Words and photographs by Andrew Middleton
At a time when most kids at the age of ten couldn’t be separated from a Sony PlayStation consol, Fred Vorster was growing up on a farm. And, while blasting around Paarl’s many twiggy bush tracks and farm roads on just about anything with wheels, young Fred had a revelation. He decided he wanted to become the world’s best ‘enjinr’. Who needs spelling skills when you’re twelve years old and can already rebuild the carburettor on a Honda XR200?
Being so tech savvy, Fred quickly earned the nickname ‘Techno-Boer’. As he grew older, more and more stories of his father’s mechanical tinkerings were spun around the dining-room table. The fact that Fritz (Fred’s dad) had built a Jeep when he was in matric was enough kindling to start the fire – Fred was going to build his own Jeep.
After about six months of research, Gumtree, and a few ‘sick’ days off school looking at possible project vehicles, the father-and-son team finally decided on a 1975 Jeep CJ5, used as a farmer’s workhorse somewhere in the Cederberg Mountains. The Jeep was rough around the edges and had plough hooks at each end, but, on the plus side, there was no rust. It was love at first sight, and a short while later the strip-down began. They were determined to build the Jeep professionally, but there was just one question that needed answering: keep it original, or go berserk? Unsurprisingly, at a youthful 18 years of age and powered by excitement, Fred opted for the go-bananas route with a meaty V8 engine under the hood.
With the Jeep’s body off the chassis and the original 3.8-litre engine put to one side, Fred set to work. Being a relatively stubborn chap, he refused to let any friends or family (including his dad) near his precious Jeep. He wanted every last nut and bolt, weld and wire to be under his control.
Even when there was nothing to see but a box of bolts and a greasy old chassis, Fred would excitedly invite his mates around to see his project. The resulting reactions would range from, “Ummm, where is it, Fred?” to “I wonder if a scrapyard would pay you money for that?” But Fred persevered with what would quickly become his passion and obsession. Unfortunately, with all his time and energy spent on the Jeep, school results were dropping like a bag of wet sand down a mineshaft. But, to be fair, who could blame the guy? When a lorry arrives outside your house the day before matric finals with a brand-spanking new V8 engine, would you want to do maths?
The chosen engine came out of a wrecked Chevy Silverado that had a few delivery miles on the clock. The glorious 4.8-litre Vortec V8 had emerged from the accident unscathed, awaiting its chance to churn out 250 kW.
There’s only one word that aptly describes this V8 engine in a 1 000 kg Jeep: insane.