THE CAR WHISPERER
YOU South Africa|20 January 2022
It started with a toy car when he was just a kid and his love for vehicles of all kinds has been a thread throughout his life
PIETER VAN ZYL
THERE’S not much you can teach Nico Mynhardt about cars. In his 69 years he’s owned 46 of them – and he’s known them all like the back of his hand.

Engines speak to him, Nico says. “A car tells me what’s wrong. You just need to listen to the sounds coming from beneath the bonnet.”

He may sound like the ultimate petrolhead but don’t dare call him that – he prefers the label of car whisperer.

“Cars talk to me in a unique way,” Nico says. “A Fiat’s engine, for example, sounds beautiful. But I don’t like the sound of souped-up cars.

“A car’s design, from the first sketches to the prototype, can take up to 10 years and then these guys soup them up. Why not just buy a faster car?”

Nico has been taking pictures of 20th-century cars for two decades, speaking to their owners and researching the vehicles that have driven South African roads from 1900 to 1999.

He’s also compiled a guide to cars in SA in the 20th century and if someone wants to buy a copy, he prints it out at home.

Nico has driven the A to Z of cars – from an Audi to his dad’s Zephyr, the car in which he got his driver’s licence.

He owned a Volkswagen Beetle when he was 21 and later a Peugeot 404. “It was a sacred car,” he says. “I drove the hell out of it before selling it.”

By the time he and Elsa, a retired aftercare assistant, had four children he’d also owned a Ford Cortina, a Dodge Husky, a Fiat and an automatic Valiant.

These days, a Daihatsu is parked in the garage. “It’s small and easier for us,” he says.

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