After creating WIEL motoring magazine in 1978 and selling the title in 1989, I stayed on for six years to run the business for what was then Times Media Limited. By 1995, after 17 years of looking after my “baby”, I called it quits – and embarked on the next phase of my journey.
After stopping over in Hong Kong on many previous visits to the East during my WIEL years, and getting to know the place reasonably well, a business opportunity beckoned: buy goods in China and sell them in SA.
I found an FM radio that looked like an old-style jukebox. In Sandton, this radio sold for R830. I sourced exactly the same unit from a Chinese factory for R8. I also found cool wristwatch radios, and started importing various radios to SA. They sold like hotcakes, but a trend soon emerged: for every 30 units I sold, ten were defective and were returned by often irate customers. So, great theory and margins, but a whole lot of effort and trouble too!
In the meantime I was keeping a close eye on the car market. By 1997 it was clear that it was shifting in favour of SUVs and 4x4s. An example: In 1994 Land Rover sold a total of 326 units in SA. In 1997 that number had increased dramatically to 4068 units.
Major manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz were in the process of developing the X5 and ML SUVs, and many other companies were creating SUVs, too. Even Porsche was working on a new model at that time.
Since selling Chinese radios of suspect quality was not exactly a fulfilling existence, I teamed up with friends and created Leisure Wheels magazine, to cater specifically for this new direction in vehicle buying trends.
For the first five years the SUV and 4×4 markets bloomed, as did our magazine. But by around 2003 the market had levelled out, and maintained its position.
But be that as it may, all good things must come to an end. And now, after 18 years of Leisure Wheels magazine, it’s time for this chapter to end and for me to hand over the reins to a band of youngsters.
Two new crew members will join the team: Cape Town-based Elise Kirsten, who worked on RamsayMedia’s former RIDE title, and Gauteng-based SA Guild of Motoring Journalists bursar student Deon van der Walt.
In the Randburg office, Gerhard Horn continues as features editor while long-serving Leisure Wheels contributor Danie Botha rejoins the team as the new editor on a full-time basis.
The past 18 years have flown past in a blur of amazing adventures – the highlights far outweighing the handful of lowlights. But for me the greatest realisation has been how Leisure Wheels has enriched my and my family’s lives. I will be forever grateful for that.
There comes a day, though, when you realise that it’s time to call it quits, as hard as that may be. My wife, Maryke, summed it up most succinctly on our recent Adventure Safari in Namibia as she watched young Getaway magazine photographer Tyson Jopson sprint up and down mountains to take that extra special photograph of the convoy of bakkies.
“Ja Jan, you used to do that too,” said Maryke, watching Tyson jump from rock to rock.
I sure did. But not anymore. Oh hell yes, I am going to miss it – but when 70 seems around the corner, your bones and brains have a way of warning you to slow down.
I’ve had my innings, and it was a damn good one that I wouldn’t swap for anything in the world.
Although this is my last issue as editor I will not be disappearing from the office completely. I will still be lurking in the background to keep an eye over the youngsters for the next year, so this is not yet a final goodbye.
To you Danie, and the rest of the team, may you grab the reins and steer this wonderful, high-standing chronicle to new heights and much success.
– Jannie Herbst