Fitting the vehicle to the film


Cars have always been a hobby for Kuils River resident Ian Loubser. And when a hobby becomes a paying job, featuring vintage cars and sleek new ones, there’s not much more you can want. Mr Loubser’s dream job sees him supplying cars to film companies. He has more than 300 cars on his books and, when given the brief to envision cars for a particular film shoot in South Africa, he has to be highly creative to come up with the mobile goods, thinking of the best fit for the director’s plan.

It all started 16 years ago, a few years after he left the SA Defence Force where he was a committed “army man” working out of the military headquarters in Cape Town.

“Motor cars were in my blood and I have a rich history of cars in my family,” he told Northern News.

“My grandfather brought the first Model T Ford in 1916 to the West Coast and a generation later, my dad continued with a well-known dealership in Vredenburg,” he said.

It was at his father’s dealership that he was first exposed to Peugeots and today he runs the Club Peugeot Afrique du Sud, which has a devoted following.

With fellow members, Mr Loubser has the enviable position of travelling to Peugeot meetings abroad each year – a tough job it seems – as the Peugeot aficionados spend their time driving around the countryside in much-loved, well-preserved or beautifully restored oldies.

This year, the club will be travelling to meet up in Oosterbeek, Holland, where about 200 cars will gently take to the country roads to celebrate the classic French brand. “My friends normally let me drive their Peugeot 305 GTX,” he said, his eyes glinting in anticipation of driving the vehicle that has been described as a combination of sporty and comfort.

(The GTX was born out of the 305 GT in 1984, creating a more powerful vehicle and, to differentiate the new marque from the rest of the 305 lineup, it came standard with specific beltline stickers, a spoiler, and a bigger exhaust. 14-inch alloy wheels and a GTX emblem on the trunk completed the package. It was also the first Peugeot available with remote door locks.)

Peugeots have featured strongly in some of the films for which Mr Loubser has supplied cars.

A firm favourite is the stately military green (now in gloss finish) 1945 Peugeot 202 pick-up that starred in the Sinking of the Laconia, filmed in South Africa. The film is a two-part TV series, which first aired in 2011 on BBC Two, about the Laconia incident; the sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Laconia, en route from Cape Town to England, during World War 2 by a German U-boat , which then, together with three other U-boats and an Italian submarine, rescued the passengers but was in turn attacked by an American bomber.

This particular pick-up was originally imported to SA from surplus stock of the French military and was always dressed in its military green with matt finish.

“This pick-up has also been in the same Loubser family since new and only when my dad decided to fully restore in during the mid 80’s, he painted in the same green but with a gloss finish,” said Mr Loubser.

The pick-up (bakkie is too inelegant a word to use on this vehicle) was born out of the 202 sedan, which was launched in 1938. The 202 was distinguished by its closely spaced headlights, a feature that today makes it rather charming, particularly in the pick-up version. In the vehicle used for the film, a canvas canopy was specially made which covers the load section.

Mr Loubser relates how one of the most fascinating films he was involved in was Grzimek, which follows the life and work of the renowned German zoologist, zoo director and book author, Bernhard Grzimek. As the director of the Frankfurt Zoo, Mr Grzimek wanted to collect animals as the zoo had been badly destroyed in the war. He also wanted to study and film the habits of the animals in their natural environment with the goal of improving it. His work in Africa soon developed into a strong commitment to conserve the wildlife of the continent. Bernhard and his son Michael conducted animal surveys by plane, laying the groundwork for modern nature conservation work at Serengeti National Park and for the Frankfurt Zoological Society’s global nature conservation programme.

For the film Mr Loubser sourced a 1944 Chevrolet 3-ton truck, a solid utility van that was most certainly up to traversing the tracks that father and son travelled in their surveys.

Then there was Safe House, said Mr Loubser, in which 140 cars were written off, all in the name of filming some high-speed car chases. The film, made in 2012 , is an American thriller film directed by Daniel Espinosa, starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. It tells the fictional story of a CIA agent on his first low-level posting in Cape Town who is in charge of a safe house where the CIA is interrogating Tobin Frost (played by Denzel Washington), a veteran operative who has allegedly betrayed the agency. No doubt the $85 million budget (more than R1 318 billion) in no small part covered the cost of the deliberately trashed cars, which included some sleek Jaguars.

Mr Loubser has been involved in 20 films over the years, and of his work he says, “We must think a little out of the box. If we can’t get the required car we need to go on to Plan B.”

And while it seems like a fascinating job, especially as he often has to drive the cars to their location, it too, has its bad moments.

“It’s not always that easy. Every sport has its injury. But that said it’s quite enjoyable and you meet people from all over the world. And you get to go to locations that I personally didn’t even know existed.”