An early South African car by Pat Harrington-Johnston, seen here at the 1949 Fairfield Handicap Durban Snell Parade, the name deriving from his childhood nickname. Pat was a journalist by trade and became the South African correspondent for Iota, the 500 Club magazine. Pat Harrington-Johnson’s ohv Matchless engined Fidget, Vic Cavanagh’s ‘Bendy’ (or Cav Special) and Orlando Fregona’s ‘Tiger Cub’ were the first South African built 500’s to line up in a significant event when they appeared in the 10-lap qualifying heats for the Crusader 100 Handicap on 30th October 1948 at the Germiston Airport Circuit. There were 28 cars in each heat, ranging from the little homebuilt 500’s to big American engine specials, numerous MGs and Austins as well as pre-war racing Rileys, an ERA and a Maserati. Sadly, none of the 500s featured in the results and made it into the 30-lap final.

The Fidget competed from late 1948 to early 1952 and travelled at times over 1000 miles to compete in major events. Although the Fidget became one of the more competitive ‘junior’ cars it was beset with ‘gremlins’ and dogged with unreliability and chalked up a number of DNFs and DNSs in circuit races resulting in Pat calling it a “beastly” thing. However, the benefits of a good power-to-weight ratio were more evident in hill climbs. The Fidget had the 1948 Burman Drive Hillclimb ‘in its pocket’ until it spluttered to a halt near the finish with a piece of darning wool blocking its petrol pipe! Then at the Sydenham Hillclimb Pat set third fastest time of the day against a large field of larger engined cars and in 1950 he set a record run at Burman for the up to 850 cc class.

The days before health and safety, Pat in the van Riebeeck Trophy, Paarden Eiland near Cape Town in 1949

Pat seems unsure of something at the rear, Fairfield Handicap 1949

Our thanks to Rob Young for the photos