Datsun begins the fifth year of its operations in South Africa today since re-entering the market in 2014. The company is strengthening a decades-old legacy, built between the 1960s and the 1980s, when it had established itself one of the most loved car brands in the country. Given Datsun’s reputation for building robust and reliable cars, it is no surprise that many of the vehicles from that era are still in use several decades later. The Datsun Heritage Museum in Bothaville, Free State, serves testimony to the legacy of a brand that has stood the test of time.
Owned by car enthusiast Freek de Kock, the museum has a collection of 118 Datsun and Nissan vehicles including a 240Z; a 1600 SSS; a 1971 first generation Nissan Skyline GT-R coupe together with five other GT-Rs, including the R35; the 1970 Nissan President V8 limousine that was owned by the late Mozambican President, Samora Machel; the Pulsar; the 1200 GX; the Laurel, and many others. Most of the cars are in working order and those that aren’t are being lovingly restored in Freek’s workshop.
Freek had been in love with Datsun cars since he was a boy and started collecting them 11 years ago when his sons took over the family business.
“With my sons running the business, it gave me time to focus on my hobbies. So, I started collecting cars. I realised that I would never sell the cars I was collecting, and that’s how the idea of a museum came about,” says Freek.
Initially, Freek thought it would be difficult to get his hands on the different Datsun models, but as people heard about the museum, he was offered several cars.
“My first car was the 300ZX, which I restored from start to finish. I’ve always loved Datsun cars because each one has a stand-out feature and also because both Nissan and Datsun have a well-known history of track performance.”’
While the collection doesn’t operate as an official museum, it’s open by appointment to anyone who would like to view the vehicles. When asked why he is so dedicated to this project, Freek says, “We need to preserve the Datsun heritage because, without heritage, there will never be much of a future.”
Des Fenner, Datsun South Africa General Manager, says: “We’re proud of our heritage as an iconic Japanese brand, and we’re equally proud of our South African heritage as a young democracy. Heritage Day is about celebrating our diverse cultures and Datsun will continue to support the inspiring people of our rainbow nation with cars they can rely on. Since coming back to South Africa in 2014, we have established ourselves as a brand that people can trust, and we look forward to playing a part in the ongoing development of our country.”