Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The first car in the Southern Hemisphere

As early as 1896, in what is believed to have been the first car in the Southern
Hemisphere, Mr John Percy Hess of Pretoria made the decision to import
a Benz "Velo" from Benz & Co of Mannheim Germany to South Africa. During
the same year this car was shipped to Port Elizabeth and then transported to
Pretoria. It was the start of a business relationship which lead to Mr Hess
becoming the sole agent for Benz & Co in South Africa.

On Monday, January 4th at 4pm.1897 at Berea Park in Pretoria, in a widely
advertised event, Mr John Percy Hess first drove the car with a Mr A.E. Reno
(his business Partner and co-founder of the Pretoria News), and a Dr W.J. Leyds,
then State Secretary of the Transvaal, as passengers. President Paul Kruger
was also invited to ride on the car, but he preferred to just watch the event.

In honour of President Paul Kruger attendance a "vierkleur" flag was attached
to a pole on the carriage and a gold medal was minted to commemorate this
occasion. A large number of spectators who came to see this spectacle had to
pay an entrance fee of 2 shillings and 6 pennies.

The following week, the Benz was shown at the Wanderers in Johannesburg
and then sold to Mr A.H. Jacobs, a coffee importer. Every customer who
purchased 500g of coffee from his shop in Pritchard Street was allowed to see
his car. Unfortunately, some months later, this car was destroyed in a fire.

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