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Reader's test: Harper Type-5

2012-06-21 14:48


IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT: Reader Quintin Smit got to grips with the Harper Type-5 - and was blown away.

The Harper Type 5 is built and designed by racing driver Craig Harper in Cape Town. The car is available as either a factory built “turn-key car” or as a kit that you can assemble in your own time (with Craig always available to help should you get stuck).

As with most kit cars the recipe is a steel chassis covered with a glass fibre body shell. The car has been designed to accept any transverse-mounted four-cylinder engine, but Craig has recently built the first Type-6 which will accept the Lexus V8 engine.


Given the light weight of the car (approx. 650kg) you don’t need a huge engine to get big performance, and the engine of choice is the Silver Top Toyota Twin-Cam 20-valve. Cheap to buy and cheap to maintain. In fact, all the mechanical parts on the car are off-the-shelf Toyota parts to keep building and maintenance costs low.

I would go as far as saying this is as fast as you can possibly go on this kind of budget. Factory built cars can be had for under R200 000 and kits can be built for far less.

Inside and out you can tell this is a racing car for the road. Everything is geared towards the single purpose to go as fast as possible. Craig’s goal was to create something you can drive to the track, race all day and then drive home. A theory he proves time and again when driving long distances in his car to races, and then driving back home again while his rivals are still loading their cars onto trailers.

Acceleration is very brisk as the high-revving Toyota engine pulls the lightweight car forward with an electric urgency, the noise rising from a metallic rasp to a nice bellow and finally to an almighty scream!  Low weight – again – means the braking is beyond impressive, stomp hard enough on the middle pedal and the retardation is physically painful, yet totally addictive.


It’s in the corners, thought, that this car truly surpasses all expectations. Turn into a bend and the nose darts to the apex like a go-kart. The car’s perfect balance results in unbelievable grip through the bends, and as you feed in the power it’s the rear that’s first to let go, but very gently and completely controllable, even for a not-so-experienced driver.

On the track Craig Races against Porsche GT3s and they can’t even get away from his 1600cc masterpiece!

On the road, the car turns heads everywhere it goes, and is surprisingly comfortable to cruise in all day. Even on rough, bumpy roads where cars like this would usually be bouncing around, it remains composed and settled. It even has lots of storage spaces in a small boot and the side pods, though I wouldn’t stretch as far as saying “it’s practical”.

If you want something cheap to have fun in or to take to the track, this car is unbeatable.

If you, like Quintin, would love the world to know how fab or drab your car or bike is, send your original review of no more than 500 words, plus your pictures, to Wheels24 and stand a chance to win a satnav!

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