SOUTH AFRICAN-ASSEMBLED LAMBORGHINIS?

With the oil/fuel crisis in full swing and the world suffering severe economic recession, the period of the mid-1970s was not the ideal time for luxury and supercar manufacture and sales. Lamborghini felt the pressure and the firm's ownership changed three times after 1973, including a bankruptcy in 1978. It was during this period that South Africa stuck its nose into the mix as a Lamborghini assembler and even made a bid to buy the Italian brand. Cape Town-based Intermotormakers (IMM), headed by architect Gerrie Steenkamp, was initially set up by the holding company Interplan Investments with the intention of moving into the world of industrial design. Research indicated a gap in the market for a locally built sports car, but instead of mucking about wasting time developing the skills needed with a costly new design, IMM purchased the rights to assemble Lamborghini and Lotus cars just outside Cape Town from 1976.

Lamborghini models that left the line included the Espada, Urraco and Countach and the SA quality of build was said to be so good in comparison with Italian offerings that international buyers started requesting South African-made cars.

This is not the most surprising angle to the South African story though. These honours go to the idea of Interplan combining with another backer to buy the floundering Lamborghini operation outright and move the entire brand to our shores. For whatever reason, the deal fell through at the last minute and IMM were dealt a further blow when the South African government pulled the concession it had granted for exemption from the Local Content Programme.

In August 1979, IMM dropped the Lambo assembly operation. Although no longer in the spotlight, Steenkamp continued with the sports car theme, designing a VW Golf GTi-based mid-engine sports car known as the Caracal.


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