As early as 1896, in what is believed to have been the first car in the Southern Hemisphere, Mr John Percy Hess of Pretoria made the decision to import a Benz "Velo" from Benz & Co of Mannheim Germany to South Africa.
On Monday, January 4th at 4pm.1897 at Berea Park in Pretoria, in a widely advertised event (see below), Mr John Percy Hess first drove the car with a Mr A.E. Reno (his business Partner and co-founder of the Pretoria News), and a Dr W.J. Leyds, then State Secretary of the Transvaal, as passengers. President Paul Kruger was also invited to ride on the car, but he preferred to just watch the event.
In honour of President Paul Kruger attendance a "vierkleur" flag was attached to a pole on the carriage and a gold medal was minted to commemorate this occasion. A large number of spectators who came to see this spectacle had to pay an entrance fee of 2 shillings and 6 pennies.
|Prominent Pretoria citizens pose with the Benz on its first outing. Dr Leyds, state secretary of the Transvaal, occupies the rand hand seat, whlie Mr A.E. Reno, co-founder of the Pretoria news, is at the controls.|
|Surrounded by "sports" in dashing Wanderers Club headgear, South Africa's first lady motorists seem a trifle apprehensive. The Benz reached its maximum speed of 14 mph round the club enclosure|