstein and driver Jo Bonnier, who were visiting the area en route to the East London Grand Prix. The association led to an offer of a position with Porsche’s Sales and Export division in Stuttgart, which André took up in 1962.
It was an exciting time to be at the famous company which was on the cusp of launching the iconic 911. And the dream-come-true job delivered a further surprise when, as the salesman responsible for orders from VIPs, André received an enquiry for a Porsche 904 GTS from none other than Stirling Moss – one of Andre’s boyhood heroes.
The negotiations with the great hotshoe, whose SMART race team featured two South African mechanics, led to an offer to head up the implementation of Stirling’s Paint-a-Car franchise across the UK and parts of Europe. And a life-long friendship with Stirling, something André was enormously proud of.
In late 1966 André married his English wife Gillian, who was secretary to the Sales Manager of the Rootes Group. The couple lived in London and, for the next few years, André turned his hand to automotive design, establishing Dynamic Designs which offed a Kamm-tail boot extension for BMC’s 1100 sedan, among other products.
André was also involved with the production of the Enfield electric city car before using his experience with Stirling Moss to go into business back in South Africa with motorcycle racer Mike Hailwood. The pair founded Autospray, which – much like the Paint-a-Car system – offered a rapid, on-demand, respray service. André oversaw the opening of 17 branches across the country over the next three years.
It was his friendship with the two-wheel ace that put him in touch with the country’s colourful international racing scene and he developed a deep passion for the South African 9-Hour Sports Car series and the annual F1 Grand Prix.
For the remainder of his career, André was involved in various car design projects, including the design and launch of the CAV GT40, a South African replica of the famous sports car racer. He also increasingly turned his hand to writing for a living, publishing numerous articles, including a comprehensive account of South Africa’s pre-war Grand Prix era which featured the likes of von Delius and Rosemeyer in their mighty V16 Auto-Unions.
It was his passion and unrivalled knowledge of the racing scene – along with his many treasured friendships with some big racing names – that led to André fulfilling another dream: to document the history of the country’s famous Kyalami race track.
Some 25 years in the making, his 400-plus page 2011 book Kyalami is a comprehensive and arguably unrivalled summary of one of the most colourful and eventful periods of motorsport at a much-loved international circuit.
With a foreword from 1979 F1 Champion Jody Scheckter and input from a raft of top drivers, including the likes of Denny Hulme and Jackie Stewart, this meticulously researched work is a fabulous legacy to one of South Africa’s most passionate and knowledgeable motoring and racing enthusiasts.
GOMW president Nick Mason said: “We are very saddened to lose such an enthusiast. André was always very committed to keeping us up to speed in his world. We really need that sort of commitment and he will be sorely missed.”
RIP André, you will be missed and our condolences to your wife Gill during this difficult time.
Guild vice-chairman Guy Loveridge adds:
I had known André by “fax” – yes it was last century – and then email exchanges. My only face to face meeting was when he presented the Lord Strathcarron bust to the Guild at Goodwood Revival. He was charming, cheerful and delighted to be with us all at the scene of so much Guild history.
André, as Graeme notes, was a car mad kid who achieved his dream jobs in life. With Porsche he was noted as a member of Porsche’s Export Sales Department (and formerly of Cape Town). He indeed oversaw SMART’s 904 GTS purchase. The two native South African mechanics were brothers Ed and Bud Rossler. They raced as well as spannering: a G.S.M .Dart in South Africa and even a Lotus Elan at Sebring under the S.M.A.R.T. banner.
Like many of us, André was an inveterate hoarder – in 1996 he sold one of Stirling’s crash helmets which André had been given along with a blue Dunlop racing suit. Being the gentleman he was he asked Stirling, after having the items for well over 30 years, if he was “OK” to sell them – Stirling answered in typical Moss fashion – “If you can sell the helmet, go ahead and good luck. Be happy, Ciao.” He also kept the full file on that 904 GTS, one of just six supplied with a six-cylinder engine, and wondered if the then current owner might like it all? It included colour slides of the Nurburgring 1000km race from 1964; original homologation papers, etc etc. The car was a metallic green, the S.M.A.R.T. ‘house colour’ but was painted blue for sale, via Rob Walker’s Pipbrook Garage.
André became the “Porsche Man” to the jet set – in his two years at Stuttgart he sold cars to film stars – Elke Sommer; industry ‘giants’ – Mrs Lilian Studebaker and motor racers, including of course Stirling Moss. That deal, to the S.M.A.R.T. team, at the time “was run by three South Africans” led him to then working for Stirling’s “Paint-a-Car” system in London for four years.
André wrote extensively of his life and experiences and was always chatty and ebullient in communications. Sir Stirling and Lady Susie spoke fondly of him at the opening of the Beaulieu Motorsport feature and Stirling posed with the Grand Prix winning helmet Andre had been gifted 50 years before.