Tony Martin, racing legend and car crafter from KwaZulu-Natal, is a man with a happy problem.
Martin told Dealerfloor he has subcontractors laying concrete slabs to expand his boutique car factory in Prospecton, KwaZulu-Natal in order to meet overseas demand for his hand-crafted AC Cobra replicas, which are sold under the brand Backdraft Racing.
“We are currently sold out until April 2021, which is very nice for the order book but upsetting because our dealer-partners are crying because they cannot get stock.”
Martin made a name for himself in the US in 1984, when he won the Daytona 24-Hours driving a March 83G-Porsche with Sarel van der Merwe and Graham Duxbury in the Kreepy Krauly team. That historic win put both the unknown South African automatic pool cleaner and Martin on the American map.
Martin opened the small TR-Tec (Pty) Ltd factory in 2002, where a tight crew of artisans assemble and custom paint about 24 Shelby replicas a month. Most of these are exported as “turnkey minus cars” via Backdraft Inc to 15 dealers in the US as well as a dealership each in Santiago, Chile; Dubai Vallauris, France; and Vadstena, Sweden.
“Turnkey minus” means the drivetrain still needs to be connected, and Backdraft Incorporated, which Martin registered in the US in 2001 with former KwaZulu-Natal local Reg Dodd as part of their global vision to build cars for enthusiastic drivers around the world. At the Backdraft showroom in Boynton Beach, Florida, these turnkey minus models list from $46,900 (over R735,000)
Martin said Backdaft owners can choose from several V8 engines with either a manual or automatic transmission, but Ford and Chevrolet blocks are most popular, although more are now asking for the Lexus 1UZFE. Backdraft also imports Rousch and Ford Racing V8s to South Africa, where the Backdrafts have a dedicated cult following. Martin is also quite interested in the new V8-in-a-crate offer from Dodge, which is selling its supercharged, 807 hp “Hellcrate Redeye” block for some R330,000. Rumours are that Ford might follow suit by making its Shelby GT500 760 hp block.
While lockdown has disrupted the local enduro series and prevented overseas teams from entering, overseas buyers are clamouring for more Backdrafts, and Martin said the plan is to expand the current 5,000 square metres of the TR-Tec factory by some 2,000 square metres in the next few months to almost double the production capacity to 40 cars a month.
The 71-year-old Martin is still actively involved in motor racing. Earlier in the year (in those long-forgotten pre-lockdown days), Backdraft offered 10 Backdrafts to local race and international teams to compete in the local enduro series. Each is powered by a 225 kW Lexus that sends its power to a limited slip diff on the rear wheels via a BMW gearbox.
“Everything I have today comes from racing, so this idea is both a way to give something back to the sport I love and to add a new dimension to the SA Endurance Racing Series,” Martin said in a press statement in January.
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