MY first car was an Autobianchi Bianchina, one of six delivered in South Africa in 1958 — six others arrived in Australia.

I bought it new and within a year uprated its Fiat engine with an Abarth kit and went racing.

I think I was the first of the minicar racers in South Africa, competing at Grand Central, near Pretoria and on the East London Grand Prix track.

So my introduction to cars was via small engine, high performance vehicles, rather than big cubic inches and grunt.

After the Autobianchi came a Morgan Plus Four, then a Simca Montlhery, Renault Dauphine Gordini, MG-A, Renault 8, MG Magnette, a succession of Peugeots, Alfa Romeos, Lancias and several dozen others.

All up, I’m told I’ve owned about 90 cars. But I think it’s more like 70 or 80. However, big bore machines never figured on my ‘want’ list.

The biggest car I’ve ever owned was a Lancia 2000 saloon. But it was big only in size. Under the bonnet was just 2.0 litres of pedigreed boxer engine.

Monaros were assembled at GM’s plant in Port Elizabeth around the early 1970s, I think, and could be had with Holden 5.0-litre or Chevrolet 5.7-litre power, the latter better looking four-headlight monsters known as Chevrolet SS coupes.

Surviving examples are apparently being imported to Australia these days.

Sure, some of the big boys ended up on the racing circuits, but obviously in a different class to the machinery I was involved with.

My mechanic in Johannesburg was ex-motorbike racing ace Laurie Zeeman.

He had a Monaro and loved it, but his enthusiasm never rubbed off on me.

Today my garage houses a 2003 Saab 9-3 Turbo that still looks as if it can out of the showroom yesterday, and a 1972 Lancia Fulvia coupe in Sandro Munari Monte Carlo Rally-winning livery.

Monaro?

Not for moi, thanks.

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Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.