The South African Harwin Special was built by Peter Hard, who ran an engineering workshop in Cape Town, and Jimmy Winstanley, a skilled tuner and preparer of racing cars and bikes. The car was built exactly as a Kieft CK 52 with the exception of the front suspension which used ‘aero elastic’ in place of ‘metalastic’ brakes. It was powered by a BSA engine and fitted with a 4-speed gearbox which powered the back axle via a chain drive. It was the most ‘professionally’ built of the local motorcycle engined racers to appear in South Africa. The impressive cycle-car was always quick but dogged by unreliable engines during its long competition career. Bill Jennings, a multi South African Drivers Champion of the 1950s, and himself a constructor of several successful racing specials including the Jennings-Riley and later F1 Jennings-Porsche, recalls “the car was very well built and very quick too but those motorcycle engines shook the little cars to pieces and they had to make sure that every nut and bolt was tightened and double locked because of the vibrations.”

The Harwin made its big race debut at the January 1953 False Bay 100 Handicap. Photo courtesy Bill Jennings

The next big event for the ‘state of the art’ machine was the 1953 van Riebeeck Trophy and the car was handicapped to start in a group that included the fastest cars in the Union. Hard made an impressive start as described in a contemporary report “P Hard and his Harwin wasted no time, and overtook limit men by the dozen until he broke an oil pipe. Result - one conrod peering through the BSA crankcase.”

Photo by Denis Mills shows Peter with it at the 1953 Van Riebeeck Trophy at Eerste Rivier Cape Town, he retired after only 4 laps with a conrod failure. A year later at the same race he was third overall on scratch behind the 6 cylinder Riley Special of Bill Jennings and a Maserati.

There was more hardship to come when at a meeting at the purpose built Killarney Circuit near Cape Town on 6 April 1953 Hard and Ray Lock (MG Special) collided and the ‘beautifully built Kieft copy’ crashed and then rolled. Hard was uninjured.

In retrospect its best show was in the 1954 van Riebeeck Trophy at the Eerste Rivier Speedway when Hard placed third overall on scratch behind the 6 cylinder Riley Special of Bill Jennings and a supercharged 3.7 litre Maserati monoposto – two of the fastest cars in the Union at the time. Baulked by the big Maserati at the start Hard engaged the bigger car in huge race long duel. It was a frustrating race for Hard. The huge ‘perpendicular’ Maserati blasted away from him on the straights and held him up on corners. In the end he was beaten in a photo finish.

The Harwin was then acquired by the well known motorcyclist and ‘half-litre’ pioneer WB ‘Billy’ Kay in 1955 and although he drove it forcefully in a number of the ‘major’ events in the Cape, and later Natal, niggling mechanical unreliability generally forced many retirements. Billy’s best result was an excellent fourth overall on scratch in the 1957 Fairfield Handicap when he was beaten only by Arthur Mackenzie’s Cooper-JAP, the 2 litre Cooper-Bristol of Horse Boyden and a the very fast MG/Fiat based Moriat Special.

1957 and still going strong. Billy Kay puts the Harwin through its paces at the Burman Drive Hillclimb near Durban

Our thanks to Robert Young and Denis Mills.