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Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) 1958-1980: Historical Info now available!

September 27th, 2012

The Renault 4 was the most successful model in Rhodesia over the period

* See the Top 25 most produced models by clicking on the title! Many thanks to Frank *

Today the Africa Project is getting its first historical contribution, thanks to Frank Stevens. Frank was born and grew up in what was used to be Rhodesia up until 1980 when it became Zimbabwe, one of the most tumultuous times the country has known. During that period, up to 17 car manufacturers assembled models in a country plagued with United Nations trade sanctions, and thanks to Frank who also worked at the National Vehicle Registration Department there in the seventies, I am able to share with you the best-selling models in Rhodesia from the late fifties to the early eighties. Fascinating info if you ask me!

1958 Pontiac Strato Chief

In the fifties Rhodesia, being part of the Commonwealth, truly benefitted from the American and European export drives. The most popular models in the country at that time included the Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Polara, Pontiac Strato Chief, Ford Galaxie 500, Plymouth Fury and Mercedes 220 fintail, sharing the roads with the Austin 1100, Wolseley 6/110, Skoda Octavia, Borgward Isabella, Taunus 17M, Ford Zodiac and Anglia, Jaguar S type, Opel Rekord, Vauxhall Victor, Volvo Amazon, Holdens and even the odd Datsun…

1963 Isuzu Bellett

In 1958 BMC opened an assembly plant in Umtali (now Mutare), and Ford did the same in 1960 at Willowvale in Salisbury (now Harare) with the two brands likely dominating sales in Rhodesia in the early sixties. However the Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1965 triggered UN trade sanctions against Rhodesia from 1966 until the creation of Zimbabwe in 1980. As a result BMC and Ford stopped supplying CKD kits and by 1967 there were very few new cars available, except save for the occasional Isuzu Bellett and Daihatsu Compagno.

Peugeot 404

From 1968 onwards, the composition of the Rhodesian new car market changed drastically as sanctions busters found new sources of CKD kits and new brands made their appearance on the streets. Thanks to Frank’s meticulous observation and note-taking when working at the Vehicle Registration Department at the time, I am able to share with you the most produced (and therefore best-selling) models in Rhodesia from 1966 to 1980.

Datsun 120Y

Interestingly, the Frenchies dominate the ranking with 4 models in the Top 5… The Renault 4 is likely to be the best-seller over the period ahead of the Peugeot 404 in all its formats (sedan, station-wagon, pick-up) with the Datsun 1200/120Y/140Y rounding up the podium. The Renault 12 and 10 follow while the Datsun 1500 pick-up ranks #6.

The BMW Cheetah/2000 SA was a rebadged Glas 1700 assembled in Rhodesia

The Alfa Romeo Giulia ranks #7, the Mazda B1600 pick-up is #8, the BMW Cheetah #9 and the Peugeot 304 #10. Other interesting entries include the Citroen DS at #11, the Alfasud at #14, the Toyota Corolla Mk2 at #18, the Peugeot 504 at #22 and the VW 1300/1600 bush buggy at #24.

Previous Zimbabwe post: Toyota Corolla sovereign, info needed

Info on Rhodesia assembled BMWs, the Rhodesian Bush-War and Full 1966-1980 Top 25 Ranking Table below.

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