The Western Province Motor Club and the Killarney family were devastated to learn on the evening of Thursday 29 December of the passing of Adrian Pheiffer, the man primarily responsible for the formation of the Club, the ‘ideas man’ who saved Killarney from almost certain closure in 1965 and who devoted most of his adult life to motorsport in the Western Cape – not for his own gain but for the benefit of all competitors and racing fans.

“He was a colleague, a mentor and a true friend,” said executive manager Des Easom, “and he will be sorely missed.

“He was and remains a huge influence on Killarney. Despite his quiet and unassuming manner he was a skilled storyteller with a wicked sense of humour, which he used to good effect in his newspaper articles and the periodical ‘The Blower’ which he produced for the Club.

“Even after he retired in 2018 (at the age of 87!) he took a keen interest in the Club and I recently received an excited phone call from him when he learned that a long lease for Killarney had been approved by the City.

“I am glad he was able to make that call.”

Adrian matriculated from Rondebosch Boys High in 1947; after qualifying as a motor mechanic and spending a year in England, he returned to Cape Town and finished off a three-speed, 1172cc side valve Ford-engined Spyder that he and his friend Willie Meissner had been working on before he left.

He fitted a hand formed sheet-metal body and entered it in a handicap race at the old Killarney circuit in 1956. The handicappers took one look at the car’s basic bodywork and its unknown rookie driver, and gave it an enormous start. Not even South African champion Bill Jennings in his famous Riley Special could catch him, which is how Adrian beat the national champion in his debut race.

Adrian also took part in one of the early LM Rallies from Pretoria to Lourenco Marques as navigator for Alan Wolman in a Jaguar XK120, which he said later was totally unsuited to the task.

However, one of the marshals on that event was a young lady from Pretoria called Jutine Nykamp. Ever the gentleman, he never revealed what he did to make such an impression,

but when she later moved to Cape Town, the two met up again and stayed together, in a marriage that lasted until she passed away in 2020.

In 1959, when Adrian was chairman of the Metropolitan Motorcycle and Car Club, with Denis Joubert as secretary, the club negotiated a loan of £20 000 from the Divisional Council for the construction of a circuit to the Formula One standard of the time. It was designed by Edgar Hoal, with architectural assistance from Denis, and was ready just in time for the inaugural Cape Grand Prix, promoted by a joint committee representing the Cape’s major motorsport clubs, on December 17, 1960.

But the ground around the circuit was still bare, there was a fierce South-Easter on the day and the blown sand stung like a swarm of killer bees. Despite the presence of Stirling Moss and a number of other top drivers, attendance was dismal and the race, which was won by Moss from works Porsche team-mate Jo Bonnier, was a financial disaster.

The 1962 Cape Grand Prix, a triumph for Trevor Taylor after Lotus team-mate Jim Clark uncharacteristically spun out of the lead going into the Malmesbury Sweep, was almost as bad, leaving the Mets with very little money in the kitty and a huge outstanding loan. Somebody had to pull something out of the bag, so Adrian came up with the idea of holding a big motor show over eight days at the Goodwood Showgrounds, complete with Nascar-style stock car racing – which led to the formation of the Cape Helldrivers.

The show was a huge success, paid off all the club’s debts and enabled Cape Town’s motorsport enthusiasts to start thinking about the future. Once again it was Adrian, the ideas man, who proposed that Cape Town’s motorsport clubs should merge to form a single administrative body for the circuit. The Amateur Automobile Racing Club, the Kape Kart Klub and MotorSport Marshals merged with the Mets in 1965 to form the Western Province Motor Club, with Adrian as chairman and Denis as secretary.

The Kape Kart Klub was another of Adrian’s bright ideas. He’d seen an article about a miniature racing car powered by a Briggs & Stratton lawn-mower engine in an American magazine. He and Cedric Selzer each built one; Cedric then went overseas to join Lotus and eventually become Jim Clark’s mechanic while Adrian stayed here and started the first formal karting organisation in Africa.

After a year as chairman he stood down to concentrate on racing. He’d competed in a Cooper with an Alfa Romeo engine and Hewland gearbox in the 1961 SA Formula One series and the 1962 South African Grand Prix at East London, where he crashed out and wrecked the car. That same engine and box were then installed in locally-built replica of a Lotus 23, which was named the APM, after those involved – Adrian, Peter and Maurice – and finally ended up with a 1595cc twin-cam Ford competition engine. In between he raced all manner of saloon cars, taking two Western Province titles along the way.

When his racing career ended Adrian again became involved with the administration of the club, especially in promoting the karting section and persuading the motocrossers to move
from Noordhoek to Killarney. He also became a regular contributor on motorsport to local newspapers, being published regularly in the Cape Times, Cape Argus, Die Burger, TygerBurger and a number of electronic media including Independent Online and Wheels24.

The Western Province Motor Club has bestowed every award that it can on Adrian for his outstanding contribution to the club and to motorsport in general, including the Edgar Hoal Memorial trophy, a Lifetime Achievement award and one of only 15 life memberships that have been awarded during its history.

He wrote and compiled the prestigious book “Killarney, 50 Golden Racing Years 1960 to 2010”, and was honoured with a number of motoring journalism awards, including the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists’ Motorsport Journalist of the Year in 1988 and the Colin Watling Award for Special Services to Motorsport in 2010. as well as a special Lifetime Achievement Award from Motorsport South Africa in 2014.

“The Club would not be but for Adrian,” said WPMC President Dr Greg Mills.

“As Robert Browning wrote: ‘I hold that a man should strive to the utmost for his life’s set prize’. Adrian certainly did that for the WPMC and Killarney.

“Rest well, Adrian. We will miss you.”

Indeed, Adrian will be sadly missed by all the staff at Killarney; our thoughts and prayers are with his sons, Earl, Dale and Roy, and his extended family.